Ensuring a positive user experience is vital to the success of any online store. Not only does it set your business apart from others in your industry; it is also often a customer’s deciding factor when they are deciding whether to purchase from your business or not.
To make improvements to your ecommerce site's user experience, you must first look into how your online store is already performing. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to determine what your UX strong points are, and which areas could use some work. Below, we explore a few different ways to determine the quality of UX your store is offering to shoppers.
Step 1: Research & Take Stock
When evaluating your user experience, the first thing you'll want to do is obtain a better understanding of UX by compiling the right resources and information. It's difficult to know your score if you don't know the rules of the game, which is why you’ll want to give yourself a good basis of knowledge to most accurately assess your website.
Don't limit your research to simply UX as a whole though—you'll also want to do some knowledge-gathering that’s specific to your business. The idea here is to distill the basics of your business into a document that you can reference when making improvements to your ecommerce website. Some questions you should ask:
- Who am I to my customers?
- What can I do for them?
- Why are my products/services valuable?
Additionally, be sure to check your competitors and see what they're doing. Go through a specific task on your ecommerce website (like searching for a product) and then go through the same task on your competitor’s site to see which has the easier workflow. Take note of what your competitors do differently and determine whether it's something you'd like to follow, or if you prefer your own method.
Overall, you'll want to get a good grasp of what user experience is, how it'll help your business, and some general best practices, all while getting to know your own brand and business inside and out. That way, when you approach your website, you can make the right judgments and know exactly what you're looking at.
Step 2: Delve Into Website Testing
Website testing is a great way to ascertain whether your online store is on the right track or could benefit from a refresh, and A/B testing is one of the easiest ways to determine what works and what doesn’t. There are a number of things you can test, but we’ll break down just a few of the most common website testing options below.
CTAs can be one of your most effective tools when trying to attract customers’ attention, so you'll want to do a few tests to make sure that your major CTAs are as potent as possible. From a design standpoint, try experimenting with button color and button size. Although your current CTA button color may match the design of your website, you may want to try a color that clashes with your theme so that it stands out more. When it comes to size, larger buttons tend to perform better; however, there is a limit to that rule, so always test it.
Another aspect of your CTA button you’ll want to test is the copy, as even minor changes in the wording of a CTA can yield very different results. Try testing more specific language, like "Buy Now" vs. "Add To Cart" on a product page, or more casual language, like "Order Information" vs. "Get More Info."
Believe it or not, pricing is another aspect of the user experience that must be tested. Some might assume that a lower-priced item will sell better, but that's not necessarily the case—higher-priced items can sometimes outsell lower-priced products. Furthermore, customers chasing lower prices often don't exhibit brand loyalty, while customers who buy despite higher prices have put more thought into their purchase and are more likely to purchase again.
You'll also want to look at how prices are displayed—you could end up seeing a big difference between $4.99 versus $5.00 versus $4.50. There is quite a bit of psychology behind the concept of odd pricing, so look into how adjusting the price even slightly may improve your ability to convert shoppers.
Discounts & Promotions
How you state your discount or promotion can affect how attractive it'll appear to your customers. Think about how your discount will be presented visually—do you want to use mostly numerals (i.e. “2 for 1 deal”), or is it a more text-based promotion (i.e. “Now at half the price”)? You'll also want to decide whether to take a more specific angle with your campaign by including words like “semi-annual,” "spring cleaning," and "once in a lifetime."
Another important aspect of your discount or promotion is where you'll be promoting it on your site. Will it be on the front page within the slideshow in your hero section? Will it replace the hero completely? How about putting it in the header, or within a nav menu? Regardless, you'll want to test these different locations and see which ones are most effective with your customers.
How your ecommerce website is laid out can make a big difference as to whether you find success or otherwise. In general, it’s safest to follow the rule of putting the pages customers want most often in the easiest-to-find places. But sometimes a page that seems important or accurately placed to you can seem counterintuitive to customers.
Try testing out where your navigation menus go, or switch up the order of the items listed in your menus and submenus. Also, consider whether business information like shipping and/or returns should be made visible in a banner, or whether they’re fine having their own page in the footer.
For any one thing you'd like to say, there are hundreds of different ways to say it. And because some words reach your audience better than others, you'll want to test your content before deciding on which version makes the final cut. Take a look at some of your big headlines, product descriptions, category descriptions, and any other important blocks of content on your site, and consider giving them a refresh to catch people’s eye.
If you're at a loss at where to start rewriting your content, try the Three Versions Exercise: write one version that's as plain and to-the-point as possible, another version that's off-the-wall, and a third version that strikes a happy medium between the two. There's a good chance that one of these versions will be close to what you're looking for, and by making some minor edits, you'll have copy that’s more likely to convert.
Although it's often thought to be a best practice to add your security badges and seals everywhere you can, you'll want to test this out as well. Your customers want your protection while shopping online, but in certain industries, they may not like being constantly reminded of it. In fact, some stores have actually seen conversion rates increase after removing their security seals.
