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How a User Experience (UX) Audit Can Boost The Performance Of An E-Commerce Website

Our colleague Tamara Goudian will take you on a little journey through one of our recent projects

Case Study: UX Audit for an E-Commerce Website

With positive change at heart, it always brings us joy to work with clients who have sustainability embedded in their practices and who would go the extra mile to ensure customer involvement and satisfaction. Recently, we had the good fortune of meeting our client, a market leader in specialty footwear in Scandinavia. With their unique technology and sincere determination to minimize damage to the environment, the company designs and produces footwear that is used by many happy owners in Scandinavia, Europe, and North America.

Background

Over the past years, the company has been promoting their products through multiple online and offline sales Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) channels. Recently, they have decided to drive more direct B2C sales through their own online store and establish a more personal connection with their customers. The laughter arises from their strong belief that customers are a key driver in the product development process. This led to a collaborative project with CoreChange to conduct a formal user experience (UX) audit.

Project Background
Project Background

What is user experience (UX)?

The term user experience encompasses the practical, experiential, and emotional aspects of user interactions with websites, apps, and other hardware-software interfaces. As product and UX designers, our aim is to enhance user satisfaction with digital products and make sure that they are able to achieve their goals while enjoying a smooth experience. In this article, we focus more on the importance of performing a UX audit for e-commerce websites, however, many points apply to other types of applications too.

Why perform a UX audit?

E-commerce website owners usually have the common goal of  increasing sales conversionsbrand awareness , and  customer engagement . Common questions that pop up in conversations with our clients include: why do we have a high  bounce rate  on the product or checkout page? Or why are users  abandoning the cart ? Such questions trigger other questions from our site as UX designers: are users finding information they need? Are they able to achieve their goals? Which parts of the process present obstacles to such activities? This all requires a closer look at the user journey from brand and product discovery to purchase completion and beyond…

When an e-commerce website is launched, it usually serves the business needs at that point of time. With time,  businesses and customer needs evolvedigital and consumer trends also change ; this may result in a product or process that no longer meets business goals even if the product served the purpose perfectly when it was initially launched. This can result in a host of negative effects such as  lower sales and failures in user retention . Usually, it is not easy to find the reason behind such issues, and this is where a UX audit brings in a lot of value.

A UX audit helps uncover processes that are not working and provides insights that would help business owners  make informed decisions  on how to improve the website or app’s user experience to  better understand customers  and achieve business goals. A UX audit provides actionable data-driven recommendations  that can act as a  roadmap  for product redesign and development that will allow the product to  reach its full potential . From another perspective, an audit report would shed light on  standards , current  design trends , and  best practices .

 

Summary of benefits:

    • Higher conversion rates  and better lead generation.
    • Increase in repeat purchases  due to higher customer satisfaction.
    • Reduced customer service costs  due to simplified purchase flow.
    • More  engaged  and  happier  customers.
    • Improved brand credibility  and  customer loyalty.

 

If you run an e-commerce website or app, you may want to consider  leveling up your UX game  and prioritizing an audit as a starting point. The success of your business relies on this; users do not usually notice great UX, but they will definitely complain even if the shopping experience is anything but smooth. Still unsure of how UX design might help? We have included some statistics from well-known sources below!

Business Goals

In order to provide relevant insights to the client, it was important to take one step backwards and identify their business goals. One key point was that the company would like to increase brand and product awareness, especially when it comes to their unique technology, product features, and quality. It was also essential to highlight their sustainability practices with the company being the first climate-positive brand in the world within its genre. From materials used, manufacturing processes, transportation, to maintenance and repairs, the company has made it its mission to reduce its impact on the environment and inspire other brands to join the journey. From another perspective, the client expressed their desire to deepen their relationship with their customers and improve their satisfaction with the offered products and the online shopping experience on their website. Additionally, the company wanted to focus on increasing their national sales via their online store by implementing enhancements that would address the actual needs of visitors.

Business Goals
Client Business Goals

UX Audit Process

In this section, we focus more on how we went about the UX Audit. The key activities are visualized in the illustration below; each of them contributed to forming a more comprehensive picture and looking at this challenge from different points of view.

UX Audit - Key Activities
UX Audit - Key Activities

While it is useful for technology and UX specialists to look into the website experience, it is important to always remember that it is the end user who will interact with the e-commerce website (or other products) on a frequent basis. So, we started by taking a close-up look at the website’s analytics and arranged user test sessions to get  data-driven  and  user-centric  insights. Then we also put ourselves in the customers’ shoes and analyzed the website ourselves.

