What is User Interface (UI)?
User Interface (UI) is the visual part of a software application or a hardware device that determines how a user interacts with an application or a website and how information is displayed on the screen. UI encompasses the concepts of visual design, interaction design, and information infrastructure and focuses on enhancing usability and the user experience.
The Importance of User Interface Design (UI) in eCommerce
The ultimate goal of a good UI is to make the user’s interaction as simple, intuitive and efficient as possible. In eCommerce, intuitive interfaces and appealing design are an invaluable part of the user experience and can dramatically impact the performance of a website and ultimately lead to higher, or weaker sales.
An effective UI draws on interface elements that users have become familiar with because they maximize task completion, efficiency and satisfaction. When designing your online shop, you should pay particular attention to the following interface elements:
- Input controls: checkboxes, radio buttons, dropdown lists, dropdown buttons, toggles, and text fields.
- Navigational components: search field, breadcrumbs, pagination, sliders, and image carousels.
- Informational components: notifications, progress bars, tooltips, message boxes, and modal windows (pop-ups).
Smart implementation of common UI patterns will help you to create a pleasant shopping experience, guiding your customers through the site and helping them find what they need without any inconveniences. Making sure that consumers can browse, search, select and add products to their shopping cart in a seamless way will reduce friction and lower your site’s bounce rate.
Backed by a sturdy UX design, a sleek, well-designed and easy-to-navigate online store has significantly better chances at enticing shoppers to spend more time browsing around, achieving a higher click-through rate and leading to improved conversion rates. According to Adobe, “38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content/layout is unattractive”.
Stages of the UI Design Process
Remember that a good UI stems from understanding your customer and her needs, so that all the design elements could be tuned to deliver on shopper expectations. The main processes of UI design include:
- Business requirement. The first step in the UI design process is to assemble a list of key functionalities required for your online store. Establishing a clear vision of how you want the website to operate and what capabilities are essential to meet the potential needs of your customers will directly relate to all other decisions you have to make along the way.
- User research. At this stage, it is important to analyze and understand the habits, preferences and needs of your potential customers. By applying these insights to your UI design, you will be able to structure the website’s information and choose the feel and look of the interface that best accommodates the expectations of your target audience.
- Information architecture. One of the most important parts of the UI design process is establishing a clear, top-down information structure that helps shoppers to find what they’re after in a matter of seconds. Poor information structure causes confusion and frustration and leads to increased bounce rates.
- Wireframe design. As a quick and cheap way to specify the details and navigational flow of a website, wireframes are an indispensable tool in the UI design process. They can be helpful with identifying friction points in the organizational system of the website and visualizing all the steps involved in the shopping journey.
- Prototype design. The main objective of a prototype is to simulate the interaction between a user and the interface in a realistic way, bringing the full product experience to life. Prototypes are often used for usability testing to gather early feedback and avoid costly changes later in the process.
- A/B testing. Once you launch your website, implement a robust A/B testing strategy to continue tweaking and improving the shopping experience over time. It’s very unlikely that you’ll get all the elements of the site right from the very start but active experimentation and analysis will help you elevate the user experience and optimize your revenue.
UI Best Practices for eCommerce
Although every eCommerce website is unique and targets a particular group of people with very specific needs, there are several UI design elements that every online store must have.
- A well-positioned search bar. Shoppers who use site search exhibit a much higher intent to purchase and are more likely to follow through with the buying process. Placing the search bar in a prominent position on a website and using contrasting colors to help it stand out, will make it easier to both capture the attention of people who are purposefully looking for something and streamline the experience of those who are just browsing.
- Eye-catching call-to-action (CTA) buttons. An effective CTA can have a tremendous impact on conversion rates, as it is the element that triggers shoppers to take immediate action and react to the information displayed on a page. A good CTA is attractive and stands out from the rest of the site content.
- User-friendly navigation. Short, logical paths, familiar category names and easy-to-grasp site hierarchy leads to lower bounce rates and increased conversion rates. Simple menu structure is one of the vital parts of a positive customer experience and remains a top priority in the eCommerce industry.
- Breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs is a form of a site navigation that simplifies user experience by showing them where they are on the site and making it easy to move between categories, products, and informational pages. Adding breadcrumb navigation will also help you squeeze some SEO juice, as it ensures search engines find and understand all pages that need to be crawled.
- Smooth checkout. Checkout page is probably the most important part of your site. Focus on reducing the steps in a checkout process to a bare minimum and employ foolproof optimization strategies, such as adding the right mix of payment gateways and offering free shipping, to maximize your profits.
- The F-pattern. Studies have shown that people almost always read and browse pages in an F-shaped pattern, viewing the left side of the screen far more often than the right. Placing the most important information on the left side of your homepage and product pages will result in increased levels of engagement.