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Retail Ecommerce Design – The Perfect Checkout Funnel

Author's avatar By James Gurd 29 Apr, 2015
Essential Essential topic

Recommended design patterns and best practices for your Checkout Funnel

Checkout design is the last in our series of posts covering design best practices for different parts of the Ecommerce customer journey. Previous posts include discussion and examples and potential design elements to test for:

  1. Home page
  2. Product listing or category page
  3. Product page
  4. Site search pages
  5. Shopping Basket design

Design issues for the checkout pages?

Checkout is the most critical part of the conversion path in some ways since it throws many challenges, due to the multiple stages, with each step influenced by the previous one. It is further complicated since it's not necessarily linear; so there is no standard path from start to finish and so this depends on the user's profile, where some steps can be skipped.

In the Smart Insights Ecommerce design guide, I focus on 3 stages:

  • 1. Sign-In /Register
  • 2. Personal Details and Addresses.
  • and 3. Payment.

One size doesn't fit all for the checkout flow, and the art of the template design is in masking the complexity of the logic and process flows behind an intuitive and user-friendly page design - not an easy challenge. In our experience, it takes rigorous testing to find the optimal flow for your website.

Key Ecommerce Checkout Funnel Wireframe requirements

The wireframe below outlines the core elements for the checkout funnel, though UX/UI design patterns can vary across websites. Please note that in the checkout we recommend a custom header & footer that is different to the standard site header and footer we discussed in step 1 of this guide. This is because it’s widely accepted that unnecessary navigational elements like mega menus and footer links can distract users from the core goal of completing an order.

1. Sign-In/Register Template

signin checkout flow

2. Personal details and addresses

Personal details and addresses at checkout

3. Payment and confirmation

payment and confirmation wireframe

Case study for Net A Porter

Instead of separating new and existing user checkout (the classic Amazon approach), the user is asked to enter an email address, then select whether or not they have a password. We like this UI design because it reduces the complexity of the page and doesn’t force users to make a tacit decision about which box they fall into. Some of the big multichannel retailers like House of Fraser adopt this approach. You’ll notice how the standard header and footer are used throughout the checkout, which goes against good practice advice.

Net a Porter sign up

Net A Porter sign up process

Net A Porter basket steps

Net A Porter payment checkout

Key requirements checklist for a Checkout Funnel

Finally, here's a checklist for a process to review and test your checkout;

  • Q1. Have we defined and understood the goals for the checkout?
  • Q2. Have we defined user cases for each step?
  • Q3. Have me mapped the user journey for new and returning users?
  • Q4. Is it easy for both new and returning visitors to enter and complete the checkout?
  • Q5. Are we providing a guest checkout for new users (if applicable)?
  • Q6. Have we defined which data fields are required vs those which are optional
  • Q7. Have we removed all non-essential data fields?
  • Q8. Have we ensured checkout pages aren't indexed for search?
  • Q9. Have we identified web analytics requirements?
  • Q10. Have we defined the navigational elements?
  • Q11. Have we defined how to handle error messages?
  • Q12. Have we integrated a postcode validation tool?
  • Q13. Is it easy for users to edit/add addresses?
  • Q14. Have we defined all delivery methods and the cost to the visitor for each method?
  • Q15. Have we tested all payment types to ensure there are no breakpoints at payment stage?
  • Q16. Have we tested the checkout in all key browsers ie. Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Chrome etc.)
  • Q17. Do we make it easy for users to add useful information like gift messages and delivery instructions?
  • Q18. Do we promote our loyalty scheme clearly and is it unobtrusive i.e. doesn't disrupt the core checkout flow?

Additional requirements to consider in your Checkout Funnel

In the full guide for Expert members I go into much more detail on individual page elements and look at more examples of how these apply in practice from UK and US-based retail sites.

Author's avatar

By James Gurd

James is an Ecommerce consultant and owner of Digital Juggler, an E-commerce and Digital Marketing consultancy helping retailers develop, execute and evolve E-commerce strategies and optimise their digital channel. With a background as a Head of E-commerce and also agency side as Head of Client Development, he has experienced life on both sides of the fence. He has helped companies like A&N Media, Sweaty Betty and Smythson to manage RFP/ITT proposals. and been lead consultant on high profile projects for Econsultancy, Salmon and Greenwich Consulting. He is a guest blogger for Econsultancy, for whom he also writes best practice guides, regularly contributes to industry events and co-hosts #ecomchat, a weekly Twitter chat for e-commerce knowledge sharing. For e-commerce advice and support, connect with James on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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