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Running an Ecommerce store is difficult. You’ve got the hang of handling shipments, production, distribution, analytics, but there is an area that most store owners lack expertise in – it’s the store’s websites overall look and feel.

Most just pay a graphic and web designers and expect wonders – but how do you know their work complements your product? Is the price you pay a benchmark of the quality? Never.

When your webpage commits worst design sins that make people go “what the fudge” and leave, you are a devil in a very tough spot, and your store is probably guilty of that.

I want you to increase your sales and customer satisfaction from your page, I compiled 7 deadly sins of Ecommerce design that kill your business – fix them ASAP, be pardoned and see almost immediate positive results.

Your navigation is awful

Bad navigation and unintuitive categories cause people to abandon their browsing and exit the shop.

When it comes to buying in B2C stores, the clients usually come to the store without knowing what they want exactly. In that case, they will browse, just like in real life. It takes some time for them to decide what kind of product they want.

If you label your categories wrong, certain items won’t be found. There is no point of basing your categories of shoes for men only on their types: oxfords, monk straps, brogues, or desert boots.

Chances are most men will simply go to “Shoes” and differentiate them between “summer shoes” and “winter shoes.” Once they choose the category, they will look at the shoes and choose the one that best suits them and their environment, and won’t pay that much attention whether it’s a derby or an oxford shoe (for most they look almost the same anyway!)

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sample of awful navigation

After browsing Science products I’ll move to Beauty.

Of course, the navigation largely depends on your target audience. Women will know much more about shoes, and they will be more likely to search for a specific model they like – not every woman wears high heels.

Knowing your target is important. How can you do that? There is a technique in User Experience Research called Card Sorting – you provide people with cards (for example types of shoes) and you ask them to arrange them in the most logical way. After few respondents coming from your target group you’ll notice that certain patterns repeat – this is how your clients will think. Use that knowledge in optimizing your navigational architecture.

Your visuals are mediocre

Forgetting about visual hierarchy and optimization of colors leads to bad user experience, which in turn leads to high exit rates.

It’s not about adding “pizazz” to your website – nobody cares if your design is strong, vibrant, colourful, or memorable. You wouldn’t want to walk through aisles of a store where you are attacked by oversaturated cardboard cut-outs telling you to do this, look there, or buy that.

You want it to be organized. To have hierarchy. To have order.

These are the tenets of eCommerce design.

Thanks to these your customers won’t have to think – Steve Krug in the book Don’t Make Me Think advocates that making all interactions intuitive and quick to finish is the only way to victory.

Fitt’s law is one of core principles in UX, and to explain it simply, anything that is larger will attract more attention. Therefore, if elements that are irrelevant to browsing experience are too large, people will be distracted and waste time.

TechWyse conducted a case study on a trucking site, where they learned that an unclickable button was attracting too much attention. It didn’t convey any crucial information and didn’t help in the sales process – they wanted people to contact them, not click somewhere randomly.

mediocre visuals

One of our clients had the same problem. They had a carousel with a button that did nothing, but every visual cue on the website urged people to click on it. Our client used our recordings too see that people clicked on it, and when nothing happened, they were leaving the site, frustrated.

Our client changed the button into a clickable one, and it increased their conversions by 122%. So simple!

The study of colors is also important. By applying contrast to your design you can direct people’s attention to the most crucial elements on your website, and thus lead them to desired locations. People on the Internet have ADD and if they do not find anything interesting quickly, they leave.

color study 1
color study 2

Make sure that your store is optimized towards User Experience. Otherwise hell awaits.

Your shopping cart and checkout is confusing

People quit shopping if you require too much information from them or the checkout is too long.

The currently available shopping carts can be overwhelming – there are many to choose from.

However, choosing the right type of a cart is the most difficult task, as you need to consider whether the functionalities, features, integration or even customizability fit the needs of your business. A big home depot store will need different information than a store selling pottery.

But the biggest problem lies not in the cart itself – it’s the checkout. After all, one of the dreaded metric e-store owners must keep track off is the CART ABANDONMENT RATE. Chilling.

