My thoughts on work and life

The Issue of Context in E-Commerce

Are people are more likely to be engaged when information is presented to them in a contextualised, relevant environment, than in an isolated disconnected one?

Well it’s all about connecting with people in meaningful ways. The Internet, for the everyman is a treacherous place. Engendering trust is crucial in a successful e-commerce environment. People tend to not trust things they are unfamiliar with. Therefore, providing meaningful metaphors that reflect real life situations is comforting to the user. Once trust has been gained and the user has successfully engaged with the site they are likely to return and interact with it (and believe it’s message).

Remember User Experience, is at the heart, about providing the user with an experience that is (and these are the standard type of definitions, there are more complex ones):

  • Intuitive
  • Consistent
  • Comfortable
  • Trustworthy

Intuitive and Consistent relate to Usability, Comfortable and Trustworthy relate to the User Experience. This is why we endeavour so much, in our field, to understand the user and why invest so much effort developing persona’s. Because, by doing so we can achieve the right tone and voice in which to speak to the user we are aiming for, this provides them with comfort and familiarity. Speaking down or obfuscating a user is a certain way to alienate them. By presenting information in a context free way, we increase the risk of this dramatically.

Trust is also crucial. If we are to compete in the ruthless on-line market where we expect users to give us their credit card details and personal information, it is critical that we build a bond of trust with our audience. This cannot be engineered per se (other than through explicit privacy statements etc). It must be gained by giving the user a sense that the site feels like a shop might in the real world. Friendly assistant and familiar surroundings contribute to this. In the real world shops go to a great deal of effort to provide many cues which re-inforce this message. So things like making a site feel personal (but not to the extent of anthropomorphising it totally which can just seem artifical) help. Providing familiar looking images or pictures of real life people add to a feeling that the site isn’t an impersonal automaton but has real people behind it. This goes back to context. In the end, the interaction a user with a site is an emotional experience. Over the course of many successful visits a positive experiences lead to trust.


  1. Mariazella Walderslade

    This article has given me lots to think about. Things have been written in it that I never considered relevant before reading it, I especially liked the last part about Trust. Thanks Chris.

  2. Tilly

    I always enjoy having a browse through your musing, I find them very thought provoking keep the good work up Chris Thanks again

  3. Matt

    Interesting article indeed.

    Alhough I’m not convinced regarding trust, especially when we’re talking to context here…trust isn’t some golden chalice within e-commerce, certainly not across all sectors. Let’s take, for example, the promiscuous shopping habits of the budget-end package holidaymaker ( a huge global market!!!). Here we have a user (and I’m genericising acoss approximately 6 to 9 user types here) that doesn’t need a trusting ‘experience’ to perpetuate further interaction, they’ll simply look for the legal disclaimers and appropriate signs of secure transacting in a much more dry and perfunctory fashion…users are no longer that scared to transact online as it’ rapidly become part of our daily lives…’trust’ is something much more abstract, it’s closer to brand loyalty in the context of this acrticle…something that doesn’t even resonate with the promiscuous shopper, so we should be careful about how we prescribe ‘trust’ and ‘context’ as sometimes neither is truly relevant…users don’t need a compelling experience that resonates with them in order to transact online, I’ve seen some very poor online experiences deliver results that exceed business’ KPIs…providing a compelling and engaging experience helps us push our online conversion above and beyond our clients’ expectations but is not a pre-requisite which without we would see little or no transaction at all…

    Food for though…

1 Pingback

  1. Gabriel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *