Positive eCommerce and user experience: Shoppers beware, designers be kind, businesses be ethical

By Simon Wissink | 09/02/2017

Sigma recently produced a report into how designers influence online shopping behaviour - "Customer experience is for life, not just for Christmas". It generated some really interesting feedback and a degree of healthy debate in the UX, CRO and Marketing communities. The report was never about targeting specific brands. In reality, we found some examples that were borderline, in terms of how consumers were "encouraged" to complete transactions or sign up for apparent deals. Instead, the intention of the report was to highlight how design can help people to shop online in a positive, supportive way, using some of the persuasive techniques with caution or offering reassurance during the shopping experience.

Our work with digital inclusion has highlighted that the problem of being tricked or scammed isn't specific to a particular demographic. Nor is this a challenge associated with age, which is often an assumption. We've met some savvy older shoppers and some younger users, who simply don't have confidence in using the web. It's important that designers of eCommerce sites consider levels of confidence and trust in the internet. Put simply, we can all be tricked by some of these techniques, if we are distracted, in a rush or faced with a design pattern or phrase that has an ambiguous meaning. The team at www.darkpatterns.org have a great collection of examples and our own report highlighted the problem associated with the rise in online shopping at Christmas.

We have had some great responses to date, covering both sides of the argument:

"The onus is more and more on the general public to be rigorous in checking exactly what they are signing up to."
 - Jane Frost, Market Research Society: 

https://www.marketingweek.com/2017/01/26/purchase-pressure-mobile-tactics/

Our work was also discussed recently on the Radio 4 "You and Yours" consumer programme. 

“It’s important to understand the difference between bad design and dark user experience patterns,” says Simon Wissink, business development consultant at Sigma.

“People might have a negative experience on a website because [of] bad user experience design, whereas dark patterns are premeditated – they are well thought out and based on behavioural psychology.”

Please continue to share your own examples with us @WeAreSigma #DarkUX so we can continue to encourage a more inclusive, ethical approach to engaging people online.