With user experience, there isn’t a “one-size fits all” approach. Every website has different tactics that will and won’t work.
That being said, there are some high-level guidelines you should follow. And then you can test out the detailed minutia from there.
Anyway, if you want some user experience quick wins (and the¬†additional¬†sales that come from said “quick wins”), here are some things to do:
1. Follow the “3-Click Rule”
Everything on your website should be accessible with just three clicks – not including the checkout process. The reason you follow this rule is that’s about how many clicks any user will make to find anything on your site.
A few users might go farther than that, but not many. So make everything easily accessed with 3 clicks.
If you’re thinking to add a few clicks beyond that for “SEO purposes,” don’t. Increasingly, SEO performance depends on user engagement. So if your page gets practically no clicks, and the clicks that do come don’t stay long, it’s not going to rank well anyway.
2. Don’t Use a Check-Box that Defaults to Subscribing People to Your Newsletter When They Check Out
Many sites do it, but it’s a huge no-no. The error in thinking is that you’ll exponentially grow your newsletter list.
You will see growth. But you’ll do more damage to your relationship with your customers than good.
When they see your newsletter they did not sign up for in their inbox, they’ll say, “What the hell is this?” And they’ll get irritated and unsubscribe. You might stay connected with a few customers. But it’s a short-sighted answer to a long-term problem.
It’s more worth your time to write a useful piece of content and give that to your users for free in exchange for choosing to sign up voluntarily. That way you get the people on your newsletter list who truly like you.
3. What to Do in the “Hero Area” of Your Home Page
The “Hero Area” is the section of your home page above the fold that users immediately see when they visit. It’s your first opportunity to get their attention, so you have to make it count.
With your hero area:
‚ÄĘ Don’t use sliders because no one watches it long enough to even see what’s on the second slider.
‚ÄĘ Don’t make it complex. A single promotion or message is enough for your users to focus on.
‚ÄĘ Do communicate your value. This could be a limited-time offer. You could also talk about “free shipping” or “no minimum orders.”
4. Home Page Navigation
Users don’t know your website well yet. So as you test the most frequently used pages on ¬†your website, those should go in your navigation.
Include the major categories of what you offer, and other major business information (About your company, FAQ, policies etc…).
You should also avoid product-level promotions. If you have just a few products, you can ignore that. If you have a lot of products and promote just a couple, that’s too narrow and chases a lot of would-be customers away.
There’s an Infinitesimal Level of Detail
I could write on what to do and what not to do for a series of many blog posts. ¬†But these are the major tips I have for you now.
And here’s some additional resources:
‚ÄĘ¬†25 excellent UX examples from ecommerce sites
‚ÄĘ¬†21 examples of user experience innovation in ecommerce
‚ÄĘ¬†105 Ecommerce UX Tips: How to Seduce Visitors to Buy (some tips in this post originate from this source)
It’s one of the biggest lies you’ll ever hear in current inbound marketing.
It’s devastating. If you follow this lie, which many accept as conventional wisdom, you build your business on a house of cards.
The deck is stacked – but this time not in your favor.
What’s the lie?
I’ll lay it on you:
“Write great content and they will come.”
Yes, you need great content. And you should focus on writing using natural words too.
BUT, you still have to optimize it with keywords appropriate for your niche.
That’s the part where many online marketers and business owners get hung up.
And let me tell you, finding keywords you can rank for isn’t easy.
If you’re doing it the way everyone else does it – blindly typing keywords into Google Adwords – you’re going to burn a lot of money and time you don’t need to in order to rank.
That’s where the stiffest competition on the web comes from.
So get up to speed here in 2015 and do this:
Optimization Best Practices for 2015
Optimizing itself is easy. You can optimize the typical web page of about 300 – 500 words for 1 – 3 keywords. Pick a primary phrase, and then make sure that word appears exactly in the URL, H1, and somewhere in the body content. You should also include it in the ALT tag if there’s a picture anywhere on your page.
For any other supporting keywords, place them once each (verbatim) in your content.
That’s really all there is to optimization. Don’t make it harder than it has to be.
But What’s Really Hard is Finding Low-Competition, High-Converting Keywords in the First Place
How would you like to optimize for a ton of keywords, rank decently, and then find out, after the 4-12 months it takes to rank for them, they don’t convert or sell like you hoped they would?
That’s the nightmare SEO can be for you.
So instead, you should run a quick PPC campaign on each keyword you’re thinking of to see how well it converts.
And here’s how you can find low-competition, high-converting keywords in the first place:
1. Use Google Autosuggest
Simply start typing in a keyword in Google, and a bunch of suggestions pop up. Many of those suggestions do not appear in Adwords at all.
