Articles in the Site Usability Category

June 30 2008

U-Haul’s Shopping Cart System is a model of Excellence.


In about three weeks, I will be moving into a brand new two-level apartment across town. The apartment has a huge patio area, great location, a very nice and long bike / running trail, and a fireplace! I’ve never had a fireplace before, but again I’ve lived in South Florida for 9/10ths of my life, which begs the question “Why does an apartment in Boca Raton need a fireplace?”

Anyway, I have only used one moving service in my entire life – U-Haul. Normally when I am booking my truck reservation online, I am not paying attention to the functionality of the website or the load time of any of the pages – I’m looking for the biggest truck and most amount of supplies for the cheapest dollar amount. I had already booked a U-Haul truck a month ago, but all of a sudden, it dawned on me that I did not want to ruin my perfectly new king-size mattress and box spring set by dragging it across the moving truck’s rusty floor. So, I went to U-Haul’s website and ordered a set of King-size mattress bags.

It wasn’t until well after I had purchased these items when it struck me like a bolt of lightning: “That was a great shopping experience!”. I went back and traced my steps, and sure enough, I was right! Starting with the individual product page for the King-Size Mattress Bag, each step in the Shopping Process was smooth, easy, efficient, and effective. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for a few days, so I’d like to share with you an image of the U-Haul Shopping Basket Page, and why I think it’s so awesome: (Click on image for a full-sized picture)

U-Haul's Shopping Basket

I like this so much because:

  1. Clean Site Architecture – The framework of the website is simple, easy, and clean.
  2. Item and Subtotal Review – I like the single-line review at the very top of this basket
  3. Shopping Cart Items Table – Look how clean and simple that is! You can update quantities easily, remove items at will, and a clear breakdown of the price of each item.
  4. Second Sub-Total Figure – I can’t explain it, but it makes me feel “safer” by having a second sub-total amount on the page…as if the cart is verifying itself.
  5. Action Buttons – The silver “Continue Shopping”, “Update Subtotal”, and “Checkout” buttons don’t clash with the page or seem obtrusive. They are sleek and neat.
  6. Free Shipping on orders over $25 – That’s a nice statement to have at the bottom of your shopping cart, where there would normally be white space. $25 is a very attainable amount, by the way.

Other notes from the shopping system (not pictured):

  1. Log-In Screen – A log-in screen follows this page. Normally, I dislike “create your account” steps in a shopping cart, but this one is so neat and effective that it wasn’t a problem. You enter in your email address and password, and you continue. I also like the fact that, if you’ve already created an account before, you can enter in your information in the ‘New Account’ area, and it’s smart enough to keep you moving forward, instead of serving up a “This account already exists” type of error. Very nice.
  2. Thank You Page – The order confirmation / “Thank You” page follows the same format as the rest of the cart, but it doesn’t leave you hanging. There are links to continue shopping and pictures of other stuff that I may be interested in.
  3. The Other Cart Pages – Shipping / Billing Info, Shipping Options, and the Review Your Order pages carry out the momentum that started at the shopping basket page. None of these pages are cluttered or lack pertinent information when you expected it. They also don’t refresh annoyingly when you update a cart item or change a shipping options – they have buttons that you click on to let you know when the page is going to refresh.
  4. Individual Item Pages – I’m also liking what I see with the individual item pages. Clean descriptions, well-written copy, and high-resolution images really do make a difference, folks.
  5. All Pages – In general, all pages are quick to load, they are all functional, and they have given me a very good experience – and left a very good impression with a very picky and observant customer. 🙂

I can go on and on about U-Haul until I move into my new apartment. So I’ll close this post by giving two thumbs up to U-Haul’s web development and analytics personnel for a job well done on their entire Ecommerce platform. You’ve definitely earned yourselves a returning customer, and I’ll definitely be recommending U-Haul to anyone who will listen to me. Now, let’s just hope the moving truck doesn’t break down on while on the road! 🙂

June 23 2008

Your “Thank You” page should not end the customer experience on your site.


There’s a joke in the Web Analytics community: “Your “Thank You” page should be your highest exited page” (which means that the highest percentage of people that leave your website are leaving at your “Thank You” page – which of course means that those people have all contacted you, requested more information, or probably bought something from your site).

I disagree. In fact, I think that it doesn’t matter what page your visitors leave your website from. For all you WWE wrestling fans out there, you will remember that some years ago, The Rock used to ask someone for their name, only to interrupt the person mid-answer with “It doesn’t matter what your name is!”, to a roaring ovation from the crowd. That’s how I feel about exit pages – “It doesn’t matter what page you leave from!”.

People have to leave your website eventually – it’s just a fact of life

Death, Taxes, and Website Exits – they all occur eventually. Visitors to your website can’t stay on your site forever, as much as we’d like for them to, they eventually have to go to work, to sleep, or walk the dog. However, quite a number of folks exert a tremendously unnecessary amount of energy into finite studies of their top exit pages, only to wind up right back where they originally started their analysis. Save yourself the trouble and anguish and understand that people, no matter how good your website is, will need to log-off at some point, unless they are attempting to set a Guinness Book of World Records feat by having the longest uninterrupted internet user-session.

