Does User Experience Really Matter For An Online Storefront?

"If you're buying a domain name at GoDaddy, you want to smash your head, like finding a domain, seeing if it's available, putting your cards like, wow, that was easy. Then this is like ... they just puke puke offers on you, to the point where you're like, I don't even ... I think I just bought an email server. I'm not sure."


Beyond the Cart Lightburn Podcast - Ecommerce
Graphic representation of whether user experience matters for an online storefront.

EPISODE 07: Does user experience really matter for an online storefront?

Today, in episode seven, we're digging deep into the transactional experiences related to user design. We'll share some of our pet peeves and quick wins you can take action on today. Join hosts Andy and Nora as they welcome our first guest, Lightburn's lead UX/UI designer, Caitlin Mackay to discuss user design and online experiences for your ecommerce website or application. 

Today’s Topics:

  • Qualitative & Quantitative Metrics
  • Identifying User Experience (UX) Issues
  • The Mobile Versus Desktop Experience
  • The Necessity of Form & Function
  • Checkout Through Delivery & Support
  • Data Security Certificates
  • Optimizing for Mobile
  • Shipping & Tracking
  • Communication, Communication, Communication
  • But Wait, Don’t Let Your Upselling Get Irritating
  • Tools of The Trade, Mapping It All Out
  • Investing In A Site Rebuild, Redesign, or Remodel?
  • Bringing the In-store Experience Online


The following is a transcript of the cross-conversation streaming in the above media: 

If you're buying a domain name at GoDaddy, you want to smash your head, like finding a domain, seeing if it's available, putting your cards like, wow, that was easy. Then this is like ... Yeah. Andy, I would say ...  Puke, they just puke offers on you, to the point where you're like, I don't even ... I think I just bought an email server. I'm not sure.

Today, we're very excited to have our first guest on. We've got Caitlin Mackey, who is our lead UX/UI designer. Caitlin, welcome to Beyond the Cart. Hi, thank you so much. Do you want to tell everyone just a little bit about your background?

Yeah, absolutely. As Nora said, I am the lead UX/UI designer at Lightburn. Typically, I work in programs like Adobe XD and Figma and Sketch. At Lightburn, we use Adobe XD. I create all of the visual components that go into online experiences, whether that's an application or a website. Also, what we're talking about, specifically today, is that user experience portion that involves guiding somebody through that online digital experience and making sure that it is a high-quality process that isn't confusing to anybody.

Thank you. We are super excited to have you here. Because Andy and I could go on and on on this topic, especially when we start getting into bad UX. We both have our rants, I think. We really wanted to have somebody who, day in and out, is thinking about users and is really surfacing that empathetic approach to user experience. Feel free, if you disagree with something that we say, I think Andy and I have definitely disagreed on these topics sometimes. We're excited to have you here to either call us out or reinforce some of these important things that we're going to be talking about. Great.

Ecommerce really does surface a lot of instances of somewhat conflicting goals. I think there's lots of ways that you can create good UX around those business goals. How do you figure out if you have a bad user experience? How do you know? Well, right, yeah, that's a good question. Because it's very subjective in my opinion.

Tracking qualitative and quantitative metrics

If you aren't making sales, that's a good sign. If you're not selling as much stuff as you want to, you might have a problem, you might also have a price problem, you might have a shipping problem, who knows? What do you think? I can think of a few really high-level quick ways to identify possible UX problems in an eCommerce site? One would be you could look at your Google Analytics and see what your conversions are looking like, right?

Conversions is interesting to me. Because if you look at that as a sign of user experience, I think it could be misleading. Say you had a 4% conversion rate, which is pretty good for eCommerce across all industries, but maybe you could have a 6%. I think you have to have a benchmark for conversion rates as an indicator of good or bad user experience.

Yeah. I think if we're talking about benchmarks, Andy, you made the comment that UX can be subjective. I would push back on that a little bit. I think there is an international organization for standardization. They define usability as the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specific goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use. That's a pretty tight definition of what something needs to accomplish to be usable. Then within that, you're thinking about four main things, your users, goals, context, and satisfaction.

All of those things play into being able to measure whether or not you have qualities or experience. If you're thinking about your users, is the product serving the people that you are trying to serve, the goals? Are they able to accomplish the things that they want to on your site? Can they check out? Can they find the things that they need to find? Then there are really great ways to measure these things using both qualitative and quantitative metrics. Obviously, qualitative being doing user surveys and understanding of people are actually feeling good about the site.

Are they satisfied? There are different kinds of surveys that you can put out to analyze that information. Then you've got your quantitative metrics that are like that task success rate, task completion time, the conversion rate that you mentioned. All of those things are KPIs that you can measure in different ways. Setting reasonable goals for your site or goals that are targeted towards what you're trying to accomplish, it's going to be really important when starting to do that more minute evaluation. I do think that because you can measure things like that and set those SMART goals, that it take some of that subjectivity out of it and it becomes pretty objective.

