Sites that are designed to sell products and/or services must go the extra mile to enhance the visitor's engagement with the website. Shopping cart abandonment (shoppers abandoning their carts before deciding to pay for the "items" they've added to their cart) can result in a significant loss in potential sales. But much of that can be reduced when the shopping process is streamlined and geared for shopper satisfaction.

The selling process--from initial interest to the very last checkout page--must be able to grab shopper's attention and proceed to drive them through to the finalization of the sale. But even after the sell, you must deal with customer service issues in order to keep the sale finalized. Good customer service will bring your purchasers back for another and another and another. Here are fourteen general usability guidelines that will enhance your shoppers overall experience on your site.

Images vs. content

Images and content must work together to provide the user with a satisfactory experience. Relying too heavily on images and other media can be distracting, especially to those that really need to read more about what you're selling before they are comfortable making a purchase. On the other hand, too much content on the wrong pages can also turn some shoppers away. A proper balance must be struck.

Content organization

Content must be purposeful and have a beginning, middle and end. Each page should expose need, show the importance, provide the benefits and, provide a call to action. Don't forget to speak to each reader's emotions.

Text formatting

Site content should be readable and understandable without the use of stylesheets. Don't rely on visual gimmicks to get your point across as many often won't render properly in plain text browsers.

User level

Content must speak at the reading level of your target audience. Don't neglect to write to both expert and novice users as applicable. Not everyone coming to your site is fully knowledgeable in your topic. Meet their needs verbally, without talking down to the more advanced users.

Cross-browser rendering

Different browsers will display a site in slightly different ways. Know your audience and what browsers they are using. Then make sure that your site looks clean, clear and professional across multiple browsers.


Site should avoid using plugins that are required in order to experience the website. Most visitors won't install these plugins and will therefore move on to other sites. While these features can be nice additions, be sure to provide a site that appeals to the lowest common denominator of your web users.

Page formatting

Keeping your site consistent from page to page makes the conversion process easier on your visitors. Don't surprise them with a different format on other pages that forces them to rethink about how to go about continuing with the shopping or checking out process.

Eliminate distractions

Keep your site free from pop-ups and other distractions that pull visitors away from the sales process. Reduce clutter such as ads or too many up-sells. Sometimes it's good to eliminate many navigation options, provided it enhances the customer's experience rather than confuses them.

Contact information

Your contact info or links to contact information must be clearly displayed and easy to find on every page. Don't make your visitors to have to hunt to find you. Sometimes displaying an 800 number on every page can lend additional credibility and trust.

External links

Don't be afraid to link out to other sites, but be sure that all external links have a purpose that serves to enhance the user experience. Link out only when valuable to your visitors and in a way that won't move them away from the sale.

Customer feedback

Allow your customers to provide you with feedback regarding your site, products and services. Be sure a feedback option is easy to find. Giving visitors the option to be anonymous can also be beneficial.

Order fulfillment

Once an order has been placed, be sure to continue to provide visitors with the reassurances they need. Let them know when they will be contacted, when products will ship and provide information on order cancellation and/or returns.

Follow-up program

Once a sale is made and order completely fulfilled, implement a strong follow-up program. This can encourage repeat business and even company evangelism, if handled properly.

Customer delight

Your site should aim to do more than merely satisfy customer expectations but leave them delighted with the process and products. Meeting expectations isn't enough, enhance your site that it exceeds expectations and makes your site stand out above your competition.

When competing for shoppers that go beyond the initial sale and become long-term customers, every little thing helps. Ultimately it's about meeting the shopper's needs, wants and desires. The more you can provide them the information they need in the format they want the more likely you'll be to make the sale. The richer the customer experience is the more likely it is that they'll keep coming back time and time again.

April 1, 2008

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


Hey Stoney:

I'm not sure what you meant by:

"Text formatting

Site content should be readable and understandable without the use of stylesheets. Don't rely on visual gimmicks to get your point across as many often won't render properly in plain text browsers."

Can you elaborate?

sure. How you format your text can improve or destroy the visitor's ability to read and understand the content. This can include font styles, sizes, line spacing, etc. It's also important to be sure that any visitor browsing your site while having cascading style sheets (CSS) turned off is still able to read the text properly. While some stuff may look good visually on the page with proper CSS styling (and it should) an over reliance on CSS can work against you for those with it turned off.

What plugins would you call widespread enough to make using them ok? Anything else but Flash?

I believe you have a plug for quicktime. Not being a developer myself I can't name any others off the top of my head.

Don't forget about improving your site shopping experiences based on your customer's feedback.

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