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Designing exceptional shopping experiences for intra-webs is like a mountain. Funnily though, this mountain is a slippery one. As soon as you’re at the top, you slowly slide back down. Nowhere is the phrase ‘You snooze, you lose’ more appropriate. Simply put – Product Design per se is a slippery slope, but one every company with a software product needs to constantly scale.

While designing (and re-designing) our product interface, we’ve always had the end user at the forefront. After all, they are the one’s who are going to be using our solution on a regular basis.  Our sales portal is possibly the most critical piece of the puzzle. We looked at various industry leaders in ecommerce like Amazon to identify the various triggers and pain-points of online shopping.  In this series on our Product Design philosophy, we’ll talk about how we went about designing the shopping experience. In subsequent editions, we will talk about our design philosophies for our other modules, our incremental design enhancement approach and the features that you can see in upcoming releases of our product.

Designing a shopping experience and studying e-commerce sites led us to identify a few vital ingredients essential to a seamless and enjoyable shopping experience. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list; else this blog post would become a long-form exposition!

SO – Vital Ingredients…

•    Lazy Registration
Let’s face it – buying insurance (of any kind) is not an activity any of us look forward to. Shopping for clothes, electronics etc. is vastly different from shopping for insurance. So, our goal was to make the process as painless as possible. So we did (and continue to do so). A great example of the same is the elimination, or postponement of the sign-up or registration form.
A lazy registration approach allows the user to browse, search, compare and filter through plans and deeply engage with the product. Only when the user has made a decision to purchase or explore a plan further, do we ask them for some targeted information.

•    Clear Primary Actions
Simply put – the goal is to eliminate as many buttons and action items as we could without compromising the user experience. If you give the user 10 options, they are less likely to select any one. Fewer action items, with the important ones highlighted and the less important ones grayed out, simplifies the decision making process for the user and you are more likely to see the user engaged.

•    Breadcrumbs
E-commerce sites are complex and can be a labyrinth to navigate through. Ignoring the navigability aspect can be the death-knell of your site. Breadcrumbs are the perfect solution – unobtrusive yet available when you need them.

•    Steps Left
A very simple concept, but often overlooked. Letting the user know how far along they are and how much farther they have to go eases anxiety and works as a great guide for users. We ensure that we highlight the step they’re on and display it prominently so the user is always aware of where they are.

•    Hover Controls
E-commerce sites, and especially ones related to insurance, are choc-a-bloc with jargon that is complicated and a big turn-off for shoppers. Simple action icons that display a snippet of information related to the field only when a user rolls their mouse over. This works for 2 reasons – users feel that help is at hand when they need it and because they are activated only on mouse-over, allows designers to de-clutter the page.

•    Predictive Type Ahead
Predictive type ahead is a boon for shoppers and sellers both. It allows users to get faster and relevant search results. Providing related search terms helps with typos and more often than not, ensures that users find the items they are looking for.

There are innumerable more ingredients that we’ve incorporated to create a great shopping experience for our users. But we feel this is a great starting point for folks looking to understand the complex design philosophy required to design e-commerce sites. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section and don’t forget to read the follow up posts in the coming weeks!

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