Usually users abandon the cart because you require too many forms to be filled out to complete the purchase. Other options are that the price changes (you promised a discount but it doesn’t show up), no free shipping, second guessing or simple bugs. We had a client like that.

An online clothing store, Unhuman.pl, was seeking ways to find out why their check out form was having low submission rates. Through analysing their form with Userpeek, it appeared that ‘Street and number’ field took an average of 6.1 seconds to fill.

chart showing the minutes spent to fill up a section of the form

Looking at the session replays, it showed that white box appearing next to the form was distracting the users to fill out the form and did not show properly the instructions what format should the visitors use in order to fill it properly.

After removing the white box and reorganizing the form, they managed to increase conversion rates and lower the cart abandonment rate drastically.

Your checkout process should be linear and have as few steps as possible. Would you want to complete a form every time you go to the cash register? Of course not.

Your value proposition sucks

Having an unclear or overloaded with business glossary value proposition makes people uninterested and confused about your product – and also blends you with competition.

You know what a value proposition is – a clear message above the fold that explains very briefly and cleverly what kind of benefits your client receives once they decide to purchase your product.

It’s also the most important element on your webpage, it’s the first message read, and it’s the first impression of your product.

And you know how people react to first impressions – once they establish one, it’s incredibly difficult to influence it. So if you make a bad impression, you’re in a tough spot.

value proposition sample

What the hell is being sold here, pens? There is one in the picture… Or is it really bad humor and writing that’s for purchase? What should I click, the CTA, or the exit button? I think it’s the latter.

The truth is, you probably know all that and you’ve done everything in your might to have a good message. However, even though somewhere in the back of our heads we know we need to create something exceptional, we still commit mistakes – not every marketer, shop owner or designer is a master wordsmith.

Look at the list below and determine whether your proposition follows it.

An efficient and good value proposition should:

  • Be clear and easy to understand in few seconds,
  • Communicate the benefits for a potential customer,
  • Avoid typical marketing language (“amazing product that will change you and your dog forever”) and heavy jargon (“conversion-oriented optimized active verb CTAs”).
Malichimp value proposition sample

MailChimp tell you exactly what will happen once you subscribe – you will start sending better emails. Can you explain it better?

Clarity is your best shot. Here is a very handy sheet from MarketingExperiments that takes you step by step through the process of creating a value proposition.

However, just stating the benefits can make you look exactly the same like your competitors, and your goal is to differentiate yourself from the crowd. That is why the next step to crafting a good value proposition is to make it unique.

Michael Skok from Forbes discusses the elements needed for a unique value proposition. Make sure that your proposition communicates a specific problem that your product solves (or benefit it offers), and target it towards a specific group of people.

Learn them, their languages and their issues, and help them – only you can do that, because as an owner you are the closest to your product and store.

Your product looks like crap

Having low quality photos or images that feature not enough angles and details leads to clients’ disinterest and distrust.

When people are buying online, since they’re giving up the tactile ability to pick up and hold a product and inspect it, [you need to have] great product photos – Rick Wilson, president of Miva Merchant

Since you lack the physicality aspect of the purchase process, convincing your customers to purchase a yet completely virtual product is a difficult thing to do. You need to showcase your product as close to reality as possible, while exposing its best features.

It’s actually difficult – product photography is a different science overall. It can kill or win your product due to subtle details.

I was shopping for a winter jacket recently and my favorite clothing brand from Poland posted a lookbook with a killer jacket that I wanted immediately.

Once it appeared in the online store, my jaw dropped – the jacket looked like nothing in the lookbook, it was awful. Different photography and digital techniques touched it up in an attractive way, but I was disappointed: “why not design it to look like the lookbook version in the first place!?”

how products should look like

Do you think it’s the end of the story? No. I bought a different jacket at a different retailer. However, recently I went by the physical store and saw the jacket live – it was closer to the lookbook version, and would therefore make me satisfied.

The bad photo in the online store made me abandon the product. Don’t let it happen to you.

