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Eleven Design Tips

From the Amazon.com example, a number of tips on customer-effective design emerge, as follows:

  1. Tell e-customers about the Web site components and processes that relate to the things they are trying to do (and if they don't relate, what purpose do they serve?). Make these services visible and easily accessible.

  2. Then tell e-customers what the service process is and design your site in such a way that a service process can be completed seamlessly across all related areas of the site. Make sure e-customers do not have to jump to different parts of your Web site to complete activities that are obviously part of the same process.

  3. If your product is subject to availability issues, think about allowing e-customers to actively manage the situation. Think about:

    1. Allowing e-customers to track the availability of what is unavailable.

    2. Notifying e-customers when the item becomes available.

    3. Allowing e-customers to collect, save, and retrieve the items they want (e.g., as favorites).

    4. Considering how interdependencies (such as the activities of publishers in the case of Amazon.com) can be factored into the system (such as through integration of Internet, Extranet, and Intranet technologies) and how e-customers can interact to influence those interdependencies (such as giving publishers feedback in the case of Amazon.com).

  4. Decide on the appropriate emphasis for browsing and deliberately identify and create levers to encourage e-customers to browse. Don't forget the important role of enmeshing links (content links that enmesh relevant areas of content in ways that e-customers may not find as a result of using the navigation system).

  5. Use automated, and personal, e-mail responses to extend the e-customer service experience outside the Web interface. But make sure the e-mail fits into the required e-customer process; otherwise you'll have e-customers responding to automated e-mails in order to tell you the things they need to, to get things done. This becomes a fruitless and frustrating trap for e-customers who can get caught in a loop of automated responses, none of which take them in the direction of resolving their problem.

  6. Whenever you ask e-customers to "Check Back Later," think "what functionality, such as favorites, can we offer customers to flip this around," so the business does the checking on behalf of the e-customer.

  7. Realize that e-customers may want to collect items and not purchase them. Also consider how collected items, such as favorites, get quickly flicked over to purchase should the e-customer be ready to buy.

  8. When e-customer themes start to share common functionality, think about centralizing those tasks around that functionality (while keeping component tasks identifiable to the e-customer). Functionality along the lines of a personal profile or personal manager may work here. (But make sure it makes sense to centralize tasks in this way—prototyping with real customers is a way to find out if it works.)

  9. On e-mail forms—always indicate which fields are mandatory and which aren't, along with examples of fields or other instructions on field format if necessary. Error messages should always state the problem with a particular field and be cumulative (i.e., not dealing with only the first error encountered, and the others on subsequent, recursive, attempts).

  10. Ask for feedback when e-customers complete key e-service processes (e.g., after taking an online tour, check on how you did vis-à-vis expectations).

  11. As a rule don't give explanatory, and/or directive content unless it's meaningful in allowing a customer to do something. In general, less is more.



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