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Shopping Cart Usability

Usable Shopping Carts Increase Sales

E-commerce has been around since 1993 under many different names, but one thing remains constant; shoppers want usable web sites. Without a usable shopping cart the sites typically fail from poor performance. To succeed in the world of e-commerce and on the Internet web sites must be developed to be usable by patrons as well as search engines.

The most successful sites have been turning to web analytic software to tell them how people use their site. When they notice a break in their site they go in to determine the problem. Marketers tend to think the words on the site are the breaking points; while this may, in part be true, it is more often how the site operates and makes shopping easier for the customer.

Elements of a Usable Shopping Cart

Before a usable shopping cart can be developed several elements must be realized and controlled. Not all things can be overcome, but all things can be controlled. Understanding human nature and how people use new tools can help in controlling the most challenging situations.

Site Navigation

Site navigation must be as easy as possible. Without making the navigation as easy as possible customers will become confused and frustrated which encourages them to leave without purchasing.


Breadcrumbs are the links found in web sites that show the hierarchical path of the page. Not everyone enters a site through the front page and breadcrumbs make it much easier to reach related products without having to dig around the site.

Adding Items to the Cart

Shoppers want to see some visual confirmation that the action they take works. Sites that fail to provide visual cues lose customers due to confusion and the thought that the site doesn't work.


JavaScript requires the browser to support JavaScript. Without the ability to support JavaScript or with JavaScript turned off, functions that require JavaScript can't work. Vital shopping cart functions should not be developed in such a way that JavaScript is required.


Flash requires the shopper to support the version of Flash being used. People that support Flash 4 can't support Flash MX without upgrading. Customers will leave for another store if they are required to upgrade their plug-ins. At the very least, it will require that they have to download the plug-in and start the shopping experience from the very beginning.

Checkout Process

The checkout process should be as short as possible. The faster a person can checkout the faster the customer can be on their way to other things.

Checkout Progress

Each step of the checkout progress should indicate the current step and the total number of steps. This helps the customer know where they are in the process and the number of steps remaining.

Ask for Information in the Proper Order

Credit card information should never be asked for until after all the charges have been calculated and presented to the customer. Asking for this information prior to disclosing the full charges will cause the shopper to abandon the cart.

Advantages of Usable Shopping Carts

Usable shopping carts open the market to the consumer. By making a shopping cart usable to the consumer the process of shopping online is less threatening and actually becomes more inviting. NetIQ, the developers of WebTrends, has developed a successful system that helps web site owners, marketing specialists and web development teams make more usable and helpful web sites.

Understanding how shoppers use one's site and shopping cart can help turn more visitors into purchasing customers. The national average for shopping cart conversion is two percent; however that conversion rate can be increased through having more usable web sites and shopping carts. Multiple paths to the products and easier checkout processes can help greatly.

Lee Roberts is the President/CEO of Rose Rock Design, Inc. and owner of the Apple Pie Shopping Cart.