Website Analytics

The client had been monitoring their website analytics through two platforms ( Google Analytics  &  Oribi ) for a while and had some initial thoughts on some points they wanted to address from a business and sales conversion point of view. From a UX perspective, we also consider such aspects but also add certain elements that are more focused on the user journey and experience that users are exposed to as highlighted in the next section. During this step, we took a look at the following elements among others:

    • Current analytics setup and data being analyzed.
    • The website audience (demographics and interests).
    • Source of website traffic.
    • Devices and browsers used.
    • User engagement with the website in general and with specific pages.
    • E-commerce conversion funnels.

We also worked with the client on setting up qualitative analytics tools to complement the quantitative data provided by the platforms above. This led to the setup and analysis of the following using  Hotjar :

    • Heatmaps  (scroll and click maps): are color-based visual representations of data that highlight which parts of the website users interact most with and which parts receive little or no interest. Heatmaps also help reveal elements that may be misleading or confusing to users.
    • Anonymized video recording ( user session recordings ) of real visitors while interacting with the website. Points of interest detected from data analysis and heatmaps may be further investigated by looking at the records. Once you know where to look and what to look for, the process of reviewing user videos becomes more goal-oriented and less overwhelming as this analytics method usually generates hundreds of recordings of various lengths (from a few seconds to at least half an hour or more).

We left Hotjar to run for a little while to gain more insights. Having some data to guide further investigation, we also organized and ran a user test session to get some input from a user perspective.

User Test Sessions

In order to get a better idea of ​​how visitors would experience the website, two groups of potential users (testers) were invited to participate in the test sessions. It was important to keep the groups as diverse as possible – while considering the project time and budget constraints – with regards to gender, age range, backgrounds, and interests. The testers were divided into two groups each focusing on a different test case (summarized in the illustration below):

    1. Test Case 1: Finding a product based on the user’s needs or activities and adding a product or more to the cart.
    2. Test Case 2: Finding a given product with a predefined model name, purchasing it using a discount code, and then trying to cancel the order after the payment has been completed.

For each test case a variety of devices were used (desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones) in order to evaluate the website across different screen sizes. Insights were obtained by observing test users, taking and reviewing screen records of their sessions, and asking for feedback (post-session discussion, testers’ notes, and surveys).

Summary of User Test Sessions
Summary of User Test Sessions

Cross-Device Audit

A manual audit was carried out by our UX team across multiple devices (laptops, tablets, and smartphones) to:

    • Evaluate the website as a whole.
    • Further investigate issues identified by inspecting the website’s analytics and the results of the user test sessions.

Competitor Website Analysis

In order to offer better recommendations based on current e-commerce trends and support the results of the UX audit, relevant e-commerce websites were reviewed and analyzed. This step was also important to study how some websites successfully handled some of the issues revealed during the various steps of the UX audit. This analysis mainly focuses on the following elements in competitor websites: overall design, homepage layout, menus and navigation, product browsing and selection features, the shopping cart feature, and the checkout process.

Analysis of Guidelines, Best Practices, and Trends

In this step, additional research was conducted to provide the client with recommendations based on current trends, best practices, and general guidelines. This involved aspects specific to e-commerce websites and others that pertain to general UX considerations.

What did we look at?

During the audit, it was essential to define the questions or issues for which answers and solutions were sought on top of achieving business goals. Below is a summary of the key aspects that were addressed while looking at the website as a whole while also focusing on the  users’ critical path :

    • Browsing and finding products.
    • Adding products to the cart and completing a purchase.

Points of Investigation:

    • Commonly used pages & features
    • Pages with low hits and high bounce rates
    • Workflow from a usability point of view
    • What do users not understand?
    • Can users find relevant information?
    • Are users able to achieve their goals?
    • Where and why are users getting stuck?
    • Where and why are users dropping off?
    • Are there any interesting user patterns?

Critical aspects for assessment:

    1. Initial impression
    2. Website structure
    3. General workflow and navigation
    4. Functionality & Usability
    5. Visual hierarchy and readability
    6. Content
    7. Mobile responsiveness
    8. Analytics
    9. Design
    10. Compliance with UX guidelines & best practices

Audit Results

After looking at the website from different angles and combining insights from all audit activities, we were able to derive some actionable recommendations – based on solid data and best practices – to improve the website experience.

From a design perspective, the website was found to be visually pleasing and the design was clean and appealing to users. Closer inspection of certain features, pages, and e-commerce features revealed some points for further improvement. Greater attention was devoted to pages and features that lie on users’ critical paths such as browsing, searching, filtering, and purchasing products. Other less critical aspects were also addressed.

