The user interface is one area where nearly all websites can improve. It can always be made simpler and more user-friendly, but often, this work is overlooked.
Some of the most important elements of user interface are:
- Input controls
- Navigational elements
- Informational elements
Let’s go through these one by one.
Input controls provide visitors with a means to convey their intentions and information to your website, and perform desired actions. By making the input elements easier to use, you can improve the user’s interaction with the website.
If you make interaction easy, than your triggers will have a better chance at converting your visitors into customers. This includes making your forms as short as they can be, ensuring that calls to action are prominently visible, automating input fields, offering drop-down selection menus with limited available answers, etc.
For example, if call to action buttons (“Add to Cart,” “Buy”) on your product pages are prominent, it will be easier for the customer to find them once they decide to buy. If your page has multiple screens of info, make sure the CTA buttons are anchored.
Ecommerce sites can also benefit from adding call to action buttons on product thumbnails on category pages.
Navigational elements enable your customers to find the things they need on your website. They include search fields, breadcrumb navigation, pagination, tags, and icons. These items make it easier for the visitors to understand and navigate the structure of your website.
Ecommerce websites should always provide breadcrumb navigation in the structure of their product pages. If your customer advances from the home page through product categories and subcategory pages to a specific product page, enable them to backtrack their progress — since they may change their mind or want to see other products in the same or different categories.
Proper pagination and enabling prospects to enter a specific page number eases navigation through multiple pages of product categories and products. Make sure your prospect is aware of their page position at all times.
Search fields are some of the most important and useful navigational elements. If a visitor knows what they want but not where it is, they can find the product or item they need immediately by using the website search.
Thus search becomes a shortcut to the action or goal they want to achieve. This is another way to increase the ease of matching your visitor’s motivation, and making the trigger more likely to work.
Informational content provides visitors with information on other elements on the page, or on the shopping process. These elements include tooltips, icons, progress bars, notifications, and message boxes.
For example, tooltips can make it easier to fill out forms, and progress bars provide information on how long a process will take, alleviating visitor concerns. You can also use tooltips to show different available options for a product, ex. size or color.
Notifications are mostly used to correct errors and notify visitors that they’ve been successful at a given step.
Progress bars can be used to inform prospects of their progress through processes that require extended user input — for example, configuring a laptop computer or adding information during purchase.
Progress bars also eliminate one of prospects’ greatest sources of friction. By indicating how much time the prospect should expect to spend, you diminish their uncertainty and reassure them.
Finally, containers represent information condensed in a collapsible form. They’re mostly used to lighten informational load and enable visitors to see only the information that is relevant to them.
Ecommerce stores use containers to provide information that may interest some prospects, but not all of them. By collapsing this information (while still providing a clear indicator that it’s there), you minimize informational load for prospects.
The checkout experience is a critical point in the entire user experience. A key part of this experience is a conversion funnel, AKA the path the visitor takes from adding a product to visiting the cart to completing the transaction.
Once a prospect enters the purchase process, they need to proceed through it with as few distractions or obstacles as possible.
The key to a smooth checkout process is to make forms and customer inputs as unobtrusive as possible. Short forms, login options via social media accounts, payment using third-party systems like PayPal, and automating shipping forms by adding location recognition whenever possible, makes the process smooth and quick.
A store’s shipping policy is part of the shopping experience, and can have a decisive influence on the prospect’s decision to purchase. One of the greatest complaints of prospects who drop out of the conversion process is shipping policy and cost.
In fact, 68% of all people who drop out of the conversion funnel report that they quit because the shopping policies were communicated too late in the process, or the shipping cost was higher than expected.
This is why you should put great effort into making your store’s shipping policy clear and transparent. Most ecommerce stores nowadays offer free shipping either outright, as part of a subscription package, or for purchases above a certain amount.
Return policy is one of the best trust indicators you can employ. If you promise to refund or replace faulty products free of charge, you’ll foster trust, and prospects will be inclined to believe you, especially if the claim is substantiated by evidence. If you have a return and refund policy, try to show feedback from customers who have successfully used it.
To increase credibility, provide a contact page to show prospects that a real and legitimate business exists behind the website. Provide addresses and pictures of your premises, employees, and founders to prove your store isn’t a scam.
Your store’s “About” page should provide more information about your store and its mission or focus, including your unique value proposition, the provenance of the products you sell, and similar information.
If you’re connected with prominent institutions, companies, or governmental agencies, show those connections here. You can also use the page to provide evidence that your products are used by celebrities and other influential personalities.
The homepage, or front page, is the page that prospects see when they type your direct URL in their browser or search for your brand name online. The homepage’s function is to build brand awareness and to steer prospects toward the shopping area. To achieve this goal, your homepage needs to provide links to all the areas of your store, and offer the ability to find or compare products.
Another important aspect of the homepage is including a call to action to some of your most popular products. This enables prospects to find what they want immediately on arrival. You should also point out any current deals or benefits to prospects on the homepage.
Category pages are crucial to effective, easy navigation. They should enable prospects to reach different groups of products, in much the same way that sections or shelves function in brick-and-mortar stores.
Products on category pages can be displayed outright, or sorted into subcategories. You can also use category pages as landing pages for your PPC and paid search campaigns.
To ease category page navigation, offer pagination and filters if there are more products than can fit on one page. Also, enable users to sort products by different criteria (price, most popular products, etc). These simple navigational aids can greatly ease the prospect’s task.
Don’t forget to allow prospects to add products to the cart directly from category pages.
Product pages are the main place where your prospects find information about your products. Each product page has one job to do: provide prospects with all the information they need to buy your product with confidence that they’ve made a good choice.
Product pages can feature product photography, descriptions/copy, specifications, user reviews, and testimonials, and customization opportunities. You can also add indicators of scarcity or urgency, such as the number of items remaining in stock, or notifications such as “Order by 2PM for item to be shipped today”.
Finally, the product page is also an excellent place to present cross-sell and upsell opportunities. Offer related products or products that complement the one the prospect is viewing (for example, show prospects on a mobile phone product page a selection of phone cases and accessories).
Every ecommerce store needs a privacy page to inform visitors that their privacy is respected, and their personally identifiable data is treated with due care. This is important to increase trust with your prospects, and neutralize any reluctance they may feel in providing you with their address or credit card numbers.
To further protect both you and your customers from any misunderstanding, your store needs a “Terms of Service” page. This page provides prospects and visitors with information about how your website conducts business, how users can cancel their accounts, and usually clarifies your purchase, shipping, and returns/exchanges process. More to the point, to be able to use most payment gateways, you need to have a terms page.