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Usability is key to winning over online customers - 26/04/2007

The main factors influencing the success of a shop are well known by everyone: the quality of the products, price, delivery time, location, company image, etc. What some people are taking a while to realize is that when dealing with an online shop, one of the factors determining success is the ease of use for the clients, in other words, the usability.

It does not help having a web site with the most modern technology or an attractive design, if the clients cannot buy things in a simple, easy and fast manner.

International studies show that 40% of shopping carts are abandoned, in other words, clients give up buying on the web site because they get lost, confused and are unable to complete the purchase.

When you see the statistics of the increase in online sales, do not fool yourself: the companies who sell the most on the internet are those few who are always concerned with the difficulties their clients encounter on the web site, fixing these and improving what needs to be improved, so that the purchasing process is carried out with the least number of problems possible.

See below the 10 things that most irritate online clients and that makes them not buy, as well as how to avoid these problems:

1. Poor organization and grouping of products - It is common to see web sites that use internal company terms to group products into categories. A fatal mistake. If the client does not find the product they are looking for, they will not buy it. Speak the language of your users.

2. Search does not show expected results - The client types the name of a product he/she knows is for sale on the web site and the first results of the search are not what he/she wanted, or worse still, a message, saying that no products were found, is shown. Improve the search engine so that it shows, quickly, what users want to buy.

3. Long and complicated forms - When forms on the web site require too much information, give no orientation as to how to correctly fill in fields (post code, phone number) and do not indicate which fields are mandatory, the client will get irritated and give up filling them in, instead going to another web site which has easier to fill in forms. Only ask users for information which is really necessary and help users to fill in the forms.

4. Complicated error messages - When a message such as, “invalid field” appears, clients ask themselves, “which field is invalid and why?” Prevent errors and when they do occur, clearly and directly inform what the problem is and what the user needs to do to correct the problem and continue purchasing.

5. Small, light grey fonts - You may have convinced yourself that the small, light grey font makes your web site look good (and anyway, everyone else is using it…) but users hate it because it gets in the way of reading. Not everyone who wants to buy your products will have perfect vision. Use letters that are legible, are big enough and have a good contrast with the background.

6. Too many adverts and too little information - Especially on product pages if clients do not find a clear, direct and objective description of the product and instead are met with advertisement texts or badly written texts, they will go find information on the competition’s web site. Do you want to risk it?

7. Good photos of the product missing - It is not enough to have a small, low quality, photo. The client wants to see big photos (the bigger the better) of the product and the details. This can be decisive in determining whether or not he/she carries out the purchase online. There is no point in having an option to increase the photo if when it is clicked the same photo, in the same size, is shown. This will only help scare clients away faster.

8. Prices of products missing - There are still web sites which do not put prices of products online and expect clients to call or e-mail to inquire about the price. This is an excellent strategy to make clients run to the competition’s web site, which does show the prices and the payment options clearly.

9. Delivery rates missing at the start of the purchase - Online clients do not want surprises, they want everything to be well explained right from the start and they do not want to run risks. Put the delivery rate at the start of the purchase and never at the end.

10. Offer of the day in a popup - Internet users hate popups and close them without reading them. Do you want clients to click on your offers? Place them on the home page in a prominent position, with well written text, prices and a visible link to buy them.

Mercedes Sanchez
Director of Mercedes Sanchez Usabilidade

Translated from an article published on JumpExec.

See also

The way to provide effective international user experience is doing local user research studies, with local users.

Global studies

What users say

"Here, on this site, you know right away that you're not going to waste time looking for basic things just like what happened with the other site. I prefer this one, for sure."

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