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The Ultimate Guide to Usability Testing for E-Commerce Websites

Jul 17, 2020
9 min read

As social restrictions prevent businesses from selling products physically, they are going digital to stop their businesses from stagnating. E-commerce websites are increasingly becoming a favorite of most retailers. However, because every business is trying to grow on the digital landscape, competition amongst these websites is extremely high.

This is why business owners desire websites that attract customers and allow them to sell more products. A website’s usability plays a crucial role in facilitating buyers during the purchase. It helps them navigate the website more easily, guiding them throughout the buyer’s journey.

That said, ensuring website usability is not as easy as it seems. Even when developers have a thorough understanding of the buyer’s psychology design and design features that accelerate the buying process, they can fall short. Without extensive usability testing, software teams can never ensure whether a website offers the best experience to its users or not.

However, e-commerce usability testing is slightly different since e-commerce websites are not like typical websites. It requires a lot of input from prospective users and required to push customers towards the end of the sales funnel.

In this article, we will discuss the key steps for performing usability testing for e-commerce websites.

Table of Contents

  1. What Is Website Usability Testing?
  2. Importance of Usability Testing
  3. Different Types of Website Usability Testing
  4. How to Perform Website Usability Testing
  5. Key Features of Usability Testing for E-Commerce Websites
  6. 6 Steps for Usability Testing in E-Commerce Websites
  7. Conclusion
usability testing

What Is Website Usability Testing?

In simple terms, usability is defined as the ease of use of any object. However, in web design, website usability is the ease with which your website visitors can navigate. A website optimized for usability facilitates the visitor in competing whatever goals they wanted o achieve on the website without wasting any time.

Visitors to e-commerce websites are seeking information on the products they want to buy. However, they only care about websites that help them do so as fast and effortlessly as possible. They have little tolerance for slow and complex websites.

Most visitors don’t take more than 10 to 15 seconds to leave a website that doesn’t offer them value. Likewise, if a website takes more than 3 seconds to load, the majority of users don’t bother waiting and switches to a better alternative. This is why ensuring website usability is a critical aspect of interface designing.

Website usability testing is just the process of ensuring that the website has good usability. So testers must ensure that it keeps users longer on the web page and makes them return once they are done with the website.

Importance of Usability Testing

Because most businesses use websites as touchpoints to reach customers, most customers judge websites based on the experience they had online. For e-commerce websites, most of the purchase is done through the online interface.

Therefore, without usability testing, these businesses can face several problems. Poor usability affects how much the website converts leads. It throws prospects away from your products and drives them towards your competitors as a result.

In contrast, implementing usability testing effectively can help you boost customer satisfaction, increase customer retention, improve churn rates, and drive more sales. Therefore, the success of any website online depends a lot on the usability of the website.

usability testing for e-commerce websites

Different Types of Website Usability Testing

We can measure the usability of a website by selecting a bunch of users and assigning them to perform specific tasks. Although the process has much more complex steps, seeing how well easily users can perform a task tells us a lot about the product’s usability.

That said, there are three basic ways you can perform usability testing on your website:

Moderated Testing

Moderated testing is performed under a specific set of conditions and environments. Here a moderator observes the users, guides them, prepares questions, and takes notes. The setting for these kinds of tests is mostly a quiet place, such as a lab where both parties can have a dialogue without interferences.

Moderated Remote Testing

Moderated remote testing is the same as moderated testing in nearly every manner, except that we perform it remotely. Moderators and users are not in the same place, but they still maintain contact on a video call and share screens with each other. There are several software in the market that allow you to conduct moderated remote tests.

Unmoderated Remote Testing

In unmoderated remote testing, users interact with the website in the presence of an online tool. The online tool gives various metrics that help you measure the usability of a certain website. Although it offers a lot of great flexibility to usability testing, these tools cannot replace experienced testers.

How to Perform Website Usability Testing

While there are many web usability testing methods, the following are some of the most diffused techniques:

A/B Testing

In A/B testing, software usability testers evaluate a website’s usability by comparing user experience on two different versions of the same website.

Heat Maps

Also known as “click tracking,” heat maps highlight the areas of the screen where the mouse movement has been the most on the screen.


Surveys are a common technique for gaining the opinion of users or prospective customers regarding a product. They are a quick way to get direct feedback, but offer testers in-depth insight regarding the website’s usability.

Paper Prototyping 

Development teams create paper prototypes to get the general idea of the initial website design. By using paper mockups, developers can test website usability in the development phase. However, this technique only gives developers a minor overview of the design as it doesn’t show the performance of working e-commerce.

Eye Tracking 

Eye tracking shows how well CTAs and different design elements of your website are placed. Specialized software follows the motion of the users’ eyes to see how they navigate through a website.

The 5-Second Usability Test

Most first-time visitors only spend a few seconds on your e-commerce website unless they find it useful. Testers understand this and this is why they apply what’s called a five-second usability test.

In this test, they show to expose the website to users only for five seconds. After that, we will ask the users some questions based on what they remember from the image. Although this kind of feedback won’t give you a detailed analysis of the picture, it can tell you what most people think about your website’s usability after their first glance.

