Increase Conversions with Better Usability

When your website is not achieving its projected sales targets, your first instinct will probably be “get more traffic”.

But those striving to grow online sales tend to focus too much on generating new visitors, while neglecting the experience of visitors on the site.

You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

Recently, the manager of a large retail store told me that he was embarrassed about the number of homepage visitors that were converting to paying customers. They had spent a lot of money on SEO, SEM, Google Adwords, social media marketing, etc.

I logged on. His site looked user friendly — the design was clean and professional, and simple tasks like finding a product were easy.

But I tried to buy a product. I was confused about the price: did it include shipping? Would I get free shipping if I added one or more products? I couldn’t find any links to the shipping policy or shipping rates. I proceeded through the checkout, to see if shipping would get added to the price — my frustration building — when, suddenly, I was asked to register.

Like most people, I hate filling registration forms. I hate filling any forms. Do I create a new username and password, or take the security-weak decision to reuse an existing username and password?

I didn’t proceed. I suspect many other people abandoned their carts at this point.

For the owner of this store, a few design tweaks could have removed my frustrations (make the shipping policy/price clear; remove the need to register, or push it to later in the cycle).

I believe that this web business owner has never observed real users interacting with his own website.

By spending a small portion of his budget on usability — testing, iterating the design, first aid online, etc. — he may see his conversions improve quickly.

3 replies on “Increase Conversions with Better Usability”

Good observations, it frustrates me the way so many ecommerce solutions force registration before ordering. The last ecommerce site we built (with Drupal & Ubercart) generated a user account on the fly based on an email address entered when ordering. If the user confirms it by email they can review their order, if not it doesn’t affect the ordering or fulfillment process.

Interesting blog Michael, reminds of the paper by Jared Spool – the 300 million dollar button,

He talks about a similar issue and suggests that its not even just the form itself which is causing problems but WHERE the form is presented in the purchase cycle – he suggests leaving it ’til later (as you point out). Not sure this will change sales by 300 Million but could surely help decrease abandonment rate..

Thanks Abi. I like Jared Spool’s articles. Ironically, I was thinking of Luke Wroblewski (the author he mentions) when I wrote the above. I agree that forms are ‘a necessary evil’ that users will tolerate, if well designed and positioned correctly — but I think registration forms can sometimes be avoided entirely. The security issue is greater the more times we have to register.

Check out Wroblewski’s article ‘Why Sign Up Forms Must Die’:

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