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Innovation Not Required

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Posted October 23, 2001 By Robyn Greenspan     Feedback

First time site visitors should be as comfortable as loyal repeaters, relying on simple and intuitive navigation for an optimal experience. Here are five suggestions for making your e-commerce site user friendly.

One of the great things about the Internet is the ability it gives individuals to be truly creative and innovative. However, when it comes to site usability, it is better to stick with what's familiar. First time site visitors should be as comfortable as loyal repeaters, relying on simple and intuitive navigation for an optimal experience.

There may not be many e-commerce sites that would win awards for their artistic originality, just as there probably aren't many poetry sites making money either. Creative expression run rampant can easily distract from the bottom-line — profits. If you need to release the frustrated artisan within, develop something other than an e-tail site or add a section far away from your shopping cart.

Here are five suggestions for making your e-commerce site user friendly:

  • Don't attempt to revolutionize the buying process by making online shoppers deviate from their usual routine: they want to find the product, click it into a shopping cart and get guided through the billing and shipping process. An automatically generated e-mail confirmation wraps up the whole transaction nicely and neatly.

  • All paths should lead back home. Visitors should be able to get back to a starting point — without using the "back" button excessively — even after they've clicked down through layers of pages.

  • If your site is extremely complex or unusual, implement a virtual tour or "getting started" section. However, it might behoove you to simplify your site rather than having to provide instructions on how to use it.

  • Every page should have a link to the help section, live customer service chat, quick-response e-mail address and toll-free number. The point of customer support is to provide help as it's needed, not after the visitor has given up and gone elsewhere.

  • Group related products so customers can choose the one that best fits their needs. Presented with a list of choices and descriptions, a customer may wind up spending more for a better product.

There are methods for making your e-commerce site unique without having to change the basic design elements. Adding informative and valuable content, selling high quality products, and providing superior customer service will make your site stand out in a crowd.

Reprinted from ECommerce Guide.

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