WeChat Stores May Change the E-Commerce in China

WeChat Stores May Change the E-Commerce in China

Wechat is challenging Taobao the digital mall for E-Commerce in China. And the new Wechat Store may change the game for Alibaba.

The Craze for Social Commerce in China

The emergence of new technology has transformed our consumption environment in an impressive way in China. Brands and influencers have quickly succeeded in penetrating the Chinese market and society by using tools that intertwine into the everyday lives of individuals. (Read Guide to Understand KOL in China)

It is a fact; online commerce takes a prominent place in China. It has become a complete ecosystem that interweaves into all the components of the digital landscape. It connects a multitude of Internet users and no longer dissociates from the physical experience.

The development of social networks has made it possible to change the behaviors and habits of Internet users and offers more freedom and power to consumers.

Continue reading "WeChat Stores May Change the E-Commerce in China" at Maximize Social Business by clicking here.

Google Shopping gets top spot impression share & product diagnostics reporting

Each year, Google rolls out several new features ahead of the holidays for retail advertisers. This year’s updates have started coming out.

The company introduced a new metric and new reporting for Shopping campaign advertisers — only in the new AdWords interface.

The new metric, called absolute top impression share, reports how often Shopping ads and Local Inventory ads appear in the first spot on mobile and desktop. Google says that during Q4 last year, the first Shopping ad on mobile saw up to three times more engagement than the other spots.

On the Products page, a new diagnostics report lets advertisers dig deeper into product status issues in AdWords.


These features can be added to the list of features exclusive to the new AdWords interface — what Google calls the new AdWords experience — that’s rolling out to advertisers through this year.

The post Google Shopping gets top spot impression share & product diagnostics reporting appeared first on Search Engine Land.

7 Questions to Ask your Client as a Freelancer

Understanding what your client wants is absolutely crucial as a freelancer. Bad communication can threaten your livelihood as a freelancer, putting you at risk of not only not getting clients, but of developing a bad reputation on sites like Upwork or Freelancer, which means you’ll hardly stand to make it as a freelancer.

You need to effectively hone your communication skills by developing a standard way of talking to clients and asking them questions before you even start. It’ll save you lots of time (and since time is money, it’ll save you money, too!) in regards to completing a project, and it’ll ensure that you deliver a quality product without having to visit the drawing board over and over again.

1: What is the timeline for the project?

This is an easy one. Know how long the client expects you to take so you can then cut the project up into smaller pieces and help you stay on task.

Additionally, if you find out upfront that the client’s expectations are unrealistic, you can communicate that with them and find a timeline that works for the both of you. Don’t let a client try and get you to develop a website in two days if you don’t think you can handle it.

2: Who is your intended audience?

Get them to establish the end users that will be utilizing the product you develop. It can be risky to jump into a project without fully understanding who it’s for.

You’ll be able to research specific demographics and see what works best and what attracts them the most if you know who you’re targeting.

3: What is your personal or corporate brand?

Determine their vision, mission, desired tone and mood in regards to verbiage and intent, brand, and the overall image they want to communicate through their end product.

4: What are your intended goals from the project deliverable?

Do they expect to gain more visitors to their site? Do they just want to have a visually impressive eCommerce site or app? Do they want copy that’s going to sell a product? Encourage site visitors to donate to a foundation?

Know upfront what their goals are.

5: What are some additional concerns, requirements, or comments they want you to be aware of?

Give the client the chance to ask a few things that you didn’t offer up the answer to already. This lets them feel like you value their feedback, and lets you hear things you didn’t even know you needed to know.

6: Do you have any further clarification on…?

Ask for further clarification on anything they may have left to the imagination. This is especially crucial if their job description hasn’t fully explained what their project is or what they need from you.

7: Would you like to have a phone call or Skype session?

Asking this upfront will let the client know that your communication channels are wide open, and they’ll feel more comfortable knowing they can reach you through an alternate medium should explaining things through text prove to be difficult for them.


Let them know about the business overhead and any additional research. Don’t forget that sometimes projects require a lot more than clients realize, and helping them to understand the full extent of their project is going to make them trust you a lot more, have faith you can deliver a quality product, and know more about your process.

Also, attempt to standardize your methods of communication. It’s helpful if you can utilize Google Forms to create a standard form with the questions listed above that you can send to every client. It communicates professionalism and shows that you know what you’re doing.

Don’t let bad communication be your downfall. You might be afraid of a phone call, or you might be afraid to let a client know that you need an extension, but clients want more than anything an open and consistent form of discussion so they feel like they’re able to be more involved in the process.

Don’t make the mistake of not speaking with a client at all during the building process and then follow-up with an MVP and find out they don’t like at all what you’ve created.

Communication can make or break you, so make it work for you.

The post 7 Questions to Ask your Client as a Freelancer appeared first on Speckyboy Design Magazine.

The New Yorker Announces ‘Television’ Issue With Cool Editorial-Style Trailer

[Click here to view the video in this article]

Video screenshot via Nicolo Bianchino

Who knew the show would turn out as well as the book—or in this case, the magazine? To unveil its 4 September 2017 ‘Television’ issue, The New Yorker has roped in Brooklyn-based designer and animator Nicolo Bianchino to create a trailer, and it is a page-turner.

The editorial-chic animation offers an artfully executed lineup of celebrities who will be featured in the issue, including American filmmaker Ken Burns as well as Showtime and Orange is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan.

“Television, it practically raised me!” Bianchino reminisces. “Television has now gone beyond television with everyone watching their own thing, at their own time, on their own little thing.” Enjoy the aesthetically-pleasing trailer below.

