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Customer-Centered Design: A New Approach to Web Usability

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Customer-Centered Design: A New Approach to Web Usability

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  • Copyright 2003
  • Edition: 1st
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  • ISBN-10: 0-13-047962-4
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-13-047962-4

"This book provides readers what they need to know to greatly enhance website usability and the customer online shopping experience"

—Jakob Nielsen, author of best-selling title, Designing Web Usability

To succeed on the web, companies must understand their customers' needs and goals more thoroughly than ever before-and use that information to build sites that deliver an outstanding shopping experience. Customer-Centered Design offers a systematic blueprint for doing just that. Leading marketing experts and usability professionals Kreta Chandler and Karen Hyatt bring together state-of-the-art techniques that address your goals for short- and long-term profitability and your customers' demands for convenience, simplicity, and satisfaction. This book reveals:

  • What you must know about your customers—and how to get and use that information more efficiently
  • Five views of the online store: as software system, catalog, communications vehicle, sales rep, and retail shopping experience
  • Measuring your customers' experience with your site to stay on the leading edge
  • Blending successful techniques from catalogs, retail and e-tail stores to create a new shopping environment
  • Facilitating sales by helping your customers make buying decisions
  • Understand how the products you sell influence your site's information architecture and design

Sample Content

Online Sample Chapter

New Rules of Engagement in Web Usability

Downloadable Sample Chapter

Click here for a sample chapter for this book: 0130479624.pdf

Table of Contents



About the Authors.


1. New Rules of Engagement.

The Trouble with Websites. Costs of Poor Usability. Customer-Centric Vision. So What's New? A New Kind of “Shelf”. A New Kind of Shopper. The Role of Product. The Morphing Marketplace. A New Kind of Business. Competing in the New Marketplace. Integrating into Global Markets. Finding the Niche. The New Rules of the Online Renaissance.

2. Walking a Mile in the Customer's Shoes.

Understanding Customers. Five Common Customer Myths. Customer Profiling. Consumer Demographics. Psychographics. Types of Research. Misusing Research. Shoppers vs. Customers. Lifetime Customer Value. Building Customer Relationships. The Customer Lifecycle. Business-to-Business Relationships. Usage Behavior. Predicting the Success of the Customer Relationship. Shrinking the World.


3. Retailing Secrets: Tips from the Pros.

Shopping at Retail. Ten Essential Retailing Techniques. Understanding How the Consumer Shops. Business Planning and Retail Differentiation. Identifying Key Target Customer Segments. How to Determine Market Structures. Merchandising and Product Placement. Planograms and SKU Rationalization. Category Management. Merchandising. Selectability. Refreshing the Shelf. Retail Advertising and Promotion. Using Retail Tips To Increase E-tail Profits. Globalization. Retail Excellence at the Virtual Shelf.

4. Catalog Marketing: Taking the Best and Leaving the Rest.

The Catalog Shopping Experience. The Direct Market. The Character of the Catalog. Persistence = Increased Sales. How to Measure a Good Catalog. Catalog Lessons for E-commerce Sales. A Case Study—Quill.

5. Anatomy of the e-Shelf.

The Cost of Convenience. Shopping Online. Types of Online Stores. Six Functional Parts. Ten Essential E-merchandising Techniques. E-tools of the Trade. Operational Excellence. Integrating “Shelf” Merchandising Techniques.


6. Designing Intuitive Online Customer Shopping Models.

More on Navigation. Designing and Improving Customer Shopping Experiences. Needs Assessment Process. Measuring for Success. Usability Measurement Process. Three Methods for Evaluating Usability. Developing Usable Online Shopping Models. Example 1: HP Printing Supplies Vending Machine. Example 2: Designing a Customer Shopping Model for HP Printing Supplies. Online Store Benchmarking. Customer Online Shopping Task Analysis. A New Method: Retail Task Analysis. Sales Data and Other Relevant Measures. Integrating Research Results. Knowing When You're Done.

7. Winning Webstores.

Inalienable Expectations of Customers. Thirteen Rules of Winning Websites by Jakob Nielsen. Page Design Tips and Considerations. How Does Your Webstore Stack Up? The Envelope Please.


8. Case Studies.

Case Study 1: HP Printing Supplies Configurator. Case Study 2: hpshopping.com—Improving Customer Convenience. Case Study 3: Designing a Website for a Wine Shop. Case Study 4—Back to Business Basics—Designing for Internal Information “Customers”.

9. The Future: The Not-So-Final Frontier.

The Re-emergence of E-commerce. Seize the Future. The Connected Consumer—Pradeep Jotwani. Bullish on the Future of E-commerce—Dr. Jakob Nielsen. The Urbanization of the Internet—Paco Underhill. Keeping Step with the Customer—Susan Boyce. The Duality of the Online Merchant—Bruce Martin. Research of the Future—Judith Herman. The Dynamic Retail Future—Phil Lauria. Measuring the Future—Ron Wilbur. Getting from Here to There. Top Ten Internet Shopping Predictions. Looking Forward.




Nothing would be more disturbing than discovering that customers find shopping on your website frustrating and confusing. Worse yet, what if most of them said they would not purchase from you based on that experience? It would not only be disturbing, it would mean disaster for your business.

Online shopping research we've conducted over the past several years confirms that people will purchase on websites that are easy to use. And, they won't purchase on websites that are confusing or take too long to find what they want. Confusing websites lack customer focus.

Creating a customer-focused superior online shopping experience is the key to consumer-centered design. By adopting the techniques in this book, you will improve the success rates and satisfaction levels of your customers, thereby increasing sales.

Confusing website navigation, minimal assistance during the shopping process, and information overload all cause the consumer to change the "currency" from "money" to "time" as they measure their experience online. Customers will look for ways to reduce the amount and increase the quality of time they spend on the process.

To the customer, quality means education—not a sales job. It also means relevant information and communication, control of when, where, and how to get information, and the ability to ask questions and get answers.

Does your website do all of those things? This book tells you how the customer shops, how to develop and manage your website to respond to customer needs, and provides the methodologies and techniques to employ. You'll also learn about the various disciplines of retailing, cataloging, e-tailing, and usability engineering. It will take integrated knowledge of each to compete in the online shopping environment of the future.

Customer-centered design must start with the customer and grow from there. Knowledge and insight of current shopping behaviors—at retail, in catalogs, and online—are blended with product category information and user-centered design methodologies to develop intuitive website navigation. As a result, customers are interested in your website and can easily find and purchase your products.

The most common form of e-commerce website today is the product-database approach. This type of website is usually designed around the products the online merchant has for sale. The website and category structures are constructed on database software code efficiencies and ease-of-maintenance goals rather than on customer needs, ease of use, or the entertainment value of shopping.

Merchants are usually concerned with abandoned shopping carts. But there are silent customers who get away because they can't find products to place into the cart. And, when the searching gets tough, the shoppers get going and won't hesitate to click to another store. They just don't have the time to spend on confusing or hard-to-use websites.

Although it is unpleasant to hear that customers don't like your store, it is important to listen to their concerns, observe how they interact with your website, probe why they click on selected links, and understand what they expect. You can't tell by merely measuring clicks and hits to pages. You have to know their purpose for shopping and other factors they consider as they shop. If you don't know why they found your website confusing or difficult, you can't improve their experience.

We've found that commerce, whether on the web, in a store, or through a catalog, involves market development, channel development, advertising, usability engineering, retailing, direct marketing, cataloging, and customer research—all disciplines we have worked in at one time or another.

We've discovered that it is not one element that is responsible for successful e-commerce website design, but it is the combination of many elements. The integration of all of the various disciplines provides a holistic view of the online marketplace that creates this novel approach to a customer-centric online store design. It's a blend of new and old rules with a redirected focus that will enable success for the future.

Today's marketplace has grown rapidly and is constantly evolving. We must anticipate and respond to these changes in business, technology, products, competition, and customer dynamics. In today's marketplace, consumers are driving this change.

We're now in a period of merging companies and channels—brick and mortar with web properties, web properties with other web properties—and resurgence of public confidence in online shopping. To win back the online customer, a re-balancing of strategies is required with more emphasis on the customer and more weight on the customer experience. The past was about attracting buyers not customers. The future will be about developing and keeping loyal customer advocates.

Do You Know What You Don't Know?

For the first time, valuable customer insight, usability engineering methodologies, successful retail business drivers, and new concepts of integrated shelf management, are brought together and disclosed in one book. This book is a practical and actionable guide for the new e-commerce marketplace with the customer at its center.

While consulting with many retailers, catalogers, and e-tailers throughout the past several years, we discovered that each of them has had successful business practices that-up until now—have only been applied to one specific selling motion. Also, because the Internet is a tool of human computer interaction, fundamental principles and methodologies of usability engineering were not being applied to the design of most stores.

The conscious integration and balancing of these traditionally distinct functions and applications is the foundation of customer-centered design. We have blended together many proven principles from disparate occupational fields to offer a new approach. It is the unique blending of all of these considerations that makes the website greater than the sum of the individual influences.

Although you may work in only one specialized occupation, such as merchandising or web design, it is critical to know how each of the other elements can make or break a customer's experience. Otherwise, you may be surprised to find your customer may not be able to complete even a simple purchasing task.

Is This Book for You?

If you are an online merchant, you will learn to align business drivers and customer insight with overall e-commerce strategy from which the online store will be created. This book does not tell you how to create a business plan, but it will give new and innovative perspectives that will drive incremental sales, maximize profitability from electronic shelf pages, and attract and retain customers.

You'll also learn why the customer experience and satisfaction with your website is critical to the store's success. In addition, you'll learn about the necessary usability engineering principles and customer navigation models to enable you to better support your design team's efforts.

If you are a buyer or merchandiser, you'll learn successful techniques from retailing and cataloging and learn about appropriately weighting categories and products. You'll also learn how you can help balance your organization's short-term profitability needs with long-term business needs based on fulfilling customer expectations.

