As Beauty Bay unveiled its brand new website re-design this month, the next wave of e-commerce design has begun. Along with BB's (Beauty Bay) new style comes a more sophisticated user experience, bred through revised site architecture and functionalities. But is innovation worth it or has Beauty Bay risked everything for little payback?
BB's new site attracted some attention within the e-commerce industry as the site focuses primarily on two key sections: Shop and Discover (or products and content). So far this type of site style is completely new, but BB stands behind their choice and the company's CTO Nik Southworth stated that the re-design "matches our company['s] culture and brand identity". Spokespeople for BB highlighted a high emphasis on improving UX, through enhanced visuals, target audience focused sections (Vegan-friendly products) and user-friendly applications.
A long history
Website redesigns are in no way a new thing. Ever since businesses took on the digital world, every brand is constantly trying to outdo its competition through innovative designs and novel functionalities. Take the British clothing and home product retailer, Next.
In 2001 their site looked something like this:
The site was very plain with only basic categories. Variations in colour are limited, a maximum of three font styles were used and clearly, accessibility wasn't at the forefront of this website design. Overall the site does one job and that's to make the buying process as simple as possible, with the focus being on what Next wants users to do.
Let's go forward a few more years to 2008:
There are more categories, more clickable features, a more diverse online experience and overall the site feels more active. It's clear that Next began to invest time into understanding what their users actually look for on their site, and provided the visuals needed to encourage conversions.
Now let's go this year (2019):
The current site features multiple different carousels for the user to browse, each showing a different side to the business. The categories have been simplified again, different delivery options are available and the boundaries between in-store and online are bridged through the Store Locator tab.
Over the years Next has managed to stay ahead of the competition through all of their re-designs because they took into account exactly what their users want, not just what the brand wants to show. An e-commerce site is designed for a specific audience and so that audience should be an integral part of the re-design.
Just like Next, Beauty Bay have focused their re-design on providing users with a catered experience and overall this is a step in the right direction for e-commerce brands, which need to focus more on UX as a means of improving revenue. But how do you know what your audience wants?
Tell me what you want (what you really really want)
Knowing what your users actually look for online is a bit of a tricky feat to take on. You could use your competitor's sites to gain a broader perspective but that would just mean your copying other sites and not standing out. Maybe you want to look at trends and data, but that takes a lot of time and trends go out of date quickly. So, what should you do?
Ask them or more specifically get a group of your target users to provide a commentary on your site while going through certain customer journeys. Trained UX testers can provide actionable insights into how to improve your digital performance and give you honest comments on your site.