Video via Nicolo Bianchino

Video screenshot via Nicolo Bianchino

Video screenshot via Nicolo Bianchino

Video screenshot via Nicolo Bianchino

Video screenshot via Nicolo Bianchino

[via Motionographer, video via Nicolo Bianchino, video screenshots via Nicolo Bianchino]

Automating Google Chrome with Node.js

In this tutorial we explore the new Headless Chrome platform and try out some scripts for automated browser testing.

Continue reading on Tutorialzine.

How to Use Excel: 14 Simple Excel Tips, Tricks, and Shortcuts

Sometimes, Excel seems too good to be true. All I have to do is enter a formula, and pretty much anything I’d ever need to do manually can be done automatically. Need to merge two sheets with similar data? Excel can do it. Need to do simple math? Excel can do it. Need to combine information in multiple cells? Excel can do it.

If you encounter a situation where you need to manually update your data, you’re probably missing out on a formula that can do it for you. Before spending hours and hours counting cells or copying and pasting data, look for a quick fix on Excel — you’ll likely find one.Click here to download our collection of free Excel templates that will make your life easier.

In the spirit of working more efficiently and avoiding tedious, manual work, here are a few Excel tricks to get you started with how to use Excel. (And to all the Harry Potter fans out there … you’re welcome in advance.)

How to Use Excel

If you’re just starting out with Excel, there are a few basic commands that we suggest you become familiar with. These are things like:

  • Creating a new spreadsheet from scratch.
  • Executing basic computations in a spreadsheet, like adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing in a spreadsheet.
  • Writing and formatting column text and titles.
  • Excel’s auto-fill features.
  • Adding or deleting single columns, rows, and spreadsheets. Below, we’ll get into how to add things like multiple columns and rows.
  • Keeping column and row titles visible as you scroll past them in a spreadsheet, so that you know what data you’re filling as you move further down the document.

For a deep dive on these basics, check out our comprehensive guide on How to Use Excel.

Okay, ready to get into the nitty-gritty? Let’s get to it.

14 Excel Tips to Try

1) Pivot Tables

Pivot Tables are used to reorganize data in a spreadsheet. They won’t change the data that you have, but they can sum up values and compare different information in your spreadsheet, depending on what you’d like them to do.

Let’s take a look at an example. Let’s say I want to take a look at how many people are in each house at Hogwarts. You may be thinking that I don’t have too much data, but for longer data sets, this will come in handy.

To create the Pivot Table, I go to Data > Pivot Table. Excel will automatically populate your Pivot Table, but you can always change around the order of the data. Then, you have four options to choose from.

  1. Report Filter: This allows you to only look at certain rows in your dataset. For example, if I wanted to create a filter by house, I could choose to only include students in Gryffindor instead of all students.
  2. Column Labels: These could be your headers in the dataset.
  3. Row Labels: These could be your rows in the dataset. Both Row and Column labels can contain data from your columns (e.g. First Name can be dragged to either the Row or Column label — it just depends on how you want to see the data.)
  4. Value: This section allows you to look at your data differently. Instead of just pulling in any numeric value, you can sum, count, average, max, min, count numbers, or do a few other manipulations with your data. In fact, by default, when you drag a field to Value, it always does a count.

Since I want to count the number of students in each house, I’ll go to the Pivot Table and drag the House column to both the Row Labels and the Values. This will sum up the number of students associated with each house.

Pivot Table

2) Add More Than One New Row or Column

As you play around with your data, you might find you’re constantly needing to add more rows and columns. Sometimes, you may even need to add hundreds of rows. Doing this one-by-one would be super tedious. Luckily, there’s always an easier way.

To add multiple rows or columns in a spreadsheet, highlight the same number of preexisting rows or columns that you want to add. Then, right-click and select “Insert.”

In the example below, I want to add an additional three rows. By highlighting three rows and then clicking insert, I’m able to add an additional three blank rows into my spreadsheet quickly and easily.

insert Spaces

3) Filters

When you’re looking at very large data sets, you don’t usually need to be looking at every single row at the same time. Sometimes, you only want to look at data that fit into certain criteria. That’s where filters come in.

Filters allow you to pare down your data to only look at certain rows at one time. In Excel, a filter can be added to each column in your data — and from there, you can then choose which cells you want to view at once.

Let’s take a look at the example below. Add a filter by clicking the Data tab and selecting “Filter.” Clicking the arrow next to the column headers and you’ll be able to choose whether you want your data to be organized in ascending or descending order, as well as which specific rows you want to show.

In my Harry Potter example, let’s say I only want to see the students in Gryffindor. By selecting the Gryffindor filter, the other rows disappear.


Pro Tip: Copy and paste the values in the spreadsheet when a Filter is on to do additional analysis in another spreadsheet.

4) Remove Duplicates

Larger data sets tend to have duplicate content. You may have a list of multiple contacts in a company and only want to see the number of companies you have. In situations like this, removing the duplicates comes in quite handy.

To remove your duplicates, highlight the row or column that you want to remove duplicates of. Then, go to the Data tab, and select “Remove Duplicates” (under Tools). A pop-up will appear to confirm which data you want to work with. Select “Remove Duplicates,” and you’re good to go.

Remove Duplicates

You can also use this feature to remove an entire row based on a duplicate column value. So if you have three rows with Harry Potter’s information and you only need to see one, then you can select the whole dataset and then remove duplicates based on email. Your resulting list will have only unique names without any duplicates.

5) Transpose

When you have low rows of data in your spreadsheet, you might decide you actually want to transform the items in one of those rows into columns (or vice versa). It would take a lot of time to copy and paste each individual header — but what the transpose feature allows you to do is simply move your row data into columns, or the other way around.

