Every morning when I get in to work I put down my things, fire up my laptop and pop open a browser window. When it opens, my browser (Firefox) serves up my pinned tabs, homepage and a custom theme. My favorite URLs are saved, and Firefox remembers my passwords so I don’t have to remember them myself. Everything is exactly how I like it from the moment I click the icon pinned to my Windows taskbar. When I start opening new tabs and accessing URLs, I fully expect that I’m going to continue to enjoy a good User Experience. If content is king, and quality design is queen, then the user is the Supreme Ruler of the Known Universe. King Content and Queen Design exist to serve the user. The user is you, the user is me, the user is everyone everywhere who accesses the Internet.
As a user, I have a certain sense of entitlement on the Internet, especially when I’m also a customer, or more specifically, a potential customer. If I’m going to give you my money on the Internet, I expect the metaphorical red carpet to be rolled out beneath my feet. I want my shopping experience to be easy, fun and fully functional. And if it isn’t? I’ll find somewhere else to buy what I need, and – thanks to the magic of Google – that won’t be hard.
So what does that mean when you’re not the user, but the seller? How exactly do you roll out that red carpet for your potential customers? Meet user expectations by making the experience easy, fun and functional. Let me walk you down that red carpet using a recent project as an example.
We created the Crayola My Way e-commerce microsite that allows Crayola fans to create one-of-a-kind boxes of crayons. Users can choose their box size, crayon count and customize the box art making shopping a truly personalized experience. Since launch, the project has been recognized with three major awards: a Platinum AVA Award, Silver American Advertising Award and Silver Horizon Award. The top notch User Experience certainly contributed to winning those awards.
This is how we made sure the Crayola My Way experience would be easy, fun and functional.
Make it Easy
Easy for the user that is. Crayola My Way is not a simple application. Two separate backend applications power the rendering(making personalization possible) and the shopping cart (making buying your creation possible). The shopping cart has to react in real time to the customizations made to the crayon boxes so that the final product is priced correctly. My Way is tied directly to the Crayola factory where the personalized boxes are printed with the right color crayons packed neatly inside. Orders just need to be okayed by a moderator whose approval triggers the printing process. In keeping with the theme, the code tying everything together to create a seamless front-end experience was all built from scratch – 100% custom for Crayola.
As a user, though, I don’t really care how complicated it is behind the scenes; it better not be complicated for me to use. Happily, Crayola My Way really delivers. The customization process is very linear, and it doesn’t have too many options to overwhelm shoppers. You understand exactly what you’re getting as you create the box of crayons of your dreams. It’s simple enough that kids can do it themselves; even their not-so-tech-savvy grandparents can easily get from start to finish.
Make it Fun
Ease is essential, but it’s not enough on its own. By itself, simple is better known as boring.
Crayola is all about creativity, and we feel the same at Liquid. Working with Crayola on this project gave us plenty of inspiration. We were really excited to be able to take full advantage of the Crayola brand by making their brand mascot “Tip” the starring character of the My Way experience. Tip is your guide throughout the customization process, taking you on a journey through the factory as you make your own box of crayons.
Fun is all in the details. The trip through the My Way customization factory is full of delightful little details – bright and happy illustrations, fun transition animations and quirky background characters.
Make it Functional
You know what’s sure to ruin any experience? Frustration. User patience runs thin quickly when something just isn’t working right. It’s not just patience that suffers, either – trying to use an application that doesn’t function correctly erodes trust in your brand. Error pages, buttons that don’t work, difficult navigation, broken images… any of these is enough to turn your prospective customer into a lost opportunity. And don’t forget that your job doesn’t end when your new customer completes the purchase. You still have to deliver a good experience in the order fulfillment process. A package that arrives late, incomplete or otherwise incorrect ruins the great experience of the shopping process.
The phrases Quality Assurance and User Acceptance Testing might make your eyes start to glaze over, and they certainly aren’t glamorous tasks, but they are vital to creating a fully functional experience. Take the time to dot your i’s and cross your t’s before launch. You only get one first impression, so make sure all the kinks are worked out and put your best foot forward.
One unique functional challenge to overcome when building Crayola My Way was making sure that the custom box design we show to customers looks exactly the same as the finished product they receive in the mail. Accuracy in our rendering of the product was absolutely critical. Working closely with the teams at Crayola we ensured that the final product preview was 100% “what you see is what you get.”
The modern Internet audience is a tough crowd. We know how we want things, and our expectations are high. If you don’t deliver a good experience, we’ll find somewhere else to get what we’re looking for. If you want to keep your traffic from bouncing as soon as they hit your landing page, roll out the digital red carpet first. Serve up a great User Experience to your user by making it easy, fun and functional.
Need some help getting your User Experience up to par? High bounce rate? Abandoned shopping carts? Unusually low conversion percentages? The team at Liquid can help. Drop us a line to start the conversation.
About Laura Pruitt
Laura Pruitt is Liquid’s Marketing & PR Manager. She is responsible for planning and executing Liquid’s marketing efforts, leveraging the skills and expertise available within the Liquid team. Laura got her start at Liquid as an intern in the summer of 2009, worked part-time throughout her senior year of college and was hired full-time in 2010. Outside the office, Laura proudly wears the titles of wife and new mom.