Ensuring your website’s working for every user may feel like a challenge but help is at hand. 'Gossip' caught up with our developer Chris Jolley to get this thoughts and advice on how you can check your website and make sure you don't miss out on sales. Are the people using your store abandoning their baskets because something unexpected happened? Are they going away from your site disappointed by the photo of those new shoes suddenly just not doing them justice? You need to find out. Here's Chris' advice on how.

Shopping behaviour at this time of year really underscores the fact that most people are keen to shop online; perhaps it’s the convenience or it could be the option to seek the best price. Either way, ecommerce is booming as a result and is doubtless a corner-stone of our modern internet. In getting to this point, countless new technologies and approaches have evolved and are brought together to provide what people have now come to expect from an ecommerce experience and the bar is set high.

Innovation can bring with it an increase in complexity or at the very least a range of extra factors that everyone involved needs to be thinking about, meaning there’s more to check and test. This is particularly true when working with digital projects, especially ecommerce ones. As a result, there’s a lot of scope for things to go wrong. If you are involved with ecommerce yourself, perhaps this is starting to sound familiar? Or maybe your own online store has been working extremely well and things are trouble free - an excellent achievement but worth reading on as you still might pick up some tips.

Our long-standing experience within the digital sphere, ecommerce in particular, has allowed us to bring together some thoughts below that might help when it comes to making sure that everything is as good as it can be in providing that seamless, helpful, accurate and secure user experience that makes for a successful online store.

“Test item 123”

What is it? We’ve all seen it from time to time, even on the biggest ‘household-name’ websites, but this is the classic “Test” product showing up on your live store.

Blueleaf suggests: Have a golden rule that these products are never put into your production website, and work with your hosting and development partners to make sure that there is an alternative 'staging', 'testing' or 'UAT' environment for this kind of thing.

We need a great navigation experience

What is it? Navigation needs to be as streamlined, yet comprehensive as possible, but to ensure great usability.

Blueleaf suggests: Review your navigation carefully if you add categories, seasonal product ranges, or similar. Do some specific usability testing, or ask for feedback from your contacts, users, or agency.

I still cannot find what I’m looking for!

What is it? People can’t buy what they can’t find, so hand-in-hand with devising and implementing suitable navigation - covering all manner of devices - goes suitable and usable search functionality, appropriate to their device.

Blueleaf suggests: Think carefully about how people will search for products. Whether you implement a tagging system, or have powerful ‘attribute’ oriented search or filters, whenever new product lines are added or significant updates made to your store, make sure that the products are there and that everything is still available through search. It’s easy to assume that the innocuous search bar or text box will just work forever; only careful testing and review will make sure.

I want to see (search) results!

What is it? We’ve mentioned navigation, we’ve mentioned search, the next piece of the puzzle to consider might be your actual search results, both within your site as well as how it appears in the search engines.

Blueleaf suggests: Ask yourself, or your appointed ecommerce experts, are on-site search results clear, quick, and easy to sort, digest, and understand? How about in the big name search engines - is your site showing up, and are there shortcut links to key categories, pages or products? How about your category landing pages? In a sense, if you consider category navigation as a kind of search, these are ‘results’ pages too, and can have a big impact. Devising a suitable programme of Search Engine Optimisation, married to great analysis and constant testing and review, is something to give thought to at the start.

“That image looks a bit fuzzy...”

What is it? Product photography has a huge impact on potential shoppers. High resolution or 'pixel-dense' screens are common place now, particularly on mobile devices. Images not geared up for these won’t look their best.

Blueleaf suggests: It can take a surprising amount of effort and time to make sure that product photography, as well as accompanying ‘feature’ or ‘hero’ imagery is both consistent and high quality, but this is time well-spent. Make sure that high resolution versions are available and loaded - seamlessly if possible - on High Resolution mobile devices. Image size, arrangement and presentation can have a drastic effect on conversions.

Location, location, location

What is it? Generally, people from all over the world will be able to visit your online store, and that’s fantastic news! But can you deliver purchases to them? Whether you can or not, is this explained?

Blueleaf suggests: Ideally, it's always great to cater for multiple languages across your online store, but even a single page explaining delivery and other terms in multiple languages can go a long way to mitigating any issues here.

Do you see what I see?

What is it? In 2014, people have a huge range of browsers and devices at their disposal, and quite rightly, will expect sites (including online stores) to ‘just work’ on their preferred device. It’s quite jarring when that doesn’t happen!

Blueleaf suggests: Answering this challenge may start with the implementation, design and development techniques used to create your online store, but ultimately this comes down to testing; how it is performed, and using which devices - simulated or otherwise. There are many tools and services available that can help here - many which can show pages from your site working (or not!) in a huge range of browsers on all expected devices. Particularly with mobile and tablet ‘touch’ devices though, it’s really good practice to check the site on an actual device. Touch gestures such as swiping, sliding and zooming are best verified through real experience. A great ecommerce team will be able to help with the planning and implementation of the levels of testing that are really needed here, at appropriate points during development.

Performance and security

What is it? The title speaks for itself! Both of these are absolutely essential aspects to consider as part of your ecommerce project, and both are subject to change over time.

Blueleaf suggests: If your project is part of a cloud-based ecommerce platform, then aspects such as hosting may well be outside of your control. If not though, being certain that regular audits and necessary patches are being carried out by your appointed teams is critical. Staying abreast of security concerns that are reported in the press is good practice too - it never hurts to ask about a recently announced threat and whether it affects your project. You may be surprised by the answer. Regarding performance, again the implementation and development practices and approach used in creating your store matter a great deal, but so does the architecture and technology employed here too. Technologies such as caching, use of CDN (Content Delivery Networks) and an array of other constantly evolving practices can all help to ensure that your site performs well.

In conclusion

Perhaps while reading this article some of the above issues sound familiar, so we hope we’ve given you some food for thought and a place to start when thinking about your website.

Ultimately, effective and regular testing and checking of your online store will go a long way towards not only mitigating all of the above points but also, in always providing customers with an appealing and user-friendly experience, that exceeds their expectations. Testing should be seen as an ongoing process over the lifetime of your website, app, or store, and having the right support to make sure that is feasible is paramount to continued success.