Start by highlighting the column that you want to transpose into rows. Right-click it, and then select “Copy.” Next, select the cells on your spreadsheet where you want your first row or column to begin. Right-click on the cell, and then select “Paste Special.” A module will appear — at the bottom, you’ll see an option to transpose. Check that box and select OK. Your column will now be transferred to a row or vice-versa.


6) Text to Columns

What if you want to split out information that’s in one cell into two different cells? For example, maybe you want to pull out someone’s company name through their email address. Or perhaps you want to separate someone’s full name into a first and last name for your email marketing templates.

Thanks to Excel, both are possible. First, highlight the column that you want to split up. Next, go to the Data tab and select “Text to Columns.” A module will appear with additional information.

First, you need to select either “Delimited” or “Fixed Width.”

  • “Delimited” means you want to break up the column based on characters such as commas, spaces, or tabs.
  • “Fixed Width” means you want to select the exact location on all the columns that you want the split to occur.

In the example case below, let’s select “Delimited” so we can separate the full name into first name and last name.

Then, it’s time to choose the Delimiters. This could be a tab, semi-colon, comma, space, or something else. (“Something else” could be the “@” sign used in an email address, for example.) In our example, let’s choose the space. Excel will then show you a preview of what your new columns will look like.

When you’re happy with the preview, press “Next.” This page will allow you to select Advanced Formats if you choose to. When you’re done, click “Finish.”

Text to Column

Excel Formulas

7) Simple Calculations

In addition to doing pretty complex calculations, Excel can help you do simple arithmetic like adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing any of your data.

  • To add, use the + sign.
  • To subtract, use the – sign.
  • To multiply, use the * sign.
  • To divide, use the / sign.

You can also use parenthesis to ensure certain calculations are done first. In the example below (10+10*10), the second and third 10 were multiplied together before adding the additional 10. However, if we made it (10+10)*10, the first and second 10 would be added together first.

Simple Math

Bonus: If you want the average of a set of numbers, you can use the formula =AVERAGE(Cell Range). If you want to sum up a column of numbers, you can use the formula =SUM(Cell Range).

8) Conditional Formatting Formula

Conditional formatting allows you to change a cell’s color based on the information within the cell. For example, if you want to flag certain numbers that are above average or in the top 10% of the data in your spreadsheet, you can do that. If you want to color code commonalities between different rows in Excel, you can do that. This will help you quickly see information the is important to you.

To get started, highlight the group of cells you want to use conditional formatting on. Then, choose “Conditional Formatting” from the Home menu and select your logic from the dropdown. (You can also create your own rule if you want something different.) A window will pop up that prompts you to provide more information about your formatting rule. Select “OK” when you’re done, and you should see your results automatically appear.

Conditional Formatting

9) IF Statement

Sometimes, we don’t want to count the number of times a value appears. Instead, we want to input different information into a cell if there is a corresponding cell with that information.

For example, in the situation below, I want to award ten points to everyone who belongs in the Gryffindor house. Instead of manually typing in 10’s next to each Gryffindor student’s name, I can use the IF THEN Excel formula to say that if the student is in Gryffindor, then they should get ten points.

The formula: IF(logical_test, value_if_true, value of false)

Example Shown Below: =IF(D2=”Gryffindor”,”10″,”0″)

In general terms, the formula would be IF(Logical Test, value of true, value of false). Let’s dig into each of these variables.

  • Logical_Test: The logical test is the “IF” part of the statement. In this case, the logic is D2=”Gryffindor” because we want to make sure that the cell corresponding with the student says “Gryffindor.” Make sure to put Gryffindor in quotation marks here.
  • Value_if_True: This is what we want the cell to show if the value is true. In this case, we want the cell to show “10” to indicate that the student was awarded the 10 points. Only use quotation marks if you want the result to be text instead of a number.
  • Value_if_False: This is what we want the cell to show if the value is false. In this case, for any student not in Gryffindor, we want the cell to show “0” to show 0 points. Only use quotation marks if you want the result to be text instead of a number.


Note: In the example above, I awarded 10 points to everyone in Gryffindor. If I later wanted to sum the total number of points, I wouldn’t be able to because the 10’s are in quotes, thus making them text and not a number that Excel can sum.

10) Dollar Signs

Have you ever seen a dollar sign in an Excel formula? When used in a formula, it isn’t representing an American dollar; instead, it makes sure that the exact column and row are held the same even if you copy the same formula in adjacent rows.

You see, a cell reference — when you refer to cell A5 from cell C5, for example — is relative by default. In that case, you’re actually referring to a cell that’s five columns to the left (C minus A) and in the same row (5). This is called a relative formula. When you copy a relative formula from one cell to another, it’ll adjust the values in the formula based on where it’s moved. But sometimes, we want those values to stay the same no matter whether they’re moved around or not — and we can do that by making the formula in the cell into what’s called an absolute formula.

To change the relative formula (=A5+C5) into an absolute formula, we’d precede the row and column values by dollar signs, like this: (=$A$5+$C$5). (Learn more on Microsoft Office’s support page here.)

Excel Functions

11) VLOOKUP Function

Have you ever had two sets of data on two different spreadsheets that you want to combine into a single spreadsheet?

For example, you might have a list of people’s names next to their email addresses in one spreadsheet, and a list of those same people’s email addresses next to their company names in the other — but you want the names, email addresses, and company names of those people to appear in one place.

I have to combine data sets like this a lot — and when I do, the VLOOKUP is my go-to formula. Before you use the formula, though, be absolutely sure that you have at least one column that appears identically in both places. Scour your data sets to make sure the column of data you’re using to combine your information is exactly the same, including no extra spaces.

The formula: =VLOOKUP(lookup value, table array, column number, [range lookup])

The formula with variables from our example below: =VLOOKUP(C2,Sheet2!A:B,2,FALSE)

In this formula, there are several variables. The following is true when you want to combine information in Sheet 1 and Sheet 2 onto Sheet 1.