Identifying possible user experience issues

Yeah, that's a good point. I'm curious to know, Caitlin, from you, because we haven't really had a chance together to dig into this too much. If you were set loose on a new client that has a current eCommerce site and we're deciding what to do with it, what would be your top couple of things that you would want to do right away that could quickly give us a sense of, are things in decent shape? Are we in crisis mode? What would you want to look at from a UX perspective first?

I think I would want to really figure out how are people engaging with the site in the ecommerce setting? How many times are they checking out? Are people abandoning baskets? If they're not actually completing the purchase, why is that? I think that's going to be something really important to define. What is the bounce rate from the site? How often are people leaving? If people are clicking on an ad to your site and then they get there and are immediately leaving, that's going to be a red flag. I think those are some of the things that I would look at first.                       

Yeah. I guess I would weigh in on that even before you look at conversion rates and bounce rates. We have this happen all the time. Client will come to us and be like, "Hey, we want to grow." The very first thing I always do, if it's an existing site is like, where is the traffic coming from? Caitlin, we just had this situation where it's like, they had really low conversion rates, high bounce rates. Then I realized whoever was running their digital marketing was just sending gobs of bullshit garbage traffic. It's like, well, that skews the metric completely.

Yeah. They were bogus. It was legitimate traffic, but it was clearly some sort of click farm, really bad, poorly selected keywords on some of their Google campaign. It was like, yeah, your traffic numbers are growing. They're awesome, but your conversion rate is garbage. Well, it's not actually as bad. Because if you exclude that segment of traffic, which we've decided, concluded was really not good traffic. What's the conversion rate there? I think analytics is great. I guess my point with that is analytics is awesome. I agree with both of you that analytics is a starting point.

You got to be careful to make sure if you know that the traffic you're sending to the site is actually that user you're trying to convert and not just traffic per traffic sake. Yeah, then the metrics are perfect.

That's a great point. I think it all comes back to this layering in of fact finding. I had somebody once compare it to like being a private investigator or a detective and like a crime show has the big board of suspects. You've got all these strings and connectors and stuff. You can't do this process necessarily in a super linear way because you might start looking at conversion rates and then you realize, oh, now I have to go back to the traffic sources. Now I have to go to the ads themselves and see what quality those are. Now I have to look at some other data entirely.

It isn't always a linear process. You're circling through all of these tools that you would use, which can seem overwhelming when we're used to doing this every day. For a client of ours or somebody who's embarking on this on their own, that sounds like a lot. You may ask like, is it okay to let some bad UX through? Is it okay to let it ride? I would argue, no, it isn't. Loyalty is not necessarily going to get you through. If you think you have loyal customers, they may not be as loyal as you think, especially in eCommerce. I was looking at some statistics. One in particular really stood out to me, was that mobile payments are going to pass the 50% milestone by 2026 in most markets. We ... Say that again, mobile payments will outpay. Meaning? Mobile payment will outpay, yeah. Users on a phone.

Considering the mobile versus desktop experience

The behavior that a person has on a phone is going to be different than their desktop behavior in some cases, and the circumstances in which someone is looking at something on their phone. There are tons of data around... Depending on the market, there are tons of people who are doing most of their eCommerce shopping on a mobile device. The behavior, the distractions when you're on a mobile device can really derail things. Having great UX is instrumental in getting past those things that you don't control when someone's on a mobile device. We all know what that looks like.

Nora, and you don't have to say what you bought, unless it's something fun, but either way. Caitlin too, your last purchase you made online, maybe that was this morning, yesterday, whatever. Where did you guys do that? Ooh, last purchase online. Okay. Oh man. My last purchase online was ... This is a great example where I powered through some bad UX. I registered my kid for a ... I have a story on that too. ... summer camp that I knew I wanted them to go to. It had come under a recommendation from someone else. It was finally available. I went to my desktop because I knew that they weren't going to have a good mobile experience, just because it's a small organization, like an arts organization here in town. I ...

Size matters? You can't. It's a small art company essentially. I didn't have trust. I went to my desktop. I actually had to go ... I ended up having to checkout using PayPal. Because when I tried using my credit card, something went funky. I put up with a lot of negativity in the experience, to be honest. I'd enter my kids name three times, same data over and over. How many people are they losing who aren't willing to go through that? I don't know.

It was on desktop because you knew the mobile device experience is going to be bad. Which, to me, that's an interesting ... I was going to mention this earlier. I think good brands, people are willing to put up with some bullshit if they really want something. I think a lot of people get away with bad UX, because they either have a good brand or they have something that you're willing to muscle your way. It's brutal. Yeah, but I ...

I have an example of that. I have been looking for a puppy recently. I've been finding. I've been adopted animals all my life, but I've been looking for a breeder. I think every single dog breeder out there uses the same template from the '90s. Holy smokes, it is so hard to find anything. As soon as you want to go back, you just have to surf through all this weird text and things that are in giant letters and underlined and italicized. It's so hard to navigate. There are puppies that are animated that are running across the screen and this really like ... Oh, man, what was the flash animation?

