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The Five Most Commonly Encountered, Off-putting E-commerce Errors

By Marcia Yudkin
Posted Monday, September 13, 2004

While getting less public handwringing than during holiday season, the abandoned shopping cart problem continues to wreak havoc on online sales. Recently I judged a raftload of sites for the Webby Awards (my second time) and for the Inc. magazine Web Awards, as well as for my own clients. Here are the five irritants and obstacles that most frequently disrupt the visitor's shopping experience at e-commerce sites.

1. Lack of quick orientation for first-time visitors. What does the site sell? I've had to poke around for several minutes sometimes to understand the focus of a site. Jargon is one culprit. Another is lack of context, like an airline site that sells tickets not giving a single clue on the home page in what countries or even what continent it flies.

2. Explanations that don't explain. What does the product do and not do? Another basic, but it happens often that a site doesn't explain whether their "Turbocharge VT27-Plus" is a one-time download, a subscription, a Web-based service or something else. An alternative payment system's site failed to offer a clear, systematic description of how it works.

3. Missing prices and shipping charges. How much? You shouldn't have to put something into a shopping cart or enter your credit card information to learn how much an item costs, including shipping. Unfortunately, you still find this mistake at sites that have had plenty of time to get their act together.

4. Unreadable text. Say what? Creativity gone haywire seems to be the hallmark of some Web designers. Orange letters on a blue background, olive green on black, light gray on white and blue on blue were combinations that sent me packing, as did lettering too small for over-40 eyes.

5. Inconsistencies. Huh? One site says, "To sign up, click on the Sign Up link at the top of every page." But the site does not have any "Sign Up" link, only "Sign In." Such carelessness wastes the time of earnest shoppers and gets them frustrated and fed up, never to return.

Blunders are equally rampant at well-funded corporate sites and those from home-based businesses. The good news is that many of the errors are extremely easy and inexpensive to fix.

About The Author
Marketing guru Marcia Yudkin is the author of Poor Richard's Web Site Marketing Makeover: Improve Your Message and Turn Visitors into Buyers, from Top Floor Publishing (http://www.yudkin.com/mmakeover.htm) and numerous other books on marketing. She recently began offering Web site reviews for just $40 (http://www.yudkin.com/sitereview.htm).
marcia@yudkin.com