  • Lookup Value: This is the identical value you have in both spreadsheets. Choose the first value in your first spreadsheet. In the example that follows, this means the first email address on the list, or cell 2 (C2).
  • Table Array: The range of columns on Sheet 2 you’re going to pull your data from, including the column of data identical to your lookup value (in our example, email addresses) in Sheet 1 as well as the column of data you’re trying to copy to Sheet 1. In our example, this is “Sheet2!A:B.” “A” means Column A in Sheet 2, which is the column in Sheet 2 where the data identical to our lookup value (email) in Sheet 1 is listed. The “B” means Column B, which contains the information that’s only available in Sheet 2 that you want to translate to Sheet 1.
  • Column Number: If the table array (the range of columns you just indicated) this tells Excel which column the new data you want to copy to Sheet 1 is located in. In our example, this would be the column that “House” is located in. “House” is the second column in our range of columns (table array), so our column number is 2. [Note: Your range can be more than two columns. For example, if there are three columns on Sheet 2 — Email, Age, and House — and you still want to bring House onto Sheet 1, you can still use a VLOOKUP. You just need to change the “2” to a “3” so it pulls back the value in the third column: =VLOOKUP(C2:Sheet2!A:C,3,false).]
  • Range Lookup: Use FALSE to ensure you pull in only exact value matches.

In the example below, Sheet 1 and Sheet 2 contain lists describing different information about the same people, and the common thread between the two is their email addresses. Let’s say we want to combine both datasets so that all the house information from Sheet 2 translates over to Sheet 1.


So when we type in the formula =VLOOKUP(C2,Sheet2!A:B,2,FALSE), we bring all the house data into Sheet 1.

Keep in mind that VLOOKUP will only pull back values from the second sheet that are to the right of the column containing your identical data. This can lead to some limitations, which is why some people prefer to use the INDEX and MATCH functions instead.


Like VLOOKUP, the INDEX and MATCH functions pull in data from another dataset into one central location. Here are the main differences:

  1. VLOOKUP is a much simpler formula. If you’re working with large data sets that would require thousands of lookups, using the INDEX MATCH function will significantly decrease load time in Excel.
  2. INDEX MATCH formulas work right-to-left, whereas VLOOKUP formulas only work as a left-to-right lookup. In other words, if you need to do a lookup that has a lookup column to the right of the results column, then you’d have to rearrange those columns in order to do a VLOOKUP. This can be tedious with large datasets and/or lead to errors.

So if I want to combine information in Sheet 1 and Sheet 2 onto Sheet 1, but the column values in Sheets 1 and 2 aren’t the same, then to do a VLOOKUP, I would need to switch around my columns. In this case, I’d choose to do an INDEX MATCH instead.

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say Sheet 1 contains a list of people’s names and their Hogwarts email addresses, and Sheet 2 contains a list of people’s email addresses and the Patronus that each student has. (For the non-Harry Potter fans out there, every witch or wizard has an animal guardian called a “Patronus” associated with him or her.) The information that lives in both sheets is the column containing email addresses, but this email address column is in different column numbers on each sheet. I’d use the INDEX MATCH formula instead of VLOOKUP so I wouldn’t have to switch any columns around.

So what’s the formula, then? The INDEX MATCH formula is actually the MATCH formula nested inside the INDEX formula. You’ll see I differentiated the MATCH formula using a different color here.

The formula: =INDEX(table array, MATCH formula)

This becomes: =INDEX(table array, MATCH (lookup_value, lookup_array))

The formula with variables from our example below: =INDEX(Sheet2!A:A,(MATCH(Sheet1!C:C,Sheet2!C:C,0)))

Here are the variables:

  • Table Array: The range of columns on Sheet 2 containing the new data you want to bring over to Sheet 1. In our example, “A” means Column A, which contains the “Patronus” information for each person.
  • Lookup Value: This is the column in Sheet 1 that contains identical values in both spreadsheets. In the example that follows, this means the “email” column on Sheet 1, which is Column C. So: Sheet1!C:C.
  • Lookup Array: This is the column in Sheet 2 that contains identical values in both spreadsheets. In the example that follows, this refers to the “email” column on Sheet 2, which happens to also be Column C. So: Sheet2!C:C.

Once you have your variables straight, type in the INDEX MATCH formula in the top-most cell of the blank Patronus column on Sheet 1, where you want the combined information to live.


13) COUNTIF Function

Instead of manually counting how often a certain value or number appears, let Excel do the work for you. With the COUNTIF function, Excel can count the number of times a word or number appears in any range of cells.

For example, let’s say I want to count the number of times the word “Gryffindor” appears in my data set.

The formula: =COUNTIF(range, criteria)

The formula with variables from our example below: =COUNTIF(D:D,”Gryffindor”)

In this formula, there are several variables:

  • Range: The range that we want the formula to cover. In this case, since we’re only focusing on one column, we use “D:D” to indicate that the first and last column are both D. If I were looking at columns C and D, I would use “C:D.”
  • Criteria: Whatever number or piece of text you want Excel to count. Only use quotation marks if you want the result to be text instead of a number. In our example, the criteria is “Gryffindor.”

Simply typing in the COUNTIF formula in any cell and pressing “Enter” will show me how many times the word “Gryffindor” appears in the dataset.


14) Combine cells using “&”

Databases tend to split out data to make it as exact as possible. For example, instead of having a data that shows a person’s full name, a database might have the data as a first name and then a last name in separate columns. Or, it may have a person’s location separated by city, state, and zip code. In Excel, you can combine cells with different data into one cell by using the “&” sign in your function.

