eCommerce usability: the ultimate guide

eCommerce usability
The ultimate guide

eCommerce usability: the ultimate guide

Usability is an integral part of holistic SEO. It influences factors such as bounce rate, time on page and conversion rate, to name a few, and many of these metrics affect your website’s SEO. Optimizing usability is essential for all sites, but even more so for eCommerce sites.

User testing is one way to optimize your eCommerce shop, but a lot can be done just by looking at best practice, comparing that with your site and making improvements. This ultimate guide to eCommerce websites takes you through that testing process and looks at everything you need to address to give your visitors the best experience possible.

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In short, this usability guide for online shops will tell you all about:

Want to optimize your WooCommerce shop for local shopping? You need Local SEO for WooCommerce! »

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Internal search is the most important navigational option for your online shop, and you should optimize it to the max. You’ll have noticed that the larger brands and online shops all focus a lot on their internal search. The reason is simple: if you can find the product you are looking for, you can buy it!

As well as optimizing that internal search option, you need to make sure that your search result pages look focused and give a great overview. You need to show the price and even an ‘Add to Cart’ button next to the product’s name and image, and a comparison option will come in handy if, for example, you have a shop selling Bluetooth speakers.

Filter options

After the search query, online clothing shops will allow for filtering by size, gender, color – the lot. Filtering options like these, or sorting by price or availability, will help your visitor to find the product they want as quickly as possible. To read more about this and see some examples, I recommend my post Enhance online shopping with eCommerce filters.

Category page optimization

Your category pages could be even more important than your product pages because they give the visitor the option to choose and compare, much like your internal search result pages. Your shop category page should be considered a regular page for SEO, but is so much more important when it comes to usability.

Here are some of the things you need to keep in mind:

  • Make sure the page has a great intro. It’s the glue that holds your products together and the main reason the potential buyer ended up here. Even if they scroll right to the product listings, they’ll appreciate the extra information (and Google certainly does).
  • List all other categories as well, or at least make them accessible via a drop-down, especially when you have a lot of categories like Amazon does. It makes more sense to make them available rather than listing them all. But if your shop only has ten categories, list them, for example in a sidebar or footer menu.
  • Product listings need a proper call-to-action, so don’t hide it. Add a button.
  • The product image in the listing will help convince the visitor to click, buy or compare an item. Use good quality, stunning images that display the product well.
  • Optimize the product title, for example by including the SKU as well. As well as having SEO benefits, people searching for specific products – like that one particular Lego set they are looking for – will thank you for it.
  • State whether a product is available. Nothing is more disappointing than finally finding the product you want only to find out it’s sold out when you get to the shopping cart. Add a notice to the category page listing instead.

You should also optimize your landing pages.

Landing page optimization

A landing page is a page where your visitors end up when they follow a link from outside the site, for example search engines or social media. Landing pages on your online shop should be optimized to evoke a particular reaction from the visitor, such as buying a specific product.

Focus on one product or product bundle and optimize that page to guide your visitor to the purchase – in other words, welcome them. Make sure the visitor feels safe paying you by setting up SSL on your site and maybe adding trust signals. Add social proof in the form of testimonials, so your visitor will understand why your product is so good, and why they need it.

We strongly recommend using headings and images to deliver your message as these help a lot, particularly for buyers scanning your landing page. Make sure these deliver the right message to your visitors.

To find out more about landing pages, see our article Landing pages and why they matter.

And so, on to product pages.

Product page optimization

Generally speaking, make your product page as usable as possible. Product pages need to be optimized for SEO, by using schema.org data and perhaps OpenGraph text. Read more about that in our article on product page SEO. But when your visitor arrives on that page, you need to convince them to buy.

