Ecommerce Website User Expectations

Wikipedia defines user expectations as the consistency that users expect from products. In terms of ecommerce website design, user expectations are very important because users are known to form expectations based on their experience with similar kinds of websites. In this regard it would make the most sense to design an ecommerce website that was consistent with the prevailing norms that were indicated by research into user behavior. In other words, if your users are used to doing something one way, you should base the experience of your site to mimic that which they are already familiar to give them a sense of comfort and familiarization.

There are many expectations that users may have that can be examined. One of the most prevailing expectations of any website is load speed. In fact, people will visit a website less often if it is slower than a close competitor by more than 250 milliseconds. Fast load times should therefore be the goal of every website. But what are the user expectations of ecommerce websites specifically?

User Expectation Study for Ecommerce Websites

Below we will examine where users expect certain elements of an ecommerce website to be located based on a study done by students at Wichita State University. These aspects include where users expect the following elements:

    • Back to homepage links

    • Advertisement banners

    • Internal Links

    • External Links

    • Shopping Cart

    • Help Link

In the below illustrations, we can see how users interpreted where they believed certain elements of an ecommerce website should be located. The participants were presented with a depiction of a browser window that contained a 7x6 grid of squares. Participants were asked to move tiles that represented each of the corresponding elements (mentioned above) where they expected them to be located on a typical ecommerce web page.

The darker the shade of blue, the greater percentage a particular square was selected.

Figure 1 - Back to Homepage Links 



Figure 1 Above - Back to Homepage Link

Figure 2 Above - Advertising Banners


Figure 3 Above - Internal Links

Figure 4 Above - External Links

Figure 5 Above - Shopping Cart


Figure 6 Above - Help Link

Ecommerce User Expectation Findings

As witnessed from the above illustrations that examined user expectations regarding the placement of common ecommerce web elements we see that there are relatively common expectations as to where these elements should be placed. The consistency in which participants selected the various locations for the six above-mentioned elements underscores the importance of ecommerce website design for user expectations. User expectations are an aspect of internet marketing that also is related to conversion rate optimization. Taking the guesswork out of navigating websites results in more time spent on websites, a decreased bounce-rate, and can ultimately result in more conversions (sales).

Study Review

Based on the above illustrations, we can infer that ecommerce website users expect the following:

  • Back to homepage links be located in the top left

  • Advertisement banners be located at the top of the page

  • Internal links be located on the left sidebar

  • External links be located at the right and left sides of the page

  • Shopping carts be located at the top right of the page

  • Help links be located at the top right of the page

In addition to the above expectations we can also see that the user expectations are similar for users in the four geographic regions that were used in the study – North America, Europe, India and Commonwealth. Perhaps the most indicative aspect of the study is that the participants also revealed that their expectations for the locations of the ecommerce elements were the same as where they would prefer the objects to be located. It is not surprising to see a correlation between expectation and preference as designated in this study.

About the Author

Daniel E. Lofaso is a SEO Consultant and search engine marketer for Digital Elevator. He frequently covers topics on SEO, internet marketing and conversion rate optimization.

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