Reviewing Prototype eCommerce Concept Catalog

tl;dr: check out the prototype Concept Catalog, designed to help designers develop applications and share knowledge. Leave feedback / thoughts in this thread!

Links: Full Concept Catalog, Shopping Cart Concept, Catalog Concept

I am a researcher working with Daniel Jackson on a project looking at how Concepts can concretely help designers make applications that provide better experiences to users. In particular, we began this research exploring how concepts can help prevent dark patterns. Dark patterns are typically thought of as deceptive UI tricks that harm users, but we propose that the deeper concepts themselves of an application determine the experience of users; a dark pattern occurs when an application breaks a concept to the detriment of the user and the benefit to the company

As part of our research, we are creating a prototype Concept Catalog. The goal of the catalog is to provide product designers (developers, PMs, UI designers, etc) and researchers a place to record insights about designing different concepts. Insights include information like:

  • What is the minimal concept that should always be followed? (Since breaking from established concept norms can negatively impact users.)
  • What are the possible extensions of the concept that have been found to be effective?
  • What are legal requirements related to the concept?
  • How should the concept be mapped to the user interface?

The goal is for the insights stored in the catalog to help designers who are trying to build a minimal product, to avoid dark behavior in their application, to implement a new extension, and more, along with to encourage designers to consider their application in a concept framework. The catalog could help with:

  • deciding what features to include (ex: What is commonly included? What creates the optimal user experience? What is potentially risky to include?)
  • the implementation of a given feature (What concepts are relevant? What nuances have people come across before in implementation? How are those nuances typically handled?)
  • generally helping share expert knowledge that typically designers have to rediscover for themselves

We are using e-commerce concepts as a starting point for the catalog, so are reaching out to eCommerce experts to get their feedback on the catalog, in particular on two concepts we’ve worked on fleshing out: the Shopping Cart and Catalog. We would love to hear any thoughts, please reply in this thread! Some questions that we’d love to hear your thoughts on include:

  • Could you imagine yourself using a concept catalog? What might you use it for / how might you use it?
  • What sections are most helpful in the catalog and what information do you wish it included?
  • Within a given extension, what types of information are most helpful or you wish were included?
  • Do you know any extensions of the concepts that we are missing?

I like what you have done so far and … [woah… talking of dark patterns, I’ve just opened up the Network tab on Chrome and discovered that what I’m typing now is being posted to the server before I hit “Reply”, i.e. my draft, unedited thoughts are being POSTed to a “drafts.json” endpoint! That breaks my conceptualisation of a form with a “Reply” button - which I have come to think of as being private until submitted - and I don’t like it.]

I have a couple of comments on Shopping Cart. In one place I worked, we had a “store” where you could pick up stationery and there were no prices (or at least they weren’t displayed), i.e. employees were trusted to only take what they needed. So perhaps including prices shouldn’t be part of the minimal definition or perhaps what I’m talking about is just a Cart, not a Shopping Cart (if you’re not paying for what you put in your cart, maybe you can’t really be said to be “shopping”).

A second comment I have is about a potential misfit. In a real world (i.e. physical) shopping cart when you put something in your cart, no-one else can have it at the same time. Whereas, for various reasons, many online shopping carts do not reserve the items in the cart for you. Thus, you may think that you have reserved an item by adding it to your cart and be disappointed when you come to checkout that it is “no longer available”.

A final comment I have about the structure of the concept description in your catalog is that I think the “Related Concepts” would be better put at the end. When I first went to view the “Shopping Cart” concept, I didn’t realise that the right-hand pane scrolled down, and, due to the size of my browser window, I thought that all you’d written was “Purpose” and “Related Concepts”. The way you’ve formatted “Related Concepts” takes up quite a bit of space and to my eyes looked like a “for more information see…” that you find at the end of a page.