One of the more interesting topics we’ve explored under the umbrella of user experience is metaphor in design. I’m particularly interested in how this plays out with websites. Creating a website is like creating a virtual place that people will visit. The creation needs to use elements that are familiar to the visitor to build an environment that will respond in the way the user wishes. Below I’ll explore some interesting metaphors that bring elements of real life into the website experience.
The cart is one of the most iconic metaphors online. It simulates the familiar physical shopping experience of putting things in your cart so that you can mull over whether you actually want to purchase and whether you want to buy anything else before you check out. Is that final deliberation step really helpful to stores? The average cart abandonment rate is 70%! Amazon is solving this issue with their “Buy it now” button that skips the cart altogether.
Interestingly, the cart metaphor creates a conflict for some industries. In some high-end retail, the cart is seen as a vulgar symbol. They would certainly never see an actual cart in their store. Some still even feel that enabling ecommerce on their websites would make them see less exclusive as a brand.
While many high-end retailers are embracing ecommerce, they can change some wording in the checkout process to reflect their uniqueness. For example, they can globally replace the word “product” with “artwork” in their out-of-the-box ecommerce content management system. However, they’d be hard pressed to replace the cart symbol, as it’s a metaphor that’s been ingrained in online shoppers.
One solution is to replace the cart icon with a gift bag icon. While this is an option for businesses that are completelyopposed to the cart, the concept has less familiarity and can be confusing to shoppers.
The popularity of the online shopping cart has increased over time as both consumers and sellers have gotten more comfortable with the ecommerce model. COVID-19 is pushing along many late adopters to embrace online shopping. It will be interesting to see how future shifts in how we pay could streamline the checkout process and maybe even do away with the cart step altogether.