Running an online store from scratch can really be a nightmare for an eCommerce beginner.
In the beginning, you’ll face many challenges, such as low sales, low conversions, server & technical issues, etc.
In that situation, it’s best to consult a more experienced expert in the field – who can point out where to improve and eCommerce optimization mistakes that you should avoid.
Unfortunately, not everyone has a mentor to provide the guidance they need in initial turbulent years. That’s why I’ve written this blog post so that first-timers with no one to help out could find the essential instruction to optimize their online store without efforts.
Most tips are inspired by wise thoughts & lessons from the well-known book “Don’t Make Me Think” by the UX expert – Steve Krug. I’ve re-read it and pulled out what I consider to be the most insightful and best thoughts into this article.
Table of content
- The customer journey
- Don’t make me think
- Click here, not there
- Design your store for scanning, not reading
- Less is more
- I want to go home!
- Don’t argue but test
1. The customer journey
One of the biggest pieces of conversion optimization is mapping out the customer journey.
A customer journey map is an illustration or diagram of all the touchpoints your customers have with your online store – both on-site and off-site.
When it comes to your eCommerce site, it can reveal exactly where your site is helping visitors succeed—or letting them down.
Think of how smooth and effortless browsing on Apple’s homepage feels.
Think of how easy checkout process is when shopping for something on Amazon – on both desktop and mobile.
That’s what great UX is.
The best way to map the customer journey? Take a walk in their shoes.
The customer’s journey, in general, should follow steps like this:
At every step of this journey, you should be optimizing.
For example, in the Product Search / Discovery, you know that shoppers will look for the search box as soon as they run into any friction when trying to find something. So you need to make sure they can easily find it by placing it on every page. Make it easy to find. Tools like predictive search can help to enhance the customer’s experience.
Fashion Nova’s using predictive search to save customer’s time & effort
When analyzing the steps and timeline your customers go through along a customer journey map, note the following:
- Actions: After you map out the steps of your customer journey, ask yourself what the customer is doing at each step of the map.
- Motivations: What will encourage your customers (or discourage them) from going to the next step? What kinds of emotions do they feel at each step of the map?
- Questions: Where do customers get interrupted? What caused their uncertainties? What kind of questions do they have at that time? Could you improve the customer experience by proactively addressing questions your customers will have as they move through the steps?
- Obstacles: What kinds of obstacles do customers confront in each of the steps? Try to think about anything that might cause customers to give up and solutions to improve it.
When it comes to eCommerce optimization, here are the steps:
Build a viable customer’s persona > map out the customer journey > start optimizing.
2. Don’t make me think
Steve Krug points out that his first law of usability is: “Don’t make users think”.
People in general, typically prefer the fastest and easiest way to achieve their intended goal.
They don’t like to wonder or puzzle over how to do things. Because all decisions they make require mental effort. As technological advancements proliferate, so does the amount of work required to make good choices. Every decision, large or small, costs them time and effort.
The more you make customers think, the more likely they are to go elsewhere to get the shopping done.
Your job is to make every element on your store self-evident and drop-dead simple. So customers who don’t even have an idea about your business can be able to know what he should do & what your website is about – just after the first glance.
3. Click here, not there
Source: Gal Shir on Dribbble
Have you ever tried to click something on a website that was not – actually – clickable? That’s frustrating.
Jakob Nielsen once said “Life is too short to click a button that you don’t understand”, and this is definitely true.
Customers are always looking for the next thing to click, so if you want to provide the best shopping experience for them, you will be more likely to guide them through your best path.
Simply put, if you want customers to click on an Add-to-cart button instead of any other buttons on your site, you should make it glaringly obvious and easily recognizable.
Things that are clickable – should look clickable.
You can use contrasting colors, outlines, placement, and size to differentiate your clickable link/ button from other elements on your site.
Make sure that the customer will have enough clues to know where this link is going to take them to accomplish the task they are doing.
4. Design your store for scanning, not reading
People don’t read your website in the same way as they read a book or an article. When people browse the web, they are looking for quick answers.
They don’t read, but scan. A 2008 study found out that on average only 28% of the text is read.
Eye-tracking visualizations show that customers often read website content in an F-shaped pattern: two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe.
