The average e-commerce website flow ultimately leads to one thing: checkout. The site is designed to help shoppers find the items they want, add them to the shopping cart, and proceed to the payment.
If only things were that simple.
A study by usability experts the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g), involving actual users shopping on websites, says otherwise. The process isn’t as linear, as many shoppers use shopping carts as holding areas where they sift through their selected items, deciding which ones they want, and which ones they don’t.
So, this means the shopping cart has to do more than act as a collector of information about products. It also needs to help shoppers make final purchase decisions.
Here are some ways to do so.
Offer Access to a Full Shopping Cart
It’s a good idea to offer access to a page in the checkout flow dedicated to showing the full cart, as this helps users make purchase decisions with more ease. Users can turn to the cart to review what they’ve added so far, check product details, make comparisons, and get partial totals to meet budgets or qualify for promotions.
Although offering access to a full shopping cart would seem like common sense (in fact, it was common practice in the old days), many designers need to be told to do so today. Many websites make the mistake of only providing a mini-cart view that shows a partial view of the cart in an overlay—not an entire separate page. The latter is more effective for users who want to take their time making informed decisions on their purchase.
Provide Product Details in List Form, Offer Large and Clear Product Images
With shoppers making purchase decisions using the shopping cart, it’s important to show clearly what items are in it. The cart should list the products added to it, and include clear product images large enough to show details the shopper needs to make comparisons with other items of interest.
Crucial details to show in the cart include the product name, attributes specific to the product selected such as size, colour, quantity of items selected, and of course, price. All these details serve to help shoppers remember their selections and make comparisons between items
Product images are also essential to making product comparisons easier for the shopper. And even for users not comparing items, images serve to remind users what’s in their cart, acting as a quick visual reference.
You’ll find that shopping on sites that offer no product images, or small pictures at the least, are a pain to shop in, leaving you with no visual cues to remember.
Offer a Link to the Product Page for Full Details
It makes perfect usability sense to provide
shoppers with a way to navigate back to the full product page from the shopping cart. Be sure that your site allows users to click on a product in the shopping cart to go back to the product page so as to allow them to read more about the product or review item details.
In addition, make sure it’s easy for shoppers to know that they can quickly go back to the product page of each item on the cart. A simple way of doing this is to indicate product names as links, doing so by using different text colours or presentations. Several sites make the mistake of notifying shoppers that product names can actually be clicked through a hover response. Don’t add this layer of unnecessary guesswork—let shoppers know right away that product names are links.
The shopping cart is not the only part of the e-commerce site that needs to support decision-making, but it is a frequently overlooked one. Every aspect of a site devoted to selling items is important to the overall user experience and success of the site — our 800+ guidelines for better e-commerce sites exemplify the need to pay attention to many details. The shopping cart needs to be more than a list of items, by also supporting shoppers who use this page to make final purchase decisions.