Direct-to-Consumer UX Design: Striking a Balance between Fun and Familiar

Over the last two decades, patterns in modern web design have been established among websites and digital products across all industries. These patterns have helped increase site usability by providing users with a consistent and familiar framework to navigate. The consistency across site useability is largely due to the work of Jakob Nielsen, a forefather of user experience design.

Back in 2000, Nielsen wrote that, “Websites must tone down their individual appearance and distinct design in all ways.” Including:

  • Visual design
  • Terminology and labeling
  • Interaction design and workflow
  • Information architecture

Neilson encouraged designers to shift away from using novel design techniques to capture users’ attention, and towards adopting familiar established design patterns to automate an experience. His rationale was, “users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know.”

In more recent years, the use of patterns across websites has had an enormous impact on the way UX Designers think about crafting Direct-to-Consumer (DTC), experiences. 

Today, we’ve automated website design—especially in ecommerce and DTC websites—even more by presenting content to users in almost identical ways; leaning heavily on tried-and-true methods that are known to increase conversion.

In fact, if you were to conduct a quick audit of DTC websites in similar categories you’d notice similar content presented within similar modules (e.g. Header, How it Works, Social Proof, etc.), using similar iconography and imagery.

What’s the problem? 

There is a fine line between effectively communicating the brand’s unique service offering and differentiators and introducing extraneous content that diverts focus from the main intentions of the website. 

DTC website design should celebrate the brand’s unique service offerings and differentiators while using familiar and intuitive design patterns in order to strike a balance between fun and familiar.

3 Ways for DTC Sites to Strike a Balance Between a Fun and Familiar

1.    Visually Manipulate the Grid

 Most modules utilize a grid system in order to be mobile responsive. However, in order to stand out, DTC brands can manipulate the grid by overlapping content blocks and playing with the alignment of imagery and color. This can help create visual nuances that will differentiate the site experience from others using a similar grid.

 2.    Create Nuance through Subtle Animation or Interactions

Subtle movement can help DTC brands add visual intrigue without taking away from the efficiency of the experience.

3.    Embrace Concise & Minimal Designs

Simple doesn’t mean boring. Leveraging white space along with concise copy and large product imagery can help DTC brands create space that to clearly and easily communicate claims and differentiators.

Overall, familiarity is the top priority when designing efficient and seamless user experiences on DTC websites, but there are subtle and mindful ways DTC brands can keep the experience fun in order to drive the type of engagement that helps turn site users into brand buyers.

Contributed by: Jenny DeSouchet, UX Strategist

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