Design Your Site Around The Buying Process

    September 5, 2003

“Stuckitis,” for those unfamiliar with the term, refers to the condition of being “stuck.” That’s the condition that results when visitors encounter difficulties on your site or lack enough information to move ahead with their purchase.

You as a site owner are responsible for anticipating the difficulties visitors will encounter as they negotiate your site. The key here is details. You should focus on the intricacies of the buying process in order to figure out the specific problems visitors face and how to address them.

Of course, depending on your site and your target audience, the questions you need to address will vary. Here is a list of 26 often-asked questions to get you started:

1. How long will it take to ship my products? Do you offer rush delivery? These questions are important for visitors who must have a product in a hurry.

2. How much are shipping, tax, etc. going to cost? All sites have to answer this question eventually, but sometimes not soon enough. Avoid making visitors wait until the very end of the checkout process before they find out the various charges to be added to their order.

3. How do I find more products like this? Often, visitors will locate a product that’s not quite what they wanted, and they need help finding a related product that would better fit their needs.

4. What all does this product or service include? Make sure visitors are clear on exactly what they’ll be getting.

5. How big is this item? Because visitors can’t actually see or touch your products online, they are often limited in their perceptions of size. Make sure you give dimensions. Also, make sure that your photos are as accurate as possible (show items in context), because pictures can sometimes give a misleading impression of size, even if you provide the actual dimensions.

6. What materials or ingredients is this item made from?

7. Can you give me more details about this product? Always try to give as many details as possible about exactly what visitors are purchasing. If you’re going to err on one side or the other, err in giving too many details. Remember, the web is a digital medium, so it limits visitors’ ability to use their senses of touch, sight, sound, taste and smell. So even if you provide a picture, write an information-packed description. Also, rather than giving just dry details, use your descriptions to make the product seem appealing. Visitors want reassurance that the product is actually going to be satisfying.

8. Can I see a bigger picture? On many sites, the photos are too small and visitors can’t get a good look at the product. Give the option to enlarge all product photos. From personal experience, I know this is a huge factor for visitors in deciding whether or not to buy a product where appearance is important.

9. Can I see more pictures? Depending on the type of products you offer, try to provide additional photos. It’s very helpful to see an item from different angles or in different colors.

10. How do I use this feature? Don’t overestimate a visitor’s ability to figure things out on their own. Even if a feature seems simple to you, they might not understand it. Always provide simple, accessible instructions for anything even remotely challenging.

11. How do I know I’m going to be satisfied? Offer a guarantee, include testimonials liberally, and write in language that makes visitors feel secure.

12. What if I’m not happy with my purchase? Make sure your return/refund policy is easily accessible, and avoid making it too complicated or restrictive.

13. Where did I make a mistake? When visitors fill out forms or are required to input information somewhere, they often neglect an important piece of information or make a mistake in entering it. You should try to anticipate as many of these simple mistakes as possible and design your site to minimize their occurence. Nevertheless, recognize that there will be times when visitors still make mistakes. In this case, you need to provide simple, specific, and relevant error messages. Tell them exactly where they made the mistake and what they can do to fix it. If you aren’t specific, they may not be able to figure out what they did wrong.

Does your site have the essential ingredients that make customers buy? Jamie Kiley can help you find out exactly how your site needs to be improved. Sign up for a site review today at

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