Zen Cart Usability, Are Your Customers Frustrated?

By Melanie Prough on Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Filed Under: Zen Cart Tips

Simplicity = Success

Usability is very simply a measure of the quality of a user’s experience when interacting with a website, people have been focusing on website usability since the explosion of the world wide web in the 1990’s, but it is unfortunately an aspect that is frequently overlooked when it comes to eCommerce site design and optimization.

The increasing availability of shopping cart software has lead to an increase in the number of people launching internet stores, many of these people are very inexperienced with advanced web design techniques and theories and many more purchase cheap design work that doesn’t focus on what the store customer’s wants and needs. What the customer wants from an online store is to be able to find and purchase the products that they want as easily and quickly as possible.

When a customer visits your store it is more than likely, if your marketing has been successful, that they would like to purchase a product from you. As a store owner you need to remove every possible barrier and bottleneck  between them arriving to your site and completing your purchase, the more barriers you make your customers climb over the more likely they are to click away to your competitors.

We will focus on a number of areas of usability and how to apply them to your eCommerce store, there are many many areas of usability that need to be considered when designing an eCommerce store and this post could be multiple pages long but we are going to focus on four main factors that we feel are the most important. These areas are navigation, searches, trust and checkout.

The Navigation that you implement on your online store is probably the most important aspect of usability, if your shoppers can’t find their way around your site your dead in the water. It is imperative that you make sure your navigation is clear, simple and in a prominently placed on your store’s pages. Although navigation is an area that is normally implement quite well in eCommerce solutions where they normally fall down is their user of markers to make sure the user knows where about in the store they are, if they get lost and can’t find their way out they are going to get frustrated. There are a number of very well tested web design standard to get round this issue. Category tabs, dynamic menus and breadcrumb trails all help your shoppers find their way around your store more easily.

If a customer lands on your front page and cannot immediately see where the product they want will be more surfers initial actions it to reach for the search box so make sure that your search box is obvious and easily accessible. The other area of your sites search facility you need to pay attention to is the results it is important to make sure that your customers are getting the right results when they do find the search box. It is normally a good idea to ‘adjust’ the search results on internet stores to allow shopper to be presented with the specific products they’re looking for.

Making sure your are satisfying the customers trust factors can make or break your business. Post a customer service phone number on every page in a prominent location. Use an SSL in your checkout and let them know you are protecting their transaction. Maintain a site wide branded and identical template for all of your pages. Last but certainly not least, make sure you can deliver the goods.

In order to minimize shopping cart abandonment the usability of the Checkout process in your shopping cart software is of utmost importance. There are a number of important steps to take to make sure your checkout process is as usable as possible.

  • Make sure your checkout is as short as possible, people are sick of forms
  • Don’t ask for any information you don’t need, not even a salutation (Mr, Ms), people are weary of giving away personal information
  • Remove all distraction from the checkout, if they click away from the purchase they might never come back. This includes removing any unnecessary internal site navigation such as sidebars and footers.

There are many more detailed aspects of usability you will need to consider when building your store, but these should get you started in the right direction.

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