I have always marveled at how good UX sits right at the confluence of simplicity and functionality. And how all of us can benefit from the absence of the unnecessary. But more often than not, sadly, intellect prevails intuition. Time and again, the designers’ ego gets in the way of users’ experience of their creations. As the designer in me matured over the years, I was able to appreciate and harness the power that is simplicity.
I attribute a lot of my learning to a handful of blogs that were pushing the boundaries of usability. A List Apart, Smashing Magazine and the Baymard Institute were staples in my bygone RSS feed. A List Apart’s form usability tests, Smashing Magazine’s efficient form design guides taught me how deep we can go and learn so much from something as simple as a single form field if we really cared for it.
Getting hooked on ecommerce UX
However, nothing got me hooked on UX like Baymard Institute’s research studies and guidelines that were published based on intensive over-the-shoulder user testing sessions. Up until around 2011, their research was more generic in terms of form field usability, readability, conversion and the like. It was only in 2012 that they started focussing on e-commerce usability. Reading and internalizing their e-commerce-focussed research over the years made one thing crystal clear for me. Not even leading e-commerce stores understood the importance of good UX and how it affects the performance of their stores.
From what I gathered over the years, I compiled a checklist of best practices that ecommerce stores should be following but were absolutely not doing. It was almost like they were intent on making the UX hard so that people would leave frustrated. Then in June 2018, Baymard Institute launched their Baymard Premium offering. It was an entirely new research experience that distilled their then 32,000+ hours of research (since 2010) into continuously updated research guidelines along with 8,100 best practice examples from leading ecommerce companies. These research guidelines were, by all means, way better than my home-grown checklist of ecommerce best practices. 😀
Even before launching the Baymard Premium offering, based on their research, they were offering auditing services for leading ecommerce companies like Amazon and Shopify. I can only imagine the cost for that to be in the 5-figure range. Only in 2018 was that knowledge formatted and presented in a way that others could study, understand, and implement in real-world projects.
With the new revelations and having worked with WooCommerce for the past 8 years, it was very clear that the default WooCommerce checkout was nowhere near optimized and was, in fact, clunky and counter-intuitive. I wondered then, with Baymard Premium out in the wild, why no one has taken up to solve this problem once and for all. I thought maybe cost was a factor. It cost anywhere between $1000 to $3000 per year. But it was something web agencies could purchase if they cared enough to build the best WooCommerce checkout for their clients. Or is it just that agencies don’t care enough or don’t want to invest an extended period of time to study it? It took me more than a year to get a good grasp of it all. Would they rather spend their time doing a lot of things well than doing just the checkout smashingly well?
Coming from a UX background, working in the ecommerce industry, and being given access to the rich resource that is Baymard Premium, I felt I was in the perfect position to do something about it. This realization made me feel more responsible and humble. I believe that it all came together for me to do this when nobody else is.
Neither should their pricing (No complaints there. What they offer is too valuable to be given for anything less) nor the sheer vastness and enormity of it, should keep Baymard’s knowledge exclusive to big companies, but also be available to the rest of us. I felt I was the one who should be bringing that knowledge to all ecommerce stores, big and small alike. That, in essence, is my motivation for Cartimize.
To bring to the rest of us the deep, insightful ecommerce UX knowledge, that is currently reserved for big companies.
In an effort to do just that, I wrote an article correlating Baymard’s checkout-specific guidelines with WooCommerce and shared it with a few WooCommerce help groups. Not surprisingly, it garnered a lot of positive feedback, and people resonated with all the points that were specified in the article. They also wanted to know how to implement them in their store and asked if I had code snippets, some kind of technical guide, or a plugin that they can install, none of which I had at that point in time. I just wanted to share my new-found knowledge with anyone who would listen. That was the intention of the article.
After a few rounds of brainstorming, we decided to start the development of the checkout optimization guidelines as a plugin for WooCommerce.
You can read more about how that went in the next post – Building along-side WooCommerce Checkout.