12 Usability Tips For Ecommerce Websites

eCommerceHow usable and user-friendly is your eCommerce site? If your goal is to sell products, you want to ensure that your site is extremely usable, right from the navigation to the content to its features. You need to begin with an understanding of usability; the rest follows. We’re here to show you how.

1. Navigation-related Tips

• Keep your navigation consistent and intuitive

• Enhance navigation with cookie or bread crumbs

• Enable display of the search URL (page or directory of search results) in each navigation link

• Retain the back button feature

• Build sitemaps

2. Readability Tips

• Use bullets and numbers

• Allow plenty of white space

• Keep content brief

• Proofread

• Avoid long sentences and complex words

• Shorten text-width

• Use resizable fonts

• Use bold, italics or colored text for emphasis

• Place important text to the upper left side

• Underline only links, not text

• Use only left justification

3. Search-related Tips

• Provide an intuitive search box on the top of every page

• Study search queries to make the search more intuitive

• Allow search results filtering and sorting

4. HTML-related Tips

• Run HTML code through a validator to ensure validity

• Use H tags to enable visitors to understand web page structures

• Append images and links with alt and title attributes

5. Form-related Tips

• Place the Submit button to the left and the Clear button to the right

• Use cookies to intuitively pre-populate form content

• Only ask for the most required information

• Don’t make registration mandatory

• Avoid the number of forms on your site

6. Error-related Tips

• Create a 404 Error Page with navigation links to your website

• Create a 404 Page Not Found page with navigation links, search box and an explanation

7. Design and Layout Tips

• Make sure your scroll bar is visible

• Allow users to print content

• Keep design and layout consistent

• Enable only mono-directional, vertical scrolling

• Avoid animations and marquees unless you want to distract visitors

• Avoid negative backgrounds and low contrast color schemes

• Avoid dead-end pages. Always provide links to other pages of interest if your page goes nowhere in particular

8. Customer-service Tips

• Update content based on customer queries and feedback

• Provide on-site customer service chat option

• Provide detailed contact information including physical address and phone numbers. Provide contact info at the bottom of each page, along with a click-to-call link to a physical phone number

• Provide a click-to-call feature so customers can call and talk to a service rep

9. Shopping Tips

• Keep all prices and costs visible so there’s no confusion

• Provide safety and trust assurances so that customers feel confident while buying

• Be clear about shopping limits and charges, especially for international customers

• Allow multiple forms of payment including e-Wallets such as PayPal

10. Testing Tips

• Test your site on multiple browsers and screen resolutions

• See how your site renders on text-only browsers. Some people turn off Flash, Javascript, images and so on.

• Test your site on select members of your target audience and be open to feedback

11. Graphics and Flash-related Tips

• Use a plain background

• Avoid slow-loading heavy graphics

• Use only magazine-quality, high-res product images

• Allow image zoom and multiple image views

• Use images in their actual dimensions.

• Allow for high-quality image download by optimizing your images

• Place the skip buttons of your Flash movies outside of the movie; this enables people to skip the movie without opening Flash

• Provide an exit option to flash animations and movies

• Avoid frames as much as possible; if using, make sure that search engine-indexed pages are noted as navigable

• Avoid uploading videos or sound files that start the moment your site loads. This can be very disturbing, especially when users are browsing sites on slow connections or private environments. Avoid all unsolicited Flash movies, animations, Ads and other distractions

12. Warnings and Help-related Tips

• Warn users when a new windows or PDF is about to open

• Provide detailed FAQs. Ask questions of your customers and find out what bugs them most. Append your FAQ pages with the answers. Make sure your FAQs are easy to navigate; provide a good search tab so people can find the content they want.

• Allow people to resize small pop-up windows. Enable scrolling so that people can view content in smaller-sized pop-ups

William Taylor is a freelance writer working for http://www.invesp.com who writes detailed and information-rich articles on ecommerce conversion optimization.