August 29, 2006, 12:00 AM

The user experience is at the center of retail site design now

Effective retail web site design has moved way beyond posting images and content, says PixelMedia’s Thomas Obrey. Today, the firm designs and develops from the user experience perspective.

The quality of the whole user experience is moving to the center of good retail web site design today, and new developments in technology are making it possible to deliver on that from a design perspective, according to PixelMedia chief operating officer Thomas Obrey. Obrey tells Internet Retailer he sees that trend in the difference between what retailer clients of the company’s custom web design and development services are asking for now versus what they asked for last year.

“We’ve been challenged on a few fronts. It’s progressed well past posting images and content,” he says. “We’re doing more experiential design.”

Obrey notes many technology-based design elements in use on manufacturers’ sites, such as AJAX, Flash and other enabling technologies, have made it out to the commerce front. “Never underestimate the power of look, feel and product representation. In the end, at least for the premium brands, it’s that attention to detail that differentiates those serious about the best experience for their audience from those just looking to push more products,” he says.

Obrey says other trends affecting the customer experience online relate to education and testing. “Education has become a big part of selling. We’re being tasked with developing sites that are also educating users on the product, service, and what the overall system and company have to offer,” he says. Obrey also notes that more sites are validating design and technical decisions through user-centered usability testing. “This is a growing trend that puts the priority on what the user wants, not what we think they want,” he says. “Informal, iterative and powerful, it makes for a better design – for the user.”

 

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