10 UX best practices for ecommerce success

Experts in user experience and ecommerce share their top tips for how to get consumers to enjoy, stay and buy on your website.

The biggest challenge for ecommerce businesses is how to convert visitors into customers. One of the best ways, assuming that you are providing great products or services that people want, is to ensure that people visiting your site can quickly and easily find what they are looking for – and then are able to buy it quickly and easily.

So how can online businesses make the customer journey as pleasant and rewarding as possible? Following are 10 tips from ecommerce business owners and user experience (UX) pros.

1. Don’t make people wait to view your site

“Nothing gets a visitor to bounce faster than slow-loading pages,” says Ron Yates, the owner of Titanium Jewelry and Yates Jewelers. “Many studies have shown that slower page load speed equals lower conversion rates. Shoppers just won't wait around.”

“Forty percent of buyers will abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load. And a one-second delay in page response can lower conversions by seven percent,” says Ray Grady, executive vice president, CloudCraze.

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“For fast load times (and checkout experiences), look at cleaning up and trimming down your code,” says Jen Chow, UX research lead, Shopify. Also compress images, as large images take a while to load. And “consider responsive design, which adapts the design of your website to look its best on whichever device people happen to be shopping on.”

2. Understand how people read/scan information

“Put the important parts of each web page across the top and down the left-hand side,” says Daren Low, founder, Bitcatcha. “Visitors scan web pages in an ‘F’ pattern. So draw their attention with a [strong] header/headline” and layout pages accordingly.

3. Make it easy to find products

“Do consumer research to find out which categories are most important to people. [Then] create logical product and subcategories so people can [easily find] what they want,” says Zondra Wilson, president & CEO, Blu Skin Care. Also, “if you can, put color or size variations on a single product page to cut down on clutter and make it easier to navigate.”

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4. Simplify your product page layout.

“Keep your layout clean and sleek,” says Dimitrios Kourtesis, CEO, Goodvidio. “Place the essentials – product code, price, brief description, color/size options, photo and video gallery [and ratings summary/link to reviews] – above the fold and use the rest of the page to give more details, such as reviews and ratings [and] shipping options.”

5. Keep color under control

“Colors are great for evoking emotions and adding emphasis. However, using too many colors will dilute [the] results you're trying to obtain,” says Matt Tomaziefski, website and graphic developer, Miles Technologies. “Try limiting your color variations to about three. Best practices are to use your brand colors along with their varying shades and to remain consistent throughout your website.”

“Stick to three primary colors when designing your website and make sure the palette matches your product(s),” says Low. “Consider the psychology behind certain colors, as well. For instance, blue is calming and trustworthy while green often signals a company that is eco-friendly.” (And yellow indicates caution and can be difficult to read.)

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“Having a high contrast between the text and background is important, so people can read easily,” adds Chow. “Choosing dark gray or black on a white background, for example, will be easier to read than light gray on white.”

6. Make sure text is readable (large enough)

Good, helpful text “helps [you] sell more, but it must be easily readable,” says Yates. “Make sure the text is large enough to be easily read,” at least 12 points for body copy, larger, say 18 or 20 points, for headers – and can also be clearly read on a tablet or smartphone. “And make sure your line spacing is large enough,” at least 1.2, so there is some white space between lines.

Remember, the easier it is to read your copy, the more likely people will do so, and the more likely they will get the information they need and will buy from you.

7. Use high-quality, informative images

“Use high-quality product images that show a range or angles and give a potential customer an idea of what it is they're actually buying,” says Travis Bennett, managing director, Studio Digita. “The more information you give [via photos and videos], the easier it is for a customer to say ‘yes, I want this.’”

[ Related: 10 content marketing tips for ecommerce success ]

8. Use breadcrumbs

“For ease of navigation, use breadcrumbs – a visual trail, such as a progress bar, that allows visitors to see where they are in the process of performing an action,” says Low. “Typically, this is used for the purchasing process, e.g., login – shipping information – billing information – review and pay – complete.”

9. Offer virtual assistance

“Ecommerce companies [should consider] chat bots or live chat tools with predictive technology to anticipate shoppers’ needs and provide guidance during the moments that matter most,” says Scott Horn, CMO, [24]7. “For example, if a customer is receiving an error message at checkout, or searching for a sizing guide, an intelligent chat bot can deliver timely, relevant assistance.”

In addition, “chat bots [and] customer service agents can offer personalized recommendation[s] that get customer[s] past the hump [and] close the sale,” he says.

10. Provide a hassle-free checkout process

“When it comes to ecommerce, the highest drop-off point is at checkout,” says Kateryna Topol, senior art director, Architech. “In some cases, it’s due to consumer indecisiveness, but more often than not it can be attributed to the complexity and confusion of the checkout process,” she says. “Keep the checkout process simple by minimizing the number of required steps to make a purchase. This means allowing users to preview items without navigating away from the main page, as well as adding items to the cart directly from the category sections.”

Also, “don’t force them to create an account,” says Bennett. Instead, allow them to purchase items as a guest, though you can note that future purchases will go faster if they create an account.

Finally, consider “offering payment options that accelerate the checkout process, like PayPal's OneTouch, [Android Pay] and Apple Pay, [which] optimize the shopper journey, saving shoppers the inconvenience of dozens of form fields and fumbling for credit cards,” says Rick Kenny, head of Consumer Insights, Demandware.

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