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Welcome to a new column in the UX Design section on Smashing Magazine! Each month we'll pick a handful of popular questions asked by our readers around good practices in designing smart and usable experiences.
They will be answered by Christian Holst, a regular author here on Smashing and founder of Baymard Institute. Prior to co-founding Baymard Institute in 2009, he worked as a usability engineer in the hearing aid, credit card and consulting industries. If you have any questions that you would like me to tackle for a future Usability Q&A column here on Smashing Magazine, please ask them in the article's comment section!
A year ago we published an article on 11 fundamental guidelines for e-commerce checkout design here at Smashing Magazine. The guidelines presented were based on the 63 findings of a larger E-Commerce Checkout Usability research study we conducted in 2011 focusing strictly on the checkout user experience, from “cart” to “completed order".
This year we've taken a look at the state of e-commerce checkouts by documenting and benchmarking the checkout processes of the top 100 grossing e-commerce websites based on the findings from the original research study. This has lead to a massive checkout database with 508 checkout steps reviewed, 975 screenshots, and 3,000+ examples of adherences and violations of the checkout usability guidelines.
Error pages for form-field validation are dreadful. You’ve just filled out 20 form fields, yet you get the same bloated page thrown back in your face because a single field failed to validate. I clearly recall the often loud sighs of despair during our last usability study each time a test subject encountered a validation error page.
We reflected on this problem and got an idea that we call “error fields only” — which is exactly what this article is about. Before exploring this idea, let’s look at three traditional types of validation techniques: “same page reload,” “optimized same page reload” and “live inline validation.”
The country selector. It’s there when you create an account for a new Web service, check out of an e-commerce store or sign up for a conference. The normal design? A drop-down list with all of the available countries. However, when conducting a large session of user testing on check-out usability (which we wrote about here on Smashing Magazine back in April 2011), we consistently found usability issues with the massive country selector drop-downs.
Jakob Nielsen reported similar issues as far back as 2000 and 2007 when testing drop-downs with a large number of options, such as state and country lists. So, this past summer we set out to redesign the country selector. This article focuses on the four design iterations we went through before arriving at the solution (free jQuery plugin included).
Here is the harsh reality of e-commerce websites: according to recent e-commerce studies, at least 59.8% of potential customers abandon their shopping cart (MarketingSherpa puts it at 59.8%, SeeWhy at 83% and MarketLive at 62.14%). The main question is why do customers abandon their shopping cart so often? Is there some fundamental mistake that designers of e-commerce websites do very often? Are there any common guidelines or rules of thumbs that make it more difficult for our users to purchase products? And is there some meaningful way to improve the conversion rates for our products?
Well, that's exactly what we wanted to find out. In 2010, we recruited a batch of Web users and conducted a usability study, focusing only on the checkout user experience, from “Cart” to “Completed order.” The study was conducted using the “think aloud” protocol and was documented by recording everything that happened on the computer screen. The behavior of the test subjects was then analyzed by scrutinizing these recordings at a later date.