Checkout Tactics

7 Website Elements that Kill Ecommerce Conversions

We talk all the time about what boosts conversions but little time about existing elements that could be pushing potential customers away. Analytics show us when people leave. We can see exit pages and the time spent on the site. Rarely, though, do visitors tell us what turned them off. Often, they aren’t sure themselves.

The trick in finding out what does and doesn’t work is making changes, one at a time, and analyzing. Here is a starting point — a list of common mistakes that could be killing sales.

1. Lack of a Logical Headline

Every page should have an appropriate headline that tells the shopper why the rest of the content on that page (or in that section) is important. Think of every web page like a newspaper page. What makes you want to read a particular story? Word choice, type style, and type size close the deal.

Headline at

Apple nails this almost every time. Most pages on its site are gateways to the online store, and the headlines throughout the site entice visitors to take an action (read the page or click a link).

2. Unhealthy Margins

According to a psychology study at Wichita State University, margins play a huge role in both reading speed and comprehension. It showed that smaller margins allowed for faster reading, but larger margins resulted in better comprehension. Since it’s important for your visitors to learn about products quickly, it’s crucial to find what works best.

Margins play a role in reading speed and comprehension.
Test margins to find the right one for your site.

3. Over Attempting to Limit the Number of Clicks, to Get to a Product

It’s long been said that the more clicks it takes to reach a certain product, the less apt the user is to continue. While analytics most always make this appear to be true, countless studies have shown that guidance works, regardless of how many clicks it takes.

A user interface engineering study from 2003 is still heavily referenced by industry pros. It revealed that the problem isn’t with the number of clicks but, rather, unexpected outcomes when a link is clicked.

Chart showing the number of clicks isn't the issue.

This study showed that unexpected outcomes after each click were more an issue than the total number of clicks.

4. Cramming Everything at the Top of the Page

Yes, it’s important to include key info above the “fold,” especially on product pages. The upper portion of a product page should include the name, price, main image, and the add to cart button.

Starting the product description or, at least, the bullet points before scrolling is ideal. However, important content can fall below that line. A study that used data from 25 million sessions revealed that the portion just above the fold is seen the most, and that nearly 75 percent of visitors begin scrolling before the page fully loads.

Scrolling depth study result.

This chart, from Chartbeat, shows that visitors often do scroll. They just need a reason to take that action.

5. Offering Too Many Options

An interesting study published in Neuro Web Design showed that the more choices given resulted in reduced decision making. (You can read some of the study, which took place at a grocery store, here.)

Analytics will often reveal the same when more than a handful of options are provided — only the first few are ever selected, or the visitor leaves because he can’t decide.

Amazon product page with lots of other options.

Amazon product pages are a perfect example of information overload. Offering too many options can often leave shoppers up in arms.

Unless it’s a custom-built product (like a computer), you can convert more by not dangling so many carrots.

This applies to social sharing icons, too. Presenting a plethora of icons because people use all different types of networks can actually limit the number of people sharing your products. Three to five primary sharing icons is sufficient. You can use an additional icon that links to other networks.

Screenshot from mobile site with the hamburger icon displayed right next to the search box.

This mobile site screenshot, captured by Nielsen Norman Group, shows how visitors could confuse the menu icon as a search button.

6. Assuming People Know What Each Icon Represents

Using icons to guide users saves valuable space and can help in cleaner design, but do your visitors know what the icons mean? There aren’t many universally recognized icons. Icons for print, search, email, and shopping cart have been used for years, but most others are relatively new.

Always choose icons that are simple to understand. Including a text label alongside them or, at least, the most important ones, is key.

Placement of icons matters just as much. Be sure to include ample space between icon and label sets, and be careful about setting icons directly next to other menus or input fields.

(Speaking of icons, stick with the standards for social media. Everyone recognizes the white-on-blue “f” for Facebook.)

7. Being Too Technical or Too Basic

Sure, you have a target audience. If you want to attract more customers, though, you need to do your best to speak to everyone. That means speaking in layman’s terms, even if the simpler explanation is provided elsewhere on the page (you wouldn’t want to offend your primary audiences by seeming to talk down to them).

Teavana explains to everyone how to steep the tea.

Teavana explains to everyone how to steep the tea.

Site includes expert terms, followed by simpler explanations.

Marhar Snowboards uses expanding labels to explain things more simply.

Accompanying details with how-to images or video is a good way to ensure more people understand how a product works.

These, of course, are just seven potential issues. I’ll be writing about more in the near future. If you implement any of these recommendations, I’d love to hear about the results. Chime in below and let me know.

Pamela Hazelton
Pamela Hazelton
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