E-commerce is now a day-to-day term in the lives of people. In the last five years, e-commerce globally has moved leaps and bounds between selling books and clothing to selling groceries and niche items such as art and jewellery. With a wide range of products and services playing a myriad of roles in an individual’s life, let’s look at how we should be designing for e-commerce applications.

One size does not Fit all

Size Fits

The key thing to understand is, when it comes to e-commerce, there is no one type or pattern that fits all. While we may have transferred the process online, one has to understand that shopping for groceries is not the same as shopping for art or jewellery, in the real or the virtual world. Hence, it is integral that we understand the motivations of the user and design accordingly.

 Understand User Mindset

Users do not have the same perception when it comes to various products and services. Buying clothing online is not the same as buying books or grocery items. Grocery items are seen as a needs that need to be replenished every few days. Clothing on the other hand is seen as an occasional affair while art and jewellery are mostly seen as a one time investment. The user sees luxury items as an investment and such purchases are usually done in deliberation, where as purchases of food, books and clothing is sometimes impulsive.


Clothing and accessories are frequently purchased for their brand, quality and durability. Books are purchased for the content value and the reviews that they have received while groceries is purchased for its quality, shelf life, taste and so on. Understanding the value the user attaches to the products helps us design for them better.

Understand Product Offering

Firstly, when designing an e-commerce application, in order to provide a great experience it is important that we understand the product first. Product offerings affect user’s shopping behaviour especially online where the products are not tangible. Users are mostly skeptical about  buying expensive items such as a diamond necklace online. In contrast they are comfortable buying a watch from the same site. Understanding the product helps us cater to the user in a better way by going an extra mile to help address their concerns.


 Customisation and Personalisation

In the great debate of customisation versus personalisation, designers need to understand that these are not mutually exclusive to each other. When it comes to e-commerce, both customisation and personalisation hold their own importance. It is highly important to customise the experience based on the product offering, the user’s perception about the product and the mindset of the user while buying the product.




When it came to designing for an art based market place, we had to customise the way we presented the artwork. This was quite unlike any other type of e-commerce store, where we came up with features such as ‘view in room’. This allowed users to view and compare an artwork in various settings and also compare two artworks in the same room. This helped us capture the user’s attention and help them understand the product before purchasing it.

For another e-commerce project, we brought in the ‘virtual try on’ option. This helped customers with a real-time product experience. These customisations help build a robust site that provides users a great experience and helps them purchase better.

Personalisation is more adaptive in nature. In this type of design, a feature adapts itself based on the knowledge already available. The idea behind this is to tailor the experience starting from the time the user first uses the website/ app.  Understanding browsing and purchase history to help recommend similar products or differentiated products, provide special offers that builds brand loyalty and a unified pleasant experience.

 Removing Bottlenecks

When designing a system that provides an extensive amount of offerings, it is paramount that bottlenecks to purchasing an item must be removed and the experience must be made as smooth as possible. Some of the bottle necks that users encounter that hamper their shopping experience are:

  1. Providing too many options in one view - Usually users see choice as good and want more options while purchasing. However, e-commerce sites sometimes go overboard with the amount of choices offered , confusing the user with too many choicess. It is advisable to keep the options to an optimal number to reduce the number of bounces.
  2. Non linear checkout processes -  Multiple steps and re-directions during check-out confuses users and alienates them from the website. The checkout process should be simple and easy for the user to understand and also reinforce security provided in the payment page so that the user can easily purchase the product
  3. No information about the company - Most users trust a brand they know and hence it is very important for the user to know about the company they are dealing with. This not only builds trust but also helps create brand identity in the long run
  4. Not providing a robust search engine - Many times users don’t know the exact thing they are looking for and would like to use search instead of sifting through product categories. A robust search engine with filtering options will help the user find their product of choice easier and makes them more likely to buy the product.

By removing some of these bottlenecks we ensure that the user has a pleasant experience.

While there are more subtleties that need to be addressed when designing for e-commerce, these are some of the key areas that when kept in mind that will help the designer and the company offer a pleasant, meaningful experience and go a long way in building a loyal customer base.

What are some things that you keep in mind while designing for e-commerce? We’d love to know. Shoot out your thoughts as comments!