E-Commerce User Experience - Book Review - WebReference Update - 020131 | WebReference

E-Commerce User Experience - Book Review - WebReference Update - 020131

((((((((((((((((( WEBREFERENCE UPDATE NEWSLETTER ))))))))))))))))) January 31, 2002

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Remember that mysterious usability master list Jakob keeps talking about? The 207-item checklist he keeps teasing us with? Well now you can have it, for a price. We review the Nielsen Norman Group's latest book "E-Commerce User Experience."

In other news we review the Wall Street Journal's new design, Webmasterbase gives us the "Diary of a Webmaster," Scott Andrew talks CSS-only layouts, and the Gate ponders the wisdom of pay-for-listing search engines.

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New this week on WebReference.com and the Web:

1. BOOK REVIEW: E-Commerce User Experience 2. OTHER VOICES: * Wall Street Journal Critique * Diary of a Webmaster - My Site Design Checklist * CSS Layouts * Forms Accessibility 3. NET NEWS: * Search Me

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1. BOOK REVIEW: E-Commerce User Experience

Remember that mythical usability master list Jakob keeps talking about? The 207-item checklist he keeps teasing us with? Well now you can have it, for a price. Available in PDF or book form, "E-Commerce User Experience" is worth its weight in gold.

Usability is one of the most important factors in the success of an e-commerce site. Jakob's first law of e-commerce states "If the customer cannot find the product, the customer cannot buy the product." But there are many more factors at work behind the 65-80% of all shopping carts that litter the info highway. This book explores them all, and shows you how to make a smooth shopping experience.

Through a quarter-million dollar usability study, Jakob and company derived 207 design guidelines that will increase the usability of any website that presents product information. In 2000 five usability experts led by Jakob Nielsen conducted tests of 20 B2C e-commerce sites. They tested 64 users from the US and Denmark, screening for those who had technical knowledge of the Web. They wanted to find out:

* Why people abandon e-commerce sites * The success rate for online shopping tasks * Domestic versus international success rates * Scorecard for compliance with their design guidelines * How to develop your own domain-specific guidelines * Budgeting for usability in Web projects

The results of their study showed poor usability for e-commerce sites, especially for smaller sites. The average compliance for larger sites was 53%, with Amazon topping the list at 72%. Medium sites fared even worse, with an average of 37% compliance with their usability guidelines. Smaller sites fared so badly they were in large part ignored, by users and usability experts alike.

Big Sites' Guideline Compliance ------------------------------- Amazon 72% MotherNature 60% CDNow 60% Barnes&Noble 55% Gateway 51% Pets 49% drugstore 48% VictoriasSecret 47% PlanetRx 45% ticketmaster 39% -------------------- Average 53%

The authors conclude that common sense is not yet common practice, and the degrees of compliance are suspiciously similar. People were incapable of buying what they came for about half of the time.

E-commerce success can be boiled down to one simple equation.

Unique_Visitors x Conversion_Rate = Sales

Increasing the first number is the goal of your advertising budget. Increasing the second is the goal of your usability budget. To increase visits by 10% usually requires much more than a 10% increase in advertising. However, the conversion rate can be increased by 10% through the smallest of usability projects. That's why usability has such a great cost/benefit ratio.

Nielsen reports an average of 100%-400% sales increase when e-commerce sites launch an improved user interface. Leading software companies are starting to catch on. From 1993 to 2001 their usability budgets have increased from 6% to 10%. Today, 10% represents best practices.

The full-color 389-page book, really a research report, breaks down key components to watch in e-commerce sites, and includes pie charts of factors that contribute to "sales catastrophes." Some of his statistics are real eye-openers, 64% of searches are successful, and only 51% are successful on the first try. 27% of sales catastrophes are caused by failure to find an item, 22% are related to checkout and registration, and 17% are caused by bad product pages and hard to fill shopping carts.

International users fared even worse. Jakob Nielsen: "An important part of this book that you rarely see covered is the chapter on international users. It is amazing how many sites still act as if nobody lives overseas."

Some highlights from the 207 design recommendations:

11. Don't show products that customers can't buy. 51. Show total cost, including taxes, shipping and handling, as soon as possible. 61. Give users only what they ask for. 70. Allow customers to purchase without registering. 105. Pick winnowing criteria your customers understand (they only look at the first 1-2 pages of results) 108. Design comparison tables to highlight differences. 111. Put the search box on every page. 114. Support search for nonproduct terms. 117. Tell customers what you don't have. 145. If the technology isn't reliable, leave it out. 159. Avoid using multilevel lists or menus to select options. (Nordstrom's horizontal hierarchical menus were difficult to navigate) 197. Consider offering a currency converter. 199. Write all text in EASL (English As a Second Language) 206. Don't use metaphors that are intimately connected with a specific country.

