Ecommerce Usability Tips: How to Increase Conversion and Delight Customers

By Rob Pitt, Product User Experience Designer

As CashStar’s user experience designer, I spend a lot of time testing and thinking about ways to make using ecommerce easier. On a daily basis I work through challenges consumers face when making an online purchase, and ensure the product we create at CashStar is user friendly.

The most daunting interaction on the Web is “the form.” It’s not just difficult for users to fill out, but it is the biggest roadblock to a completed purchase for ecommerce companies. On a technical level, a form is labels and inputs strung together to collect information in a database. Visually it’s a bunch of text and boxes. Yet this seemingly simple thing really is not that at all. There have been books written on best practices for forms, as well as case studies on the subject!

According to industry best practices, we know users like to read in an F pattern. If you want users to complete a form quickly, you can create a form together with labels and inputs stacked on top of each other. Sometimes, you may want someone to stop and think so for that you can left align labels and text. But none of this is exciting. It’s not exciting for you to read about and it is not exciting for the user to fill out.

But, industry best practices in user experience will only get you so far. Sometimes best practices fall apart with outlying demographics. This is the case when you’re selling to both millennials and baby boomers. Each group expects something different. One generation will blame an app for not doing what they want, while the other will blame themselves. So what can you do to maximize the chances for success for across all demographics?

This series of ecommerce usability posts will cover things you can do to “the form,” beyond the standard best practices, to improve the customer experience and conversion.

Let’s start by looking at the checkout process and what can be done to streamline it.

Streamlining the Checkout Process

The current trend on the Web is flat design, which focuses on minimalistic effects to achieve the strongest impact. This idea is nothing new, of course. In fact it was practiced exclusively by the Bauhaus school of design during the early 1900s. The concept was a simple – form follows function.

One place on an ecommerce site that could benefit from clean design is the checkout page. Are there obstacles that could be removed? From a business perspective, maybe not much, but that’s where user testing comes in. You can uncover almost all challenges that users will have with a form by testing it with 3-5 people.

Testing helps you find out whether people are clicking on things that aren’t clickable or abandoning their cart because the checkout process doesn’t have a “My Billing Address is the Same as My Shipping Address” selection. The worst experience I’ve seen when trying to purchase something online went like this:

  1. Add item to my cart.
  2. Click “Checkout”.
  3. Get a pop up window that says “You need an account to proceed.”
  4. Click “Sign up for account.”
  5. Fill in form to create an account.
  6. Go to checkout. Discover after creating an account my cart is now empty!
  7. Use search and add the item back to my cart.
  8. Checkout, again.
  9. Get prompted with “You do not have an address associated with this account. Please add an address.” (Amazing anger and frustration build up)
    Hulk Smash!
  10. Go to my account. Add an address to my address book. Return to Checkout page.
  11. Checkout? Yes, Checkout.
  12. Vow never to buy anything from the site again, even though the next time around it will be easy.

If you are requiring users to do any of that before they buy something, please stop. The frustration customers feel when being forced to create an account outweighs the benefits. Instead, offer a guest checkout experience. Before they place the order offer this – “Would you like to create an account? You just need to add a password.” *Click.* Password box appears. Win, win. You get my data and I don’t feel inconvenienced when creating an account. This also has the added bonus of decreasing cart abandonment and increasing conversion rates.

Do This
Guest Checkout
Guest Complete
Not This
Missing Guest


Stay tuned for the next installment of Ecommerce Usability Tips!


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