Perfect! Other people can’t find them, which means they’ll be low competition. And you know at least some people will search for them and buy because they are being typed in.
2. Google Related Searches
These are pretty simple too. They don’t work for every search. But for many searches, simply scroll to the bottom of the page after you hit “Search.”
You’ll see this:¬†Searches related to “your search”
And then you’ll see a list of phrases.
Boom! Gold mine right there of low-competition, high-converting key phrases.
Simply go to any of their articles. The introduction and table of contents are loaded with keywords. And the rest of the articles are too, if you want to read further.
That suggestion comes from this author, and there’s tons of other easy techniques to use too.
The internet makes all sorts of keyword research simple to do. These creative examples will help you get an edge on the competition they don’t even know about.
So you have all this wonderful data in Google Analytics…
And you hear ¬†this chatter about “big data” and “deep insights.”
That’s all well and good, but what does all of that mean?
And what can you do with it?
Well, you’ll get those answers with these tips:
1. See Where Visitors Drop Off from Your Website
Navigate to Behavior –> Behavior Flow
You’ll see an image that looks like this:
You see those areas at the top where it says “856 sessions, 789 dropoffs?” Yikes, something’s going on there with this website!
In this visualization, that’s what you’re looking for: high drop-off rates.
Why does that happen?
Could be a couple reasons:
‚ÄĘ You’re not getting the right traffic to your website
‚ÄĘ Something’s wrong with your website
Start with the pages with the highest drop-off rates first. And then work your way down.
Technically, work on improving your conversions is never done, so you can grind away at this as much as you want.
But start with the biggest problems first, and work your way down as you have time.
2. Who’s Your Audience?
Fortunately, Google Analytics gives you some of this information.
Go to the “Audience” section here. You can learn things like:
‚ÄĘ Which countries your users come from
‚ÄĘ Type of device they used to browse your website
‚ÄĘ Some of their main interests
‚ÄĘ How many visitors are new versus returning
‚ÄĘ With this information, you can pinpoint your best customers and strategize how to market to them.
3. What Could “Bounce Rates” Mean?
Next, in Google Analytics, go to Behavior –> Site Content –> All Pages.
Under this section, you’ll see a column titled “Bounce Rate.”
Bounce rate is generally not a good thing. It refers to the fact that someone visited your page, and then did nothing else.
It can, on a rare occasion, mean they found exactly what they wanted and left. So, maybe they visited your page, and then made a phone call and ordered.
But more often, bounce rate means someone visited your page, and pressed “Back” on their browser, or closed your website out entirely.
So that can mean a couple things:
1. You get traffic from irrelevant sources
2. Visitors to your site aren’t seeing what they want or expect to see right away
4. Traffic Sources
Now, you can determine part of the problem – whether the traffic source is the issue.
Go to Acquisition –> All Traffic –> Source/Medium
You’ll note all the sources of traffic to your website. It’s totally common to see that you get traffic from websites completely unrelated to yours. Some websites rely on sending junk traffic so that when you see it in these analytics reports, you go and visit their website and hopefully like it.
You’ll have to work on blocking traffic from these sources and others.
And for the rest of the sources? You’ll have to check those out on a case-by-case basis and decide whether their traffic is valuable based on the demographic that reads their website.
So That’s Analytics 101…
Those are a few basic things to learn from your analytics. Hope your company takes big strides forward!
Ahh speed. Who doesn’t want more of it?
It’s all part of your user’s experience. And they want your website to be as fast as possible.
The faster it is, the more you sell.
So what can you do?
Some easy things:
1. Put as Little As Is Necessary on Each Page
Every image, object, or widget you put on your web page increases its size and download time. Everything you put on the page should help your customers trust you’re the best option to buy from.
While Amazon’s a great company, they have an awful lot of clutter¬†on their product pages. They improve their speed using other tactics. With less, you can help your customers focus on buying, rather than browsing and leaving.
2. Specify Image Dimensions
Few e-commerce companies are doing this. Not doing so forces the entire image to load on the page before anything else happens.
When you specify the image’s dimensions, placeholders are created, so images and the rest of the page load at the same time.
3. Compress Your Images
On top of that slick technique, compress your images with TinyPNG. You can compress your images by about 75% without any noticeable reduction in image quality.
4. Explore Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)
CDNs are simply data centers around the world that store your files at their data center. So, rather than users from all over the world having to wait for content from a single data center near you, they get it faster from one closer to them.
5. Optimize Your E-Commerce Platform
Different e-commerce platforms come with various speed-enhancing features. Are file compression and a CDN associated with your platform by default? Take advantage of them if they are.
