E-Commerce Sites: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

E-Commerce the Good Bad and Ugly

Every good e-commerce site starts where all smart buying experiences start, with the brand. Your guest needs to understand who they are doing business with from the very beginning. There is a saying in polite society, “it takes 30 seconds to make a first impression and a lifetime to change it." This is as true on the web as it is in life. Start off on the right foot. Be clear about who you are and your genuine commitment to providing a great shopping experience. Then prove it with every click. Once customers understand who they are doing business with, your focus needs to be on fulfilling their desire to find and buy the product they are looking for. Respect them and their time and you will be rewarded.

Going from Good to Bad to Ugly - A Matter of Severity

E-commerce user experiences (UX) typically fall into one of three categories -- the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Good sites keep the experience simple and useful, resulting in high conversion rates and strong sales. Conversely, Bad or Ugly sites -- characterized by poor conversion rates and sales -- are caused by a series of user experience missteps.

A Bad Misstep interrupts or disrupts users’ purchasing flow, making them feel stupid, annoyed or fearful about continuing. One or two bad missteps will not keep a user from finishing the purchase, but frustration is mounting. It may take 3-4 bad missteps before the user abandons his/her shopping cart.

An Ugly Misstep, however, takes things to a whole new level. It’s likely that one or two ugly missteps would cause the user to give up and go somewhere else. It may only take one or, at most, two ugly missteps to drive the customer away.

Below are several Bad Missteps and a couple of downright Ugly ones that are all too common, along with Guidelines designed to bring your e-commerce site back to Good:

Bad Misstep #1: Asking the user to fill out the same info in multiple fields. People do not like filling out forms; asking them to do things multiple times (e.g., billing/shipping address) can be quite annoying. This is an especially egregious misstep on mobile forms.

Good Guideline: Copy info where possible to fields where the same info might be used. Make it easy for the user to clear the field in case they need to retype the field data.

Bad Misstep #2: Too many products to browse on a product or search page. If a website visitor is browsing or searching for athletic equipment, the number of product results can be daunting. Faceted filtering and sorting provides a quick way for users to eliminate undesirable products from the list.

Good Guideline: Provide category-specific faceted filtering and sort controls on product category and search pages.

E-Commerce Product Filtering


Specific Product faceted filtering help customers get to their preferences quickly

Bad Misstep #3: Use of ambiguous Continue or Apply buttons. Take a second look at the button names, color and placement during your checkout process. Button names like “Continue”, “Save” or “Apply”, all buttons of the same color or those located below the fold, should raise concerns about whether they will cause users to pause before making a selection.

Good Guideline: Make sure button names do not require context to describe what they do and make sure the most important buttons are obvious to the user. Make “call to action” buttons/links look clickable. For example, “Continue” might be renamed “Continue to Checkout”, would be located above the fold and colored green.

Bad Misstep #4: Putting form field labels in the field itself. Granted, forms look better with all the labels, but user studies show that putting button labels inside the field causes confusion and frustration during field entry, especially on mobile devices. Example of field label inside the field

Good Guideline: Put field labels outside the field. Provide an easy way to clear the field.

Bad Misstep #5: Indiscriminate cross-selling during the checkout process. We all want to cross-sell and up-sell buying customers, but it needs to be done carefully in the shopping cart and not during the checkout process.

Good Guideline: When cross-selling before the checkout, make sure it is obvious that cross-sell items are separate from the shopping cart. Cross-selling during checkout can distract users from completing the sale.

Bad Misstep #6: Making text too verbose. When people are in the checkout process, this is not the time to make them read long-winded text. A couple of concise sentences at most.  Text is not titled, difficult to read, not scannable.

Good Guideline: Add title to text blocks during checkout. Explanations should be scannable and concise.

Bad Misstep #7: Requiring the user to create an account to buy something. Users dislike creating yet another website account, requiring them to remember yet another username and password.

Good Guideline: Allow the user to check out as a guest. Or leverage an online marketing system like Sitecore’s Digital Marketing Systems (DMS) to enable shopping without account creation. A Guest Checkout button from one of our Sitecore websites.

Ugly Misstep #8: Checkout process is not linear. Users in the checkout process can get lost on rabbit trails. For example, having to set up and manage shipping addresses can be a distraction that could derail the sale.

Good Guideline: Provide a clean linear checkout process with a checkout navigation guide.

Ugly Misstep #9: Making it difficult to locate or understand error messages. Nothing is more frustrating than entering data in a long form, pressing the submit button and wondering why you do not go to the next page, or seeing a useless error message and having to re-enter the info again.

Good Guideline: Validate fields as they are filled out where possible. Make error messages modal, obvious and specific. Do not make the user enter their data again.

Ugly Misstep #10: Not knowing why people are abandoning your cart. While this misstep is directly responsible for driving customers away, it may be why you did not find and fix them already. As the saying goes, “Not measured, not managed.”

Good Guideline: Set up some simple analytics to measure the performance of your e-commerce website and take an occasional survey.

These 10 Missteps and Guidelines are just some of the ways to improve a Bad or Ugly site. Be your missteps big or small, we can help. Let us perform an assessment of your e-commerce site and together, we’ll optimize your success. Contact us today at Hanson Dodge Creative.

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