Practical Ecommerce

Five Fast Steps to Improve Website Usability

Problem: Your website doesn’t work like it should, and every day you’re losing sales because of it. As much as you’d like to take the time to comprehensively study the problem, you’ve decided you can’t afford to wait. In many instances, you should take some time to step back and look at your entire website and how its usability can be improved. However, there are some things you can begin looking at right now.

  1. Checkout. More sales are lost at checkout than any single spot on a website. Look at your analytics to see if you have an unusually large number of visitors who abandon their shopping cart before completing the sale. This may indicate a technical or design problem. Have someone look at your checkout procedure to see if it performs as it was initially designed. If it’s not, you’re likely losing sales.

    Things to consider include ease of use, payment terms, cart accessibility from each page of your site and helpful instructions. Ask friends to recommend sites and checkout procedures they prefer. See which changes can be made quickly in-house and plan more extensive revisions for a later, full-scale site redesign.

  2. Navigation. Is it easy and intuitive to move from place to place on your website? Does your site have an internal search feature that works as it should? Frequently, when content or entire pages are added or removed from a website, navigation is not adjusted accordingly. People are often lost and frustrated when this happens. They leave your site prematurely.

    Find some people unfamiliar with your site, and give them a set of things to locate. Ask them how easy or difficult finding the items was for them and if they felt they got the information they needed or expected to find. Tally the results to pinpoint your worst bottlenecks. Have your design team devise and test improvements.

  3. Organization. Frequently, websites are organized in a way that makes sense to its creators, not its users. Content may include industry jargon not common to the people buying your products or services. Sometimes, different terminology is used for the same item, service or feature. This may happen when different corporate divisions or suppliers are providing content that is being posted directly to the website.

    Once you check for consistency, see if the information is being presented in a way that promotes a sale. Is there an easy way to add items to shopping carts without leaving the page? Can visitors see your products in category groups for easy comparison, and individually, with all options displayed and described? Limit your immediate fix to your worst problems and to those products with the greatest sales potential.

  4. Security and Privacy. Sometimes, fine print can frighten people away, especially where their credit information is concerned. Prominently display security icons and summarize your Privacy and Use Policies in appropriate places. Make it known that this is a secure website. Then link to your complete Privacy and Use Policies.

  5. User Friendliness. Many sites are abandoned on the forms page. Make sure you are not asking for too much information from your customers. Limit your surveys and other data collecting methods that people may find intrusive. Invite feedback from your customers, and provide options for them to reach you. Check the time it takes for a real person to respond to an inquiry. Follow up to make sure questions have been answered satisfactorily. And make sure email links and phone numbers reach people who can actually help. Once again, ask your friends to test the system. Fix what needs fixing.

Lisa Wehr

Lisa Wehr

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Comments ( 5 )

  1. Legacy User May 8, 2008 Reply

    Checkout I think is one of the biggest online black holes. I have many customers that tell me that is where they are loosing most of their sales. I've given them many suggestions to perk up that portion of there e-commerce sites. I think it is important to offer a quick, very quick checkout. People don't want to waist time. Customer's time is to valuable to them. Quick Checkout, very reasonable shipping charges, and done. If they are there, don't give them any reason to leave without buying.

    Thanks for the articles & keep up the good work

    Jeide Designs

    — *Jeide Designs & Printing*

  2. Legacy User May 8, 2008 Reply

    In my point of view and experience; best step to improve the usability of site, if place a Live Chat button and someone should be available to talk.

    For Checkout, recover a cart is very good tool. If customer picked some items and then he/she calculated the shipping, then left without completion of transaction; simply offer him Free shipping or discounted shipping. Yes, it works :)

    — *Rana Khan (*

  3. Legacy User July 10, 2008 Reply

    Yes good points. Though there is more that can be done to improve usability. Limiting the amount of clicks to find information can also considerably improve a website's usability as can having a logical structure and creating link titles that firstly appeal to what the user is looking for and secondly accuratly describe what they represent. Its important to make it as easy as possible for users to seek what they want or be directed in a persuasive way to drive action.

    Having titles such as 'Other News' or 'Miscellaneous' suggests that anything under this heading us considered unimportant. Similarly if jargon is used that users don't understand.

    Research into the direction the eye follows when looking on a website and what draws their attention is essential to secure good results.

    — *roger billington*

  4. Legacy User July 17, 2008 Reply

    Yes what I think your referring to there roger is information architecture and user experience. I, probably like many businessmen didn't have a clue what these terms where but now I swear by them.

    I thought my website looked really suave with impressive graphic design and painstaking time spent over writing the copy to make it read really well but I just wasn't getting the sales. Most of my visitors only stuck around for a couple of minutes then left. Know I know it was down to my site not being structured witht the users' needs in mind. They couldn't find what they wanted quickly and easily enough. Many got too muddled that they gave up and left. gives you a brief introduction to it. I ended up using them to sort my website out as they seemed to be experts in the field but I recommend atleast looking into it. You can lose a lot of business from not having your website structured properly.

    — *gary fisher*

  5. Elizabeth Ball November 17, 2009 Reply

    In other cases people abandont he sale because thye have to gather information first to buy the product. I’ve visited one website, three times in the last three days. The first time I began an order I realised I didn’t know my niece’s and nephews’ size for the t-shirts, then I abandoned it again realizing I didn’t know the youngest one’s favourite colour. On the third attempt, I bought it. So sometimes it’s just a case of having everything you need upfront for the purchase.