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.