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Ecommerce Usability Tips

Call it a shopping cart

Do you run an online handbag store and think it would be cute to have everyone add their items to their ‘handbag?’ or perhaps you sell auto parts and think it would be neat to have users add their air and oil filters to their ‘garage’ instead of their shopping cart. Don’t do it, any imaginary points you think you might get from altering your naming convention from the standard shopping cart will quickly be lost due to confusion and a decrease in sales. It might not be much, but why risk it.

Buy Now and Buy buttons rather than Add to cart or Order

When looking at a list of products on a store you often see Buy or Buy Now buttons too early on in the shopping process. The terms Buy and Buy Now are more committing in the users eye then a gentler term such as ‘More Information’, ‘Add to cart’ or ‘Order.’ Buy It Now to the novice user may make them think that once they click that it’s over they bought it, or to even more advanced users the Buy It Now language may be associated with ebay where you are willing to get that item right this second without going through the bidding process. Use terms that make sense, but don’t scare users as you move them through the process.

Keep the most important tasks above the fold

When a user is viewing your products detail page, the page where they can add items into the cart, can they see the ‘Add to cart’ button and pricing without scrolling? This is an increasing important item since many users may end up on this detail page from a Search Engine rather than the page on your website that you assume they came from. So, they may have not seen the price on the previous page, or they may be quickly opening multiple websites that carry that product to do some price comparison shopping. If they don’t see the price they may just close your site and move to the next. Due to high speed internet and the ever increasing amount of data users are expecting to see what they want when they are expecting it. They don’t want to hunt around for it.

Visual Feedback of adding an item into the cart

Over 65%of the shopping carts still take you to your shopping cart after you add a product to it. Logically I think this makes sense and visitors are used to this type of interaction with an e-commerce store. Plus once they add a product to their cart and they are looking at their carts contents you have the chance to up sell them on related items to what is currently in their cart. However, there is a gradual shift going on that is keeping the user on the same product detail page that they were viewing when they clicked the Add to Cart button. I think that this approach can be very useful as long as it is executed properly. You must give the user adequate visual cues that they have indeed added that product to their cart and that they are free to continue on shopping or proceed to checkout. This is usually accomplished by having an area on the page that serves as a mini-cart, showing how many items you have in the cart and the carts total. You may also want to grey out the Add to Cart button after selecting it and show an another button there that reads View Shopping Cart. This approach can also allow you to up sell the user but you will need to display those items on the products detail page after they add an item to their cart.

Up selling to early in the process

It bothers me a bit when I am shopping for a product, for example a digital camera, and while I’m looking at the product details the store is already trying to sell me flashes, cases, more memory. Whoa slow down mister retailer, I don’t even know if I want to by your stinking camera yet – why are you already trying to sell me all of these accessories for it? On the product detail page I think it can often help to show similar or related products, maybe you have a camera that would be more appropriate for me but wait to up sell me on accessories until after I have decided to purchase a specific item.

Requiring a user to register to buy something

There are a couple of stores that I purchase from regularly. Newegg.com, Amazon.com and Godaddy.com and for me to make an account with those stores is both a benefit to them and also to me because it is rather convenient to not fill out my shipping and billing information every time. However, users will often only buy one or two items from your store their entire life. Does it make sense to have them give you all this unnecessary information; create usernames and passwords that they will immediately forget just to buy that single item from you? I don’t think so. It is a huge pet peeve of mine to require a user to make an account on a website to buy an item and I think it is a good enough reason for users to abandon their order.

Easy to change cart contents

You are just about to checkout and realize you want 5 more of a particular item so you can give it to your friends and co-workers. But the store does not offer a way to change your quantity or make updates to your cart. How annoying is that? The good news is that I don’t see this as often as I used to, where you would have to delete items from your cart and then go re-purchase it with a higher quantity. Another shopping cart mistake I see is when the store requires the user to update their quantity to 0 to remove something from their cart. That’s not very intuitive, and how hard is it to add a remove button?

Asking personal information too early

The camera is added to the cart, your additional memory and camera case they up sold you on is in there and at this point you are thinking I got a pretty good deal; I wonder what the shipping is going to cost me. But, before you get to the shipping price they ask you for all your personal information. Shipping price is one of the primary reasons for shopping cart abandonment, be upfront with your shipping charges rather than showing them at the very last moment and having your user drop out of the process. It’s possible this hostage style process may work on occasion but if the user doesn’t like the shipping charges they are out of there.

Security Notifications

On occasion I still see shopping carts where the credit card information is not securely transferred. I actually saw this two weeks ago on one of Best Buys partner websites, it blew my mind and I contacted them about it. However, the majority of users do not know what to look for to ensure that their credit card information is transferred securely. The primary thing you need to pay attention to is that the URL should no longer be http:// it will be https:// letting you know that it is a secure transfer. With the growing amount of new internet users, and the fact that the fastest growing demographic of new internet users is actually in the 50+ category it’s now important to show other visual security symbols. This might be a notice that you use Verisign for your secure transactions, or that your site is now Hackerwatch safe. It’s a bit gimmicky but there are still lots of new users to the internet and I actually think it helps their peace of mind. Even though the website retailer could easily add those icons onto a site that is not secured.

Notifying the user of out-of-stock items

Sure those little Bluetooth ear clips that help you talk hands free on your cell phone make you look like a rube, but hey I wanted one for the car ok! So, I went off to buy.com about six months ago, found one for a great price and ordered it. Checked my email verification, everything was looking good. Days later I get a notice that says the item is out of stock. I waited 4 weeks for that thing before I had to cancel my order. Good news, I still don’t have one so I don’t have to worry about looking like the goof who is constantly wearing it waiting for that important call to come through. What’s the point of this message? If you are running a large retail shop your inventory should be synced with your website enough to alert me that the item is back-ordered before I buy it. Give me the option to still order that one and wait for it to come in or suggest an alternative option to me.


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