January 2, 2013, 9:59 AM

Making e-commerce sites more useful

An IRWD speaker says e-retailers must do more than follow best practices.

Lead Photo

William Albert

Every pixel matters. That’s what William Albert, executive director of the Design and Usability Center at Bentley University, wants attendees at the Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability Conference 2013 to understand. “There’s a very fine line between a very good and a very bad user experience,” he says. “The details really matter.”

Albert will co-present a session titled “Top 10 usability challenges—and how to solve them” on Feb. 12 from 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. at the conference in Orlando, FL. He will break down the biggest usability challenges to e-retailers: the pre-checkout process, meaning the general presentation and merchandising consumers encounter when browsing a site; the checkout process; and post-purchase processes, such as the usability of order confirmation notices and returns.

He says that while there are general rules or best practices about what works or doesn’t work when it comes to design, e-retailers also have to apply what they know about their target customers and how they choose to interact with the site. “As a designer, it is important to identify the things that your customers really want, understand the context of their interactions and what information they need and when,” he says. For example, if an e-retailer sells big-ticket electronics, consumers may want or need more assurances as they move through the checkout flow that they are buying a good product from a good retailer. Showing testimonials from other customers or incorporating product reviews at this stage may help consumers click that final “Place Order” button than a shopping flow that does not incorporate such information.

His co-presenter, Ryan Hennig from specialty e-retailer Miles Kimball, will talk about the usability challenges his team has faced and how they’ve solved them. Miles Kimball sells kitchen gadgets and home goods.

The session will detail 10 top usability challenges. He says he hopes attendees will take away at least one or two concrete ideas that they can apply to improve their own sites.

Internet Retailer’s editors asked Albert to speak because of his role and experience leading Bentley University’s Design and Usability Center, which Albert describes as a teaching hospital for user experience research.  He and his team have tackled usability and design challenges with more than 200 companies. Prior to joining Bentley 13 years ago, Bill was director of user experience at Fidelity Investments, and a senior user interface researcher at search engine Lycos Inc.

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