11 Factors to improve website usability
We’re told to not judge books by their covers when we’re young – and while it’s a nice sentiment, I’m afraid to tell you that the practice doesn’t stick with us through to our grown-up internet shopping days.
We’re a fussy bunch, we’ll ditch a website as quick as a flash should we struggle with the navigation, not be enamoured by their imagery or be turned off by their layout.
However, according to SM Design Studio who are a Los Angeles web design company there are factors relevant to every website and some are more ‘crucial’ than others to get right.
If you want your ecommerce site to succeed, you’re going to have to overcome the most common pitfalls that see users hitting that ‘back’ button – and there’s a lot of them – but, fortunately for you, we’ve covered the most common 11 here…
- Load time
The first contributing factor to the usability of your ecommerce site happens before the first image or piece of text has loaded into your user’s browser.
The speed that your store appears on screen can make a MASSIVE difference to whether or not anyone sticks around to use your site, let alone decide how easy it is to use. Cause people to wait more than 3 seconds and you’ll lose somewhere between 38% and 44% of your audience.
Do everything you practically can to bring homepage loading time down to an absolute minimum.
- Make your homepage right
It might sound obvious – but your homepage really needs to make it clear that people are on a site that will sell them the product they’re looking for. Product images are important – and it’s also important that they correspond to what people are coming to your site looking for.
For example, you might have the best range of bikinis this side of Rio and a great email campaign that tells people so – but if they click through and see your range of winter jackets, don’t expect to sell much swimwear.
Studies show that you’ve got roughly one-twentieth of a second to make the right impression. That amount of time doesn’t allow for the human brain to make a solid conscious thought-based decision – but we’ve learned to base these snap thoughts on the colours, structure and layout of what we see – make it right or lose people.
- Complex filters
Menu filters can be awesome – but there’s a very thin line between superb and annoying.
If you make a menu filter over complicated you stand a chance of narrowing customer choice too far, meaning they’re left with just a very small number of available products. While they might well have chosen these options, users can be left with a bad impression of the store if they perceive that there are too few products stocked.
There are going to be standard filter options based on your industry – so do some research and see what will work for you.
When you’re doing your research, look out for subjective filter options – and remember them so you don’t fall into the same trap. What’s ‘leisure use’ to one person might be ‘professional standard’ to someone else – so stick to hard facts when you’re narrowing people’s search.
- Always let users search
It’s important to give people a rip-cord they can pull before hitting back and navigating away. A constant search bar at the top of the page gives people exactly this – and probably stops them clicking elsewhere when they’re tired of the product they’re currently looking at.
Essentially, the search bar gives you a second bite at the cherry – for example:
You don’t have the jacket a customer is looking for – so their instinct is to go back to the address/search bar at the top of the page. If you can offer them a search before they get their – they’re likely to glance over your range of jeans before they leave.
- Show stock levels early
There’s little as frustrating as getting all the way through your shopping process – sometimes choosing multiple items – before progressing to your basket and finding out that the first item you chose is out of stock.
Stock levels should be displayed on every product page. If they’re not, you stand the chance of really irritating customers – and irritated customers don’t persevere and keep spending money with you.
- Great imagery
Images are all we have when we’re shopping online – and if they’re not up to scratch you can expect to lose a huge number of people – who’ll all to go on to find a site that accurately shows what they’re shopping for.
Now, it might be time consuming, but showing images of every possible colour and design is vital. People don’t buy unless they’re confident – and they’re not confident unless they can envisage exactly what they’re going to get.
- Lots of product content
A massive number of online stores are guilty of going way too light with their product descriptions – and, just like scrimping on pictures, it’s going to put people off.
What you essentially risk by going light with your product content is putting a hurdle in the way of the purchase – and when people get to the hurdle? They’ll either look elsewhere for an answer – or they’ll ask you. Either way, your conversion levels drops significantly.
Words and pictures – a killer combo – and absolutely key if you want to maximise your sales.
- Stick to cart conventions
A quick and simple tip!
Don’t be quirky with your basket – sticking to the conventions keeps people confident. It needs to be somewhere near the top right of the page and should show the basket total price and number of items alongside it.
- Make add to basket obvious
Quick and simple tip number 2!
It needs to be extremely obvious how a customer adds a product to their basket. Make sure buttons are prominently placed and in an eye-catching colour.
- Basket etiquette
Again, keeping things predictable when people are reviewing their basket and checking out is really important unless you want your customers walking away with debit cards in their hands…
Confirm every detail of the product – including:
- A picture (in the right colour/design)
Make it easy for someone to delete and item – it might sound counterproductive but if they don’t want it you need to make it simple for them to put one thing back – rather than abandon a heaving basket.
Oh – and the next step? That needs to be as obvious as getting to the basket in the first place. ‘Proceed to payment’ in eye catching colours and prominent placing wins the day.
- Focus on the check-out
Virtual checkouts differ from real checkouts massively. While you’re waiting in a queue in real life you’re a captive audience for the gifts, socks or snacks the retailer wants to tempt you with. Online the story is different though – you want your customers 100% focused on what they’ve got and getting over the payment finish line.
Now is not the time to recommend more products – now is the time to make the checkout process as light and simple as possible.