Now are you ... I mean, it's really a time capsule, but ... Are you on a mobile device when you're doing this? I would never try to use one of those sites in a mobile device. That's an interesting thing with user experience, because it's like, they're a breeder. I don't know how many puppies a breeder produces, that sounds weird. Should they even invest in user experience? Those things are going to be sold no matter what. They are.

It's like, you can put $10,000 in the UX or build a Wix site. That is awful experience. You still win. I do struggle with that, too, a little bit. Because sometimes it's just like, who cares? Doesn't really matter.  Well, yeah. Because you're going to go through it no matter what. I would ... I think those are fewer far between. They have a product that is highly desirable. Sure. That being said, I will also…

I will also make the note though, that 98% of the websites look like that. There isn't a whole lot of competition happening between websites. I did see maybe one or two that had a significantly better user experience. I'll admit that I was more attracted to them, because they looked more put together and professional. I felt like when I went to their site, that the content was updated recently. I felt like if I was to reach out to them through like a contact form, that it was more reliable, that I would hear back.

I'm sure that's maybe some intrinsic bias that's happening, where it looks more professional, so therefore, I assume it's more professional. It didn't stop me from reaching out to these other places that had this kind of time capsule look from the days of the internet long past. I think in realms where you're competing against Amazon, these breeders aren't competing against Amazon essentially. For ...

That's an excellent point... pretty much every other person out there that is trying to sell something online, if they're up against Amazon, they've got to bring it when it comes to UX. Because 9 times out of 10, somebody is just going to say, I'll just get it on Amazon. If you want to compete, you have to compete with Amazon.

The necessity of form and function for your retail store 

Yeah. I personally believe, especially with eCommerce. Amazon has set the bar, not just for digital ... I mean, I guess it is digital. Maybe not all. They're a user experience company, right? I mean, they figured out nobody wants to wait around for UPS that doesn't work on the weekend. Hey, we'll deliver on the weekends. People hate paying for shipping. They basically convinced us all the pre-pay for shipping, which is still brilliant. If you look at their site, Amazon is not going to win any traditional design awards.

No. Having a good user experience... isn't necessarily about having a flashy design. Right. I do think and that's where it's subjective, because you can sit down with a designer and they just design this gorgeous page. It's like, that is awesome if you didn't have to use it. If there was a poster that I can look at and it was eye candy, awesome. I think we see this with our competitors as Lightburn all the time. They're like, yeah, that design is super sexy, but it doesn't work. That's where our philosophy of function over form.

No. It's function and form. Well, right. Good point. I should [crosstalk 00:25:34]. We want things to look really good, but we want them to work even better. If we had to pick one or the other, we always pick function. Yeah, I think that's fair. For an online user experience, it has to work. If it doesn't allow the person to do what they need to do, it's failing, unless that's the point, which would be weird, but that one. That would be weird. Tricky.

Let's go back. How do you think Amazon or ... That's where I struggle a little bit, even though we have the analytics and we have tools like FullStory, which we can actually ... To me, FullStory is probably the best tool I've ever used. Measuring UX, that's why it's so subjective. I wish there was just a standard. You walk the standards before.

What Caitlin is saying there are ... Even those are subjective. Well, the standard is, people have to be satisfied. Well, that's subjective too. Commercial rates are subjective, because you might have 4%, but you could have 7%. You might have 3%, but in your industry, the average is 1%. 

I think what I'm hearing from you is that it's not fixed, not necessarily that it's subjective. In that you can measure all of what we're talking about and you can put a stake in the ground and then correct or attempt to improve. Then you can measure again, and that's ... In my mind, when you say subjective, I think about like, do I like the way it looks? Does one individual think it's good?

User experience also means check out, delivery, and support

I think there's more to that though. There's like a feeling, I don't know what the word is. People like, when you place an order on Amazon and it's going to be here tomorrow, and it's 11:00 p.m., you're like, at 9:00 a.m. it's put on your doorstep. You're like, the checkout process was whatever. To me, user experience is, especially with eCommerce continues well past the time you say, place order. It goes all the way through delivery. 

I think there's a lot to look at with UX. There's the user interface experience, which we deal with every day. To me, there's going beyond the cart. There's all those things. When you call, and I've never called Amazon, but you call somebody, Shopify is a great example of this, it blows my mind that you could pick up the phone and call Shopify, their 800 number, and some dude literally answers the phone like a human every time. It's like, how is that possible? They have like a million customers, and they still answer the phone with a human. Maybe that's changed in the last few months, but I don't think it has. To me, that's part of the user experience.