6. Have a Fast Host
Cheap hosting does the job when you start out. But when you grow and revenues ¬†seriously ramp up, you might need to switch to a more expensive, but faster host.
Don’t worry – the additional sales you make will outweigh your¬†increased hosting costs.
7. Compress Your Site with GZip
This can reduce your site’s size by up to 70%. It’s not the simplest change to make, so you may need to hire the process out. If you’re ambitious, or strapped for cash, here’s a guide.
8. Switch Off All Plugins and Features You Don’t Use
They’re page speed “vampires,” sucking the speed out of your site. Not to mention, many additional features can cause operating conflicts with others.
Use the fewest number of features possible that give your site a great user experience.
Your users absolutely love the additional speed you give them. So make it your priority to optimize your website’s download speed. Your bottom line will be glad you did.
Is your e-commerce site a resounding success, or do you have some work to do? How do you tell?
It’s not as hard as you think, and especially so if you follow these tips to help you get started tracking your success:
1. Bounce Rate
Conversion VooDoo cites a study that found the best bounce rate in e-commerce is an astounding 14.3%! The average was 33.9%, while the maximum was 68%.
Getting to 14.3% is almost impossible for most sites, so don’t stress too much about hitting that mark. But if you’re a ways over 33.9%, here are a couple quick tactics for decreasing your bounce rate:
1. Use engaging product descriptions. Most are written by manufacturers, and they don’t do a good job of selling at all. You know your market – tell them about the benefits your product offers.
2. Include high-quality photos. Let your visitors see the product from all angles so they know exactly how it looks and works.
3. Write regular, in-depth content. The key term here is “in-depth.” Whatever you write, go into excruciating detail – your visitors will reward you with much lower bounce rates.
2. Conversion Rate
This study by Marketing Sherpa of 2,912 e-commerce companies found that conversion rate was most commonly below 15%. About 55% of all companies were below 5%.
If you’re below that threshold, there’s a few things you can do to improve your conversion rate:
1. Use product videos when you can
2. Allow your customers to customize their items
3. Offer FREE shipping with a minimum purchase amount (half of all online retailers do this)
3. Cart Abandonment Rate
Baymard found an average cart abandonment rate of 67.91% among many popular e-commerce sites. Imagine how much your numbers would improve if you recouped 25% of those sales or so.
What can you do to reduce your cart abandonment rate? A few things:
1. Show estimated shipping fees on product pages – Customers do not like to find out their shipping charges are too high on their checkout pages
2. Let customers purchase without creating an account or signing in – You can give them the option though if you want to
3. Make your pages load as quickly as possible – We already advised you to use images and videos as much as possible. Make sure those images are both high-quality and compressed. There’s a fine balance between the two that you can achieve.
4. Send an e-mail reminder to those that do abandon their carts. Of course you only collect their e-mail with their permission, and you never force them to give it to you. But, some will give their information, and those are the sales you may be able to recoup.
E-Commerce Testing Never Ends…
The web constantly changes, and so does the psychology of your market. Continue testing all of these factors (and several others), and you’ll stay competitive for the long haul.
It’s probably pretty clear to you why it’s important to know how people use your website. So it makes sense to use Google Analytics.
But if you’re new to Google Analytics, the amount of data you can track is overwhelming. Which numbers are most important to look at, and what do they mean?
Here’s a few starting tips:
1. Percent of New Visits
Really, with most e-commerce stores, most of your customers will be one-and-dones. They’ll come back to purchase sometime in the future (especially if you have a good offer), but for the most part you can’t count on repeat purchases too much.
So one of the biggest metrics you want to track, especially if you are a new startup, is the percentage of visitors which are new. You want to aim for around 75% or so (according to Moz).
Fortunately, you don’t have to do anything to find this number. As soon as login and click on your website, the front page contains a number of metrics. Scroll down the page halfway and you’ll see “% New Sessions” at the bottom left.
Check it out below:
2. Bounce Rate
Your bounce rate is the number of people who visit just one page on your website and leave (they’re “bouncing” off your website). This metric is again easy to find – it’s right by the “% New Sessions” metric on the first page of Google Analytics.
ConversionVooDoo says the average bounce rate for e-commerce sites is 33.9%. The minimum they found is 14.8%, while the maximum is 68.3%.
Bounce rate measures the engagement people have when visiting your website. If it falls on the higher end, you need to make some changes to get their interest. It’s also a huge rankings factor – the lower it is the better you rank.
These are more complicated to set up, but they give you very important information (we’ll have a future blog post on them). Goals can be found in “Admin –> All Website Data –> Goals.”