By the way, never say “that’s how photography works.” Don’t expect your clients to know the rules when buying – they will never think “Hmm, maybe the tungsten lighting influenced the deep hues of this garment, it probably looks better in real life! I’ll buy it anyway!”

harry's product arrangement sample

A product with arrangement so beautiful that I want to buy it for that reason alone.

Your product reads like crap

Not giving a clear description of your items that is a value proposition in itself will cause reading people to ignore the product.

There are people who look at photos, there are people who read descriptions – glad we have that established. However, according to the research by the Nielsen Group, the majority of people puts the emphasis on the text description of an item – 82% of the viewing time was spent on the photos.

clear descriptions of products

Remember, that in this case people were looking at TV’s, and in this case the features of a TV are more important than its look. It’s the complete opposite in case of items that are simply decorative (furniture, clothes etc.)

That is why you need to create the best product description that resonates both with your clientèle and your product.

Not only should you list all crucial features of an item, but you need to remember that a product description is small value proposition on its own– it shows the benefits of the item.

Different targets react to different messages. Let me simplify it:

Men who are searching for razors will be more likely to buy a brand that is durable, efficient, doesn’t leave any rashes or cuts, wields well, looks masculine, and is easy to transport. However, male razor buyers won’t be convinced when you describe that perfect moment once the wind softly strokes their perfectly trimmed stubble.

product description of technicalities and benefits

A good product description provides you not only with technicalities, but with different benefits you earn once you purchase it. Let’s analyse the example from J. Crew below:

lazer cut details
  • “We don’t like to play favorites” – jokingly used banter that makes the tone light.
  • “laser-cut details” – laser means precision, precision means quality. This promises that the floral cut will look perfect.
  • “ultimate spring-occasion dress” – it suggests when it’s best to wear the dress.
  • “separate slip for no awkward peekaboo moments” – flashing your wardrobe is something no woman would want to do and this description promises that nothing like that will happen with this dress, even if it did with others.

The details tell a woman everything she would want to know when considering whether this dress is a perfect fit for her. If I were one, I’d be convinced.

Look at your target groups and answer to their needs. Talk to people and understand their problems – will this shirt cover my belly while still making me look nice?

You ignored testing completely

If you do not a/b test your ideas, everything you do goes to waste and you never progress.

Do you even know what A/B testing is? I hope you do, but just in case – A/B is comparing two versions of a webpage or an idea at the same time to perform better. Some people see only version A, some see only version B.

It happens all the time, everywhere. Some go as far as to test whether a shade of the same color works better.

A/B testing works, because you can never trust anything on the Internet. Even this article. Various CRO experts throw tips “I did this and it increased my conversions”, but you have no guarantee that this will work for you. In the worst case scenario, it can make everything go to hell. In the best, you just wasted time on implementing a change that might or might not work.

In this article from Wordstream even the smallest tests to buttons yielded increases in conversion rates. Testing small changes is simple, cheap and can be incredibly effective.

Our client, a gamification platform Getbadges.io, removed one button and increased their conversions by 40%.

The button was stopping their customers from registering, and they saw that thanks to the recordings gathered by Userpeek.

Knowing what people do on your website is an infinite source of knowledge – by analyzing their behaviors on your website you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t in your store. Once you have an idea, you can a/b test it – the results can be impressive.

Are you a saint or a sinner?

So, do you feel guilty of any of these sins? I’m sure your eCommerce design and website committed at least two of them. And I’m sure you’re gonna blame it on web developers or graphic designers.


Instead of complaining, you can fix errors on your website and make people convert like crazy. One of my tips how to do it is to use a free trial on Userpeekyou can start recording all visitors in your store for free and see where they have problems with buying. Then, go and A/B test.

It will work, trust me (I know I said the Internet lies, but I was lying then, ok?)

UX Newsletter

Torsten Tromm

About the author

Torsten is CEO and founder of Userpeek. He is an old stager in the online business with 20 years of experience as an online marketer, conversion rate optimizer and UX strategist.

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