The formula with variables from our example below: =A2&” “&B2

Let’s go through the formula together using an example. Pretend we want to combine first names and last names into full names in a single column. To do this, we’d first put our cursor in the blank cell where we want the full name to appear. Next, we’d highlight one cell that contains a first name, type in an “&” sign, and then highlight a cell with the corresponding last name.

But you’re not finished — if all you type in is =A2&B2, then there will not be a space between the person’s first name and last name. To add that necessary space, use the function =A2&” “&B2. The quotation marks around the space tell Excel to put a space in between the first and last name.

To make this true for multiple rows, simply drag the corner of that first cell downward as shown in the example.

Combine with And

We hope you found this article helpful! Bookmark it to keep these handy Excel tips in your back pocket.

Other Excel Help Resources:

Free Download Excel Templates

  Free Download Excel Templates

How to Design Checkout UX Like a Pro

The checkout experience is arguably the most crucial aspect of your online store. Any hiccups and the customer could get distracted, disappointed, or leave—outing your company (that pays your salary) of precious revenue. It needs to be perfect. As a user experience designer, it’s your job to ensure the checkout experience is seamless and effective. No mistakes.

In this article, I’d like to discuss checkout design and several tenets that make for the best shopping-to-payment experience. I know. When you hear “checkout design,” you’re probably jumping for joy…

…but it’s where the rubber meets the road when it comes to making money online. Without a checkout, you don’t get paid. So it better be good.

To answer this question of what makes the best checkout experience, I sought out three veteran UX designers at major ecommerce brands: ThinkGeek, Shopify, and REI. These companies see millions and millions of dollars and users pass through their checkout “lanes” daily. The three folks were:

  • Matt Chwat, Director of User Experience at ThinkGeek. Matt’s been at ThinkGeek, the Internet’s #1 largest (and nerdiest) online store, for nine years. He’s as much a front end developer as he is a UX designer.
  • Kevin Clark, Design Lead at Shopify. Kevin Clark is the Design Lead at Shopify’s Montreal-based purchase experience design team. He oversees the team responsible for the checkout experience across the ecommerce platform. As soon as a user clicks the cart icon, you’ve entered the domain of Kevin’s team. Everything from email receipts, merchant-customer interactions, to the live order status page—if you’re purchasing something on a Shopify site, odd’s are, Kevin and his team had a hand in it.
  • Catherine Ho, Senior UX Designer at REI. Formerly at Intuit, Catherine’s been with REI for two years in Seattle. She loves UX because it focuses on people and it’s both technical and creative. Her role at REI is hybrid between research and design. Her projects have included in-store devices, such as an iPod touch for the POS system, iOS apps and membership and accounts, specifically redesigning the sign-in and wishlist experiences.

Throughout my conversations with them, I noticed 5 common principles to remember when designing seamless checkouts.

1. Shopify’s three gold standards of the checkout experience: easy to understand, simple, and fast

In 2016, Kevin Clark and his team were responsible for redesigning the checkout experience for all Shopify sites. That’s almost half a million stores. As a chart-topper in the ecommerce space, expectations were high.

Working closely with the Themes team, Kevin and his team focused on the standardizing a universal Shopify checkout experience. It’s the same in all Shopify themes.

Users need to feel secure and comfortable when dealing with money. The checkout experience needed to be consistent and familiar across all online stores.

—Kevin Clark, Shopify

Beyond the foundational sense of security, the Shopify purchase experience should be easy to understand, simple, and fast.

The best way to design something as transactional and process-driven as the checkout is to test everything.

For example, to test an assumption about how many steps should be in the checkout experience, he and his team conducted a test comparing one-page, two-page, and three-page experiences — each with the same information.

Example of single page checkout:

Example of a two-page checkout:

The results showed one page felt overwhelming to the user because it presented too much information on one page, two pages divided the steps awkwardly, and three pages felt simple and easy.

The three steps are Customer Information, Shipping Method, and Payment:

We learned that by grouping relevant information together in chunks, and putting it in a logical order, you allow the user to focus on one task at a time. There is, however, a limit. You don’t want to go too far, like having a ten step checkout experience.

—Kevin Clark, Shopify

These three steps are set in stone across all sites. But other than that, store owners are permitted a handful of customizations to match their brand.

We looked at thousands and thousands of stores and determined that we can replicate almost every store’s design by giving the user five default customization choices: fonts, accent colors, button colors, header image, and the logo.

But with customizations, Kevin recommends not overdoing it:

Don’t give users so much rope that they hang themselves.

Rather, there should be controls set in place to protect a baseline experience that is consistent, familiar, and secure. An example of this is the Shopify system knows which colors to use and not use based on a contrast algorithm (i.e., light text on dark background) and adjusts for readability.

The checkout system Kevin and his team created laid the foundation for future work to be built on top of it. It’s a component-based system, so new components can be added, such as fields and button elements, and features can be modified or added, without overhauling the entire system.

2. The ultimate goal: “frictionlessness”

The father of Windows and Internet Explorer, former Microsoft-legend Steven Sinofsky currently advises companies like Product Hunt, Box, and sits on the board of Andreessen Horowitz. He is a designer at heart and a master of product development. In his post Frictionless Product Design, he pointed out the difference between minimalism and frictionless design.

He wrote that while minimalist design reduces the surface area of an experience, frictionless design is about reducing the energy required by an experience. This is especially important in checkout design.

He gives 6 principles of frictionless design:

  1. Decide on a default rather than options
  2. Create one path to a feature or task
  3. Offer personalization rather than customization
  4. Stick with changes you make
  5. Build features, not futzers
  6. Guess correctly all the time

At REI, Catherine recently implemented an example of frictionless design on a project. Her team found that when a customer is ready to add an item to their cart, signing-in sends the customer to a new webpage, thus breaking the shopping experience. To fix this, she A/B tested a sign-in widget that opened a drop down sign-in modal, keeping the experience on-page instead of sending the shopper to a new sign-in page.


