The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

Best Practices From 5 Years Ago

hqdefault5 Years ago the world, and more specifically the internet, was a different place. Customers were looking for a better online shopping experience.  At that time one of our researchers put together a list of best practices for an online checkout process.  What’s amazing about this list(from 5 years ago) is that almost everything on it is still considered a best practice today.  Basically, everyone is still complaining about the same things. What do you think about the list? Is it still current? 

2010 – We hear it quite often from our clients’ customers: “This is frustrating because now that I’ve found what I want, I can’t get it,” or “They sure don’t make it easy for me to buy this product.” Customers are continuously frustrated when purchasing online, especially when they invest a lot of time and energy researching to find the perfect item, only to struggle when going through the checkout process. Sometimes their frustration stems from a number of factors, and other times it is something as simple as not being presented with the total cost before being asked to submit personal information.

So, how can site managers make the customer experience of their checkout process more intuitive and enjoyable? Based upon our online retail lab projects, we have compiled what we consider to be some (not all!) of the most important factors to consider when taking customers through your checkout process.

  1. Ensure the Shopping Cart page includes a clickable image of the product(s) being purchased. Even though most customers have more than likely viewed the product in detail before adding it to their cart, they still use that image to reassure themselves that they have the desired item in their cart. This boosts their comfort level before starting the actual checkout process.
  2. Provide shipping and tax cost sooner, rather than later. Customers will typically hesitate to continue with the checkout process if they cannot determine how much it will cost to ship the item(s), especially for bigger items that might be more expensive to ship or those that involve a freight charge. At the very least, provide a link from the Shopping Cart page to general shipping rates so that customers can estimate their final price without having to abandon the checkout process to search for this information.
  3. Allow users the ability to checkout as a ‘Guest’. Customers do not like being forced to register with the site in order to purchase an item. We have heard some customers say they would simply go to another site or drive to a store to find the same item, simply because they are being asked to register. Many associate registration with potentially receiving SPAM or junk mail.
  4. Provide a step/progress indicator throughout the entire checkout process. Even though the step/progress indicator is not something customers typically elaborate on much during our usability sessions, the one thing we hear repeatedly is that customers like knowing where they are and how much further they have to go before completing their checkout process.
  5. Retain customers’ previously entered information. Customers’ frustration levels rise when they lose information they entered within a previous step, simply because they clicked the browser’s ‘Back’ button.
  6. Total cost, total cost, total cost! We have heard customers state that they would definitely abandon the site if they did not have the total cost of their purchase before being asked to provide their credit card information. Sites/companies also typically lose a lot of credibility when this occurs.
  7. Provide a complete summary of the purchase. Displaying all details including tax, shipping, and any extra costs, before requiring customers to ‘Submit’ is critical for success. Also, allow users to ‘Print’ the summary by displaying a ‘Printer Friendly’ option.
  8. Don’t keep your contact information hidden. Although most sites would rather have customers complete the checkout online, provide a 1-800 number for customers who simply need some assistance with their purchase. Displaying this number visibly enhances your credibility, as customers often comment that they appreciate sites who offer their contact information in a visible and easily accessible area.
  9. Give a clear indication of what to expect next. Ensure the Confirmation/Thank You page provides customers with a time line of when they can expect their order to be fulfilled. It is also important to show your gratitude by thanking customers for their order. Customers often indicate they value sites that make an effort to show their appreciation.

Implementing these factors within the checkout process of your website will help to ensure that customers have any easy, as well as enjoyable, purchasing experience.  To see how your site lines up and for a quick and inexpensive review of your checkout process contact us today.


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