Chances are you already know the importance of usability testing in ecommerce. It’s a definite way to ensure you’re consistently meeting your customers’ needs.

It’s also a crucial part of optimization. User experience (UX) or user interface (UI) design in ecommerce is fundamentally about building storefronts and customer journeys that provide customers with precisely what they want while also maximizing your ecommerce conversion rate and average customer lifetime value.

The fact that one in three customers abandon their purchase because they can’t find the right information highlights this point even more. And this leads to high ecommerce bounce rate.

But are you using wireframes and prototypes in the right way?

At Growcode, both prototypes and wireframes play critical roles in our UX design process, especially when it comes to optimization.

But many clients misunderstand the roles these tools should play. And this misunderstanding results in needlessly wasted time and resources and (to put it mildly) less-than-optimal changes to their site designs.

In this post, we’re going to define some terms, clear up some misconceptions, and show you exactly how to use wireframes and prototypes in your usability testing.

Find out a short list of all the point you will find to know hot to use prototyping and wireframing!
1. What Is Prototyping?
2. What Is Wireframing?
3. What Role Does Coding Play in Ecommerce Prototyping and Wireframing?
4. What Are the Best Tools for UX Prototyping in Ecommerce?
5. How Are Wireframes and Prototypes Used in Ecommerce Usability Testing?
6. What Are the Most Important Parts of Ecommerce Prototyping?
7. Should You Implement Small Changes or Complete Site Overhauls?

Check them all out!

1. What Is Prototyping?

In UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) design, a prototype is a full representation of suggested changes to a website. A prototype is a near-complete version of the finished product or MVP (minimum viable product). When a programmer looks at a prototype, they should have all the information they need to make a finished or near-finished site design.

In #UX (user experience) and #UI (user interface) design, a prototype is a full representation of suggested changes to a website. #ecommerce #EcommerceTips Click To Tweet

Prototypes have a number of benefits. In particular, they are useful for collaboration between designers and clients – for approval, brainstorming ideas, and evaluating possibilities. When it comes to ecommerce usability testing, optimization is a dynamic process that involves many different people.

For example, a team working on optimizing customer experience, with a view to driving more sales, may produce several prototypes for testing. Prior to running the test, however, feedback and approval may be required from certain individuals within the organization. Presenting them with prototypes before a dollar is spent on actually implementing the designs allows them to make a clear decision about whether or not the intended changes are in line with the company’s messaging, values, marketing activities, etc.

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2. What Is Wireframing?

There is a lot of overlap between wireframes and prototypes. Generally speaking, wireframes are cruder, less-developed versions of prototypes and serve slightly different functions.

A wireframe is a bare-bones skeleton of a design. But it still contains the main ideas. In the prototype, these ideas will be fully fleshed out. On a practical level for an ecommerce interface, this might comprise the layout of the page along with the location of the main pieces of content, CTAs, and images.

Wireframes can be particularly useful for mapping changes to the customer journey, as opposed to a specific interface like a product page. If you want to reduce the number of steps involved during checkout, for example, a wireframe can be an effective way of developing and showing the new stages.

Wireframes are also more useful than prototypes in the brainstorming stage of collaboration, where a representation of exact changes is not needed. It takes significantly less time to represent an idea through a wireframe than it does to develop a full prototype.

3. What Role Does Coding Play in Ecommerce Prototyping and Wireframing?

Is coding necessary for UX?

There’s an ongoing debate about this question, but the short answer is no. Even if UX designers have programming abilities, it’s usually beneficial to draw a clear distinction between conception and implementation. Doing so invariably leads to faster and more productive workflows.

This is because UX, and prototyping in particular, is rarely a completely iterative process. A conflation of skills and outcomes often leads to shoddy coding and warped results. In fact, one of the big problems that online retailers often face is bridging the knowledge gap between UX/UI designers and programmers.

There are numerous stages in ecommerce UX design. The process usually starts with brainstorming changes to pages and user flows in the concept development phase. Designers are then asked to develop sketches and wireframes before being given the go-ahead for a full prototype. Ideas and wireframes will likely change as more data and feedback is acquired from ongoing tests, re-emphasizing the need for clearly defined boundaries.

There are numerous stages in #ecommerce #UX design. The process usually starts with brainstorming changes to pages and user flows in the concept development phase. #EcommerceTips Click To Tweet

Generally speaking, a UX design process will look something like this:

  1. Brainstorm ideas.
  2. Develop wireframes for interfaces and user flows.
  3. Collaborate on wireframes and redesign based on feedback.
  4. Build prototypes.
  5. Gather and act on any further input and pass onto programmers.
  6. Measure results, implement positive changes, and use data to create further testing ideas.

When we approach usability testing and optimization at Growcode, designers are responsible for crafting the interface and programmers are responsible for implementing those changes. And even if individuals can fill either role, they will be working within a separate context for each one – with separate outcomes, measurements, and timeframes.

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    4. What Are the Best Tools for UX Prototyping in Ecommerce?

    Apps are fundamental to any usability testing process. The vast majority of problems that companies face when undertaking usability testing can be solved, at least in part, by using the appropriate tools.
    Testing challenges chartPrototyping software helps solve a number of common testing problems. Source.
    When selecting a prototyping tool, you should consider a number of factors. These include:

    • Integrations – You should consider how well a tool fits with your current tech stack and whether or not automation will be easy.
    • Collaboration tools – At Growcode, we consider collaboration features an absolute must for wireframing software. Usability testing involves numerous people, often with the need for manager approval at certain stages. Working in a dashboard that enables easy communication is immensely beneficial.
    • Onboarding ease – Is the dashboard and feature-set similar to what your employees are used to working with? You can save yourself a lot of time by opting for a solution that is likely to fit with current employee skills.
    • Cost – Business plans which involve multiple people can get pricey. Don’t overlook the price when selecting an app.