…but it doesn’t have to be the “Thank You” page of your website!

So, a visitor comes to your website, likes what he or she sees, and contacts your for more information or purchases an item from your store. Fantastic! However, don’t send them home quite yet. Don’t serve them up a cold, one-line “Thank you for your order” or “We’ll get back to you ASAP” type of message, that doesn’t include your website’s framework or anywhere else for them to go. As I’ve mentioned a few times already on our blog, get creative with your “Thank You” page. Add some more information for them, a PDF for them to download, or even additional items that they may be interested in purchasing at a later date. Keep them “hanging around”, much like a store owner would want customers to continue to hang around their shop, shooting the breeze, talking about products or related industry info – giving the appearance of a busy store to everyone else.

Definitely don’t have a page with one short sentence, or something that quickly re-directs back to the homepage appear. You just converted them – why treat them like yesterday’s news? Keep them “hanging around”, keep it friendly and informative, and you will probably win yourself some returning customers.

June 2 2008

Why are people abandoning my shopping cart?


A recent survey conducted by both PayPal and comScore was just released to the general public, showing the top reasons why customers abandon an online shopping cart before purchasing. I first saw this referenced by Anil Batra a couple of days ago, who is a well-respected Web Analytics practitioner and blogger, and I wanted to share it with you.

If you remember last week, I blogged about Five Tips for Improving Your Shopping Cart. I didn’t conduct any market-research or any structured surveys for it – as I mentioned in my post, some of my tips were based on gut-feelings and personal opinions from a “Common Sense” point of view. Looking at this PayPal / comScore press release makes me smile, because the top five reasons that survey respondents gave PayPal / comScore are very much in the ballpark with some of my thoughts from last week.

So, if I may, below are the five reasons that are listed in that press release, with the percentage of respondents for each reason, and my personal observations on each one. The survey was conducted from March 25 to April 18, 2008, surveying U.S. online shoppers who had recently abandoned a shopping cart. This includes small, medium, and large-sized merchants.

1. 43 percent of consumers didn’t pay for items in their shopping carts because shipping charges were too high.
Can you really blame them? In our landscape of “Free Shipping” and “Same-day Shipping” and everything else, it’s no wonder 43% of these online shoppers abandoned their carts. Try building some of the price of shipping into the price of the item if you absolutely have to cover shipping charges. Or, drop your shipping charges incrementally, to see if that increases the demand for your product.

2. 36 percent of purchasers didn’t pay for items because they felt the total cost of the purchase was more expensive than anticipated.
There’s that word: anticipated. If you remember last week, I said I hated it when I only found out, very late in the shopping process, what my actual payment amount was going to be, because some websites are not clear or do not disclose shipping, tax, and other surcharges right away. Tell your customers early on about every single penny they have to pay – and present them with the lowest possible shipping price whenever possible. Don’t surprise them or try to sneak one by them – if you believe this survey’s numbers, that’s a lot of disappointed customers.

3. 27 percent of shoppers didn’t pay for items because they wanted to comparison shop at other Web sites before making a purchase.
Comparison shopping is a fact of life. Some people do it to find the lowest possible price, while others do it simply out of curiosity. Other people do it because their friends recommended they comparison shop, while others just do it because they can. However, if you sell good to high-quality items, at a fair price, with fair shipping / tax surcharges, and have a good to great functioning web site and Ecommerce system that is clear, easy to use, and customer-friendly, you’ll find that some or most of these people will eventually come back to you.

4. 16 percent of consumers didn’t pay for items because they could not contact customer support to answer questions.
This can be a big problem. Make sure that your customer service contact information, such as a phone, email address, or LivePerson chat applet is perfectly visible, clear, and functioning on every single page. These online retailers lost 16% of their customers simply because no one was there to answer the phone, or because they couldn’t even find out how to ask for help in the first place. They may just have had a very simple question, and would have bought it regardless of the answer. These are like careless turnovers in the NBA playoffs – completely avoidable.

5. 14 percent of shoppers didn’t pay for items because they forgot their usernames and passwords for their store accounts created with the merchants
If you thought that having a “create an account” function on your Ecommerce system was helping your customers, think again. 14% of these online retailers’ visitors did not convert into customers because of a username and password that you felt you needed to collect. You could make the argument that you could increase sales or revenue by 14% overnight, simply by removing this part of your sales process all together. Remember, don’t get in the way of your customers handing over their hard-earned cash to you. Make it as easy as possible for them to do so.

Think of this real-life example: You walk into your local supermarket for the very first time. You do all of your shopping, and you’re now standing in line with your shopping cart, ready to check out. Right before you start putting your items on the conveyor belt, a lady asks you to fill out a one-page form, which creates your store account. If that’s not annoying enough, because you’re either double-parked outside or have to pick up the kids from after-school or you just want to go home already, you’re only allowed to walk in to the store again after you put in your account access or log-in information at a computer located right at the front door of the supermarket. How frustrating does that sound?

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