Of being a Shopify customer like ... Of being a Shopify customer, yeah. Yeah. I mean, you can have ... Oftentimes, when we talk about user experience or when people hear UX being thrown around, they immediately think digital. Even grocery stores, there's a user experience. Or in that case, I guess, a customer experience too of going to check out at a grocery store from the moment that you walk in the door, from finding the different things that you're looking for. Typically, you've got the produce on the outside, and then you've got the dairy and meat around the perimeter as well.

Then you've got a lot of dried products on the inside, and then your checkout at the end of that maze. Imagine going into a grocery store where everything was just everywhere, like that experience would be horrible. You wouldn't be able to find anything. Imagine running into a dead end where then you connect and get to the checkout. That would be a horrible user experience. I think that the term can apply to anything. I think that it does take some of the subjectivity out of it when you're trying to design for a large population. There are some standards that people come to expect.

You have created an excellent segue, Caitlin, to something that I wanted to talk about, which is just some low-hanging fruit.

Don't forget about data security certificates

Know that a lot of sites are still not getting right, that are like we don't have to check conversion rates. We don't need to do surveys to understand that we'd be making improvements if we did these things. One of the first things I wanted to talk about was security. A secure checkout process is something that is obviously in the best interest of a user so that their information is secure but it's also a huge red flag as someone enters the site. We still see sites today that do not have a security certificate across the entire site, despite the fact that that ... I mean, I don't remember when that switch happened, Andy, back when I first started doing eCommerce. The goal was that you would only add the security certificate to pages where it was needed. The rest of the site was not secure and that was intentional at one point and then that changed.

Yeah. I mean 20 years ago when we first started building sites, if you ran SSL across the whole site, it just bog the whole site down. SSL, historically, was to encrypt the page back and forth between the browser, takes some overhead. The whole site was slower. Now it's so negligible because computing powers up so much that it just makes sense to run out of site.

That's one of the first things that someone who's running an eCommerce site, especially if it's a few years old, should be looking at. If your entire site is not secure, that is a major issue. That's going to turn people away as it should.

That's a huge red flag for Google too. I mean, Google, organic ranking, SEO purposes expects. I mean, that is just the ... It was a luxury, now it's like airbags. That was a luxury once upon a time, now they're standard. Same with SSL.

I think that's one thing that I hope most people who would be listening to this have already taken care of. You'd be surprised. 

Be sure to optimize for the mobile experience

The next one is optimizing for mobile. That is still something that we see a lot of people not fully embracing. There is cost associated if you have an older site. Do not bank on the fact that people are going to run over to their desktop like I did or like Caitlin did for her puppy. Probably, our product is not as scarce an item as Caitlin's puppy is. You really got to meet people where they are and make sure that that mobile experience is just as good, if not, better than the desktop.

Here's a question for you. I don't know. I forget how many years ago. Mobile wasn't around. We built desktop sites, and then you started building M dot sites that were mobile specific, different code base typically, then responsive methodology really took hold and that's been the standard ever since. Do you guys think responsive is still the best approach? Because I feel like we're constantly ... Mobile devices are changing. We're having frontend developers make all these changes, so that the mobile experience is different.

It'd be interesting to talk to a frontend developer and if it's easier ... I mean, I'm guessing it's still quicker, faster, less expensive for us to build responsive and then make those tweaks. That's just something I've been noodling like, have we gotten to a point where now it's the needs of the user on a mobile device are so much different than desktop? Then you're constantly making style sheet changes and all this stuff. Is it worth it?

I would argue that what I've ... I mean ... seen is that desktop is sometimes sacrificed. You see that the desktop experience is not optimized. Because the mobile experience is? The mobile experience is the focus. Interesting. I don't think we do that. I don't think we compromise that. I have absolutely seen it where I go to a site on desktop and I know absolutely that no one cared what I, as a desktop user, experienced that was all mobile.

Yeah. Another trend that I see is you go to a website online on your desktop and you see something and then you go to that same website online on your phone and you get a big banner at the top that says download our app. I think that is probably the direction that it's moving in more so, so that you have app centric shopping experiences on your mobile devices. Designers reserved for web pages on desktop.

Which Target, absolutely, they can do that and will download their app. Some random leggings website, no, I'm not downloading an app [crosstalk 00:36:34]. Right, something that you maybe make a purchase from once a year, you're not going to have an app. Right.

Well, I would argue that it's the right decision to not only go mobile first, but maybe even mobile only if your marketing strategy is influencers on social media, Instagram, and that's how you're getting your audience. You look at the demographics, it might make sense. I mean, I don't know how many brands my only experience of them is on a mobile device. I think it is looking at your user base, your audience, and letting them tell you where you should invest your time.

Yeah. It's interesting. The exact opposite of that is mobile ... Like Robin Hood, the stock trading platform started as an app. They literally didn't even have a website other than an informational website. Their app is, obviously, continually improving. What I've noticed with them is their desktop experience is improving much faster. It's interesting to see if like ... I would be curious to see their stats. Are they getting more and more users or actually just using a full ... With all the charts and all the stuff that you can look at, have they seen a huge uptick in desktop users?