However, you should remember your specific needs before choosing participants for the test. Once you identify your target market, it’s time to define your target audience and start evaluating different usability testing examples.

e-commerce usability testing

Key Features of Usability Testing for E-Commerce Websites

The idea of usability in e-commerce can be a bit abstract for many people. To help you understand website usability more clearly, let us show you key aspects you should focus on to improve e-commerce website usability:

Navigation Usability

You should always remember that bad navigation experience is the primary reason why users bounce back from e-commerce websites. It’s important for visitors to enjoy a seamless and pleasant experience while navigating your website. They shouldn’t encounter dead links and complex selection options.

User Interface

The look and feel of the website adds a lot to the customer experience. You should shape your website’s user interface based on the expected target audience for your products. Moreover, u must ensure that your website design performs well on different devices.

Contents and Graphics

Websites need to strike a balance between graphics and content. The products you display on your e-commerce website need to be clearly visible, whereas the content should be clear and divided with an intuitive logic.

Images and Videos

The human mind is attracted to visuals. If your website has videos and images, users are more likely to engage with your website.

Fast-Loading Web Pages

No one wants to wait when they are out buy products online. Multiple studies have show that users are happy when a website is fast and responsive. This is why even Google accounts for a website’s loading speed when showing people search results for products.

Call-to-Actions (CTA)

CTAs are what drive people to your products. These buttons are so important that paying special attention to them is mandatory. Optimizing CTAs on your e-commerce website is essential for its performance.


Even small web design elements can have a significant impact on your e-commerce website’s usability. This is why testers need to ensure that they use the same headline image for both their official website and social media. Your headlines and your overall web design must be consistent with your brand’s theme. Even minor elements like this can help you provide better customer experience.


Forms are ways to engage with your customers online. Keeping them simple & easy to use can help you maintain a steady line of leads. This is why testing how usable your forms are is an essential part of website usability testing.

Product Information

Similar to headlines, creating clear and efficient product descriptions can help you boost website performance. Seeing how well you place product descriptions along with the pricing is important for ensuring website usability.

6 Steps for Usability Testing in E-Commerce Websites

As long as you have a solid plan supported by clearly written test tasks, you can easily reach your target audience effectively. You can follow the six steps below to perform usability testing for your e-commerce website:

1.   Determine What to Measure

As a starting point, testers have to state their goals of testing. This includes which actions you are evaluating and which part of the website you need to target.

For instance, on an e-commerce website, you may want to test how users will add multiple items in the cart. Is it easy for them to set the prices in their desired currency? Can they choose their preferred payment method without any hassle? Or do want to test how new website design affects user experience?

Whatever your testing goal is, you should evaluate each of them separately. At the same time, you should define each goal clearly so you can measure the test well and analyze the results more effectively.

2.   Identify the Best Method

Choose the method that fits your requirements the best. For e-commerce websites, performing moderated remote testing might be the best way. E-commerce website visitors belong to different groups of people as it allows you to access high-quality with participants from around the world.

3.   Create a Task Scenario and Set Your Success Rate 

Testing scenarios are often similar to those we have listed in the first step. After you set the scenario, you need to set up perimeters to determine your success rate. For instance, if you want to see if users can pick the payment methods they want, you can evaluate whether the website shows payment methods valid for the user’s country.

4.   Find the Participants

Finding the right participants for website usability testing is important for your business. In most cases, five participants are ideal for every testing session. However, this amount can vary depending on the testing method you use and the development stage of the e-commerce website.

In earlier stages, you may use the Hallway Method – where you pick random participants to test the website. That said, as development continues, you have to choose participants that fits well to the user persona and can show you accurate results. A user persona defines the characteristics, needs, and goals of real users, as well as how they interact with your website.

5.   Conduct the Test

During the test, it’s important to be consistent in terms of the order and task. Even when you are testing unmoderated remote users, giving them clear and concise instructions is important.

6.   Analyze and Report Your Findings

Based on the type of testing you used, you can summarize your results and organize reports. You can create a customer journey map that defines how customers engage and interact with your website. These user stories give you deeper insights into the customer’s behavior and let your team create websites with better usability.


Usability testing has a significant impact on the performance and success of your e-commerce website. Good usability motivates visitors to engage with your products and helps your e-commerce business grow. 

However, identifying critical problems with the website’s usability is not easy. Unless you have proper training and knowledge, resolving underlying usability issues can be hard.

PFLB is a testing service dedicated to ensuring the best software quality for e-commerce websites, mobile applications, enterprise apps, microservices, as well as other web technologies. We have served over 500 companies across a wide variety of domains that range from retail and technology to finance and healthcare. 

With years of experience at our disposal, our testers have learned how to employ smoke testing strategically. Our in-depth knowledge of various testing procedures helps us find hidden issues in different components of the software and deliver the best solution for your business. 

Besides Test Automation, the company has expertise in other core software testing services, such as Performance Testing, Mobile Testing, Integration Testing, Usability Testing, and much more.

To learn more about the company feel free to visit our website at PFLB.

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