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UX Basics #1: Why Your E-Commerce Needs a Usability Audit

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How do you make sure everything on your e-commerce website is working properly? How does a UX specialist look for functionality errors on a website and what theory is behind it? What are the benefits of engaging an outside creative agency to conduct a usability audit for your business?

You will find the answer to these and other questions in the first article on UX Basics. We immerse ourselves in content and functionalities supporting each other with two basic techniques. Let us tell you about this process from our perspective.

First things first

The primary, indirect purpose of carrying out UX audit is the detection of problems with the usability of the site. The auditor initially takes into account access to basic data statistics, collected over a certain period of time. It then checks the site using the techniques described below. The final audit report also includes recommendations for solutions for previously found errors.

Nielsen Heuristics, or the Immutable Basis of Usability

In 1990, the Danish Jakob Nielsen together with Ralf Molich created and published the basic principles of “human-machine interaction”. To this day, they are widely respected and adapted by the community of utility specialists and the largest websites around the world. The specialist performing the usability audit checks the website for the behavior of these 10 heuristics:

Visibility of system status

The user should always know what is happening and what effects the actions performed by him have brought. Particularly relevant is information about a successful action or an action that could not be completed for some reason (e.g. successful entry of a discount code or inability to send a form).

Compatibility between the system and the real world

The site or application should communicate with the user in a language that is understandable to him. This means that the phrases and words used should be natural, easy and belong to the area of frequently used.

User Control

The user must always be able to easily return to the previous page or previously performed action. It happens that users try different options or click on something by accident, so they must be able to return easily to avoid frustration or feeling lost.

Consistency and standards

To make the exploration of a page or application as easy as possible for the user, its appearance should be consistent, especially when it comes to elements that serve the same interaction, for example, it can be assumed that all the buttons that approve the execution of the action will have the same shape, appearance and color. By maintaining consistency, the user will spend less time and energy thinking and researching what the individual elements of the page or application are for.

Preventing errors

Everyone makes mistakes, including website users. This can be, for example, a typo in the address or omitting the check option. Therefore, it is very important that in such critical places the system displays prompts, limits the selection options, etc.

Recognition instead of reminding

You cannot require the user of the system to memorize information and then recall it at the right time. The data needed by the user should therefore be displayed when they need it. They can be visible all the time or there should be an opportunity to go to them in an easy way.

Flexibility and efficiency of use

Please note that the site or application will be used both by people who know it well and are its frequent visitors, and those who visit it for the first time. The system, on the other hand, must respond to the needs of both. Therefore, it is important that it has improvements that speed up processes for experienced users, while not interfering with the exploration by less advanced users.

Aesthetic and minimalist design

When designing or redesigning a website, keep in mind that any unnecessary element distracts the user's attention from relevant content. Particularly important information cannot go unnoticed by him. For this reason, try to have a “clean” appearance while keeping as few elements as possible (including texts).

Help with error handling

Any error on the website or in the application must be understood by the recipient of our product. It should contain information about where it came from and what it concerns. It is not enough just to enter the error number (e.g. “404 error”). It is worth informing the user in an accessible (clear and understandable language) way what has just happened and what he can do about it. Similarly, the issue of errors appears when the user enters incorrect data in the form. Information about the inability to send the form is not enough. Draw the user's attention to where they made a mistake and possibly how they can correct it.

Help and documentation

Designing a system requires finding a place to place the help that will be clearly visible and clear to the user who is looking for it. In addition, it should address a specific issue and describe the next steps in applying the solution to the problem. If the project requires it, you can also add useful documentation for the user.

Let's take a walk. Cognitive walkthrough of e-commerce

The second technique used when conducting usability audits is cognitive wandering. It is nothing more than going through the service while taking on the role of the user. Suppose we audit a store that offers accessories for women. So, for the purposes of the study, we put ourselves in the role of a woman looking for, for example, a clutch for prom. This is the goal with which we enter the territory of the store, hoping that e-commerce will guide us around it with ease. The specialist himself goes through the purchase process. He notices problems, catches errors, until he is finally able to assess the smoothness of the operation of the service during the execution, previously assumed in the scenario, tasks. And it probably won't come as a surprise that the main goal of cognitive wandering is to point out problems that arise along the way.

When do we recommend performing a usability audit?

The audit should be carried out at the very beginning of the process leading to change. The redesign of platforms is often based precisely on the conclusions of the report. We recommend carrying out an audit of the usability of the website, among others, when:

  • traffic on the site decreases, although it was previously redesigned,
  • revenues do not meet previously assumed expectations,
  • the site is positioned correctly, but the conversion is poor,
  • the platform is outdated and does not meet the expectations of users,
  • the site has never been tested by professionals.

Why is it worth it?

If, as a customer, you have assumptions about the location of the error, it is worth discussing them with the UX specialists. Not in every case we recommend conducting an audit for each part of the platform. A holistic approach to usability does not mean going through all the possible cognitive paths or each of the available views on your platform! Not to mention the fact that taking such a path would be very time consuming. Therefore, it is worth considering together with the auditor which of the pages on the site represent the way the user moves around the site.

Remember that satisfied users lead to the acquisition of leads and thus strengthen our sales. A better website in terms of usability also means lower support costs and optimization of the entire shopping path that the user goes through.

Usability testing with auditing is designed to make us believe that everything on your e-commerce site leads the user to achieve their goals. Both his/her purchasing goals and your business. The audit contrasts the practices used in the store with UX best practices, thanks to which your business will have an insight into a completely different, deeper level of its functioning.

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