Joe’s Thoughts: How Important is Simplicity and Ease-of-Use in an eCommerce Site?

by Gwen Carrington | Customer Satisfaction, eCommerce, eCommerce Fulfillment

Though the success of an eCommerce site can be linked to a number of possible factors, a crucial element of website success is ease of use and simplicity. An attractive design, a large variety in products, and effective placement all contribute to the popularity of a site. But customers will not return to an online store if it is difficult to find the product they want, or to complete the buying process. After all, what good are flash videos and elaborate logos if you can’t find the “Checkout” button?

A balance must be struck between simplicity and function. The main reason is that people often confuse simplicity with a lack of options. Isn’t a homepage with a search function, a list of the featured items, and a video, better than one with just some featured items and a “Checkout” button? Not necessarily. The more things a customer has to look at, the less he/she pays attention to each item. Yes, a search feature can help a user more easily navigate a site, and a video can help increase conversions. The question that must be asked is this; is it worth it? Does putting that search feature on the main page justify the attention that is drawn away from the featured products? Does a separate page need to be added for the video? 

Ease-of-use and navigation are important features of a polished online store. Amazon made its fortune on its One-Click Buying method, which enabled shoppers to order an item with a single click. Before, anyone buying online had to re-enter their credit card information every time they wanted to buy something. The lesson is clear, by decreasing the number of steps that an online shopper had to go through, Amazon made it far easier to buy things online, something that paid off in sales figures. Ease of buying is something that applies to any online store, and other, prominent, companies have adopted the One-Click method. In many online stores, there are often barriers to sales that occur before the checkout process. eCommerce retailers need to see how many clicks it takes to go from the homepage of their store to checkout, and to reduce that number to its lowest possible level. The more people have to click, the less likely they are to buy the product.

Besides the commonly stated benefits of a clear and easy-to-use interface, there are other bonuses. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a crucial element in generating traffic and finding new business, and a high level of usability in a website is a great way to increase search rankings. Instead of using navigation buttons that contain complicated jargon, it’s better to use easily understandable words. For example, using “Frequently Asked Questions” will generate more hits than “Customer Inquiry Guide.” This fulfills two functions. First, it helps your customers easily find information within your site, which is essential. Second, common terms like “FAQ” are searched for more often than specialized terms, bringing you stronger search results and more new business. 

Which sites have the best buying experience?