A shopping cart usability hangnail

It’s high season for ecommerce, and showtime for shopping carts all over the world.

Good marketing managers should have spent the entire year reviewing how their checkout experience is converting customers, since a problem in the Christmas season hurts twice as much as in the summer.

Marketing Rule #1: Make it easy for the customer to buy. Specifically for shopping carts, don’t do things that confuse people, cause hesitation, or prompt rework. You are delaying or losing sales.

Here’s an example. Today we were buying magnets online, and saw this at the first checkout page:


(A partial screen shot, crunched down to fit in the column.)


Note how the first set of contact information is split into two columns. The fields for Email, City etc are way off to the right. It’s too easy to miss them at first, which is just a little usability hangnail that only increases the chance — however minimal — that the buyer bolts.

That screen shot was taken at 1280X1024 resolution, which represents a plurality of users these days. At 1600×1200 or higher, which is about 10% of visitors, the desert of space separating the columns is even wider.

My guess is that the cart allowed these fields to be set to one column or two, and the designer thought the page looked too sparse when set to one. In that case, you should put clarity first and layout second. Don’t be afraid of white space when someone is checking out. It’s a purely functional process.


A nifty utility


Copying and pasting text between applications can be troublesome (at least in a Windows environment), because copying text also copies the formatting rules along with it.

So, if I copy something from a website and paste it into Word, the text is often in a mismatching font, color, size etc. Word allows you to “Paste Special | Unformatted” but that is several clicks or mouseactions.

Usually I want just the text, formatted to match the destination.

Enter PureText, a tiny program that allows you to use a hotkey  (default is WINDOWS+V) to paste text without formatting.

I think I use it once an hour. Go get it.

Drupal module for tracking attachment downloads per-user

Not long ago I built an extranet for a client, which was a secure repository of documents. The client wanted to know which files were being downloaded by which users, but Drupal didn’t offer that out-of-the-box. So, I had this very modest module written by a nice fellow in the UK.


Untar, upload and install as usual. Then you’ll be able to see something like this:


Your download method has to be set to private, and it’s only for 6.x.

I’m not putting this in contrib at drupal.org because I’m not a developer and can’t maintain it. Sharing it here is my small thank-you to the Drupal community.

If you like it, I’d appreciate a link or a tweet or a follow.