Because, almost exclusively, I'll look at my portfolio on the app here and there. Anytime I make a trade or I'm doing research, it's always on my desktop. It's interesting. To your point, I think you have to know your user. Yeah, I think that's exactly right. So...

Exceptional experience for shipping and tracking

Speaking of user experience and improvement, ordered Bilberry West. We ordered some machinery, which is started in show up and it's just like, literally, huge piece of machinery that is broken up across dozens and dozens of boxes, all being delivered by UPS for the most part, which is cool. I don't have to schedule liftgate or anything like that. We got a shipment. It was the first shipment that we got, which is over a month ago now, was three boxes. Two of them showed up, one went missing. UPS has been sending me emails, hey, here's the tracking number.

The company we bought it must have put my email address in there, which has triggered these UPS emails, I'm assuming. I got tracking emails. One, th ey have one shipment coming to one email address and they send me three emails. They sent me one email per tracking number, which I thought was annoying, because I've had another shipment that had like 20 plus ... Is ... packages. I got like, all of a sudden, one day, my email was like, boom! To me, that was a horrible user experience, not quite ...

Were those emails from UPS you're saying? Yeah. UPS was ... Yeah. There's a disconnect between UPS, the way that they're organizing that. Yeah, they're ... They aren't paying attention to you as a recipient. Literally sending me one email per box, even though the label on the boxes, as they start to show up, said 10 of 22. They know that that is a group. Anyways, so that was annoying, but you get over it. It's not that big of a deal. You get 25 emails instead of 1. What was more user experience annoying? On that first ship, and we got three, it was coming in three boxes, two of them showed up, great, got them. One has gone missing. Over a month, it's been missing. UPS still says it's in transit if you look at their website. They can reach out to me ... Lies.

... and be like, hey, your package was delivered. Hey, it's on its way. They can't reach out and be like, hey, we fucked up and we can't find this one. What can we do to make it right? If I never would have reported it, it would just be where in forever. It was heartbreaking that they would just be like, yeah, we lost it. We're not going to do anything proactively about it.

I feel like that is a great example of putting the business need in front of the user.On the digital side, if you track that package, it just says it's in transit. To me, that's a bad user experience. It doesn't say, hey, it's been in transit for 32 days, probably never going to make it there. We don't know what happened. Give us a call. Or how can we ... I know ... There's an opportunity that that situation created that their site does not support.

Communication, communication, communication

Yeah. I would put that in the low-hanging fruit area, is to look at your communication and see if you can streamline that and give more power to your end user to define what level of communication they want. Well, I think one way to find a ton of low-hanging fruit, this is actually a practical actionable thing that I am always dumbfounded more people don't do. I know what you're going to say. Is they don't even ... It is shocking when you talk to a client that comes to you and says, hey, we want to fix our eCommerce site. Okay, cool. What do you guys want to do? They have some ideas. Then you ask them, have you ever actually used your own site? Oh, why would I do that? I don't like ... It, to me, take 10 minutes, if you have an eCommerce site, literally, go buy something from yourself all the way through shipping like a secret shopper. I guarantee you will find at least something to fix.

I will add to that too, depending on what your stats are, do it on a mobile device. I think we have lots of clients who are only looking at their sites at work. They're never experiencing it on a mobile device. That's one of the things that you always advocate for, Andy, that I love, because it's so simple, is make sure that you're ... Yeah, it doesn't cost you anything. Make sure that you are ... Well, credit cards, whatever.

Well, you can cancel that, I hope, if it's your business that you have a line to get a refund. That's a very simple thing to keep an eye on that I think a lot of people miss. It doesn't cost anything. You don't have to get a user group together. At a bare minimum, use your own site on a regular basis. Another thing that I think a lot of eCommerce sites miss is clear calls to action. 

Are you actually telling people what you want them to do? I think a great example of where that using your own site can come into play. Because you'd be surprised how often you've got a great, lovely banner image on an eCommerce site and it isn't actually driving you to the thing that the person might want to buy next, or using language on buttons that isn't clear about what you're going to see next. Submit. Put it there. Yes.

I think something that happens, even before people get onto your site, is how long the site might take to load. If that site is taking more than three seconds to load, there's like 40% of users that will just leave right away. If you increase that loading speed, it can really, really serve you well. Then once that person is on your homepage, making sure, like, Nora, what you said, there are clear call to action that the homepage is organized and using really clear hierarchy, so that people focus on what you want them to focus on. Then when they get into the navigation, that that navigation is streamlined, and again, organized with that hierarchy is so important, so that people can get into the site quickly with that slow or with that fast-loading speed, and then find what they want quickly with organized navigation.