Summary of key findings and recommendations *:

Finally, it’s time to share a few key insights and recommendations from the UX audit!

Analytics  data  revealed that there is a relatively  high bounce rate  at the following crucial steps in the  purchase funnel  :

    • Product page  : a good number of visitors left without adding products to the shopping cart.
    • Checkout page:  a high rate of cart abandonment was detected.

When investigated thoroughly and by reviewing user session records, it became clear that there were some elements that made it difficult for users to  achieve their goals  :

    • Product page:
      • The product imagery is very attractive and visually pleasing however the product page contains long technical text which makes it difficult for users to compare similar products and make a decision on whether a product is suitable for their needs. Therefore, a recommendation was made to  make the text shorter, use product tags, and visualize product features  to make the product technology and features more understandable and less overwhelming.
    • Checkout page:
      • It appeared that on mobile devices, certain buttons, links, and text elements were  smaller than the recommended UX size  , which made it difficult for users to interact with devices with smaller touch-based screens. UX guidelines recommend that font-size for text should be 12px or larger for better accessibility support eg 14px or 16px. Buttons and other clickable / tappable controls should be at least 44x44px in size with enough space around them to avoid triggering multiple controls at the same time; In general, the physical limitation of an adult thumb should be considered a minimum.
      • The  discount field  was not easy to find. It was recommended to make it more prominent to make the users’ checkout process as smooth as possible.

Heatmaps  showed that users are mostly engaged with the top part of the page and that only a few users scroll down to the bottom of the page. They also revealed that some important elements, such as  compiling headlines and call-to-action buttons  , were located  below the  average fold  . This requires  redesigning the layout  to make important elements  more prominent above the average fold  and investigating how to present elements above the fold that would  win users over and invite them  not only to  interact  with the top part of the page but also  scroll  down  and  explore  what the website has to offer.

The  user test sessions  and  user session recordings  uncovered the following:

    • Product filters  offered limited filtering options.
    • Search and filter results  were lost after users visited the product page.
    • Order cancellation  after payment completion was not straightforward

Recommendations were provided to address the issues above – in addition to others listed in the final audit report – and it was advised to prioritize solving them as these elements are needed for users to  achieve their goals  and form an  essential part of the purchase journey  .

Analytics  also revealed that  more than 60% of website traffic and more than 55% of purchase transactions originated from mobile devices  . During the manual audit and test sessions, some technical and UX issues that were not visible on the desktop version of the website were encountered when using mobile devices. Therefore, it became clear that more effort should be directed towards providing a  mobile-first experience  and  removing usability obstacles for touch and small-screen devices  .

Another aspect involved recommendations on how to promote their  brand voice  through  visuals  and  copy-writing. To support the suggested UX enhancements, it was also recommended to review and improve the website’s  information architecture  to make it easy for visitors to quickly access desired product categories and relevant information such as  unique selling points  ,  technology details  , and the company’s  sustainability practices  .

From an  e-commerce point of view  , it was found that the website lacked some  up-selling and cross-selling  features to increase overall sales. But it was not only important to add such features but also to consider  when and where  they should be presented to users to  avoid unnecessary distractions  during shopping and  maintain an enjoyable experience  without being overwhelmed by marketing efforts.

One last item to highlight here is that  the online shopping experience begins even before users visit the website  . Our analysis also showed that when users search for similar products using search engines, the client’s brand did not always show up among the top results or in the first search result page. This led to some recommendations pertaining to  Search Engine Optimization (SEO)  such as adding relevant meta tags (keywords, description, titles) and also improving the website structure to better support this.

* The client was provided with a detailed report and a visual presentation.

Conclusion

End users are absolutely indispensable in the process of product design and development. Whether a new website or app is developed or features need to be added or changed, it is important to  base such decisions and designs on actual user needs and solid data  . Sometimes business needs and technology trends may dominate the decision making processes, however, it is important to take a  human-centered design approach  from the beginning and  revise experiences  as  consumer behavior and technology or design trends evolve  . A UX audit is a step that can guide  value-driven  product development and save  time and cost by addressing aspects that matter and having a direct effect that is tangible to end users. Finally, the client was also provided with recommendations on methods to  test  and  track the impact  of the UX enhancements to be implemented.

We are very grateful that the client put their trust in our team to work on this very rewarding challenge. We are excited to see where this collaborative journey would take us!

Do you need help with your customer experience?

Contact Tamara on +(46) 70 229 08 36, to book a meeting!