The data analytics showed no difference in traffic or drop-offs, so they kept it. Visitors could sign in and continue shopping from the same page without losing their sense of place. This is an example of Sinofsky’s #2 principle: Create one path to a feature or task. Instead of creating a fork in the road to sign in or continue shopping, the user’s path is unilateral.

It’s worth mentioning Sinofsky’s #5 principle here as well: Build features, not futzers. What the heck is a “futzer?”

A futzer is the word “futzing” (which probably sounds more familiar to you) cleverly disguised as a noun. It’s a thing that causes pointless fiddling around and wasted time.

This is where designers get tripped up. How do you determine the difference between a feature and a futzer? As Sinofsky alludes, it requires a delicate balance of giving the user what they want but not so much that it overwhelms them.

A great way to illustrate this is to look at the top reasons shoppers abandon their shopping carts. I’d like to highlight two cart abandonment studies and pull insights from both.

In the first study (2013), payment processing company Worldpay surveyed why people left their online shopping carts without paying.


Six of the reasons given are related to this balance between features and futzers. Check it out:

  1. “Website navigation too complicated” … Too many futzers.
  2. “Process was taking too long” … Too many futzers.
  3. “Excessive payment security checks” … Too many futzers.
  4. “Concerns about payment security” … Not enough features.
  5. “Delivery options were unsuitable” … Not enough features.
  6. “Price presented in a foreign currency” … Not enough features.

In other words, companies are losing revenue because shoppers leave when there are too many futzers and not enough features.

In a similar study performed in 2016 by Baymard Institute usability researchers found that 27% of US online shoppers abandoned their carts solely due to a “too long / complicated checkout process.

Baymard’s benchmark database revealed that the average US checkout flow contains 23.48 form elements displayed to users by default. However, the results of the study demonstrated it’s possible to reduce the average checkout length by 20-60%.

The qualitative 1:1 moderated usability testing and eye-tracking research of the checkout study showed that an ideal checkout flow can be reduced to as little as 12 form elements (7 form fields, 2 checkboxes, 2 drop-downs, and 1 radio button interface).

How many form elements does your checkout have? Anything more than 12 may indicate the presence of futzers in your checkout flow. How do you cut down the number of form elements? Unique testing is the ultimate answer, but, for now, the next steps will suffice.

3. Maintaining Data

Here’s a question to ask your checkout designers: how are you leveraging data throughout the checkout process?

Matt at ThinkGeek believes the best checkout experiences collect only the necessary data and then maintain that data all the way through the end of the transaction:

This is especially important for account holders. Don’t ask for email again, and pre-fill the name when you already have it.

If your database has information about a customer, use it to reduce the number of fields he or she has to fill out. Amazon’s One-Click purchase feature is a prime example of this.


By knowing the customer’s data, it can correctly “guess” the user’s preferred shipping mode, address, and payment details with zero added effort from the user. With a one-click-one-sale checkout, there are no opportunities for chokepoints.

Shopify maintains data with “checkpoints.” Meaning, if a user proceeds through Shipping but drops out during Payment, the collected data is maintained and the user can pick up their journey right where they left off.

4. Forgiving Design

The final common thread between all three brands was the idea of “forgiving design”—where the designer’s goal is to prevent any mistakes in the checkout process. Instead of being strict on mistakes, great checkouts let users get away with being, for lack of a better word, lazy.

Below are three examples of “forgiving design” in the checkout flow: 1) adding gift cards and discounts, 2) disabling the “Submit” button, and 3) inputting phone numbers.

In the first example, all three brands have gift cards and discounts—well-established tools for closing sales online. But typically, it’s not always clear where to input the codes or redeem the cards.

According to Kevin Clark:

Usually, they’re two separate fields and people mismatch them all the time.

At Shopify, a significant engineering effort allowed users to paste in a gift card or discount code into the same field and the system sorts it out automatically. It’s impossible to make a mistake.

Second, sometimes shops will disable or “gray out” the submit/continue button until a user completes all required fields.

Should you do this? It’s a heated debate in the UX community about whether to leave the submit/continue button enabled, but according to the unofficial research of one user on Stack Exchange, around 5% or less of a small sampling of websites keep the submit/continue button disabled.

At Shopify, ThinkGeek, and REI, the submit/continue button is always enabled, even with missing information. Why? For three reasons:

  1. It prevents user confusion. The “grayed out” button tells a shopper something is wrong but doesn’t indicate where exactly and sends the user on a blind hunt for the error. An active button would convey clickability which would then result in a simple message (often in red) on the field needing a valid input.
  2. It’s accessible. In some instances (rare), a user may have Javascript disabled in their browser which would prevent the dynamic state change of the button from disabled to enabled.
  3. It prevents developer error. A valid use case or input that should have activated the submit/continue button could have been missed (i.e., internationality), trapping the shopper with no options but to refresh or exit.

Warby Parker does a great job in turning what would usually be an annoyance into a chance to cleverly express some brand personality.

The ThinkGeek checkout page maintains an active “Go to checkout” blue button even when fields are empty.

The “Continue” blue button is active on the empty REI checkout page.

All Shopify stores keep the blue “Continue to shipping method” button active at all times.

Lastly, the third example of forgiving design is phone numbers. One user posted the following problem on Stack Exchange:

Currently on my website users are required to input their phone number in a very specific format (555-555-5555). If you forget the dashes it breaks. Does anyone have a good suggestions for how to be more flexible with allowing users to input in any way they choose, but still allowing the system to validate if it is a real phone number. How are phone extensions handled?