Yeah, that's a great example of where the programming and how your server is set up can influence user experience. We forget every piece of your digital space, a backend developer who's optimizing a server, is it impacting user experience? I saw something that ... It was this startling statistic that some eCommerce company saw an increase in conversions just by changing the language of a button from register to continue. Wow. That's all it took to keep some key people moving forward in the process. Didn't change the process at all, just changed the label. Those can be easy things to improve and reduce friction for people. It's clearing a path so that they can get to the end of actually making a purchase as quickly as possible.

But wait, don't let your upselling become irritating

What do you guys think of eCommerce sites, if you've ever experienced? Curious your opinion on eCommerce sites that you're there, you found the product, it's been a great experience, put in your cart, you're ready to checkout, and then they start hitting you with offers, add this on, add a warranty, add blah, blah, blah. GoDaddy, which is ...When I'm in the cart? Yeah, cart through checkout. They keep trying to upsell you. Which, on one hand, as a sales guy, I'm like, well, yeah, you got to do that. Then on the other hand, I'm like, it often results in my ... Well.

If you're buying a domain name at GoDaddy, you want to smash your head, like finding a domain, seeing if it's available, putting your cards like, wow, that was easy. Then this is like ... Yeah. Andy, I would say ...  Puke, they just puke offers on you, to the point where you're like, I don't even ... I think I just bought an email server. I'm not sure.

I think that's a great example of a GoDaddy has some market share. They have some confidence in the choices they're making. Then also, they're not making money off of that, domain registration.

Yeah, right. Domain that really lost leaders, I get it. I mean ...It's a lost leader. I think most eCommerce should not do that. That is a bad decision in most situation. You hold just that. Have you guys ever rented a U-Haul using their eCommerce? No. I mean, members of my family have. Oh, highly, highly recommend it, especially with the contactless. U-Haul is such a ... Kudos to them and whoever is building that. You rent a truck, you pick your location, they do upsell you, but it's reasonable like, hey, do you need moving blankets?

Well ... They're like ... that's thoughtful upselling. I think that's the difference. Yes, it's very thoughtful upselling. Then they've even, since COVID, taken a ... They had these boxes. Before I bought a truck, I used to rent pickup trucks a lot. I have probably once a month, I was renting from U-Haul for something. I had a lot of experience. That's a sign you need to buy a truck maybe.    

Yeah. I ultimately just bought a truck. I just thought that was awesome with COVID. You can rent it. They'll give you this code. They use geofencing. They know that you're actually at the location. They'll send you this code once you actually get there and it unlocks like a lockbox for the key and you're gone. You can ... That's cool.

It's the best, because you can just do it. You don't have to sit there and wait for some cashier dude that's also getting 17 phone calls from people checking availability. It's like awesome. It's just the best experience. I think, to me, that's a good example. More and more companies need to look at the full experience. Not just what we do at Lightburn, which is the digital part, but all that other stuff.    

Yeah, absolutely. U-Haul, before it was good and it went to phenomenal, in my opinion, once they had the totally contactless, grab your key. I think it would be really interesting to understand who was advocating for that within U-Haul. I bet you could find a similar company that isn't doing that because of who's making decisions internally and how do they decide that that's worth it to them to invest in the infrastructure that's needed to do something like that. I think it gets into the core of the business if how user focused you are and how forward thinking you are about it.

Top tools of the trade and how to map it all out

Let's talk a little bit about tools of the trade. We already talked about Google Analytics. Andy, you mentioned FullStory. That's something that's actually recording individual sessions that you can look at and you can segment based on ... They have a concept of rage clicking that you can track by, which is really interesting. You can see frustration points. Hotjar is another one that we use that will give you heat maps of where people are spending their time. is something that we use a lot for more of that qualitative individual user sessions that you can record and the people on them, you can just sort by demographics.

What is your guys' opinion on I know a lot of people signed up. I love it. Do you? Yeah. I just feel like, yeah, it's a side hustle for a lot of people. They're trying to get these gigs.Well ...I don't think it's as good as talking to real past or present users, but ... Well, one thing that you can do with it, Andy, is that you can actually invite people to it. Can you? Okay.

You don't have to just use ... Yeah, absolutely. That's another way. There are other tools besides that do similar. Individual sessions will tell you a different story than just looking at analytics without commentary. I think that's really important. With all these tools, where do you start? I think, Caitlin, you may have some good perspective on that. Sure. I want to take it back to like square one a little bit here. Yeah, definitely.

You're thinking about whether or not you're hitting the mark of if your product can be used by the people that are your target audience, if they're able to achieve the goals that they want to achieve on that site. When you're doing that, you really need to be in touch with who your audience is. Like, who are your users? What do they want to accomplish? What pain points do they currently have in that overall user experience of, in this case, finding an item, weighing the options of if they want that or if they want something from another site or if they want to go to Target and browse?

