We all like websites that are easy to use better than hard ones, so it seems obvious to take the advice: “Make your website easy to use.” But is it truly worth the time and money?
According to Fogg’s Behavioral Model, the answer is yes. This model, which was developed with behavior research at Stanford, originally was used to broadly show how human behavior is affected by ability and motivation. I have adapted it here to illustrate that having a user-friendly website will make it more likely that your customers will purchase something–even if they are only moderately motivated. Think about how many times you have purchased something on Amazon that you may never have gotten around to buying before the internet because Amazon makes it so easy? I know I can think of a few recent examples!
The Why: ROI of User Experience
Now that we know that ease of use directly impacts purchasing behavior, let's do some calculations to understand how that can impact ROI. Let’s assume 3% more users will buy something once you have made changes to make your site easier to use. If it has 50,000 visitors a month with a current conversion rate of 5% and an average order value of $30, your potential monthly revenue boost is $45,000, or about half a million a year. Thus, investing $250,000 in improving your user experience could result in doubling the ROI. Every situation is different, so your calculations will reflect your unique numbers. Here is how to calculate.
Gains = Site Visitors X Increase in Conversion Rate X Average Order Value
Costs = What you think the project will cost. This could be anywhere from $20,000+ depending on the scope
Then plug that number into the ROI formula:
The How: User Research, Patterns and Conventions
So now that we’re aware improving the user experience of an ecommerce website can help increase revenue, how do we do that? The trick is to actually make it easier for the website user and NOT just make changes that look better or make you happier with the site. The goal is to decrease the time it takes from landing to checkout and increase the efficiency and satisfaction of doing so. The most common reason redesigns fail is because the team didn’t fully understand their website’s users, so they didn’t choose all their changes with the goal of making the site faster and easier.
Testing and Research
The best way to identify how to make it easier for customers to buy from you is to test your website with real users. User testing your current site will reveal a multitude of insights into how real people are using your site and where they are struggling. There are lot of other user testing methods to be considered, but if you already have a site I would recommend starting with remote moderated or unmoderated testing to find the low-hanging fruit.
Conventions and Patterns
In addition to testing, it is also helpful to use well-vetted conventions and patterns such as:
Single Address Bar
Using geolocation with a single address bar makes it easier for users to fill out their billing or shipping addresses.
Validate user input as the user types, not when they are done with the form.
Use Placeholder Text Correctly
This is best for field formatting, suggestions or clarification-- not for labels.
One-Page Checkout with Account Lookup by Email Address
One-page checkout is always quickest for users to fill out. Defaulting to guest checkout with an auto lookup when the user enters their email address makes it even faster and easier.
Great search isn’t really a pattern as much as it is a strategy and a lot of work. There are tools that can make it easier such as Nextopia, which incorporates machine learning algorithms to serve up the best results. Patterns and conventions are great way to increase the usability of your website, but are no substitution for understanding your users or user testing your site. Patterns should be used alongside of a user research and testing strategy.