The title of Amy Africa’s ECMOD session “Ten Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Website Performance” was erroneous; she delivered nearly three times as many tips and takeaways—too many for one lone scribe to capture. Here, then, are some highlights from the ecommerce consultant’s session:
- Design your web page as a three-column format, though the columns do not need to be of equal width. In fact, you want the centre column to be widest, as that is where you should place the most important elements of each page. “We look at the left if we need more help,” Africa explained. “We look at the right if we want to leave. For everything else we look in the middle.” That’s why product category indices are almost universally on the left. And that’s why you should place elements designed to prevent viewers from leaving—previously viewed items, best-sellers, special offers—on the right.
- Don’t place your text search box in the top right corner. “If your site is good,” Africa said, “it should work without people having to use text search.” This is especially important when you consider that, according to her research, about two-thirds of people who abandon a site do so while in the search process. So rather than prominently feature search in the prize upper-right spot, move it to the left-hand navigation column.
- “You can only ever count on 30 percent of users scrolling down a page.” Therefore you need to make sure your key elements and messages appear on the top of every page. These would include the email sign-up box (“Sell you soul to the devil for your users’ email address,” Africa advised) and the perpetual shopping cart. And make sure that you feature at least three products above the fold on your landing pages.
- Add an image carousel to your landing page. Carousels are revolving slideshows of images. According to Africa, “They help refresh the eye in a positive way and tell the user, ‘These are things that you need to look at’.” In addition to an image, each slide should have a call to action, such as “Click here now”, and a catchy headline.
- Use instigated chat on the pages where it matters most. Instigated chat is a proactive form of live chat; rather than waiting for the user to contact the etailer for a chat, a customer service rep contacts the user via a pop-up box if the user seems to be having a problem—for instance, if he has been on the same page for more than one minute without taking any sort of action.
- Leave abandoned shopping carts open indefinitely so that when the user returns, no matter how long the absence, he is shown the cart with his selections. And while we’re on the subject of abandoned carts, bear in mind that abandoned-cart programmes, in which you contact visitors who have abandoned their carts via email reminders or offers to encourage them to return to complete the transaction, “are programmes,” Africa said. “Sending one email does not count.”
- Put your perpetual shopping cart in multiple places throughout the site: the upper right-hand corner, of course, but also on the bottom of the page and somewhere in the right-hand column.
- Add a “temperature bar” at the top of your checkout pages so that customers know how far along in the process they are.
- “Choose brains and brawn over beauty” when it comes to website design. “Esthetics doesn’t make a lot of money online,” Africa insisted. “You want to do something for your site today? Add more ‘checkout now’ and ‘add to cart’ buttons.”--SC