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How to Increase Ecommerce Sales with a Usability Study

Need to improve ecommerce sales? A heuristic evaluation can help you find usability problems on your website. Here’s how to do it.

How to Increase Ecommerce Sales with a Usability Study
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When time is of the essence, conducting a heuristic evaluation of your online shop will help you learn how to increase sales now.

A heuristic evaluation is a method of finding usability problems.

It helps you quickly identify the website’s health without having to do a long exhaustive study.

You will not be reviewing every detail, you will be generating a high-level overview of usability factors best known to influence sales.

The beautiful thing about a usability study is that, once identified, problems are fairly intuitive to fix.

How to Conduct a High-Level Usability Study

Step 1: Rally

Invite 3 – 5 members of your team to be “evaluators.”

They do not need to have a background in web design or search engine optimization (SEO).

The more diverse your group the better results you will get.

Step 2: Evaluate

To ensure unbiased evaluations, each team member should inspect the website independently.

Don’t chat about the project until the study is completed.

Step 3: Analyze

There are two ways you can do this, neither is better than the other.

Pick whichever works best for you.

Record the Evaluator

An overall project manager will be needed to document the evaluator’s live comments while interacting with your website.

This increases the overhead of each evaluation, but reduces the workload on the evaluators.

Results will be made available fairly quickly as the observer only needs to understand and organize their own set of notes.

Collect Written Reports from Each Evaluator

Written reports provide a formal record of the study.

However, this method requires additional effort from the participants.

The project lead will assemble the final report by reading and aggregating all notes from the study participants.

Usability Principles

The most commonly used methodology was developed by Jakob Nielsen in 1994.

Nielsen outlined 10 general rules that seem to describe common properties of usable interfaces.

In addition to the following list, team evaluators are encouraged to add any additional user experience thoughts that come to mind when evaluating the website.

Here is an outline of Nielsen’s usability indicators as they apply to ecommerce websites:

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1. Feedback

Technically referred to as, “visibility of system status.”

All this means is to keep users informed about what is going on.

They should know what’s going on, which stage of the buying process they are in and what they need to do.

Ecommerce Tips:

  • Logo in the header.
  • Description of value proposition.
  • Clear call to action.
  • Store clearly marked.
  • Checkout or My Bag viewable from all pages.
  • Easy-to-view cart.
  • Easy-to-continue browsing options.
  • Tally how many products are in the cart.
  • Display total purchase value.

2. Real World

Speak the shopper’s language.

Your website flow should mirror real-world scenarios.

Ecommerce Tips:

  • User-focused language.
  • No jargon.
  • Images swipe right to left.
  • Helpful, descriptive language.
  • Recreates in-store experience.

3. Freedom

Users need a clearly marked “emergency exit” when they click on an element by mistake.

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Support undo and redo in a clear way.

Ecommerce Tips:

  • Product reviews prior to checkout.
  • Easily remove items from checkout.
  • Change quantity at checkout.
  • Change color at checkout.
  • Ability to cancel or edit orders after purchase.

4. Consistency

Do not leave users wondering whether different words or actions mean the same thing.

Use established standards such as, “Add to Cart,” and swipeable images.

This reduces confusion and increases efficiency.

Ecommerce Tips:

  • Recognizable CTAs: “Buy Now,” “Add to Cart”.
  • Basic format or template.
  • Large Images.
  • Short descriptions.
  • Visual CTA.
  • Review at the bottom of the page.

5. Error Prevention

Careful design prevents the possibility of an error occurring before the user makes it.

Ecommerce Tips:

  • Real-time validation on forms.
  • Simple directions on how to fix a mistake.
  • Recommendations on out of stock or discontinue products.

6. Recognition

Make objects, actions, and options as intuitive as possible.

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Follow a web design that users already know (e.g., Amazon).

Do not require users to recall information from a previous interaction.

Ecommerce Tips

  • Grid layout.
  • Logo at top left.
  • Cart button at top right.
  • Menu: dropdown categories.

7. Flexibility

Increase efficiency by allowing users to set preferences and interact with your website as they want to.

Ecommerce Tips

  • Customer account.
  • Ability to like items.
  • Ability to save items to a shareable list.
  • Ability to save delivery and card information.
  • Major CC, PayPal, and payment plans.
  • Autofill on checkout forms.

8. Minimalist Design

Only include on the webpage what is necessary.

Every additional unit of information competes with each other for the user’s attention.

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This is why display ads are successful.

Ecommerce Tips:

  • Mobile-first design.
  • Pop-ups fill the screen.
  • Limit visual clutter.
  • Attention is drawn to the main image.
  • Attention is drawn to the description.

9. Recovery

We all make mistakes.

Clearly highlight the problem and offer a solution.

Ecommerce Tips:

  • Highlight errors in red.
  • Clearly defines the error.
  • Offer a solution.

10. Help

Provide documentation and make finding help easy.

This is your “press 0 to speak to the operator” function.

Make documentation easy to search, focus on a specific task, and outline simple steps to follow.

Ecommerce Tips:

  • Searchable help documentation.
  • Speak to customer service.
  • Link to FAQs in footer.
  • Q&A on product pages.

Heuristic Evaluation Takeaways

A heuristic evaluation is a powerful tool that can help your company pivot quickly.

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Because this is a high-level usability view, it won’t find every problem on your website.

It will, however, provide your team with a fresh view and actionable steps to take right now that will improve sales.

More Resources:


Image Credits

Featured Image: Created by author, April 2020

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Kayle Larkin

Owner at Larkin SEO

Kayle Larkin has been designing search marketing campaigns since you had to be invited to Gmail. She started a white ... [Read full bio]

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