My birthday comes right at the end of a year, and so in the dawn of 2023 I am feeling particularly ancient.
Something about getting going with my timeline made me look back down the decades.
One thing I did in 2010 seems to have set a tone for what I went on to be most interested in designing over the years, so I thought I’d write about it.
A New Look
In 2010, I worked for a web design agency called Design UK (they’re now Konstructive) and one of our clients was New Look.
We’d been engaged to redesign their website from end to end - the brochureware, the shopping experience, all of it.
Even though at the time I was a front-end dev, I’d been wanting to do a wider range of things, and was handed the checkout process to design.
At the time I didn’t really think “this is a seminal moment for me”, I just started wireframing (2010!).
And it got complicated really fast.
Once you get into it, it’s not easy to design a smooth checkout at all. New Look being particularly fun on the payment front, including part-payment from everything you could imagine:
- pre-paid cards
- gift card (with a balance, you know the ones)
- gift vouchers
- I swear there was more than that
There was zero time; the client had read “Don’t make me think” and wanted everyone to know it; every time I thought I’d nailed it someone brought up another payment method; and usability testing sort of wasn’t a thing (Design UK did have an eye-tracker though). Oh, and everyone seemed to be obsessing about “one page checkouts”.
Anyway, I designed it. The things that preoccupied me were:
- it’s got to be simple
- it’s got have a logical narrative
- any tricky bits have got to be comprehensible (think checking the balance of a gift card mid-checkout)
- it’s got to be reassuring
Luckily my good friend Andy was there to smarten up the graphic design itself as I also managed to make it properly zero-fun.
As New Look have demonstrated, it is possible to add the features that will make a big difference to customers’ trust and confidence, without sacrificing speed or ease-of-use. In fact, New Look gets all three right – almost undoubtedly contributing to their recent online success.“Trust in the checkout” NOMENSA 2010
Amazingly I found the actual report PDF (514k).
Getting to the point
At the time this was simply a really stressful bit of work. I’d been pulled out of my comfort zone noodling away in code (or “learning the medium” as I like to think) into something very much more “design”, including presenting under pressure to clients, having to create something at a silly pace, the usual agency stuff.
But looking back, everything that concerned me about that piece of interaction concerns me now.
For anything to work and be successful, it has to be simple, comprehensible, trustworthy, and solidly built. 1
The services I’ve worked on that have been most challenging, complex to design, and felt great when they worked have been transactional. The user has a task, whatever it might be, and the job of making that task not just achievable, but achievable with minimum pain, is something I’ve grown to love.
1 By “solidly built” I mean the opposite of all those pointless, poorly implemented React “apps” with shonky redraws everywhere.