UX for Catalogs

During my stint at a web/ecommerce agency, I learned a lot about User Experience design (also known as “UX”). It’s really the only way to plan out an ecommerce website design because it forces the issue of figuring out, in advance, how a visitor to the site will navigate and ultimately find (and buy) products.

To someone like me who enjoys the structured, organized thinking that is required to design a website or a catalog, I have really embraced the whole UX way of thinking. So I wanted to figure out how UX design could be translated to a print catalog — for exactly the same reasons, and to get to exactly the same result.

Here is what I came up with – it’s my own personal take on how UX is done (if you’re a “real” UX designer, please don’t take this as an attack on your profession – I know you’re better at this than I am!). This is a cursory overview but hopefully it will help you to think about your catalog design in a different way.

1. Start with a shiny new pad of Post-It® notes

2. Stick one Post-It up on the wall for each catalog spread (if your catalog is 64 pages, put up 33 of them – 31 spreads plus a front cover and a back cover)

3. Using your pagination document (you have one of those, right?) it’s time to transfer each of your catalog spreads onto each of the Post-It’s you’ve stuck up on the wall.

4. On each Post-It, write a short description of what you want each spread to do for you (for example “opening spread – intro new Summer collection” or “detail shots of all dining chairs”)

5. At this point, you can very easily shift your catalog spreads around (just un-stick them and stick them back up where you want them). This is an important step because you know how many opinions you’re going to get and this will make it easy to look at lots of different pagination options.

6. Once you’re happy with the page order, I suggest going back in with a very important mission: write down, on at least every other spread, how you’re going to “tell the customer what to do next”.

If you’ve read my other blog posts, you have probably heard me use that phrase before, and it’s worth repeating — because if you don’t tell them, they aren’t going to do it.

You need to tell your customer what to do next.

Telling them what to do can encompass many suggestions such as using a web driver bug, directing customers to more styles/colors/versions online (either using words or icons), using customer testimonials, promoting your customer service team members who can help customers choose the right product, directing them to social media (both your own social media accounts as well as Pinterest), etc.

This is the part that feels most UX-like – directing shoppers to where you want them to go. Just as on a website, no savvy marketer wants to leave it to chance. Web visitors may feel like they’re browsing freely, but there is always an underlying goal, a pathway that the site architects have paved for you to follow, and that path will always lead to a chance to purchase with as little effort as possible. Brick and mortar stores work the same way (why do you think the cosmetics counters – which represent the highest margin of any department — are always at the main entrance of any department store, where you are forced to walk through them no matter where you’re headed?)

The bottom line is that an intelligently thought out pathway should be there for your customers no matter how and where they’re shopping. You have the power – use it to your advantage!

Having trouble telling your customers what to do next? We’ve got lots of ideas, and they all start at Binger.