Friday, August 21, 2009
We all know that a large part of Ecommerce is to do with the range of products you carry & the price you offer them at. But what if your website is slow & you make it difficult for people to do business with you by having a long shopping cart that requires a user account to access?
Here's some of our favourite Ecommerce Usability Optimisation tips that you can implement right now to see some fantastic results...ninja style.
Making your transaction process as simple as possible will be one of the greatest & fruitful things you'll ever do for your business. It's nice to get registrations & email addresses.....but wouldn't you rather get a sale & that ongoing relationship with the customer? After all your customers are at your site to shop for something.
Nordstrom allows new customers to buy as a Guest, they then give them an opportunity to register during the checkout process (if they want). This makes the experience much more enjoyable & people are much more likely to register once they've commited to the purchase.
How quickly your website loads is more important than you might think, imagine if Google loaded slowly? Would you still look at as many pages? A faster website means faster actions & also faster transactions.
There's three main areas of concern that can have an huge impact on the overall speed of your website:
There's no excuse to host a website on a cheap server, especially if it's a business. If you're on a shared server, chances are that you're sharing it with anywhere up to 200 other websites. If one of those sites overloads the server (hits front page of Digg / or runs some script that uses lots of resources) it could potentially bring the whole server down to a crawl with it. If you have a VPS or a Dedicated Server you have more of the Server resources at your disposal, this means that you can deliver pages & content faster.
If you have 10 customers all ready to make a purchase then the site goes down or crawls to a halt, would losing $1,000 in revenue be worth paying an extra $100 / month for a decent server?
Disclosure: At StoreCrowd we host with SecuredServers, the setup allows us to completely configure our own servers & also scale with demand should we need it.
If you serve a lot of dynamic requests from a database frequently you might consider caching pages & making them static. This removes the query to the database which means the pages load faster & also puts less stress on your server.
Most servers typically run Apache for serving static content, however there's faster options out there now. Check out Nginx, it's a leightweight HTTP server that not only uses less memory than apache but also serves up static content much much faster.
We recently switched this blog from Apache2 to Nginx & static content is served 100% faster.
Think about it logically, if your server is located in Los Angeles but someone from New York visits your site there'll be some latency no matter how fast your server config is. One way to get around this issue is to use a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to serve all the static content on your site (i.e. images.yoursite.com).
The CDN will serve the static content from one of its Edge locations which is as close to the user as possible. This means when the user requests your site the static content loads much faster whilst your main box loads the dynamic content.
This has two advantages, it speeds up your site considerably from all over the world & also reduces the load on the main server as it doesn't have to serve up the static content any more.
Learn more about Speeding up your website or blog:
Breadcrumbs are useful in a number of different ways, they show your customers their current location in the hierarchy of your site, they also allow customers to travel backwards & forwards between content layers. The example below shows best practice breadcrumbs on Apple.com:
Learn more about Breadcrumbs:
Often when linking between products or services on a website it's easy to use language like 'click here' or 'more info.' You need to let your hyperlinks do the talking, make them descriptive, let me describe the action you want the customer to take.
Not labelling these links properly can also lead to problems for people with screen readers & also for SEO purposes. Search engines look at the content of a link to describe the next page. A great example of how anchor text can impact SEO is doing a Google search for Click Here.
Learn more about using the right text in Hyperlinks:
If you own an Ecommerce store, how often do you analyse your top performing products & feature them on the homepage or in your navigation? the same goes for content rich sites, do you bring your best content close to the homepage so your users can find it more easily?
Smashing Magazine for example lists their most popular posts in the sidebar, instantly allowing new users to browse their best content.
Amazon & other major Ecommerce retailers will display their top selling products to help users make a choice, your users may be easily influenced by the 'crowd' which in turn may lead to more sales.
The last thing I bought from Amazon was a Flip MinoHD, makes sense that they're recommending me accessories to go with it:
Believe it or not but Amazon's recommendation engine & others such as Cleverset have been known to increase revenues & retention by over 20%.
There's also a new Y Combinator funded startup called Directed Edge that does some pretty clever recommendations on all types of content (Ecommerce, Social & News).
They use OpenID via Facebook, Google Accounts & Twitter to allow people to signup with just one click. Or a simple signup form (note how they don't ask users for their password twice like mose signups?).
The Mindmeister signup is as simple as they come. Simply enter your email address to start:
Whilst you're waiting for it to arrive you can fill out optional information, the beauty about this signup is that you don't have to fill in this info if you don't want to:
Long shopping carts with lots of screens & unecessary information can stop your customers from buying or completing your action of choice.
Smashing Magazine gives some excellent tips which include (but are not limited to):
Learn more about making your checkout simpler:
If your users can't find what they're looking for the chances are they'll most likely search for it. So make sure that your search box is featured prominently.
You can use this to your advantage, as Google Analytics allows you to track your internal search usage. This can be incredibly useful in a number of ways: