Over at eCommerce Optimization a well thought-through and very thorough list was posted called eCommerce & Shopping Cart Usability: 21 Best Practices. In this great article, the author ‘eCopt’ lists 20 very solid recommendations for any ecommerce site. The 21st on the other hand, is an absolute show stopper:

Test different combinations of best practices to see which ones produce the best results for your store and shopping cart.

It always amazes me how people take a “best practice” and immediately implement it on their website. Oh, you don’t have shiny blue Ajax effect #12? Well, what are you waiting for!? It worked for those guys, of course it will work for us.

The fact of the matter is that websites are different – Gasp! But what people don’t seem to realize is that you could design your website features to be identical to your main competitor, but still get different results out of them. Why?

You have different visitors. The people who visit your site are not the same as the people who visit any other site. There will almost definitely be a large overlap with your competition, but the differences that make your visitors unique are important. They might not respond to the same features in the same way.

Going back to the article – ¬†eCopt lists 20 best practices, such as “Keep the site search function above the fold and in plain view so shoppers can query the catalog anytime” and “Show related products and cross sell before the checkout process and after items have been added to the cart.” These two and the 18 more are all great general guidelines for success to consider with your site. Some of them will work for you and some of them won’t. The important thing is number 21, mentioned above.

When you are considering implementing an added feature, the best thing to determine first is how you are going to measure it. Anything you do on your site that you are not measuring is likely a waste of time, simply because most people will find that there are a lot more ideas that won’t work than ones that will. One of the smartest things you can do is design and code with measurement and testing in mind.

So decide how to measure your new feature. It could be as simple as an increase in conversion or a decrease in bounce rate. When you code up your newfangled thing, make sure that you can A/B test it against the previous version – and really test it. Make sure you are getting significant results, and look at all your metrics to make sure there are not unexpected surprises. Then roll it out full board.

3 thoughts on “The Best Practice

  1. Rick,

    Thanks so much for pointing out our post and for the additional insights you provided. I agree with your analysis and am glad that my point was clear (sometimes you get so invested in your own writing you aren’t sure if you’re making your point clear). Number 21 is the most important, since without testing, there’s no way to tell what works and what doesn’t. I have dealt with a number of merchants who fail to see that point and just implement something, like you said. I wish I could have covered that in this post. Oh well, maybe some other time in the future.

    On a side note, did I meet you at SMX Seattle? I remember bumping into a couple of guys from Overstock on my way up to the Google Dance, thinking that you might have been one of them who I met and talked to for awhile before going in.

    Looks like you’re off to a good start with the blog here. Love the name, theme and content so far! I’ll be tuning in more often, as I can related to your writing style.

    eCopt

    Reply
  2. Thanks for the kind words! I recently discovered your site as well, and have been so far impressed. I am not sure about SMX Seattle – I was there, but Overstock had a pretty strong showing, so it’s likely that you ran into some of my collegues.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: BIG Thanks: eCommerce Optimization Blog Supporters (10/29/07 to 11/02/07)

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