Last year we had the pleasure of working with Flex Magazine to redesign their online presence. For this project, we were strictly responsible for the graphic design and HTML web production. Part of the improvements included a focus on competition history, live event coverage, team flex, and a slick new viewer for photos and videos.
We are excited to announce the launch of IEEE TryComputing.org, a new website sponsored by IEEE that provides tools and information for pre-university students to explore a career path in Computing. This is the kind of project that we can all relate to here at Electric Vine. Launched in August 2012, timing couldn’t have been more perfect, as students, parents, teachers, and counselors had just started the new Fall school session.
As part of the website, we also wrote and produced a video featured on the homepage. Check out the site here.
Recently while doing research for a new e-commerce project I came to the realization that there are a few “trends” which have actually come to be the new standards. Things that just a few years ago seemed like nice-to-haves are now need-to-haves. The following are my observations on Quick View, Single Page Checkout, Faceted Search, Reviews, and Product Display.
It seems almost every major retailer offers a quick view these days. The goal is simple; help the customer complete a sale. But the path is not as straightforward as category page to product detail page to checkout. A realistic shopping experience involves browsing multiple products quickly before adding anything to the cart. Time is of the essence to online shoppers, so Quick View can aid in their shopping experience.
A good Quick View should show pricing, description, multiple images, reviews, zoom, and add to cart. Though this seems obvious, make sure there is also an easy way to get to the full details.
You could even consider using this tool on the product detail page to avoid hijacking a potential sale with cross-sells.
Single Page Checkout
So the question is—are users comfortable with single page checkout, or do they prefer 3-4 pages? Well, as I did, you might be thinking the winner is single page checkout, and you’d be correct! Mostly.
Surprisingly, I really didn’t find too many studies on this. But this article from Get Elastic on the topic seems to be widely accepted in the industry. Their results from A/B testing showed the single page checkout outperformed traditional multi-page checkout by 21.8% That’s pretty crazy! I think it’s important to mention that even they recommend testing your own site before taking this as the de facto standard.
Some other ways you can increase conversions are to make sure the checkout process follows a linear path, add descriptions to form fields, be careful of wording and placement of action buttons, and use only one column for forms. Read more guidelines in this article by Smashing Magazine.
Whether you call it filtered or faceted, search or navigation, it’s essentially a tool that allows users to explore a set of information using multiple filters. A recent study by Forrester Research Inc. and Shop.org reported that online retailers have seen a 28% growth over the last year. One of the main reasons cited is faceted search—allowing visitors to search by price, brand, new arrivals, colors, and so on. You can see a summary of this report on www.internetretailer.com.
There are usually two forms of faceted search: links and checkboxes. Links allow the user to drill down while the checkbox tells the user they can make multiple selections from a given attribute. Personally I find the checkboxes to be more user-friendly.
When architecting faceted navigation keep in mind attributes will vary depending on the product. For example, length may be an important attribute for purchasing a coat, but not for purchasing shoes. Each product category should consider which facets are relevant to that category. Also, don’t be afraid to stray from the common and come up with unique facets.
Other things to watch out for is when adding a faceted search to your e-commerce site don’t show more than 10 facets initially, hide extra facets or allows users to show-hide, allow users to easily remove any chosen facets, and order facets by importance. Again, this would be an important area to do A/B testing to find out what works for your target user.
User-generated content and social sharing is king. To not have customer reviews on an e-commerce site is just bad business. In fact, the report I mentioned above found ratings and reviews to be even more effective at increasing conversions than faceted search.
Consumers are smart and appreciate transparency. They can see right through fake reviews or an overabundance of perfect ratings. You have to strike the right balance between promoting your product and also being honest and providing useful content.
A great way to provide useful reviews is to use metrics. Try adding average ratings (like how many 5s, 4s, 3s, and so on), rate a review (“was this review helpful?”), and good review vs. bad review.
Depending on the type of product you’re offering, multiple image views is a must for most online shoppers. I once ordered a t-shirt from CustomInk.com and was really impressed with their “Sizing Line-Up” that showed different models for each size and gave their specific measurements. It helped me to feel more comfortable, especially placing a custom online order.
Some other ways to add value are to show the product in context, show color swatches and allow users to change the item color through the swatch display, product variation selections, alternate angles, and zoom. Incorporating some of these key details on the category page as well as the product page can be even more helpful.
For more goodies, check out this article on product image best practices.
The #1 take-away from this is you should do your own A/B testing. There are some great online tools like Google Optimizer and Visual Website Optimizer. Your product and audience are unique so it’s always important to do an analysis of what is right for your online business objectives.