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Best practices

Let’s go over some best practices for product pages:

  • Create scarcity: if you have only a limited number of products available, that will encourage visitors to buy. But be honest about the numbers.
  • Add ratings and reviews. Social proof helps in comparisons and builds trust.
  • In stock or not? Be clear about that, as it will help manage visitor expectations.
  • Add to cart AND add to wishlist. People might not want to purchase right away for budget or other reasons.
  • Multiple product images. Make up for the fact that the customer can’t pick up the product and look at it from all angles by adding more than one image.
  • Offer product bundles. Buy this and that, as these products belong together. You might offer a discount for that bundle as a sales promotion.
  • Free shipping, or free shipping on any orders over a certain amount. It’s a nice gesture and yet another reason to buy from you.
  • Related products, people who bought this product also bought that product, etc. If you show them more products, they might spend more money.
  • Show people using the product (as a part of your product images). People will find it easier to relate to and see why they need your product.

Call-to-action

Just like your homepage, your product page needs a strong call-to-action. In most cases that will be the Add to Cart button. Limit all distractions, make the text actionable, and use the right color. And if possible, add a review somewhere near that button. There’s more on calls-to-action here, and more on button design here.

There are more details and real-life examples in our product page UX article, and there are more insights on creating trust in this article: 7 ways to increase sales by creating trust. Our post on testimonials and reviews offers some great insights, and you should also read our post on The psychology of discounts.

After your product page, customers proceed to your shopping cart, which is part of your checkout process.

Checkout page optimization

Shopping cart abandonment

There are many reasons why people might leave your website without buying anything. They might even put products into their cart, only to abandon it. In our post on Shopping cart abandonment, we go over what might lead to this, like:

  • “I wanted to do more research.”
  • “I found it cheaper elsewhere.”
  • “I wanted to wait for it to go on sale.”

For mobile carts, there are even more reasons, like loading speed and poor design. Investigating this will make your online shop better and can increase your sales.

You are about to close the deal: the customer wants to buy your product, so let’s gently guide them to our payment page. The first thing we need is to tell them where we are in the checkout process, so be sure to add a progress bar.

At the start of the checkout process, we give the customer an overview of the products they want to buy. This is, of course, the same as the cart overview. There are a couple of elements that are required here:

  • Product image, even a small one will confirm to the soon-to-be customer that the right product is in the cart.
  • Prices, not just the price of one item, but also the number of items and the total price.
  • Additional costs, like shipping costs. There should be no extra surprise costs after the cart overview.
  • Payment options, just to let the customer know how they can pay.
  • Security signs, like the green padlock and address bar for SSL sites, plus perhaps extra logos like Trustpilot right below the cart overview.

Guest purchase

You should also make sure a guest purchase is possible. Having to register for a one-time sale is a deal-breaker for me.

Short forms

If you need to ask for more than just an email address, make sure to make the form as short as possible. Think about useful things like a checkbox to confirm that the delivery and invoice address are the same, instead of making customers fill in their details twice.

Payment

Make payment easy by choosing a trusted payment provider and offering convenient payment options. These will vary depending on the shop and its customer base.

Finally, after that optimized shopping process, a happy customer will leave your online shop. Now make sure you keep that customer happy. There are some extra things you can do to make that happen and you’ll find more tips in our article on checkout page UX!

Conclusion: eCommerce usability is a trade of its own

Don’t trust your theme or eCommerce platform to fill in the blanks for you. Put some real effort into optimizing the usability of your eCommerce website. You’ll find that a better user experience will bring the SEO and conversion of your online store to the next level.

Read more: ‘eCommerce SEO checklist’ »


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3 Responses to eCommerce usability: the ultimate guide

  1. anisa97
    By anisa97 on 19 April, 2018

    I bought premium version of yoast and I installed it on my wordpress platform…

  2. Austin L Lilley
    By Austin L Lilley on 14 April, 2018

    I am planning to make an ecommerce site. I am little bit confused about Woocommerce, Shopify and Prestashop. Can you please guide me the best framework which can provide the usability like you described here? And, thanks for the useful tips!

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 17 April, 2018

      Whatever framework you choose, you will have the same optimization options. One will be easier for some things, the other might be easier for others. As this is an ultimate guide, a lot of things are covered. I can’t give you a comparison, but a lot of those can be found on the internet. Pick the one that suits your needs best, then start optimizing all that’s in this guide. There is no out-of-the-box solution and it will take some effort from your side as well ;-)


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