When we think about user experience for e-commerce, we often immediately connect it to visual design and interface optimization. However, e-commerce experiences depend heavily on the technical aspects of UX, including non-functional requirements. To craft the unique and seamless experience modern users expect, one needs to also pay attention to speed, bot-friendliness and security.
Many marketplace owners stick to the platform they picked a few years back, when they were just starting out in the business. They do so due to the potential costs of migration, or developing a new online store. This often results in a lower conversion rate and less traffic from customers, whose high expectations are not being met by the quality of an out-of-date e-commerce solution.
Speed - improving the experience for both humans and crawling bots
Users have a really short attention span. To make sure you don’t bore them, you want to present your offer as succintly as possible. A slow website is particularly likely to have a negative effect on mobile experience. Consider this: users often browse online shops as a distraction - when they wait in line, commute, or stumble upon an ad on Instagram. Those are not circumstances that inspire patience.
Another user behavior to pay attention to is webrooming. Many users walk into physical stores and use their phones to research both specific items they are interested in, as well as the store’s online catalogue. Then they make the purchase offline. Webrooming is among the most common e-consumer behaviors (87% of shoppers begin product searches online). Users are also prone to sharing their findings with friends, asking for opinions, or recommending products through social media. Those are easily and very often accessed from smartphones as well.
Knowing this, remember that creating a slow website - one overloaded with too-large images and hampered by inefficient code - can result in a lot of waiting time for a mobile viewer. If this happens, a good chunk of your store’s visitors will leave before your content fully loads (according to Neil Patel, "a business loses roughly 25% of its online visitors if its site takes over 4 seconds to load”).
Site speed is also one of the (very few!) confirmed ranking factors for search engines (including Google). As a result, SEO specialists commonly push of loading speed optimization. The general trend on the market is thus evolving to progressively shorter loading times - and the trend in turn shapes the requirements of visitors. You don’t want to fall behind your competition in this regard.
Another important aspect of speed is the overall time needed to process all the files and scripts that are important to rendering your website fully (i.e. to end up with the final, intended design). Try to avoid overloading your website with JS scripts, which can extend the time needed to render your website. Additionally, keep in mind that many kinds of devices can be used to access your online marketplace. Think about low-end smartphones, devices based on embedded systems, smart TVs, voice assistants, low energy consumption notebooks (in the case of which extended battery use often means lower computing power), etc. You want to minimize unnecessary computing of JS files for quick rendering, to enable users with those devices to browse your shop with ease.
Bot-friendliness and SEO optimization
The importance of bots and crawlers for the world of e-commerce is growing. They are not only used for indexing your website, but also to extract vital information about the products you are selling. If the bots have an easy time of it, your offer becomes more accessible for search engine users.
To ensure top performance, first take care of the basics. Make sure that your website’s code, especially its HTML structure, is on par with current standards and recommendations (from both independent researchers and search engine owners). Be precise with your product names, and provide detailed descriptions. Avoid typos. Properly categorize the items you are offering.
You can also set custom previews using open graph attributes, to really make your offer pop. This will be visible when linked on social media - which, as we’ve established, is where many of your customers likely go. Finally, provide metadata in the form of structured data snippets, using Schema.org markup.
Trust is the foundation for online transactions. Once lost, it’s hard to regain it. Trust and data security is crucial for e-commerce growth and building a loyal userbase. Sadly, there are many ways in which you can endanger your users’ data, or at least make it seem like that’s what’s happening.
Remember that it’s easy to find out whether you’re using an outdated platform or software to sell goods. Tech savvy users can guess what you are using based on the HTTP response from your website. Slightly less competent users can look it up among the various third party SaaS solutions like BuiltWith. When you use a platform that’s no longer supported, you are basically communicating to your customers that you don’t care about their data security, and that you’re not interested in competing within your business environment. That’s a red flag for users. And for law enforcement, especially if your offer targets EU countries. European law requires you to meet the criteria of GDPR regulations.
Moreover, using outdated software makes you vulnerable to massive data loss (including database corruption), and data theft. Those are serious threats to your business and your users’ personal security.
Often, an older ecommerce platform requires an older underlying technology (such as a hosting server or language interpreter). At some point, the changes in those dependencies can break backward compatibility, forcing you to stick to a particular, outdated version of a library or programming language. This makes your hosting environment a target for hackers. You should care about server security, not only to comply with GDPR, but also as a means of ensuring the continuous operation of your e-commerce business.
Make sure your e-commerce hosting environment is set up correctly to use the HTTPS protocol. A lack thereof or an issue with your SSL certificate will result in users receiving warnings of potential harm whenever they visit your website. Modern internet browsers are also likely to make your website harder to access (e.g. by hijacking the tab to show a message about potential danger, requiring users to confirm their intent to see your website despite the risk).
Using an outdated system also means that you are actively missing out on new possibilities and updates, including payment system integrations and new versions of extensions. These security gaps can be leveraged by hackers to steal from you and your clients. One current example of an outdated ecommerce system that’s still in use is the Magento 1.x series. It’s not uncommon to hear about a newfound bug in this software, which results in thousands of hacking cases around the globe, plaguing online shops with in a week of the bug's discovery. Using an outdated system marks you as an easy target for cybercriminals.
If you want to avoid making these security and UX mistakes, work with an experienced technology partner.
iRonin.IT’s experts have been building successful online stores for years. We’d be happy to work on yours.