They've finally come back to your site, and they've either checked out and bought the item or not. One method that I really like, if you do have the luxury of talking with your users is creating that journey map or you could even create one fictionalize it. It's a map that goes through the entire experience of that first moment of that trigger to decide that you want to buy something, to going to the site, to navigating through the site, to ... Do they have to register? Do they have to create an account? What is that process entail?

Do they have the buttons that they need on the site to be able to do that? Can they access them? Are they big enough? There are all these different questions that you need to ask to make sure that the site is usable and that at the end, that they are getting the result that they want. You can create this whole map that goes peaks and valleys or highs and lows and shows almost topographical view of that user's experience of your site.

That's a really great way to get this emotional look at your users and really create that empathy with them and understand their journey through that process. Then once you have that, it's great to create a user flow and make sure that that journey makes sense from every angle. I talked a little bit about a grocery store earlier. You wouldn't want somebody to walk into your grocery store and then all of a sudden get stuck and have to leave the grocery store in order to get back in and go all the way around and finally check out. That would be a horrible experience.

Nobody would ever go grocery shopping. I think this process is really using some building blocks, some pencil and a paper. There's lots of online tools, both free and paid, so that you can create a user flow and make sure that people can navigate through your site from every different angle, whether they get an error or they haven't submitted something correctly. That all of those minor snafus that people run into, I call that the sad path, it's not always going to be the person that takes that happy path through your site.

You have to consider what's going to happen if they abandon the cart, what's going to happen if they want to build a wish list and then add things from that wish list to the cart. What is that flow like? You want it to be seamless and to make sense. Then from there, it's great to start brainstorming with your team or by yourself. Eventually, you get into some wireframing. That's really when you set that visual hierarchy. Hierarchy on your website is so important. People need to be able to find the things that they want to find the most, fastest and easiest.

There's lots of different wireframing tools you can use. They're online. There's free ones. The best, I think, is to start with a pencil and a paper, where you can just sketch your ideas out really quickly. From there, you just get into like the nitty-gritty of making sure that UI elements are usable and human interface guidelines and the material guidelines by Google are great, and that's Apple and Google respectively. Eventually, once the site is built, just making sure that you are doing as much user testing as you can.

A lot of times, you might be considered a user if you're building a site for a snack company. I eat snacks, I like to buy food online. I'm going to consider myself a user. Nora, like you said, take yourself through the experience of using the site and think about it from the perspective of somebody that's using it for the first time. Try to do multiple different things. If you can't do user testing, you can always have your friend do it or a coworker go through it.

Unless you're in a really, really niche market, creating something that's very highly specialized for a certain group of people. Chances are, you can find somebody to cut around on your site and get some feedback to you. I think, eventually, once you're trying to analyze that user experience and if things are going well, you want to set some KPIs and just keep track of them. That's my general process.

Investing in your website: Rebuild or redesign?

I ... One thing I would add to that, I think a lot of people are like, our site is broken, we got to blow it up. I sometimes agree with that. Because like you said, the puppy site probably should be blown up, start over. I think just like our home, you buy a house, you'd like your house, but, one, the bathroom over time gets dated. You can fix that. You don't have to tear down the whole house to build a new bathroom. I think a lot of ... There's a huge opportunity for organizations that have a site that maybe have minimal budget or even just time to make incremental.

We're big advocates, I'm a huge advocate of incremental improvements over blow it up, start over. Obviously, if it doesn't exist, like Bilberry, we're creating that experience from scratch. We will immediately go into continual improvement. I know we're not going to get everything right day one. Well, of course, we're going to get it right, right? What are your guys' thought? If I said, hey, I got the site, I have 5000. That's all I have. $5,000 for you guys to do your magic. Where would you to say, let's go. What would you guys do first?

Oh gosh. If we're wanting to make those incremental gains, I think understanding where the flow has the most friction and then zoning in on those elements. Yeah, the beautiful thing about design is that it's incredibly iterative. I think the first thing I would look at would be navigation. If your navigation is shut, the website is shut. If people can't get to where they need to go, that is going to be a huge problem. That's not just in the literal sense, but if the navigation is confusing or is not getting you the results that you want, if you're having to hunt for things, that's going to be a problem. I think that's probably the first thing that I would look at, is the navigation.

Yeah. The other couple things I would look at that aren't necessarily going to break the bank would be just help pages, clear shipping rules, clear returns, privacy Information, making sure that those are easy to access, doesn't take a lot of effort. It can be really important for people to feel confident in a purchase. I'd look at mobile. I'd look at security. I'd also look at if you had registration that was impacting the ability to check out, I would advocate strongly for removing that and allowing guest checkout, if possible. I think that's a huge sticking point for a lot of users as well, which is a little narrow. I think that happens a lot, that registration gets in the way of people completing a purchase.

