How to Improve E-Commerce Usability – 15 Essential Tips


Ensure your e-commerce website is built with the user in mind. Learn how to improve e-commerce usability with our usability guide.

Why Usability Is Essential for an E-Commerce Website

E-commerce websites are designed to sell products or services online, but sometimes they fail to deliver a satisfying user experience. As a result, e-commerce usability issues can frustrate customers, reduce conversions, and damage a brand’s reputation.

The e-commerce user experience (UX) is more important than ever for retailers. Consumers are looking for convenient, personalized shopping experiences, from online to in-store and everything in-between.

Today’s consumers have high expectations when it comes to the online shopping process. As a result, they will likely abandon their shopping cart if an online store has an overly complex checkout process.

With this in mind, e-commerce stores must improve their functionalities in line with consumer expectations. Updating your store’s usability and correcting errors should be an ongoing process.

While significant progress has been made in improving e-commerce UX in recent years, advancements focused on efficiency have had the most impact. E-commerce usability trends have emerged that will help retailers provide the personalized, convenient, and seamless shopping experience customers expect.

What Is E-Commerce Usability?

E-commerce usability encapsulates the user experience shoppers have on their online store. Essentially, it refers to the ease with which a visitor can interact with your site. If a site has strong usability, it provides an experience that is more comfortable and straightforward for its users to navigate.

Whether customers are visiting your e-commerce platform with a predetermined goal or to see what is on offer, an optimized shop will support all types of use and various shoppers. For example, if an e-commerce website supports multi-regional capabilities, it should offer customizable purchasing options based on a region.

The Importance of E-Commerce Usability

Good usability is essential for any e-commerce store that hopes to survive in a competitive marketplace. If usability issues prevent a site visitor from finding a product on your website, they can’t purchase it. Conversely, a shop that offers better functionality, from browsing to order submission, is more likely to see visitors buy its products.

E-commerce usability will promote your website with improved consistency, design, and task focus. Optimizing your shop based on such improvements allows for a more customer-centric approach that produces a better conversion rate from visitor to customer. Usability can therefore result in higher revenues, more loyal customers, and improved brand value.

Yet, one of the significant factors overlooked in web design is e-commerce usability. Therefore, it should be considered when designing any website, whether it’s an e-commerce site or one that provides basic product information. However, usability doesn’t stop there. After you launch a site, usability testing will dictate what changes to make on the live site.

Superb usability is vital for any e-commerce store to survive in this highly competitive marketplace. This means that if there are issues with usability that prevent a prospect from finding something on your site, then they can’t buy it. Usability leads to higher revenues, loyal customers, and increased brand value.

A little while ago, I wrote about how to improve the e-commerce user experience. UX and usability are related but not the same. In this post, I’ll discuss the best practices on how you can improve e-commerce usability.

How to Improve E-Commerce Usability

1. Inspire Your Target Consumers

Smaller retailers, in particular, should use the knowledge of their products profitably for their stores. This advantage is because they usually know their products better than larger competitors through the personal selection of their range, as well as their regular interaction with their customers.

This practical knowledge can be inspiring and helpful for store visitors. Content that is as authentic and honest as possible affects customer satisfaction and can help turn new customers into existing customers. Retailers should ask themselves the following questions.

  • What is the background story of my product?
  • What can I say about the origin of the product or its ingredients?
  • What can the product be used for?
  • How can the product be combined?
  • What is the best way to use the product?
  • What is the best way to clean the product?
  • What experiences have other customers reported?

Information like this can provide valuable incentives for potential customers to convince them to use the products in an online store. This strategy is also known as storytelling. In the best case scenario, the content in the online store creates an emotional connection to the products and the brand.

2. Optimize for Mobile Devices

In today’s age, e-commerce shoppers heavily rely on mobile devices for online shopping. Mobile devices enable consumers to multitask while they’re on the go. According to Statista, mobile devices account for 55% of all web pages. Furthermore, mobile commerce sales will likely reach $US 710 billion dollars by 2025.

Many sites are now indexed with Google’s mobile-first indexing. In addition, Google’s crawling, indexing, and ranking systems make it possible for you to rank better on mobile-initiated searches.

