Interviews, insight & analysis on Ecommerce

Why ecommerce managers should go beyond how a website looks

By Gav Winter, CEO of website monitoring company RapidSpike

There’s no doubting the incredible power that a well-designed ecommerce website can wield. Imagine the intricate detailing of a high-res product image showcasing every groove in a brand-new bike tyre. Put yourself into the shoes of the buyer as those boots illuminate the fashion model. From single product images to hero banners lighting up category pages, there’s a lot to be said for design. But things have come a long way in recent years: page elements are heavier, rendering pages slower. And when 1 second of page delays leads to a 7% decrease in conversions, it’s time to panic.

Where design and user experience overlap

Enter, the new and improved approach to web design: user experience. Certainly, there’s nothing new about giving our customers the best level of service possible. But we are seeing this play out in a big way in the digital sphere – whether that’s Google’s Core Web Vitals or simply optimising for mobile experiences.

A website needs to look good, but it also needs to function well. That’s why user experience is as much about what a website can do as it is about how it looks.

The four key factors for a well-performing ecommerce website

It’s a myth that developers and designers are interested in aesthetics alone. Instead, they should focus on:

  • Website speed
  • Mobile responsiveness
  • Security
  • Accessibility.

Only with a holistic approach can retailers avoid critical cart abandonment issues or other user experience setbacks. Worse still, we run the risks of damaging the business if we don’t take this approach:

Loss of loyal customers

Brand loyalty means a lot more in brick-and-mortar stores than it does online. We might feel a sense of loyalty towards our closest supermarket or local boutique, but online, there are no geographical constraints. According to Hubspot, 88% of users said they wouldn’t return to a website if they had a bad experience.

Damage to brand reputation

A positive user experience lies in a simple user journey and a secure one. Our customers must feel confident that they can purchase safely – without the threat of attacks like Magecart. According to Ping Identity, 81% of customers would stop interacting with a brand online after a data breach.

Ecommerce sites are vulnerable to formjacking attacks wherein hackers can steal credit card details. It’s our job as user experience professionals to keep our cybersecurity in check.

Lower revenue

Lower revenue doesn’t just come from a loss of sales. Acquisition is far costlier than retention, so while we may lose out on those loyal customers, we might also get less from existing ones. A poor user experience – for example, a webpage failing to load products correctly – could reduce average order values. We may also be missing out on upselling and cross-selling opportunities.

How can we guarantee the Big 4?

To avoid these risks and assure faster, more responsive, secure and accessible websites, we turn to monitoring tools. Each of these ‘Big 4’ comes under the realm of website performance, so we can take a preventative and proactive stance.

Speeding up websites with page speed monitoring

A page speed monitoring tool identifies crucial errors that could be slowing down a site. It tracks every downloaded element from Javascript to image files, as well as cookie logs to identify what might be blocking content. 

Testing mobile responsiveness for cross-device selling

Synthetic user journey monitoring can get into our users’ mindsets. This helps us to visualise what steps they might be taking to make a purchase, including categorising by device type. We may spot issues that show up on a mobile but not on a desktop, such as vital text or call to action buttons not working. 

Monitoring malicious activity for formjacking attacks

In the UK, there are almost 5,000 formjacking attacks on transactional sites every month. These involve hackers exploiting security vulnerabilities and inserting malicious code into a web application. This code can integrate key-logging tools to copy users’ credit card and other details.

A Magecart detection tool stops these attacks in their tracks, monitoring suspicious activity and sending alerts to webmasters. 

Adhering to user accessibility principles

Each industry will have its own set of accessibility standards – making sure users who are visually or otherwise impaired can access content. We can audit our websites for digital service standards or take advice from the Government’s accessibility guidelines

Factors such as alt text, contrasting colours and optimisation for mobile devices will ensure our content is accessible to everybody. 

Looking the part is just the beginning 

A shop window may bring the customers in, but it’s the experience they’ll remember. By adhering to these principles, we can all optimise our user experience, prevent revenue loss, maintain our reputation and increase sales. 


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