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Usability: Why is it crucial for the success of your eCommerce website?

Have you ever visited a website, looking to make a purchase, but immediately regretted clicking through? You can’t easily navigate the site, simple things you’d usually find on a website are nowhere to be seen and the design is all over the place? Bye, bye. No purchase from me today. In this blog we talk you through how you can avoid this frustrating customer experience through usability.

What is usability?

Usability is a measure of how well a user can achieve their goal and make decisions without having to put much effort into searching for what they need. When designing an eCommerce site usability should be a core focus. The user must be able to navigate the site and purchase products effectively. If the site is too difficult to use, then it will experience a higher bounce rate and low conversion rate. 

So how can usability be applied successfully to an eCommerce website? We have created an overview of the key aspects you should focus on in order to improve your website usability, covering the topics of familiarity, clarity, navigation and design consistency.


When you design for usability, familiarity should be a key factor. When selling products online, trust is important – and familiarity builds trust. By now, users are familiar with a lot of design concepts used on the web. For example, if a user needs to navigate to the  homepage of a site, they will look for a logo on the left hand corner of the screen. If your site works differently they’ll have to spend a few seconds learning how to get back to the homepage. If you are creating a new design then it should be intuitive and make use of what people already know. If you are using new concepts in your design, they should also be applied consistently so users can familiarise themselves with this concept. When designing for usability, this learning curve should be as short as possible, so the user does not become distracted from their goal.

Clarity is key

When a customer uses your site, they will have certain goals in mind that they are looking to complete. If your website is simple to understand, then users should be able to easily recognise and locate key pages, such as the checkout, account and product pages. If the user is confused or distracted, then they will either need more time to find what they are looking for, or they might forget about their initial goal altogether and become dissatisfied. In order to create visual clarity, the site should not be cluttered with too many images and copy so the user will not have too many distractions.


Design consistency plays another important role when designing for usability. Users should be able to make connections between different design elements. For example, on an eCommerce site, call to action buttons should be consistent throughout. They guide the user on their purchasing journey across the entire site. Design consistency is achieved through the use of a style guide. Style guides are created so each brand can have a consistent set of design elements on their site, they are also applied to marketing materials. Style guides include a variety of elements such as typography, button designs, icons and illustrations so that they are consistent with the brand. If an eCommerce site is not consistent in terms of design, then it can confuse the user and lead to a low conversion rate. 


When designing for usability, navigation should also be a key focus. It plays an integral role in how users interact with your eCommerce site. The navigation menu is an organised list of links to other pages on your site. The menu most commonly appears in page headers so that users can quickly navigate through the pages. The most common menu used in eCommerce sites is a mega menu – an expandable menu where many page links are displayed in a dropdown layout. In order for a menu to be effective the user must be able to navigate it clearly. This can be done by creating hierarchy to the menu design and by using appropriate copy for your user.


So how can you measure if your eCommerce site is easy to use? If you are looking to evaluate how effective your site is for users, you can conduct usability tests. Usability testing is defined as the evaluation of a product by testing it on potential users. Testing will evaluate the familiarity, clarity, navigation and consistency of your site. Usability testing usually involves observing an average user as they attempt to complete a designated task on your site and to identify any issues they may encounter. There are several different methods available to test website usability including:

Heat Maps: A heat map is a data visualization tool that shows how website users click, scroll and move on the page. The data is shown on a scale of red to blue, with red depicting hot areas of the page that users interact with the most and blue depicting areas that do not draw the user’s attention. By using a heat map method of testing, it allows the conductor to see if there are any design errors that are frustrating the user. 

User Behaviour Reviews: These reviews give you a snapshot of how users interact with your website. At JH, we carry out user behaviour reviews by analysing recordings of users using your site to see what positive or negative patterns occur. They show you what users find useful on your site and any instances where they may become frustrated. 

All of the above methods are a practical way to test the usability of your site, while also allowing you to uncover problems, discover opportunities, and learn more about your potential customer’s behaviour. Read more about how testing can benefit your eCommerce website here.

Kashif, Head of Design at JH, is hosting an upcoming workshop which will cover usability among other aspects of design for your eCommerce website. Keep an eye on our socials for information!

Ready to test the usability of your site? We can help.

If you’d like to find out how partnering with JH could move your business forward, give us a call on +44(0)115 7940060 or email us at