Mobile users don’t navigate a website the way desktop users do. Usually, they want to look for something particular, and they want to find it fast. That’s why you need to shorten the mobile user journey.

The secret to mobile commerce is to make your website compatible with all mobile devices and operating systems. And so comes the big question: “How does one make an e-commerce website mobile friendly?”

E-commerce mobile friendliness is a topic. However, here are some tips for a mobile-friendly e-commerce website.

  • All themes and templates integrated into your e-commerce website should be mobile-responsive
  • Make all images as light as possible
  • Click-to-call buttons
  • Click-to-scroll buttons
  • Pinch-and-zoom for product photos
  • Sticky navigation bars
  • Change button sizes to fit the requirement for mobile
  • Eliminate pop-ups
  • Use adjustable fonts
  • Declutter your e-commerce website
  • Test your e-commerce website on real mobile devices

3. Provide a Great User Experience

Did you know that 88% of online shoppers are less likely to return to an e-commerce website with a poor design or user experience? That is how serious the website usability issue is to e-commerce store owners.

I cannot stress the importance of e-commerce usability enough. Some experts regard user-friendliness as the most vital e-commerce website feature. Your customers want a good user experience as they walk through your website. If they can’t have a good experience, they will exit and look for an alternative – and an alternative could be your competitor.

An online store that provides a consistent experience with every visit and transaction promotes consumer trust and enhances brand credibility. By contrast, if your site is slow or difficult to navigate and has a messy user interface (UI), this will damage its reputation with consumers, resulting in fewer repeat purchases and a higher likelihood of cart abandonment.

Maybe you want to try to be more creative when designing your site. Or you want to try something new. While creativity is crucial for your brand image, it can work better for elements such as marketing than it does for your site’s overall functionality and design.

Therefore, if you try to shake things up or reinvent the wheel, this might not translate to a good user experience for your site visitors who are used to traditional site designs.

The key to reducing bounce rates and increasing conversions on e-commerce websites is to offer a user-friendly navigation system. Here are the features to prioritize when creating a user-friendly design for your e-commerce store.

  • A mobile-responsive design
  • A simple, intuitive home page
  • A logo on top of the screen
  • Contact information or buttons at the top right of the screen
  • Primary horizontal menu navigation in the header on the top of each page
  • Include a search bar in the header
  • List all category pages in the navigation bar
  • Social media icons in the footer

4. Create a Visual Hierarchy

On average, it takes 2.6 seconds for a person to make their first impression of your website. It happens involuntarily, meaning the page has to be optimized for the users.

So, what does this mean for the usability of your site? First, it would help if you made it simple for users to understand what they’re looking at. If your site is overwhelming and draws attention to many elements, you won’t know what to focus on, which doesn’t translate to a  good user experience.

That’s why you need to create a visual hierarchy that will guide your visitors to the most critical elements of your site. It might mean placing essential elements in natural focus on your pages, such as images or CTAs. A trusted IT services company may be handy for making your e-commerce site attractive because they have extensive knowledge of what interests clients the most.

By providing a visual hierarchy to your website users, they can find the products and pages that are important to them. And this, in turn, will allow usability to improve.

Here are some things that you need to keep in mind when designing a visual hierarchy for site usability.

  • Alignment: Visitors usually read from top to bottom and left to right in an F pattern.
  • Color: Vibrant hues appeal better to the visitor’s eye.
  • Contrast: Different colors either emphasize or de-emphasize page elements.
  • Negative space: The spaces you’re not using are as crucial as those you do.
  • Size: Size impacts a page’s comprehension, with a properly-sized page being easily readable but not distracting.

5. Make It Easy to Navigate

One of the core elements in driving conversions is user-friendly navigation. Ideally, making it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for would be best. In addition, you might consider getting a sitewide search function to speed up the process.

In the same way, you can also integrate navigation tools that are functional and quick to find, ideally when you want users to find a particular product or resource in as little time and effort as possible. For example, selecting one horizontal list of links instead of multiple sidebars and navigation widgets makes finding resources simple.

Aside from a navigation bar that is easy to use, your checkout button and CTAs should also be one of the most prominent features on your pages. Ideally, your customers’ cart and checkout should only be a click away.

6. Prioritize Page Design

A customer’s pathway to your products should be clear, straightforward, and effortless. At the same time, information should differ between the homepage and product or category pages.

