Is Your Website Design Driving Away Your Customers? Some Basic Usability Tips for Commercial Websites

Following my article on Appearance, Usability and Search Engine Friendliness in Web Design where I discussed the importance of looking at the usability and search engine visibility of a website, I have received countless messages from visitors to asking me to review their website. While I do not have time to answer such requests individually, I decided that an article outlining some glaring usability flaws that I have found in a number of websites in general would be helpful. This article thus deals with the myths and fallacies commonly believed when designing a website to sell a product or a service.
Make It Easy for Visitor to Check Your Price List

Some websites try to hide the price list for their products. Some of these sites only display the price of the item after you hit the "Buy" or "Order" button, or worse, only after you have created an account on their site. Others have a price list, but bury the link to the price list somewhere deep in their site in a place not easily accessible from the main page or the products page.

I'm not exactly sure what the reason behind this is. Possibly, they think that if the customer does not see the price until they click the "Buy" or "Order" button, they will be more likely to buy the item. This reasoning is fallacious.

There are many types of visitors arriving at your site. Let's take the case of the window shopper. If they see something noteworthy on your site, they may make a note of the price so that they can return later if they want the item at some point in the future. If the price of the item cannot be easily found on your site, do you seriously think that they will thoroughly search the site just to find that elusive price tag? Or do you suppose that such a visitor will click the "Buy" button, just so that they can find the price tag at the end of the process somewhere? Or will they go through the bother of creating an account, revealing their personal particulars, just to find the price of an item?

Like the serious shopper, if they cannot find the price, they will simply go to another site. Remember: this is not a brick and mortar store we're talking about, where you need to take time and put in effort to travel to another store. On the Internet, your competitor is only a click away. And the search engines are more than happy to yield thousands of other sites selling the same type of goods or services as you. I realise that there are some brick and mortar stores (usually small concerns) who think that if they don't put a price tag, the customer has to find out the price from a sales person, who will then have the opportunity to persuade him/her to buy that item. Whether or not that is a good idea for a brick and mortar store (and I can think offhand of some types of customers that you will lose even there), it is a bad idea for a web store.

No matter how you look at it, every customer and potential customer will need to know the price of a product. Even the corporate customer buying for his/her company works to a budget. Making it difficult for your visitor to find the price list is a quick way to drive a potential customer away. As has been observed by many usability experts - the average Internet user has the attention span of a flea. If they can't find what they want within the first few seconds of glancing at your page, they will leave. And your competitors will be more than happy to attend to them in your place.
Provide Descriptions and Pictures for Your Products

I realise that the new web designer is beset with contradictory advice about how best to design their site. One set of such conflicting advice is the requirement to be brief and to-the-point so that you can catch that Internet visitor who will only give your web page a few seconds glance before deciding whether to stay or go elsewhere. Contradicting that is the requirement that you describe your products in depth and place pictures of your product, or screenshots if yours is a software product.

The best way to resolve this, I think, is to take a leaf from's book. For ev

in reference to: The White House (view on Google Sidewiki)

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