You won’t see any data there, and that’s because you have to set up goals to get them working. What they track is the steps your visitors take.
So, you can track how many people visit a particular product page, and what percentage of them order. Then, you can make changes to various product changes to see how that affects sales.
4. Landing Pages
You can find this one under “Behavior –> Site Content –> Landing Pages.” One important thing you learn here is what keywords people use to find your website. You can’t tell the exact keyword, but it’s pretty clear based on the page’s name what some of the variations will be.
Those are some key metrics for beginning e-commerce website owners. What does your data tell you?
Are your revenues where you want them to be? Have you ever wondered if there are some easy techniques you could use to increase your revenues at your e-commerce store?
There are some. Every business has ways it can do things a little bit better. Think about some of these and see if they apply to your e-commerce store:
Most customers come to your e-commerce store with a certain budget in mind they’re not willing to exceed. Upselling is when you successfully convince them to buy more than they intended.
A simple technique to do this is to “display the next model up.” If you sell a 55″ television, show your customers a photo of the 60″ version for just $200 more.
If your customers get a certain quantity of a product for $40, give them 50% more for just $10 extra. They’ll spend more, but get more for the price.
If your customers go to a website and buy an iPhone, don’t show them the iPhone again when they return. That’s what everyone sees. Instead, allow them to see a case, charger, or headphones.
It makes more sense to them to see these items, and they’ll be more likely to buy.
3. Use a Search Bar¬†
E-commerce users do use these to find the products they need. Make sure your search function shows products relevant to what your customers are really looking for.
4. Make Shipping Costs Clear
Let your customers know as early as possible how much shipping costs will add to the final cost of their item. The earlier they know about this, the less likely they are to abandon your shopping cart.
5. Add Supporting Services
If you sell products, consider adding services to sell. You could include gift wrapping, handwritten notes, or even live chat support 24 hours per day.
6. Give Your Current Customers a 10% Discount
One of the truest business maxims out there is that it costs more to get new customers than to keep your current ones. Send out an e-mail that offers a 10% discount to past customers who haven’t bought from you in a while.
7. Let Your Customers Create Accounts After They Purchase
If you make them create an account before they purchase, it makes purchasing harder. Guess what? They’ll purchase more if you give them the option to create an account after purchasing.
Most of those methods do not take a long time to implement. ¬†Think about them all, and consider which could help improve your revenues.
Gotta love it…Google has a 200-300 factor algorithm that no one has a precise understanding of. ¬†So, you’re always shooting at some sort of target that you can’t really see.
SEO is tough, hard work. ¬†And yes, websites do sometimes get penalized by Google when they shouldn’t.
In general though, Google is pretty good at penalizing websites that deserve it. ¬†At the same time, you can accidentally put your website at risk for getting a penalty, even though it’s your intention to make it a good place for your visitors and Google.
It’s fun too, to look at things from a reverse angle of how to mess them up. ¬†So, if you want to get your site penalized by Google, follow these steps:
1. ¬†Use keyword-rich anchor text frequently. ¬†This applies to both internal links within your site and external links that link from other sites to yours. ¬†SEOs were saying around 20-30% of your anchor texts should feature your keywords or close variations.
Now, experts like Neil Patel (and some of my friends) are saying that should be around 5% or so. ¬†To avoid getting penalized for this, focus on using your brand name on external links, or use your URL. ¬†For internal links, just vary them as much as possible.
2. ¬†Load your content with keywords. ¬†Yes, you will always need to have keywords in your content. ¬†After all, people need some way to search for things on the web, right?
It’s okay to have around a 1.0% density, or less, for most keywords. But, the guiding rule for optimizing pages is to always focus on using natural language first.
To avoid overoptimizing your web pages, write them all the way through first, and then go back and optimize them. ¬†If you’re super-serious about doing this right, read the page out loud and see how it sounds. ¬†If it sounds awkward, that’s not good for your visitors or Google.
3. ¬†Put lots of stuff on your product pages so they load slowly. ¬†Okay, so you won’t receive an active penalty from Google for doing this. ¬†But, Google does factor page load time into its search rankings. ¬†The slower yours loads, the less authority you receive from Google.
4. ¬†Many URLs that 404. ¬†Again, you won’t get an active penalty for this. ¬†But, Google’s not going to like your website if you have dead URLs. ¬†If you change the URL structure, you should use a 301 redirect to send users to the appropriate page. ¬†If you go to Google Webmaster Tools, and then click “Crawl” and “Crawl Errors,” and then hit the “Not Found” tab, you can see all the URLs that 404 on your website. ¬†You can bet that if you have many URLs which 404 your rankings will take a hit.
