Tips on UX Design from AliExpress

11 November 2021

As today is the World Usability Day and 11.11 Global Shopping Festival at AliExpress we’ve decided to combine these two holidays and tell about UX design approach at AliExpress.

 

In 2020, the event generated about $74.1 billion in gross merchandise volume for Alibaba from November 1 to 11. In comparison, US online sales for Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday altogether totaled $25 billion last year.

 

This year, with 290,000 brands — a new record — taking part in 11.11 Shopping Festival.

 

Here are tips on UX design from Paul Fu, director of user experience at Alibaba and AliExpress from December 2009 till July 2020, the massive b2b and b2c global marketplaces.

 

“User Experience consists of four layers. The core is what we call “utility.” Meaning, you have to fulfill certain core user needs. But that’s not enough. We also have “usability,” meaning can a new user learn about your product very quickly and can an experienced user do it efficiently? Then we have “desirability,” which is the look and the feel of the site, so people actually use it and return to use it again. Another layer is “brand experience,” which is utility, usability, and desirability forming the overall brand experience, to create loyalty.”

 

How does AliExpress track whether design changes worked or not?

 

“There are different ways to measure that. We have our website tracking data. Also, we do regular user surveys. We send out a survey, asking users if they are satisfied with the website and their experience and do they recommend the website to their friends and colleagues. From that, we can track what’s happening.
For specific projects, we also do regular usability studies and visits, meaning sometimes we bring users into our office. We ask them to use the product. We test if they understand the product. Then sometimes we also visit users’ homes to find out how they are using our website in their homes or workplaces. From that, we can understand if they understand the product, or have a problem with the product.”

 

How is the process of making a design change on  Alibaba.com organized?

 

“When we have a new idea or a request from the project managers, we typically go through a review process first to determine if the project is going to have a major impact or not. Sometimes, for a small project, we might just change the site and go live with an A/B test, and then that’s it, it is released to the site. But a project that involves a lot of user changes, we will typically first try to understand what we’re trying to achieve from a business perspective. That’s the first phase.

 

The second phase is the design. Typically, after we understand the problem we will come up with a design concept that could be illustrated in a wireframe or just in Photoshop. Then we engage our users and bring them into our design process to test if they understand the concept if there is a problem or not. Then based on the results of these findings we will improve it. We will go back to improve the design and change the prototype and do another round of evaluation.

This design process requires that the product managers, interaction designers, view designers, researchers, content managers, and front-end developers all work very closely together.

 

After this stage, if we are happy with the product, we will go to implementation. That’s when we’ll really have the backend written and implemented on the site. We will also go through an A/B test; we will redirect a small portion of the traffic to the two different designs, to compare the designs in the live site environment. We’ll look at the user’s adaption rate, if do they understand it if they are happy. After that, we will pick the best design to take life.”

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