Ecommerce merchants should continually test their websites. Some merchants test in different browsers, platform combinations, and mobile devices. Others use more sophisticated tools, such as those we listed in the articles above.
Others do not test at all. For those merchants, this article will address why and what you should test on your ecommerce site.
Why Test an Ecommerce Site?
Have you ever made a minor change to your online store and found that you broke something or your content is formatted poorly? Maybe it’s as simple as inserting a new headline to a promotion, which you reviewed in your default browser and decided the change was acceptable.
Unfortunately, that extra word may not appear the same on Chrome as it does on Internet Explorer. This is especially true for Internet Explorer 7, where a headline can run over another piece of content or crowd another part of your store.
The worst scenario happens when you change a shopping cart setting and either something like a shipping quote stops working or, worse yet, you trigger an SSL security alert and shoppers abandon their checkout. For example, a friend of mine recently modified settings related to the U.S. states that a product could be shipped to. She assumed this change was simple. In reality, she had set the site to not accept orders from any state. When orders stopped arriving, she realized her error.
Today, online retailers are scrambling to deliver smartphone-and-tablet-friendly websites. There are typically two approaches for this. First, they can build a separate mobile website with different templates, CSS, and HTML coding. The more popular trend, however, is to build a responsive website that adjusts automatically to the device screen size and resolution. This sounds good in theory, until you start testing. There are many versions of the Android operating system and just as many screen sizes and devices. The testing is easier on Apple devices, but even they are becoming more complex.
What to Test
Here are some common reasons to test your ecommerce site.
- Content changes beyond simple descriptive text: headlines, images in sliders, and promotional banners.
- Formatting changes within your CSS style sheet.
- Adding any content to your secure checkout screens.
- Changing settings that may impact your checkout, such as payments, data collected, cart or checkout promotions, and links.
- Adding or removing links. Test regularly for cross links that may break if an item is removed or a promotion expires.
- Promotions Make sure you aren’t promoting expired or out-of-stock items.
- Site navigation changes.
- Template modifications.
- Forms added or modified.
- Changes to shipping settings.
- Promotional coupons added.
- Volume discounts.
- Login process changes.
- Landing pages added or removed.
- New ad campaigns that point to specific landing pages.
- System or application software upgrade or change.
- Major browser or operating system changes that affect your clients, such as Windows updates, Internet Explorer 10 implementation, major releases of Chrome, Safari, and Firefox.
In short, test everything that might negatively affect your site.
There are many tools that automate testing to some degree, as listed in our previous articles. But those tools typically cost money. If you can’t afford them, at least test in the most popular browsers that your site visitors are using.
At a minimum, test the major browsers that you see in your analytics, on Windows 7 and 8, and on Apple OS X. These should include at least the last two major releases of these browsers:
- Internet Explorer;
For mobile, test on the following devices in the default browser:
- Google Android: There are too many to recommend specific devices; pick a smaller screen and a larger tablet. Pick more if possible given the number of variations.
- Apple IOS: On the iPhone 4, iPhone 5, iPad, and iPad Mini.
- Windows and BlackBerry phones.
Again, use your analytics as a guide. If you have 10 visits per month from a device, do not worry about it.
How to Test
The depth you test will vary based on type of changes you make. Anything that touches shopping cart settings or content in the cart or checkout should be tested from the start of a purchase to the finish. Make sure your checkout remains secure. I’ve worked with more than one retailer that experienced an increase in checkout abandonment because it made a change and did not bother to test; customers were seeing security warnings and abandoning in some browsers.
Test the same on each device. Document any problems. You will likely see formatting issues. Test more pages if necessary. Don’t obsess about an issue if it does not impact your overall user experience. Browsers will not ever match exactly.