If you want your search rankings to take a beating, this is exactly what you should do. ¬†And if you get a penalty, remember you can lose literally almost all of your traffic overnight.
The thing that’s awesome about the web is how creative you can be – the sky literally is the limit. ¬†At the same time, your focus on creativity can cause confusion for your web visitors.
You don’t want to do that because then your sales drop. ¬†So when it comes to your product pages, what should you do?
Here are a few recommendations:
1. ¬†Big Images with a 360-Degree View
Ever try to buy something on the web that you couldn’t really see? ¬†Well, your visitors don’t want to either! ¬†Give them huge images that are easy to see and let them completely rotate the view around the product so they can see it from all angles.
2. ¬†Use a Noticeable Call-to-Action
And make sure you play with the wording on it too. ¬†Past studies have found that “Add to Cart” generally works well because people don’t want to purchase something now – that much of a commitment scares them. ¬†The color on the button matters too.
But what matters most is not the type of color. ¬†Instead, it’s simply important the button stands out from the rest of the colors on your website. ¬†If your site uses lots of blue throughout, try red, orange, or yellow on the button, and see which gives you the most sales.
3. ¬†Show the Item Quantity Left in Stock
Consumers are more likely to make a purchase if there’s a limited quantity left in stock. ¬†Right below the product title, show the quantity left.
4. ¬†Make Discounts Clear
If the normal list price is $29.95, and your product goes on sale for $14.95, make the full discount amount clear. ¬†You could just say “sale” or “reduced price for a limited time,” which does increase the chances people will purchase. ¬†However, if you show the specifics – the actual discount amount and the length of the offer, consumers are for more likely to act.
5. ¬†Make Reviews Available
You can show the gold stars to communicate to people how well a product is liked. ¬†But, in addition to that, make sure people can go in and read the reviews to see what others do and do not like about the product.
6. ¬†Write Product Descriptions for Real People
This takes a keen understanding of your target consumer to pull off. ¬†Unfortunately, many websites use the bland, boring manufacturer descriptions, which also can get you in trouble with Google for duplicate content.
Want to know what good product descriptions look like? ¬†Check out Woot.
If you want your product pages to sell well, those are some best practices to use. ¬†And remember, make sure you test, test, and test to see what works on your website.
The world of e-commerce design is basically unlimited. ¬†Because it’s such a creative endeavor, there’s a million things you could do right (or wrong).
What are some of the latest mistakes that could happen? ¬†Check these out:
1. ¬†Unclear Value Proposition
Your visitors should immediately understand the reason to buy from your company and none other. ¬†Sounds strange, but some e-commerce sites make you guess. ¬†If you use sliders on your home page, for example, communicate your value prop on the first one. ¬†Say, “Browse Our Luxurious Men’s and Women’s Hats.” ¬†That way, people know who you’re selling to right away – those with higher incomes who like quality items.
2. ¬†Too Many Sliders
They take a long time to go by, even if you have a 1-second delay. ¬†Equip your home page with at most 3 sliders. ¬†Have you ever seen those websites with 5 or more?
3. ¬†Think Text Isn’t Important? ¬†Think Again…
The Nielsen Group found something quite astonishing…that on a particular full Amazon page with many listings of flat-panel TVs, people spent more time reading the text below than viewing the photos (read the full story here). ¬†Specifically, they 82% of their time reading the text versus 18% viewing the television.
When you think about it, though, it makes sense. ¬†All you can tell about a TV by looking at it is its size. ¬†You have to read the specs to get to know the difference between various televisions.
So that should tell you something: ¬†your product descriptions need to absolutely rock the house.
4. ¬†Poor Photo Quality
So yes, photos do help sell, but you have to use them in the right way. ¬†What is the “right” way? ¬†A study performed by Visual Website Optimizer found that when large images, combined with a product description that comes up when you move your mouse over the image, was the winning combo.
So, make sure the images appear flawless, if possible.
5. ¬†An Out-of-Date Website¬†
People do judge a book by it’s cover…and especially so when it comes to websites. ¬†Have your design updated every 3 years at the least. ¬† Remember, your site doesn’t have to be flawless…it just has to appear new.
6. ¬†Slow Load Times
Not only does Google not like slow load times, but your visitors don’t appreciate slow load times much either. ¬†Every page should load in under two seconds! ¬†Make sure ¬†you have a reasonably fast host, as that makes a huge difference as well. ¬†Pay as much as you can afford, without breaking the bank, for hosting.
So if you watch out for those things, you’ll put your website in a good position right from the start. ¬†And remember, don’t hesitate to ask your visitors, family, or friends for their impressions of your website.