Yeah. My answer to that would be, I like the navigation thing. We've seen some pretty big quick wins with some simple navigation changes. I would even, if I had a small budget, want to see what I could do with it, I would put it all in the performance. That's a good point, yeah, like just ... That's where I ...... speed everything up. Yeah, it's just amazing ... how many people come to us and their sites aren't ranking well ... Yeah, that's ... or converting well. To Caitlin's point earlier, you get those really bogged down pages, especially on mobile. Then you look at it as a developer, you're like, well, because it's a WordPress site and you have 47 plugins, and they all have 32 JavaScripts.

Then that's when we rebuild things. Rebuild on every page. You have literally 700 JavaScripts loading. Oh, and your images are 20 megs a piece. I think, really, just this little conversation is why you need a few different perspectives in the room when you're deciding. Because I completely agree with you, that you focus on speed. That's one of the first places that you could make improvements that have real impact in a number of ways. Caitlin, as a designer, might find something that's really important as well and might take less time. You got to get some different disciplines together to bargain for that budget. You got to rank it for value.

You could spend about $5000 on just designing a homepage, and that gets you nowhere, or not as far as some of these other things we've talked about. Yeah. We've done that too when we do audits, UX audits or just site audits. We'll outline everything that we found, give them ranking in terms of ... Then pick them off.

Which I think is a great approach too. Yeah. I would add like every dollar ... All Amazon did, I mean, is improved the user experience of a big box. I mean, that's very basic. Obviously, there's a lot to Amazon. I just take a step back and it's like, geez, all they did was make going into Walmart easier, way better.

How to bring the in-store experience online

Yeah, yeah. Andy, to that point, I think about the online shopping experience is, for a lot of people, replacing that shopping experience of like going into a store. I have this very fond memory of going into a Nordstrom's for the first time, just a few years ago at the mall. It is a beautiful store. Walking in is such an experience. The way that the store is designed, and the different displays are set up, are created purposefully to engage with the customer in that moment in time.

The displays of clothes that are ... If it's summer, the clothes are summer clothes, the shoes are summer shoes. People are seeing things that they want because they apply to them in that place and time. I think that same approach applies to an online experience. Even when walking into Nordstrom, there's a certain smell that you are surrounded by. I think the more that you can bring those interactions into an online experience, the more successful you're going to be. I think we see those a lot too in micro interactions on Spotify. If you press the like button, there's hearts that explode. I think those little moments of joy and delight are really important in such a static world or a world that can be so static, if you don't pay close attention to making it enjoyable.

I think that's such a lovely thought, Caitlin. Thanks. I think it really sums up the power of user experience too and how much it can influence, not only purchasing decisions, but longer brand experience and loyalty. When I think about the takeaways from this conversation, I think what we've proven is that there are places that you can improve the user experience on your site today without a heavy investment. We've talked about a lot of opportunities to make an impact without blowing your site up. 

It is always good to invest in user experience

Spending energy and effort on improving UX is almost always going to be worth your bottom line. What improving your UX means might be different for different companies but investing in it is usually worth it. Yeah. I would add that I think it's a lot of work. It's easier than I think a lot of people think to just take a step back and look at like, if you take a step back and look at your experience, you don't need lots of fancy tools to ... Don't say you don't need Lightburn. 

Well, you need Lightburn to do the work. I think if you haven't looked at your site, take a step back. There's probably, to your point, a lot of low-hanging fruit, I think, that people spend a lot of money on their digital presence and there still a lot of low-hanging fruit. Absolutely.

Yeah, I think the beautiful thing about user experience is that we are all users, we are user experiences, just a person's experience of using something. We are all that in this day and age. Anybody can go on to a website and pick out things that they like that work for them and things that suck and don't work That is the lowest threshold of being able to make some strides towards a better user experience on your own website, is literally going through it yourself and writing a list of things that you think could potentially work a little bit better, and there you go.

Everybody's got homework now. I love it. 

Everyone's got homework. 

Go use your website today.

- - - - - - 

Well that’s our show for today, tune in next week for our very first client profile episode. We’re diving deep into the journey one retailer took to get from a broken, frustrating ecommerce site,  to one of Lightburn’s favorite success stories.

Beyond the Cart is produced by Lightburn. Our episode today was edited by Ryan Dembroski. Our music is the song, Let's Go Go Go by Tigerblood Jewel.

Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you consume your audio. You can always learn more about ecommerce at

We'll see you next time on Beyond the Cart.

Related Insights

Graphic illustration of why your website needs an SEO audit.

Our 60-Minute Content Audit: An Investment In The User Experience

We've distilled our process down into a 60-minute-or-less content audit that your team can use to identify gaps.

read more
Graphic illustration of Lightburn named as top SEO partner by Clutch.

Lightburn Named by Clutch as Top SEO and UX/UI Design Company

Lightburn announced today that they were named by Clutch as Top SEO and UX/UI Design Company in Wisconsin.

read more
Graphic illustration that shows why understanding user experience leads to better web design.

How User Experience (UI) Leads to Better Web Design

By partnering UX and visual design, you can create a website that is visually appealing and allows users to easily accomplish their goals.

read more