This article was written by Silvana Churruca between 2011-2014. Silvana is a UX Designer & Researcher with a strong multidisciplinary background: starting with Graphic Design, Arts and Communications, and later specializing in Cognitive Systems and Interactive Media, Product and Project Design Management and Communication Design Theory.  Follow Silvana on her LinkedIn.

Consider this as a 10 points checklist to evaluate an eCommerce experience, putting the focus not just in usability but in those points that could make a difference between success and failure, meaning that could directly impact in conversion, activation and engagement of your users.

These points came up during an ecommerce project I have recently worked. I’m sure each project is different and probably some points are not equally relevant depending on the business segment or strategy, but I think you will find these points as a good starting point for both assess and designing a successful  eCommerce experience.

1. Findability of our site

Do our customers find us online? Do they find our products on the internet?

This is the starting point for any eCommerce experience and occurs before the user accesses our site. It involves measuring the findability of our site in internet (SEO positioning).

For this, we check data as total traffic and discriminates between direct traffic (loyal users) and traffic generated by search results of products we sell. If the numbers are satisfactory for both groups we can rule out a conflict of search engine positioning of the site and his products.

2.  First Impression. Recognition, value proposition and differentiation.

Can the user quickly identify that we offer, who we are and what our value proposition is?

Once users come to our site, they should be able to immediately identify three key points: what products we offer, who we are and what our value proposition is.

  • What do we sell? Does it quickly conveys the type of product we offer?
  • What are the advantages of buying in this store? Is identified our value proposition?
  • Who are we? It is sufficient the presence and identification of our brand?

Answering all these questions as quickly as possible, without need to scroll down or interact with the page, should be the central objective to retain users who come to the site for the first time and decrease the bounce rate (visits without activity).

3. Searchability and discoverability of our products.

Can our users find what they are looking for or discover what they don’t seek?

In any e-commerce site another key point of interaction is that the user can find what are looking for. Here we must differentiate between the user’s ability to find what they are looking actively (searchability or findability for some authors), and the discover potential offered by our site, that is to say how we facilitate the user discover products without  seeking them, or how we guide users to discover new products beyond searching or browsing (Discoverability).

At other level this point also has to do with allow our users to navigate our site with fluency and find the information they need without difficulty, so the architecture and overall site navigation is consider as well.

  • Searchability: This process is usually carried out through category browsing or searching using keywords (searchbox).
  • Discoverability: Help to discoverability resources as intelligent recommendations engines (other customers also bought….) related or complementary products (try as well take it with…) or any gamification oriented to products discover.

4. Selectability. Product Selection and Comparison

It is easy for our users to make a choice?

This point has to be with facilitate our users the decision-making, by providing all the necessary information about the product, and the necessary interaction to select them easily. The purpose is to reduce both the cognitive effort (difficulty) and physical (number of clicks, steps, pages etc.).

Some aspects to consider here are…

  • That the product description is clear and organized and include the depth of information necessary as well as enough descriptive images.
  • That the product variations are visible (size, color, etc)
  • That we offer users the possibility to easily compare products with each other.
  • That we include users ratings and comments.
  • The the product price, availability and estimated delivery time, stay clear.
  • That we invite users to add products to the cart.

5. Actively directing the purchase.

Do you use enough calls to action and selling pressure strategies?

Another key point in eCommerce is to make users purchase during each session and avoid procrastination, to do so is important to work sales pitches, call to action and various strategies designed to enhance the conversion as:

  • Including special deals and promotions.
  • Include cross-selling strategies. Refers to products that may be complementary to the product users buy, for example, offer a sleeve if you buy an ipad.
  • Using selling arguments are used to materialize the sale (as for example free shipping or free returns, product guarantee, etc).
  • Using price strategies oriented to boost online sales above physical store (for example some strategies could be: deals exclusive for online shopping, special discounts and products that are sold only online).
  • Use of selling pressure strategies as sense of urgency like limited number of items, or expiration date of the deal.

6. A smooth, simple and secure purchase process.

Are we offering our users a smoothly, easy and safe purchase experience?

Probably one of the most important points in eCommerce experience is that the whole buying process becomes fluid, easy and safe.

This takes into account all the variables that affect the whole purchase process: from access and adding products to the shopping cart,  identification and user registration

or selecting the alternatives in the form of payment, shipping address, etc (checkout process).

Here is important to consider…

  • That the registration is not mandatory or at list is not until the final stage of the process, when the user is more motivated and have more to lose.
  • That the number of steps in the checkout and the complexity in each step is adjusted as needed (Is not just about reducing steps but doing each step simpler).
  • The flow is linear and outputs from the process are avoided
  • The different steps of the checkout and the current position is clearly communicated.
  • The shopping cart is always visible and accessible. And the design is simple, does not distract the user and focuses on closing the purchase.
  • Adding items to the cart is easy as well as modify quantities or removing products.

7. Tracking experience beyond the purchase

Do we offer a positive post-purchase experience  to our customers and use strategies oriented to make them return?

what other channels are you using to get in touch with your customers and motivate them to visit your site again?

The vast majority of e-commerce sites use email communications, SMS or push notifications as a channel to keep in touch with clients frequently, and encourage them to return to visit the site and shop. This type of communication can be used for special deals and promotions, but as well to communicate releases, new benefits or news that may be of interest to our customers.

8. Recapture users who left

Are you applying strategies to recapture users who abandon the registration process or shopping cart?

This point is aimed design solutions to cover the further situations:

  • Registered users without activity.
  • Abandoned shopping carts.
  • Incomplete registration processes

.Most eCommerce sites use email notifications, coupons or special deals  to try recapture these users. Success in this case, will mainly depend on the message.

9. Convey Confidence and credibility

Does the user feels comfortable and safe buying or Sign Up our store?

Despite the increasing trend in eCommerce, and therefore savvier online shoppers, you can’t ignore some indicators that help convey trust and credibility, and thus to boost the number of conversions on the site.

Some suggestions here are…

  • Include design elements that help convey trust (as security seals, trustmarks, etc.)
  • Provide information about warranties and refunds at the right time.
  • Provide sufficient alternatives to contact customer service.
  • Clear communicate the  security policies and privacy.
  • Offer sufficient information about the company and his location.

10. A satisfying customer service

Do we offer the necessary mechanisms for an agile, effective and tailored customer service?

Some guideline here are…

  • Make it easy to contact you
  • Whenever possible provides various forms of contact, to meet the needs and preferences of different users.
  • Include a good organized and relevant FAQs section.
  • Show customers that you understand what their needs are.
  • Listen and act to both positive and negative feedback.

Hope you found this 10 points useful, either to measure an experience or to start designing one. As I say these are only the elementary points, so I have left out increasingly powerful concepts in eCommerce like Social commerce, cross platform modes and integrating offline & online sales strategies.