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For Better or Worse, Design Will Dictate User Experience

So you’re browsing your Facebook feed, and an ad grabs your attention; you click on it hoping to find the next trendy-item-you-must-have. You quickly glance around the page for something interesting and almost immediately decide it’s not for you. The page is closed, and you’re back to scrolling through more posts on your Facebook feed.

We’ve all been there. We have such short attention spans that we allow only a few seconds to either be impressed by a website’s offerings or close the window and write it off forever. There’s a lot of information on the web--I get it--we don’t actually have the time to look at everything there is to offer online. Design has the ability to help persuade you to stick around and enjoy the view, or to make you sigh in disgust as you click the ‘X’ button. So if design has that much power to influence our decisions, then why do we still put up with mediocre design in real life?

shopping cart

The outdated retail experience

Take a warehouse club such as Costco or Sam’s Club, for example. You pay anywhere from $45-55 a year for a membership to get bulk pricing. You may even get a slight discount on the gasoline sold outside the store. That sounds alright on the surface. When members first enter the store, you are confronted and asked to show proof of membership. Once you’ve been permitted to enter the premises, you are then bombarded with different products everywhere. Sure, it’s somewhat organized by categories, but the products move around so you often have a hard time finding what you came for.

Design has the ability to help persuade you to stick around and enjoy the view, or to make you sigh in disgust as you click the ‘X’ button.

Now if this were a website, I’m guessing a lot of us probably would have moved on, but yet, in-person, we eventually begin to fill our carts with some things that we actually came for, amongst the mess. You’ve now finished your shopping, and you proceed to get in a line that seems much too long for how many cash registers there are in the building. After you’ve waited and then checked out, you’re now basically standing in line to get a hot dog and drink. You think, ‘I didn’t come for a hot dog, but I’m already standing here, so why not?’ After you grab your food, you then get in another line where you have to practically get patted down while you get your receipt checked to ensure that you aren’t stealing anything before being permitted to exit the building.


Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds like a terrible experience. Why would I want to pay a yearly membership to be herded around like cattle and then treated like a potential criminal at the end? Make no mistake, it’s been designed that way.

Learning from mistakes

Some companies are learning from these poor experiences and taking the time to design a much better, customer-focused approach. Take a look at Boxed, for example. They have created an online store, with no membership required, that enables you to buy in bulk with comparable savings. Not only that, they have a website that’s easy to use, and they focus on exceptional customer service. Every order that shows up on my doorstep has a handwritten note from the person who packed my box. They have removed all of the ‘bad’ from the in-store experience and designed an online experience that cares about you. I’m not saying Costco or Sam’s Club doesn’t care about their customers, but what I am saying is that the experience they have designed tends to convey otherwise.

So where do you spend your time and money?

I suggest, whether online or in-person, spend it at a business that designs an experience that always takes you, the customer, into consideration. But, as business owners, in order to keep our potential shoppers, we must remember to make the customer’s experience as user-friendly as possible, at all points of their transaction, whether online or in store. Every interaction with your business needs to put the consumer first. This means that content on your site needs to have a lot of white space, which is the space in between content, to help your website feel less cluttered and overwhelming. This same principle works in store too. If you allow a good amount of room for your customers to walk around the store, it will help them feel comfortable moving around. Easy, well-labeled signs are important in a store to help customers know where to find certain items. Online, good site page organization and easy navigation are paramount. An easy checkout process is important, whether you are at home on your computer or standing in line at a grocery store.

Design decisions like these are affecting retail stores in a huge way. Retail stores are closing their doors at an alarming rate due to the fact that they aren’t innovating in the same way that online retailers are. Just look at how Amazon is attempting to disrupt the idea of what a grocery store experience should be like. This is an example of the kinds of ideas that can help keep up with our short attention spans. In order for retailers to compete, they are going to need to make drastic changes to the design of their store experience. Having an online presence already gives your business an advantage, but good design and user experience will put you above your competition and insure your customers’ loyalty.

Andrew Yeager

Andrew is the Director of Design at 97th Floor.

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