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Conversion via Usability

Posted on 12.16.2012

There are many aspects of an e-commerce website that can have a dramatic impact on conversion; however, none may influence a consumer’s decision-making process more than usability.

This is because an online store’s ease of use, whether on the Web or on a mobile device, has a direct impact on the level of consumer engagement. In fact, the fewer obstacles encountered, the more likely a consumer is to convert, according to founder and CEO of SiteSpect Eric Hansen.

“If you load a page on your desktop and then you actually step back six feet from the monitor, you should still be able to get a general gist of what is going on, what that site does and how you would start to dig in to find something that you presumably came there to shop for,” said Hansen. “If from six feet away you can’t really figure it out, then chances are the layout or navigation structure is more complicated than it needs to be.”

This is why merchants should focus on simplicity when optimizing the usability of their website. And, the only way to discover which site elements can be improved upon is through testing. While there are many methods available to improve the broader user experience and a site’s overall performance (read more about five key website testing areas here —, merchants should nearly always focus first on testing areas of their website that directly impact conversions. Aspects like calls-to-action or checkout options, are clear reflections of a site’s usability. For example, a simple A/B test could reveal that offering a “guest checkout” option, which allows customers to purchase items without creating an account, significantly increases conversions. The merchant will have to decide whether the customer information, collected with registration, is more valuable than the revenue that guest checkout may increase. The only way to know, of course, is for a merchant to test website usability and study the visitor's experience.

And, although merchants can use testing tools to optimize just about any aspect of their website (from the use of images to call-to-actions), not all tools produce the same type of results. Some platforms enable those testing usability to perform tests that produce qualitative results quickly, while other solutions are used to gather large datasets and test multiple variables at once, in a quantitative fashion, over an extended period of time. This is why Website Magazine has compiled a list of top-tier testing tools broken up into three different categories: Beginner, Intermediate and Expert. Which is right for you? Keep reading. (Beginner)

This testing tool is ideal for merchants with limited budgets, but who still need to analyze consumer feedback about specific site elements. Merchants can use this free tool to upload a site screenshot and create corresponding questions. Test participants are then given five seconds to view the uploaded image and remember as much as they can about that image. Then, they are asked to answer the merchant’s questions. FiveSecondTest collects the responses and extracts the most frequently used keywords in order to present the merchant with graphs, data and feedback. (Beginner, Intermediate)

For fast feedback, look no further than, which is an on-demand usability testing platform. The service enables merchants to select targeted participants from UserTesting’s user panel, or run tests with the merchant’s customers including live site visitors. Typically, test administrators can receive feedback within one hour, which includes videos of participants taking the test and written answers from personalized questionnaires. Furthermore, merchants have the ability to gain deeper insights by asking participants follow-up questions after test completion.

Usabilla (Intermediate)

Visual learners may prefer the Usabilla platform because it enables merchants to acquire visual feedback from site visitors through two different products, Usabilla Live and Usabilla Survey. While both solutions are great for improving sites for a better user experience, Usabilla Live is distinct, as merchants can use it to acquire live, subjective feedback about how visitors “feel” when browsing the merchant’s site. Unlike other solutions, which primarily use metrics to measure a site’s usability, Usabilla Live actually measures customer emotions. This is done through an interactive tab that allows visitors to select and rate any part of a website. After a site element is selected, the visitor rates it by choosing one out of five emotions. He or she can also add tags or comments to provide more detail about their experience.

SiteSpect (Expert)

SiteSpect enables merchants to test any aspect of their site — from landing pages to functionality — without creating permanent changes. This non-intrusive platform offers both A/B and multivariate testing solutions to help merchants optimize their site’s performance. While the A/B testing tool can be used to discover the best version between two options of copy, color, font or layout of a specific element, the multivariate testing solution can be used to test variations of two or more factors. The multivariate solution automatically generates these different combinations and recommends the optimal results based on customer feedback. Additionally, SiteSpect offers AMPS (Automated Multivariate Performance Optimization Solution) that helps speed up site performance by as much as 50-70 percent. Studies have shown this not only improves the end user experience, but also increases conversion rates, average order values and engagement.

Monetate (Expert)

Another way that merchants can create advanced tests, which include a multitude of variables, is with Monetate’s TestLab solution. This platform allows merchants to create A/B and multivariate tests that can span multiple pages of a website. It can also be built around specific page types or conversion funnels. Additionally, Monetate gives merchants the ability to create goal-based campaigns that tie reporting and analysis to their specific objectives, which makes it easy to discover how their test results can be leveraged to create a better overall user experience and increase conversions. It is important to note that merchants who use this platform must start by answering four questions within Monetate’s sentence-based campaign builder: Who am I targeting; what do I want my visitors to see; when should the test run; and why is the test running?

These testing tools help merchants take the guesswork out of optimizing their site for better usability. By regularly performing tests, merchants can assure their sites maintain the best performance based on actionable data and consumer feedback.

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