To facilitate sales, users should understand which products and services are available and best suited for their needs. Choose a landing page that displays all the options available to customers and promotes your content in the most eye-catching way possible.

With each new product page, present additional information uncluttered and well-organized. Create concise listings that identify the availability of other options – for example, in size, style, or color.

Including customer ratings and reviews can also be a helpful tool to integrate into your various pages. The more informed a consumer is, the more likely they are to see a product through checkout.

7. Concentrate on Readability

One of the signs that suggest website usability problems is readability. Readability refers to the ability of website visitors to comprehend and digest the site’s content. If your site has issues with readability, there’s a high chance it will frustrate users, and they will leave. Unfortunately, it means that you’ll also lose potential customers.

Therefore, you must ensure that your site is easy to understand, the intent is clear, and the content organization is effective. Having adequate white space, proper paragraph formatting, and creating bullet point lists will make your site content more readable.

Aside from that, for a modern web design, consider the placement of design elements, such as banners, videos, images, sidebars, and text boxes, on your site so that they won’t distract users when navigating.

8. Reduce Browsing Time

Site browsing should be as easy and enjoyable for your site visitor as possible. An optimized e-commerce UX reduces loading times and allows consumers to find the products they need quickly.

The average time spent on a web page ranges depending on the type of web page. For example, for an e-commerce page, the time can range from 44 seconds to 1 minute and 22 seconds. For blog posts, the time can range between 2 to 5 minutes. But the general sweet spot for good average time on a page across industries is around 53 seconds.

Therefore, increased visit durations due to usability issues significantly affect potential revenue.

9. Enhance Brand Engagement

Once you offer a smooth shopping experience, consumers are more likely to return for repeat purchases. In addition to easy navigation, a clean and memorable site design will ensure your brand is unique and set it apart from the competition.

Consistency in the visitor experience you provide will establish brand awareness. In addition, appealing visual and textual elements will entice users to explore your site and engage with your content.

10. Create an Omnichannel Experience

As consumer needs have changed, users have come to expect more integration between their digital and physical shopping experiences. Improved usability across platforms can help your business meet customers’ omnichannel expectations.

It is critical to be available when and where your customers need you to make their shopping journey more convenient. In addition, a clear and functional website further simplifies the process.

11. Simplify Your Checkout Processes

A complicated checkout process leads to cart abandonment. To avoid this, you should make the purchase process effective and efficient when you make an e-commerce website. Trim down the amount of information that your site needs from customers. For instance, you can place a checkbox to autofill shipping information when it matches the billing address.

Similarly, you should also provide an option to check out as a guest. You can integrate an automated option allowing account creation with the information provided during checkout after the purchase.

It would be best to inform your customers that their credit card information is secure. For instance, you can place a paragraph on the top part of the “Place Order” page. It will make your checkout security more visible on your website.

An effective checkout process that makes purchasing products or services as quick and straightforward as possible will lead to more conversions. Ideally, checkout should be a two- to three-step process that includes adding payment information and shipping or contact information to the cart.

12. Provide Multiple Payment Methods

One of the many challenges e-commerce store owners face is the aspect of shopping cart abandonment. And one of the causes of high shopping cart abandonment is the lack of a preferred payment method.

It is best for e-commerce websites to provide multiple payment methods to increase the chances of a consumer completing the checkout process. The logic here is that different users prefer different payment options, and the unavailability of one would inconvenience them.

Other than just offering debit and credit card options, allow users to use other methods such as PayPal, Stripe, Payoneer, or direct bank transfers. The more payment methods on your website, the higher your chances you can seal a deal with your e-commerce site visitors.

13. Protect Your Online Store and Customers

E-commerce stores are a lucrative spot for attackers. Attackers will lay traps to lay their hands on user data, such as passwords and financial information. Most online retailers are not aware of the cost of a successful breach. Such breaches can cause severe financial and reputational damage.

All these should be a clarion call for e-merchants to rise to the occasion and secure their websites with adequate security protocols. Several security measures will protect an e-commerce website from hackers and security vulnerabilities. Encryption is one of the most vital security measures every e-commerce website should have.