Unforgiving design requires this specific format (i.e., number of characters, dashes vs. periods, spaces). Forgiving design allows users to input it how they want and let the system figure out what the number is.

By allowing for maximum flexibility in typing a phone number, the user is less likely to “make mistakes.”

Another user responded with how to fix this, using forgiving design:

The best approach for user experience is to let the user type in the phone number using the format they are most comfortable with. Don’t break it into separate fields, don’t force a mask, let it be typed freeform. Then, after the user has finished entering the field (by leaving the field for submitting the data), format the number into a standard format for your purposes.

Since you are talking about a Web site, you can do the format on the blur event using the Google libphonenumber http://code.google.com/p/libphonenumber/ project. This tool handles international phone numbers and a wide variety of formats.

The reason this approach is better for the user experience is that it allows the user’s mental model to remain unchanged and allows them to say, “Don’t Make Me Think.” Masking and separate fields force a mental model of phone numbers onto users and requires more thinking.

Similar to the gift cards example, phone numbers should be accepted in any format so that shoppers can proceed “without thinking” or wondering if they were correct.

Forgiving design allows you to reduce the number of fields in your checkout flow, thus helping to eliminate the complaint that 1 in 4 shoppers voiced in Baymard’s checkout usability study (too long / complicated checkout process)

5. Common checkout design mistakes to avoid

Finally, the three ecommerce experts each mentioned and cautioned against three simple errors they’ve encountered when designing checkouts:

Mistake #1: Don’t include an order review. Put yourself in the shoes of a customer who tediously fills out their information only to find themselves doubting they ordered the right item or quantity. Not seeing a chance to review their order before purchase will lead them to bail and start over, or worse, give up. REI keeps the shopper informed throughout the entire checkout process with a floating “Order Summary” box and a clear opportunity to review before placing the order.

In addition to displaying the order summary on the right perpetually throughout the checkout process, REI incorporates a final review alongside placing the order.

Mistake #2: Unhelpful error messages. It’s easy for a customer to enter information incorrectly in the checkout forms. Rather than just displaying “Invalid” or similar unspecific copy, use adaptive error messaging. ThinkGeek’s error messages update live from “This field is required.” to “Please enter a valid [blank]” to show the customer where and why the error is occuring.

ThinkGeek adapts its error messages to indicate more specific instructions.

Mistake #3: Not mobile-friendly. If you’re selling online, this is a no-brainer. Please. If you have an online checkout, don’t put your customers through the pain of zooming in and out, panning around, and squinting at an unresponive checkout.

Takeaways and action items

Checkouts are a part of every ecommerce experience. As the final step before a product is purchased, you don’t want anything to go wrong. I was glad to hear from Matt, Kevin, and Catherine about the five principles they follow to design their customers’ online shopping path:

  1. For the best checkout experience, make sure your checkout design is consistent, familiar, and secure. Does your checkout give the user a sense of familiarity and security?
  2. The ultimate goal is frictionlessness. Go over Sinofsky’s 6 principles and assess your checkout experience, paying special attention to #2 and #5. Are there any features missing or can any futzers be removed?
  3. As your user goes through the purchasing process, maintain their data to make it easy and intuitive. But remember, if you can’t guess correctly every time, don’t guess. What data do you already have that you can use to save the user keystrokes and streamline the purchase process?
  4. Use forgiving design so that users don’t feel like they’ve made a mistake. It’s worth the extra effort to build in forgiving functionality when you see increased conversions. Do you have analytics plugged into your checkout? Where is the greatest point of abandonment? How can you remove this obstacle?
  5. Avoid simple mistakes. Even the best designers are not invincible to overlooking details, especially when it comes to something as “boring” as checkout design. Periodically, go through the your site’s checkout process in incognito mode on a desktop, tablet, and mobile device and ask yourself, “Could this be easier? Simpler? More intuitive?”
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5 Social Sharing Tools for Teams

Do you want your employees to contribute to your social media marketing? Looking for tools to manage the content people share on social? In this article, you’ll discover five tools that will help you coordinate the content your team posts on social media. #1: Leverage Employee Advocacy With Smarp If you’re looking for ways to […]

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– Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle

August Social Media News: Facebook Watch, YouTube Messaging & More

We’re about to hit September, and you might be feeling anxiety about you or your family heading back to school, the busy season at your office, or the prospect of a limited number of beach days left in the year.

We feel you — because even though we took a summer break, social media networks sure didn’t.

Social networks are constantly innovating new products and making tweaks that are hard to keep up with, which is why we started writing this monthly social media news roundup.Click here to learn about using social media in every stage of the funnel.

From Facebook to Snapchat, from new product launches to small tweaks, here’s a list of what’s new in social media this month. The list isn’t exhaustive, but you can expect to learn the major highlights — what was launched, what changed, and what these stories could mean for marketers.

And if you don’t have time to read this whole post, we made a short video to give you the biggest headlines below:

11 of the Biggest Social Media News Stories This Month


1) Snapchat has partnered with college newspapers on Discover.

The ephemeral messaging app will share original content from U.S. colleges and universities on Snapchat Discover — in specific editions for each college’s location.

Business Insider noted that this is the first time parent company Snap Inc. has partnered with smaller publishers to create original Snapchat Discover content — where previously, it’s worked with outlets like Vox, BuzzFeed, and The New York Times.

What is typical is Snapchat’s push to engage younger users — between the ages of 18-24, the demographic segment where Snapchat is most popular. More than half of eMarketer survey respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 said they use the app all the time.


Source: eMarketer/Recode

It’ll be interesting to see how this content performs — for Snapchat, and for the partner colleges creating the content. Young users are the app’s path to growth — or at least, its path to preventing decline — more on that next.