If you are a web-page developer, usability engineer, or other IT professional, you will learn to integrate online business strategy with consumer needs to create profitable, customer-centered web pages and sites. You will also learn which business drivers are important for you to consider and how they can be applied to navigation models, page content, and product page layouts. You'll also learn how customer shopping behaviors and preferences in a retail store environment can be applied to the online shopping experience to minimize abandoned shopping carts.

If you are a business or web design student, this book is a fundamental textbook incorporating all the disciplines you will need to understand to be successful. It is also for anyone who will be involved in e-commerce in the future.

The following questions highlight answers that are revealed in this book. Do you know?

  • How knowledge of a retail or catalog customer shopping experience can improve an e-tail customer shopping experience and minimize the potential for an abandoned shopping cart?
  • What usability engineering has to do with shopping?
  • What are destination categories and which products on your website draw customers in for repeat, routine purchases? Or, why the value of a product to the business determines web page layout?
  • Which common mistakes online stores make that ruin the customer's shopping experience and how you can avoid them?
  • Who your best customers are today? Or, who your future customers will be and what affect that will have on future website redesigns?
  • Why it's critical for online merchants to know how task analysis and other usability engineering measurement methodologies affect product sales and customer satisfaction?
  • The new rules for online merchandising, customer experience, and web design?

Here, we combine new and old rules that result in a virtual shelf that is business focused, friendly to the consumer, and profitable for the online merchant, resulting in more bang for the byte.

Book Organization

In the nine chapters of this book, you will find answers to the questions above and learn how to create a conceptual framework targeted to the individual consumer. In addition, you'll discover the secrets behind successful merchandising specifically designed for the web environment.

  • Chapter 1: New Rules of Engagement Looks at the morphing business landscape and the elevation of the customer's power in the selling mix and how this might affect your store in the future.
  • Chapter 2: Walking a Mile in the Customer's Shoes Gives you insight from the customer's perspective. While current Internet tools track where they go and what routes they take, this chapter identifies why. You'll discover what customer knowledge is imperative and how to apply it to web store design.
  • Chapter 3: Retailing Secrets: Tips from the Pros Shows what retailers have learned over the past 30 years as they concentrated on perfecting the customer in-store shopping experience. This chapter reveals business strategies and tools that have belonged exclusively to the retailing industry and how you can apply them to your online store.
  • Chapter 4: Catalog Marketing: Taking the Best and Leaving the Rest Looks at traditional catalog marketing best practices that transfer successfully to the online store. You'll learn which techniques to adopt and how to adopt them.
  • Chapter 5: Anatomy of the e-Shelf Identifies key web pages, navigation paths, and page content. Integrates these pages with other "e-tools" that guide customers through the e-store and help them make purchasing decisions.
  • Chapter 6: Designing Intuitive Online Customer Shopping Models Takes methodologies from software product design and shows you how to apply them to website design. Provides insight on benchmarking and measuring current shopping models.
  • Chapter 7: Winning Webstores Gives top critical success factors for online stores, provided by Dr. Jakob Nielsen, world renowned web usability expert. Dr. Nielsen provides a practical listing of "do's and don'ts" for web design for you to apply - starting with when your customer enters the online store and ending at the checkout counter. This chapter also includes a simple testing model you can deploy immediately to evaluate your own website.
  • Chapter 8: Case Studies This chapter provides four case studies that apply various combinations of the techniques disclosed in this book.
  • Chapter 9: The Future: The Not-So-Final Frontier This chapter presents viewpoints from various industry leaders representing a variety of disciplines from retailing to research to Internet usability.

Customer-Centered Design: A New Approach to Web Usability is a practical guide to understanding the e-Shelf. Designing and structuring information correctly enhances navigation through your site as well as delivering your customers a satisfying shopping experience.

We're pleased to bring a new perspective to not only online merchandising and sales, but also to business in general. The customer must reside at the center of every business decision. By focusing on the customer first, profitability will result. By focusing on profitability first, the customer may go away. We hope we can influence online businesses to take the first step into this new world of design.

Kreta Chandler
Karen Hyatt

About the Authors

The two authors have extensive experience in many fields:

Kreta Chandler: A former learning products engineer and award-winning author of UNIX user manuals and online help, Ms. Chandler has spent the past 21 years with Hewlett-Packard Company consulting with major online retailers, managing customer online shopping research, and leading the development of online shopping tools that are revolutionizing the way customers shop online. She has also managed direct marketing catalog programs and developed user interface navigation models for the first interactive printing supplies vending machine. She was part of the engineering team that pioneered HP-VUE, the first graphical user interface for UNIX.

Karen Hyatt: A former editor and columnist, Ms. Hyatt has spent the past 20 years with Hewlett-Packard Company managing competitive intelligence, category management strategy, advertising, press relations, and merchandising. In demand for her expertise in retail theft prevention, she has served as a consultant for major retailers and industry associations. At HP she developed retail strategies that pioneered consumer-centric marketing including innovative category management plans and consumer shopping behavior research. She currently manages legal strategy for HP's largest business.


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