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E-Commerce Usability (Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox)

Its been 11 years since our original studies of e-commerce usability — long enough that its definitely worth revisiting the topic. The bottom line? The number of usability guidelines for e-commerce sites has increased from 207 in the first edition of the report to 874 in the new edition. Using this rough metric, we now know 4.2 times as much about e-commerce user experience as we did during the dot-com bubble.

Usability: Marked Improvements In our study 11 years ago, we recorded a success rate of 56% across 496 task attempts on the e-commerce sites of the day. In our new research, we observed 507 e-commerce task attempts and measured a success rate of 72%.In other words, during the dot-com bubble, users attempting to shop on e-commerce sites failed almost half the time. No wonder the bubble burst, with sites that bad. Now, users fail slightly more than a quarter of the time. Sites are still leaving plenty of money on the table, but not as much.

Today, our main reason to recommend usability improvements for e-commerce sites is the competitive pressure from other sites that keep getting better. Todays consumers arent satisfied with sites that simply make it possible to shop; the experience must also be pleasant. So, while you could argue for improving design purely to reduce user failures, its now necessary to look beyond simple success rates — even though a users ability to complete tasks is the obvious first requirement.

Search remains a sore point, even though it has improved somewhat. In our first study, users succeeded in their initial search attempt on an e-commerce site 51% of the time. In the new study, users first within-site query was successful 64% of the time.

Continue reading this article at: E-Commerce Usability Jakob Nielsens Alertbox.