Idiot-Proofing Your Store
I’m sure you know the old saying: “If you make something idiot-proof, the world will just build a better idiot”. Unfortunately it’s downright, 100% true, and I’d bet $5 that your store isn’t as idiot-proof as you think it is.
The problem is that we’re so close to our own stores, or those we develop for regularly, that sometimes we get to used to taking certain steps to think about what someone might do when visiting for the first time. We take all the steps an expert customer would take, instead of looking at the site with a fresh pair of eyes.
What happens when you make a new change to your store? You test it, right? You browse to a product and then:
- select the options (size and color, perhaps)
- put the product in your cart
- go to checkout
- enter your real address, phone number, and email
- choose a valid shipping method
- enter valid payment details
- process your order
Something along those lines? Do you think that’s what your customer does? Probably not…at least not the idiots! You should test-shop your store as if you’re an idiot. (You might also get one of your ditzier friends to shop and look over his or her shoulder!)
Go to your product pages, and try putting the product into your shopping cart without selecting the required attributes, such as color and size. Do you see a helpful error message, or just an error? Or does it go into the cart just fine, leaving your customer service reps to try to contact the customer to see which color and size she needed?
If there are quantity limits – a maximum, minimum, or a certain multiple that the product must be ordered in, can your shopping cart handle that? Test putting in invalid quantities and see what happens.
Even after you successfully put a product into your shopping cart, do you know what to do? If you’re taken to the shopping cart, is it easy to get back to where you were, preferably in a single click? If you stay on the product or category pages, is there a message saying that the item was successfully added? Don’t expect your idiots to keep an eye on your perpetual “mini-cart” to notice that the item was added.
View Cart Page
First of all, make sure a few things are true on your cart page:
- Customers can click the product name or image (or both) to go back to the product and check the details again
- Customers can remove products from their shopping cart
- Customers can change the quantity of the product being purchased
Assuming these are all true, make sure that the links back to the product pages work properly; it’s an easy thing to overlook. Remove some products from your cart and make sure this functions properly. Change the quantity – and try invalid numbers like zero or a negative value – and make sure the error messages are user friendly.
The checkout process is really where things get complicated. First of all, enter as many invalid address combinations that you can think of. Start with your own address, but change the state so that it doesn’t match the zipcode. Then go further into checkout and see if you can get shipping rates. If not, is there an error message telling the user to double-check that they’ve entered a valid shipping address? Even better, try adding an address validator to your website to scrub addresses right after the customer enters them.
Review your shipping methods – can international customers select domestic shipping methods to get cheaper shipping? If so, you might be losing money and not noticing it. If you offer free pricing within a certain area, are other customers able to see that? Do you have any reminders (“Your Order Qualifies for Free Shipping!”) that are shown to everyone instead of being limited to only those customers who can take advantage of it?
On to the payment processing – what happens if the customer enters a bogus credit card number? What if they enter a test number, such as 4111-1111-1111-1111 for Visa? Do they see an error message if the card is expired? Does the shopping cart force them to enter their CVV code (if you want them to)?
Finally, go all the way to the receipt page after having entered an improperly-formatted email address (such as “someone@yahoo” – notice the lack of “.com” at the end). Are there any ugly error messages that pop up?
Really, no matter how much you fix things, you’ll eventually get the idiot who calls your service center and asks where the “any” key is. But hitting the majority of problems will save your customers – and your employees – a lot of headaches.