    Here’s our selection of the best prototyping tools:

    • UXPin – Our tool of choice for wireframing and prototyping. You can use it to create both full prototypes and wireframes. It also comes with a wide range of collaboration tools and is superb for larger teams.
    • Adobe Experience Design – Adobe Experience Design is a stalwart among designers and has an enviable array of features. It’s good if you want to make more complex prototypes and have access to solid design tools. One of the benefits is the cross-compatibility with Adobe design software like Illustrator and Photoshop.
    • InVision – InVision is perhaps the most popular prototyping tool in the world. The dashboard is extremely intuitive and it comes with a range of tools and integrations designed to streamline workflows.
    • Webflow – Webflow’s main selling point is its ease-of-use (no coding is required) and its prototyping functionality for all operating systems. It’s a browser app.
    • Framer – Another incredibly popular prototyping tool. Framer has gained a reputation as one of the best tools for building responsive websites due to its ease-of-use, speed, and time-saving collaboration tools.

    By the way, check out our article about Ecommerce Conversion Rate Optimization tools in which we describe these tools and other in more details)

    5. How Are Wireframes and Prototypes Used in Ecommerce Usability Testing?

    There are many roles that wireframes and prototypes play in ecommerce usability testing. In almost all cases, they allow designers and coders to save significant amounts of time and resources, freeing them up to brainstorm and test a greater number of alternatives and implement lasting and effective changes.

    Generally speaking, prototypes and wireframes are used in the following ways:

    • Gaining approval for new designs from management – If managers need to approve new designs prior to testing, wireframes and prototypes are an efficient way of providing them with all the necessary information.
    • A/B split-testing – Functional prototypes are great for cost-effectively testing new designs before a full rollout. They’re also excellent for gathering preliminary information before larger A/B tests with final designs.
    • Gathering feedback from focus groups or experts – Prototypes and wireframes are an inexpensive way of gathering feedback from focus groups and allow designers to evaluate a wider number of options.
    • Brainstorming user flows – Wireframes are a superb tool for outlining customer flows between sections of a site. It may be necessary to experiment with multiple customer journeys in the conception phase and it’s usually not viable to use prototypes to do this. Interactive wireframes are particularly effective for this stage of design.

    6. What Are the Most Important Parts of Ecommerce Prototyping?

    It’s useful to clarify the relationship between ecommerce usability testing and ecommerce optimization. The goal of usability testing is to improve the customer experience. The purpose of optimization is to improve key metrics like conversion rate, average order value, lifetime value, and so on.
    There is a very close relationship between these two areas because, invariably, the best customer experience is also the one that is most profitable to the online store. At Growcode, when we undertake an optimization “sprint”, we are essentially seeking to improve the customer experience, where success is measured in terms of the main optimization metrics along with specific customer satisfaction metrics.

    The goal of usability testing is to improve the customer experience. #UX #UI #ecommerce #design Click To Tweet

    Here are the key areas we usually focus on:

    • Product search and filtering tools – Badly designed product search tools are one of the biggest conversion killers. What’s more, searching can be a very complex process, with numerous steps on the customer journey, so it’s important to allocate the right resources.
    • Checkout process – The checkout process is usually one of the “leakiest” parts of an ecommerce site’s funnel. Because of this, a lot of attention is paid to streamlining and improving the quality and flow of checkout pages. Wireframes are excellent in this regard.

    Mobile shopping problems chartEnlarging the screen is a major pet-peeve experienced by online shoppers. Source.

    • Product page elements – Product pages are where sales happen. This area of testing covers the inclusion of trust and urgency-building elements like sale countdown timers, discounted prices, reviews, high-quality interactive images, and more. We will also pay close attention to obstacles that might hinder seamless interaction with a page, like the need to enlarge CTAs, unreadable text, and poor mobile design.
    • The flow of attention on product pages – Following from the above point, the flow of attention on product pages – which should always culminate in a visitor clicking the main CTA – is another important part of product page testing.
    • Site-wide branding – Site-wide elements like logos, taglines, banner elements and more are crucial for turning new visitors into customers. Prototypes help designers to visualize how changes impact a site’s overall value proposition and impact.

    This is, of course, a limited snapshot. But it provides a fairly solid overview of where the bulk of energy and resources will be focused in a typical ecommerce usability testing campaign.

    7. Should You Implement Small Changes or Complete Site Overhauls?

    This is an interesting question because wireframes and prototypes in ecommerce are often seen as tools for launching a site-wide overhaul. But this is almost always a mistake.

    We can take an important lesson from the big players like Amazon here. Small and consistent changes work better. What’s more, it’s impossible to fully test a site-wide redesign. There are lots of potential pitfalls.

    Amazon progressively changes without huge redesignsEach of the designs above, starting in 2008 with the top-left picture, is about four years apart. Notice how the layout progressively changes without huge redesigns. Source.
    “Little and often” is the strategy we use at Growcode. It allows us to drive lots of positive changes to our client’s websites without the dangers of site overhauls. Furthermore, over months and years, what our clients end up with is an entirely new site. The only difference is that it’s been built slowly by making lots of small and medium-sized tweaks and it’s been thoroughly tested.


    Prototypes and wireframes are essential tools for UX testing and design. And knowing how to use them in the right way can dramatically boost the quality of your campaigns. Allocating tasks to the right people, with a clear separation of roles, will save you significant amounts of time and money in the long run.

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