2) Snapchat has more users, but less value.

Parent company Snap Inc. hosted its 2017 Q2 earnings call, and the results weren’t exactly 🔥.

Snapchat grew by seven million users in the last quarter, but that was still a miss — while it hit 173 million users by the end of Q2, investors anticipated it hitting 175.2 million instead. Its share price declined by roughly 6% as the company also reported its average revenue per user was $0.02 lower than predicted.

Snap Inc. has had a rocky journey since its IPO earlier this year. It will be interesting to see what they innovate next to compete with Facebook and Instagram in the battle for the most popular camera and sharing app.


3) Facebook’s News Feed algorithm will start penalizing sites that aren’t optimized for mobile.

Facebook announced a few new tweaks to its News Feed algorithm — most notably, perhaps, was the announcement that links to sites that aren’t optimized for mobile viewing.

Facebook will now start taking link loading speed into account when deciding how to rank posts in the News Feed, to improve user experience for more than half of users who access the site via mobile devices.

If your site isn’t already optimized for mobile users, this ebook can help you get started.

4) Facebook has started autoplaying News Feed videos — with the sound on.

I received this notification when I opened up my Facebook app just last week:

video with sound facebook-1.png

Facebook has been gradually rolling out volume-on video autoplay for several months, but this announcement marks a big change to what’s largely been a silent world, with more than 85% of Facebook users preferring to watch videos without sound.

5) Facebook launched new camera features, including GIF recording and 360-photo capturing.

Facebook made a few big upgrades to its in-app camera this month. Swipe right on your News Feed on the mobile app to start broadcasting live, or to create a GIF and immediately share content on your Facebook Story or in a new post.

facebook licacap2-3.gif

6) Facebook launched the Watch tab for original video content.

Facebook’s going all in on video content this month — most notably, with its launch of the Watch tab, where creators and networks are developing original content specifically for the social network.


Source: Facebook

Tap the video icon to see what creators like MLB, A&E, and Refinery29 are creating for Facebook, in yet another move to keep more people coming to its site to get what they need — namely, entertainment.


7) Instagram launched Instagram Live — with two users.

Instagram will now let you go live with a friend — featuring a split broadcast screen like the one shown below.


Source: Instagram

Now that you can save live broadcasts and share them to your Instagram Story for later viewing, users might be more interested in trying out a broadcast to engage and activate a bigger audience the way Facebook Live has succeeded. (We’ll be trying it out on our Instagram soon — make sure you’re following us.)

8) Instagram (and Facebook) launched comment threading.

Instagram and Facebook rolled out a small UX change that will make engagement and interactivity a bit easier for users — by launching threaded comments.

instagram comment threads.png

Source: Instagram

Any user knows the pain of trying to track down a friend’s comment when they’ve been tagged in a popular post on Facebook or Instagram, and this change solves that problem — and might make users more keen to tag friends in comments (which signal engagement in both apps’ news feeds).

9) Instagram users can now edit Story and Direct Message replies.

Last month, Instagram announced the ability to reply to Stories and Direct Messages with photos and videos.

And this month, users can reply with melded photos and videos that manipulate the original image — like in the example below.


Source: TechCrunch

The next time you see a photo or video you want to reply to, tap the thumbnail in the upper right-hand corner to edit it with drawings or emojis, and add your own half-selfie to it.


10) Users can now pinch to zoom in on photos.

Pinterest added a few new ways to search for images, as well as a subtle UX change that now allows users to pinch and zoom in and out on photos of pins.

pinterest zoom-2.gif

Source: Pinterest

This might seem like it’s not worth even writing up, but this change is a nod to other visual-first social networks, like Instagram and Facebook. As Pinterest becomes a more shoppable social network, with the ability for users to tap and buy specific products within pins, it will be interesting to see how the competition heats up.


11) YouTube added in-app messaging and vertical video capabilities.

At the very end of this month, YouTube unveiled a whole new visual identity — including a new logo for the first time.

Two of the big changes that marketers will want to make note of? The new in-app messaging feature, and the responsive video display that now shows vertical and square videos.

The new in-app messaging lets users share videos with friends without having to leave the app, which is the new name of the game for social networks — getting people to do what they want, without having to leave the platform. Plus, this feature is also a step toward YouTube competing with Facebook for a bigger piece of the video-watching pie.


Source: YouTube

And in another change, YouTube now supports vertical and square video formats, in addition to horizontal video. Remind you of anything — like, perhaps, every other social network?

Vertical videos were made popular by Snapchat, and are all over Instagram and Facebook now. The same goes for square videos. Why? Because these formats take up a greater share of the mobile user’s screen — keeping them more engaged in the app while they spend time streaming. Marketers should consider making YouTube part of their video distribution strategies besides just social media.

Social Media at Every Stage of the Funnel

  How to Use Social Media at Every Stage of the Funnel E

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn! Inspiring Wallpapers To Start September Off Right (2017 Edition)


As designers we usually turn to different sources of inspiration, and, well, sometimes the best inspiration lies right in front of us. With that in mind, we embarked on a special creativity mission nine years ago: to provide you with inspiring and unique desktop wallpapers every month. Wallpapers that are a bit more distinctive as the usual crowd and that are bound to fuel your ideas.

Desktop Wallpaper Calendars September 2017

We are very thankful to all artists and designers who have contributed and are still diligently contributing to this mission, who challenge their artistic abilities each month anew to keep the steady stream of wallpapers flowing. This post features their artwork for September 2017. All wallpapers come in two versions — with and without a calendar — and can be downloaded for free. Time to freshen up your desktop!

The post Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn! Inspiring Wallpapers To Start September Off Right (2017 Edition) appeared first on Smashing Magazine.