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The Breakthrough Agency.

Lessons in Design Thinking: #3 Common UX problems we see – & how to fix them!

As a specialist eCommerce agency, it’s fair to say we’ve seen our fair share of UX problems over the years. There are a multitude of reasons as to why your online store isn’t realising it’s full potential, and poor User Experience is often the main culprit. 

Before embarking on any site migration and re-design, we use the discovery phase in part to seek out the main issues that are causing the site to not perform as well as it should. We gather these pain points from collaborative workshops with different client stakeholders and a mixture of research activities to gain the customer point of view.

We’ve noticed from our investigations that there’s a pattern of pitfalls eCommerce merchants fall into when it comes to UX. These problems cause a plethora of issues for online stores, such as high bounce rates, low conversion rates, and diminishing repeat customers. All have a knock-on effect to company growth and revenue. 

Below we have listed the most prevalent problem areas observed over the past 12 months, with a brief explanation of possible solutions and positive outcomes for finally fixing them! 

Site Speed 

By far the most common cause of a high bounce rate and low conversion is slow site speed. It’s logical to conclude that higher speed = higher conversions, but to what extent? In a study conducted by Google; it was found that 53% of users abandon sites that take longer than 3 seconds to load. 

We look to improve site speed on three fronts: what happens on the server; what happens in the browser; and what content they both serve. An adept hosting partner will go a long way towards tuning the first point. The latter two require a holistic approach to performance in the design and development process. Assets can be compressed down, bundled up, and lazily loaded — but pages really get lean by making performance-aware decisions: use one less font, ditch all carousels, remove some tracking.

We’ve been able to achieve unrivalled load times using the smarter cache control provided by Progressive Web App technology. This allows sites (that are already quite streamlined) to become truly turbo-charged. Cold loads are 4x faster than industry benchmarks, while a site that is installed and launched from a home screen is ready to use in less than a second, often beating native apps! As the leading agency for Magento PWA, it’s our default recommendation for clients who are looking to get two steps ahead of their competitors in terms of speed. 

Responsive Design 

We’ve worked with companies who see up to 80% of their site traffic come from mobile devices, but initially offered a site that was only optimised for desktop users! Responsive design is a well established solution to this, but many merchants are operating sites where it was retrofitted, relying on rudimentary adjustments to the layout. There are countless glitches that we come across that could be affecting your mobile conversion rates.

We often see that elements have simply been stacked up or hidden on mobile. By taking a mobile-first approach to UX and UI design, we create an optimal experience within the constraints of small-screen touch devices, and then adapt or enhance for the desktop setting. Selecting more refined UI patterns makes pages easier to navigate and digest for your user across all devices. Small adaptations have a substantial impact on bounce rates and task completion. 

Drill-Down Journey 

We’ve found that although most online merchants have a decent foundation of categorisation and navigation, this needs to be built on further. It’s important to consider user pathways which offer more variety, curation and impetus. Issues in your drill-drown journey not only affect conversion, but also your number of repeat customers.

The problems usually start on the homepage. A typical error we’ve seen on many occasions is that the homepage only provides basic category starting points and is lacking in product highlights, stories, and promotions that offer impulse and informational routes. It’s important to get this page right not just because it is a top landing page, but because many sessions will visit the homepage at least once to reorient and dive back in.

Site search and filtering also needs to be considered. Search integrations such as Klevu and Algolia can often be better optimised to provide speedier and more relevant searches. On the product pages themselves, merchants often overlook alternatives and add-ons which provide ways to pivot the journey towards a more suitable product.

Trust Building

A typical issue that we stumble upon during site audits is the lack of trust building on sites. There is often much more than can be done to address a customer’s fears and doubts whilst purchasing online. 

Providing sufficient information and imagery to answer key questions on products is a fundamental area where merchants can make a big improvement themselves, but often underinvest instead. Another common mistake we see are that basic service propositions, such as delivery, returns and now constraints around COVID-19, are not usually presented at relevant moments throughout the buying journey meaning the customer is left guessing at checkout. 

Strive to improve trust and customer advocacy further by embedding social proof. Authentic customer reviews and brand evangelism from social channels are some of the most powerful pieces of content to independently validate your offering. 

Integrated Expertise 

It doesn’t matter what sector your brand falls under, whether you’re B2B, operating in the luxury market, or selling D2C furniture; your craft, quality, and expertise should always shine through. We’re never short on ideas of the best way to do this to enhance your user experience! Integrating inspiration and information to assist users at the right times will add value to their decision making.

Ensure you’re supporting an informational path in your drill-down journey for anyone who may be new to your site or has a ‘researcher’ behaviour. Relevant guides and stories around products should be connected and not disjointed on separate pages to make the user journey more fluid and natural.

You should be seen to be the experts in your product offering, so don’t hide nuggets of advice – it’s just as important as your product info. We find the customer support team is a goldmine for such tacit knowledge, and interviewing them can steer improvements in content, if not wider service flows.


Services such as Nosto and Fresh Relevance are strong choices for personalised merchandising. But it is important that  these integrations are optimised so they are not inhibiting site speed — that has to remain a higher priority in the user experience. 

Personalised product suggestions are useful to increase Average Order Value.In many cases these could be working much smarter. One simple way to do this is with a little segmentation; even differentiating for new, returning, and repeat customers in a way that recognises their particular goals will improve relevance and engagement in turn. 

When to offer suggestions is just as important. For example, they can provide a safety net for otherwise dead-end journeys. Provide some bestsellers when users see empty search results or a 404 page so they continue moving. Move alternatives up the page when they reach an out of stock product or enter from Google Shopping so they can pivot to something similar.

Checkout Journey

In a study conducted by Klarna, it was found that 68% of UK customers have abandoned an online basket at checkout, with 21% responding that a lengthy checkout process was the main culprit. By eliminating basic usability issues from the basket and checkout, committed users, who have done the hard work of selecting a product to buy, should sail through and lift KPIs. 

We always recommend stripping back distractions from the checkout design, and ensuring the styling of your basket and checkout pages are consistent with the rest of your site to maintain trust. Simplifying the checkout can be taken too far. For example, it can be tempting to adopt a ‘single page checkout’ with all fields lumped together; we’ve found these to have issues with both perceived and actual difficulty for users in completing them.

In many cases we see that a lot of work needs to be done in order to improve the form fields. Our usability studies often show that a form that appears to be user-friendly actually contains stumbling blocks. Best-practice UI can have an immense impact on conversions and often involves the finer details of layout, copywriting, accessibility, and interactivity that only a trained eye can resolve! 

If you’re an online merchant looking to invest in UX design, we offer full site audits and discovery workshops where we will work through the three step process with you. If you’d like to learn more, get in touch with our Head of Design, Joseph Russell: