When User Experience Intersects With Business Goals During A Checkout Process: Too Many Buttons Are A Bad Thing

I’m working on an e-commerce project, and we’re trying to streamline how people buy items. There are a few difficult points that we’re dealing with on the site, but one interesting aspects of going through the process that most user experience architects would completely gloss over during their analysis.

We live in a world where it’s great we’re concerned with the user, but more importantly, there’s a business there that has real needs for customer conversion. This puts user experience at odds with business goals: how do you guarantee that people will checkout?

When you walk into a supermarket, you pick up what you need, walk over to the counter, and pay. More often than not, there’s someone behind you, and — you can’t leave. You have to buy that milk and cookies, and if you don’t, you have to return them, interrupting the flow of the purchase process with the person behind you.

In the virtual world, there is no-one behind you, but because of the anonymity of using the web, it’s okay to leave the milk and cookies right there. You never ever see that in the real world.

Buttons during the checkout process give users exits, some of which allow you to leave the milk and cookies right there.

It’s great that they can return to their bag, but by the time they get to the checkout process, they know either what they want to buy, or they’re looking for a shipping price (which is an indication of a user experience that needs review).

I usually remove buttons, and limit their interaction with other parts of the checkout process. Most users will select the back button if they are looking to return to other parts of the checkout process, and that is usually evident in the reports the web analysis tools display. More importantly, you’re reinforcing that they’re in a checkout line, and they should move along. I think we coddle users too much, trying to give them every opportunity to move around, especially if the site we have is based on a business.

That’s one way I resolve business goals that are more important the profitability of a site. What do you do?