E-tailers have a lot to learn from traditional retailers. It seems that
well-known eCommerce sites get away with atrocious usability mistakes simply
because the internet as a shopping medium is growing so fast. Web managers may
think that because sales numbers are up they must be doing everything right. For
many online stores, nothing is further from the truth. Below I’ve listed what I
consider to be the worst practices of eCommerce sites these days.
1. Requiring Login to Order: I would agree with Get Elastic’s Linda Bustos
that this is one of many e-tailers’ favorite usability mistakes. Requiring
registration is very obnoxious, especially when you have yet to establish any
relationship with a retailer, and you have not idea if you’ll ever purchase
2. Not Showing Shipping Prices Upfront: I’ve abandoned dozens of online
orders because of this. Sure, asking for the customers address may ensure a more
accurate shipping cost for you, but its not worth losing a customer over. In my
opinion, the best practice is to simply base your shipping costs on the
merchandise total. It might not be the most accurate way, but if you average it
out, it works great.
3. Vague, Hard to Find Return Policies: For me, returning products to an
online retailer is right up there with getting my teeth drilled. Don’t make the
process worse by hiding your return policy deep within your site or requiring
your customers to jump through hoops to complete the process. Rarely do e-tailers
make their return policy a selling point or competitive advantage. Wherever I
can, I like to use the words “No-Hassle Return Policy” to reassure the customer
that the process is quick and easy.
4. Poor SEO: Build it, and they will not come, unless your eCommerce site is
on good terms with Google. Retailers tend to forget that search engines are the
highways and byways of the internet. An eCommerce site not optimized for search
is equivalent to a brick and mortar store conveniently located underground.
5. Poor Product Descriptions: Your product descriptions are the closest thing
you have to an face to face salesperson. Make them work for you. Improving your
product descriptions is one of the easiest, yet most neglected ways to improve
your online sales. If your product catalog is large enough to justify hiring a
copy-writer, than do it. If not, hire someone on the side to write your copy.
6. Lack of Filtering & Sorting: Imagine yourself walking unto a used car lot.
What do you ask the salesperson in order to narrow down your options? You’ll
likely say something like “show me all the vehicles this color, with this amount
of mileage, or this make and model.” The same principle should be applied to
your product department pages. Don’t overwhelm your audience with too many
options. Let them filter down by criteria such as colors, sizes, or brand. Also,
let them sort the listings by price, newness, popularity, etc.
7. Hard to Find Checkout Button: Imagine not being able to find the checkout
lane at a grocery store. Many online stores assume shoppers know that the
shopping cart is the first step of the checkout process. To prevent confusion of
your customers, always have a clear “checkout” button visible on every page.
8. Poor Merchandising: If you owned a brick and mortar store, I’m going to
bet you would walk your aisles every day to ensure your products are
merchandised properly. Yet I think website owners expect their online stores to
run themselves, and rarely take time for this important audit. Once a day, try
to shop your store as if you were going to buy something. I’ll bet you’ll find
one or two things out of place.
9. Getting too Personal: Do you really need your customer’s date of birth to
complete an order? Even asking for information such as email or telephone number
may arouse suspicion in your customers. Ask yourself an important question for
each additional form field you add, “Is this worth losing a sale over?”
10. No Calls to Action: Don’t just assume your visitors will click on your
image maps or “Click Here” links. Make your call to action buttons big, bold,
and unmistakably clear. Every page of the conversion funnel (landing page to
department page to product page to checkout) should clearly define the next step
in the process.
11. No Error Reporting: From a technical point of view, it’s very simple to
setup error notifications when certain unexpected events occur on your website.
Montastic offers a completely free website monitoring service. In addition, ask
your webmaster to setup email alerts for every time a 500 (internal server)
error or 404 (page not found) error occurs.
12. Inaccurate Cross Sells: Embarrassing cross-sells can sometimes lead to
more than just more than just missed opportunities. If your system for
suggesting add-ons, cross sells, or up-sells doesn’t work, you’re probably
better off not using it.
13. Unreachable Customer Service: Online retailers are typically not famous
for their customer service. Phone numbers and emails should be listed
prominently on every page. Responses to customer requests should be prompt and