How could that happen? Think about it this way: would you feel safer shopping at a typical department store, or a store that required three security checks before entering? Although it appears outwardly that the second store is doing more to keep you safe, it can be frightening for a customer, who might assume there have been some ugly security breaches in the past.
Step 3: Employ User Testing
It's always good to get feedback from a third party, and user testing helps you do just that. Not only is it giving you insight into what your customers are thinking, but it also provides the kind of feedback you can't get from website testing, like what the user's intention was in visiting your site, their feelings about your store design, and what obstacles (if any) kept them from completing their desired tasks.
Before delving into user testing, here are some things you should think about:
- What is your goal? Try to make this statement as simple as possible.
- Are you sure the question you're trying to answer with user testing can't be resolved by other means? If you can get the answers from other tests or analytics, don't use valuable user testing time to try and get them to articulate their behavior.
- How many responses do you want? You don't need an exact number, but a rough estimate is helpful in deciding when to stop running the test.
- Who is your target audience for your tests? Completely new visitors? Your loyal customers? Or a mixture of both?
When it comes to user testing, you have all the flexibility in the world. At its most basic, your test can be a simple compilation of questions emailed to a list. On the more advanced side, there are several user testing tools you can make use of. User testing is so flexible that tests can even be done in person; for example, buying a friend lunch and asking them to go through a couple of tasks on your online store.
When it comes to the exact questions you'll be asking, that depends on your goals. And if you're not quite settled on what you'll be looking at, here are a couple ideas:
- How easy is it for new customers to learn how to perform a task?
- Are customers able to complete their tasks?
- If not, what's stopping them?
- How quickly can a customer recover from making a mistake?
- How easy is it for a customer to remember how to do the task?
- Is your ecommerce site easy to read and understand?
- How difficult is it for a customer to find what they want?
- Is your site running fast enough for your customers?
Overall, user testing is an effective and flexible tool when it comes to getting user feedback on your UX, and should definitely be a part of your assessment arsenal.
Step 4: Examine Your Analytics
Analytics are a fantastic support for crafting great user experiences because they give you a screenshot of how customers are behaving in your store. Although analytics won't be able to describe exactly why your users do what they do on their own, they can put you in a better position to find out by giving you behavioral information.
If you haven't set up analytics on your ecommerce site, you'll want to get that started as soon as possible. It takes time for analytics to compile enough data so that its findings aren't skewed. With too small of a sample size, you risk greatly misreading your audience because of a couple of outliers. For those just starting out, Google Analytics is a good option, as it's free, easy to install, and can be used on anything from a tiny boutique shop to a massive corporate store.
If you already have your analytics set up, then you're ready to dive into the data. Here are a couple things to look at when checking your analytics, and why they're important.
Locate your most popular landing pages
First, use your analytics to figure out which of your pages or products are getting the most views. With the amount of traffic they're getting, these pages are probably doing something right. If the page has a high bounce rate (meaning customers are landing on that page, reading what's on it, and then leaving), the fact remains that it's still being visited a lot. Try to figure out how people keep ending up on this page—especially when it's not what they're looking for—or how you can entice them to look at other pages by adding internal links.
If the page has a low bounce rate and high traffic, on the other hand, then it's one of your top performers. Take a close look at what it's doing well, such as having well-written content, answering some very common questions, or just showcasing a very sought-after product. Either way, by looking at pages with the most views, you'll know what your big-ticket items are, and will be able to improve them accordingly.
List your most searched queries
Look into what your customers are most frequently searching for in your internal site search. This information is important not only because it further highlights popular products, but also because it can determine whether you'll want to make some user-friendly changes to your website. For example, if you see a topic that’s highly searched for, consider updating your FAQs so it includes the answer to that question.
As another example, say one of your most popular queries is "water bottle." You'd want to search for "water bottle" yourself and see what your results are. If your results aren't quite what they should be, consider optimizing your water bottles for that keyword, or looking into the way you organize your products and seeing whether there's room for improvement. Additionally, you’d want to decide whether to make water bottles a sub point in your navigation since they're so popular.
Identify peak activity times
Use your analytics to figure out when your ecommerce site is most active. As we all know, the internet never closes shop, so when your customers are most active may not be on a normal 9 to 5 schedule. For example, you may be based in the Pacific Northwest, but your store could be hugely popular in the Southeast, so you have to adjust for the time zone difference. This is especially pertinent if you have a large, international customer base.
There are several reasons why you'll want to know when your customers are most active, like when to launch a big discount. But most pertinently, it'll let you know when NOT to make big UX changes so you don’t risk frustrating shoppers in the middle of making a purchase.
Once you've done your research, conducted different forms of testing, and reviewed your analytics, you’ll have all the information you need to start improving your ecommerce website's UX. By following these steps along with commonly-accepted UX best practices, you will have a solid foundation on which you can build your user experience strategy.