The image below shows you what the F pattern looks like. It’s a heatmap, so the red parts are where people spent the most time looking.
They do this because they’re in a hurry or just want to get their way through to reach the desired outcome as soon as possible.
Hence, it’s necessary that your online store should be presented in such a way that they’re easy to scan.
Steve Krug suggested to follow below principles when designing for scanning:
- Create visual hierarchies: Create effective visual hierarchies – everything should be organized and logical in a way that makes sense at a glance. This allows customers to easily figure out what things are important and need more attention than others. Eg: put your featured products on the top left and others below.
- Eliminate distractions: You should ruthlessly cut out what’s not necessary: redundant buttons, links, images, text blocks, anything that’s redundant. If everything is important then nothing is important.
- Format content to support scanning: Use eye-catching images, headings, short paragraphs, bulleted lists, and highlight key terms to make things easier to skim.
5. Less is more
As I’ve mentioned above, customers don’t read, but scan the entire content. Never expect them to read every word on your homepage or product page.
Therefore, long and clunky text blocks are not the way to go. Humans are visual creatures, so using less text and more imagery can go a long way.
It’s necessary to remove as many filler words or sentences as you can.
The goal here is: reduce the time customers spend digging for information by making our text scannable. In fact, you should cut most of the words on each page – just like how Steve recommended:
Three ways to cut down unnecessary elements:
- Omit needless words: This tip is straightforward. Go through your copy and ruthlessly cut out extra words.
- Ditch small talk: Even on the online store, there’s a tendency to fill space with meaningless words. A lot of secondary pages have an introductory “Welcome” text that doesn’t say anything. Get to the point or get rid of it.
- Avoid using too many buttons: When you provide too many options, your customers end up doing nothing. When designing pages in your online store, think about the most important actions you want your customers to take only.
- Instructions: Another place you get wordy is with instructions. People rarely read instructions and they’re only necessary in the rarest cases. If someone needs to read instructions to place an order or sign up for your email list, you’re doing it wrong.
6. I want to go home!
Source: Aurélien Salomon on Dribbble
A key to giving the customers confidence in navigation is to help them know how to get back to the homepage. Simply put, a home button is similar to the back button but with…superpower.
If customers really get lost in a browsing session, the back button isn’t helping – they need a single click to get them to your Homepage. Make sure your home button should always be visible & accessible.
There are several standard ways to present a home button. It can be anything like:
- Home button with text “Home” or an icon of a house
- Your clickable logo placed in the top
- Breadcrumb trail
7. Don’t argue but test
The final lesson from Steve Krug is about the importance of testing.
Every online store owner wants to make their store easy to use and have high conversions. But it’s hard to know if you’re just guessing or asking.
You need to test everything that matter on your online store.
From the homepage, the hero image, the product slider, to the landing pages, even test competitor’s websites before you even have a sketch or a wireframe. It’s the only way to know what works and what doesn’t.
As Steve said, usability testing isn’t as complicated or as expensive as many people think. If you have a low budget, just start it small, then scale later.
Here are a few testing tips:
- You can do simple usability testing on your own. It doesn’t require hiring an outside firm or spending tons of money.
- Test early and test often. Too many times testing comes way too late to make a difference.
- Focus on improving the most important things. You’ll never identify all the problems, and even if you did, you don’t have time to fix them all. So focus on the biggest issues.
Testing is critical.
It’s never too early to start testing a website . A small thing at the beginning of a project can become a big thing later. Small and early is easy to fix while big and late is hard to fix. Don’t delay, test today.
FYI: Steve has also written a sequel – another detailed book about usability testing called: Rocket Surgery Made Easy. This book is a practical guide to usability testing that can be used by just about anyone to examine their website to see that their products are as usable as possible.
The last word
Ecommerce optimization, in a nutshell, is that simple advice: Don’t make customers think.
Apply it to your site and make sure the shopping experience is super mindless and convenient to use. If you can do that, customers don’t have to spend a millisecond to think if they should buy from you or not.
If you have other great advice in mind, let me know in the comments section below. I and our team will revise and who knows – they will appear in our future articles on Beeketing Blog next time you visit.