A few years ago, I discovered one of my favorite websites on the Internet. A website that has influenced my way of thinking and the way I've built software over the past two decades. The website is called Motherf***ing Website and is a single plain HTML page that starts like this:
“This is a motherf***ing website. And it's f***ing perfect. Seriously, what the f*** else do you want?”
Although it is obviously a provocation—and it doesn't actually use any asterisks to censure bad words—we developers (and non-developers) can learn a lot from it. The motherf***ing website is f***ing lightweight, responsive, and it f***ing works. Websites are not broken by default. They are functional, fast, and accessible. We break them by over-engineering and over-designing them.
The same is true for ecommerce websites. A motherf***ing ecommerce website is one that allows customers to browse and buy products. It's that simple. HTML pages don't require any frontend framework to display formatted text or images and an add to cart button. <H1>, <p>, <img>, and <a> tags have always existed (and are perfect for SEO.)
Customers want to consume content and have a smooth shopping experience. They don't care about the technology of the website. I'm not saying that you shouldn't use frontend frameworks or design tools. I love design. I actually believe the best ecommerce websites start with a beautiful design, unrestricted by technology. The one thing I don't like is design for the sake of design. A design that makes a website navigation slow and clunky. A design that impacts conversion rate in a negative way, rather than improving it.
The best design enhances an experience that already works. When I buy a chair, the first thing I want is to be comfortable. Then, if it's also beautiful, that's great. But I hate beautiful, uncomfortable chairs.
Even in 2023, merchants continue to struggle with ecommerce websites that are full of bugs, that crash with every release, and that go down during BFCM traffic spikes. These are the problems brands face every day. The reason customers abandon their shopping carts isn't because they don't like the menu animation, but because they are uncomfortable filling out a checkout form and clicking the place order button.
A retailer who wants to start selling online is often intimidated by the complexity of building an ecommerce website. There is no question that commerce can be complex for small businesses as well. It involves dealing with stock, prices, promotions, payments, taxes, orders, shipments, compliance, and so on. However, a website is just a website, not a space shuttle. For retailers, the minimum viable ecommerce solution can be as simple as a web page that allows them to take orders online.
Give merchants and their customers an ecommerce website that works. Then make it beautiful and add some AI-powered functionality if you like but please, make sure you don’t break it. Embrace a motherf***ing-first mentality and differentiate with simplicity.
"Good design is as little design as possible."