Superior e-commerce sites put the user in control of shopping, "by offering the best of both worlds: convenience, good product selection, price and feature comparisons, flexible strategies for locating products, and helpful customer service." When you give people the options they want, they feel powerful and in control.

Becoming one of the most usable sites on the Net is still pretty easy. Following half of their guidelines would put your site in very good company, follow three-fourths and you'd exceed even Amazon, which has the best usability they tested. Follow 90% and users will beat down your virtual doors. Highly recommended.

E-Commerce User Experience By Jakob Nielsen, Rolf Molich et al. Nielsen Norman Group, $195 Individual PDF chapters for $45 each ISBN: 0-9706072-0-2 Sold at: http://www.nngroup.com/reports/ecommerce/ Buy it! Amazon

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2. OTHER VOICES: Wall Street Journal Critique, Diary of a Webmaster - My Site Design Checklist, CSS Layouts, Forms Accessibility

* Wall Street Journal Critique

The Wall Street Journal site was redesigned this week. The new look features links rather than graphic links, and they're even blue, which is good. However, looks can be deceiving. The site is unoptimized and the tables complex, giving a load time of over 1.5 minutes on a 56K connection. Stock quotes are delayed by 15-20 minutes, should the WSJ also delay its content?

Websitegarage.com reports a total page size of over 140K, with HTML alone weighing in at 72K, and a total of 121 objects in the page. Overall Web Site Garage gives the new design a "poor" rating.

Eliminating the JavaScript, using global styles rather than local, simplifying and optimizing tables and simplifying and eliminating excess content and images would help speed up the display considerably. Hat tip to Digital-Web.com. http://www.vanderwal.net/random/entrysel.php?blog=393 http://www.wsj.com Wall Street Journal, Jan. 29, 2002

* Diary of a Webmaster Part 1 - My Site Design Checklist

Mitchell Harper talks about what characteristics he looks for when designing sites. I don't agree with one of his recommendations, opening new windows for external links. http://www.webmasterbase.com/article/655 Webmasterbase.com, Jan. 2002

* CSS Layouts

Scott Andrew talks briefly about his CSS-only design, and how he handled Netscape 4 users with conditional SSI. http://www.scottandrew.com/weblog/000104#more Scott Andrew, Jan. 29, 2002

* Forms Accessibility

Five quick tips on forms accessibility. Hat tip to Meryl.net. http://www.htmlsource.f2s.com/forms/formsaccessibility.html HTML Source, Jan. 2002

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 3. NET NEWS: Search Me

* Search Me

The Gate predicts doom ahead for search engines that charge listing fees. http://www.sfgate.com/technology/beat/ SF Gate, Jan. 28, 2002

That's it for this Thursday, see you next time.

Andrew King Newsletter Editor, WebReference.com aking at internet dot com ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Advertising: If you are interested in advertising in our newsletters, call Claudia at 1-203-662-2863 or send email to mailto:nsladsales@internet.com ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For contact information on sales offices worldwide visit http://www.internet.com/mediakit/salescontacts.html ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For details on becoming a Commerce Partner, contact David Arganbright on 1-203-662-2858 or mailto:commerce-licensing@internet.com ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ To learn about other free newsletters offered by internet.com or to change your subscription visit http://e-newsletters.internet.com ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ internet.com's network of more than 160 Web sites is organized into 16 channels: Internet Technology http://internet.com/it E-Commerce/Marketing http://internet.com/marketing Web Developer http://internet.com/webdev Windows Internet Technology http://internet.com/win Linux/Open Source http://internet.com/linux Internet Resources http://internet.com/resources ISP Resources http://internet.com/isp Internet Lists http://internet.com/lists Download http://internet.com/downloads International http://internet.com/international Internet News http://internet.com/news Internet Investing http://internet.com/stocks ASP Resources http://internet.com/asp Wireless Internet http://internet.com/wireless Career Resources http://internet.com/careers EarthWeb http://www.earthweb.com ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ To find an answer - http://search.internet.com ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Looking for a job? Filling an opening? - http://jobs.internet.com ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This newsletter is published by Jupitermedia Corp http://internet.com - The Internet & IT Network Copyright (c) 2002 Jupitermedia Corp. All rights reserved. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For information on reprinting or linking to internet.com content: http://internet.com/corporate/permissions.html ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~