As noted above, hackers seek to steal users’ sensitive data and information. Encryption makes it hard for attackers to tamper with data. In addition, encrypted data is available in ciphertext rather than plaintext format, so attackers cannot read or comprehend the information.

Several SSL certificates are available on e-commerce websites, like DV, OV, and EV SSL certificates. They come at different prices and serve various purposes other than enabling encryption. But for encryption, you should use a higher validation certificate that brings high value to your site.

Here are some additional security measures to safeguard your e-commerce website from attackers.

  • Enable multi-layer security
  • Use robust firewall protections
  • Use anti-malware scanners and software
  • Ensure that your e-commerce website complies with PCI-DSS requirements
  • Conduct regular updates on your software, operating system, plugins, themes, and extensions
  • Perform regular data backups
  • Perform regular security monitoring

14. Make Your Store Accessible to All Users

Websites that fail to consider accessibility in the design of their online stores are not providing a shopping experience with maximum usability. Businesses seeking to improve traffic and visitor retention must provide an ecommerce UX that caters to all its users, including those who are differently abled and have sight or hearing impairments.

Users with disabilities face a wide range of challenges when attempting to purchase from an online store that is not accessible to their needs. To provide an inclusive e-commerce experience, improving your site accessibility should be a top priority. A universal design is usable for anyone, regardless of ability.

Upgrades to your website accessibility are simple to implement and contribute to the overall user experience. Features like search by voice, keyboard navigation, and alt-tag descriptions will improve your site flow and customer engagement.

A high-contrast color scheme can make your store more readable for all users, as can offering text alternatives to images. If your website integrates video, captions for sound effects and subtitles will help to clarify your message.

Follow WCAG Guidelines

Web content accessibility guidelines, also known as WCAG, are created so that websites can meet the needs of people with disabilities.

These are updated from time to time. That’s why you must check it regularly to see the latest updates. In addition, WCAG’s guidelines address the most common barriers preventing people from using various digital platforms.

The policies cover a variety of success criteria for creating an excellent digital experience and ensuring that it complies with the regulations.

Moreover, you don’t want to encourage or discriminate against people who visit your site. Everyone is entitled to have a good site experience. Following WCAG is a great way to improve e-commerce usability and user experience.

15. Improve Site Load Speed

Did you know that 53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than 3 seconds to load?

It’s worth noting that a slow-loading site impacts the UX because people are annoyed whenever a web page takes more than three seconds to load. That’s why you must optimize your site speed.

Your site speed directly impacts your site’s bounce rate and SEO. Unfortunately, it also affects the user experience. Poor loading and response times create a terrible user experience. Waiting for your content to load can frustrate and provoke users to leave your page.

Why You Must Improve E-Commerce Usability

Improving e-commerce usability has an immediate monetary value. With only three in every ten orders followed from add to cart to checkout, it pays to consider usability guidelines and correct existing accessibility problems.

Ultimately, consumers want an innovative, personalized shopping experience. By staying on top of ever-changing e-commerce UX design trends, online retailers can provide their customers with an engaging and satisfying shopping experience. In the end, one poor experience is all it takes to lose a customer long-term, while a good one can keep them returning repeatedly.

The most successful brands have one thing in common: to focus on a customer-first design approach. As a result, they anticipate customers’ needs and offer excellent ways to maximize UX.

So keep these best practices in mind. Optimizing your site’s usability would be best to make the entire user experience as simple and effective as possible before launching the site. Making improvements on your site will give you the best chance to engage customers and guide them to purchase.

Do You Need to Improve E-Commerce Usability?

Are you interested in selling your products online but unsure how to overcome common e-commerce usability issues? Our professional e-commerce designers will be happy to help you with this. But first, look at our portfolio and read our case studies.

Then, if you believe we are a good fit for your ecommerce web design needs, reach out to us! We offer a full range of consulting and design solutions for businesses and product brands.

And if you are unsure how to improve e-commerce usability, let’s talk! We will listen to you, answer your questions, and help you meet the expectations of demanding online consumers!

For more content relevant to your business or product brand, check out the range of articles on our web design blog. (This one, explaining how fixing ecommerce design mistakes increases sales, is an excellent place to start!)

Thank you! We appreciate your help ending bad business websites, one pixel at a time!

By Gregor Saita

Co-Founder / CXO