Usability Best Practices for M-Commerce Sites – Part 1

People are increasingly turning to their mobile phones to shop for products, compare prices, read customer reviews, and to check for product availability. Due to this increased interest, we conducted an internal competitive mobile usability test with ten smartphone users in our lab here in Irving, Texas, to find out what the user experience was when it came to mobile ecommerce websites.  For testing purposes, we had each user complete a set of tasks using an iPhone. This is the first of a two-part series that reveals some of our findings.


Ensure the branding used on a mobile site is similar to that used on the traditional website and/or advertising. When users arrived at a site and recognized the company’s branding, they felt more comfortable and trusted the site they were visiting, thus making them more likely to proceed with their shopping experience.

Category Browsing

Provide users with the ability to browse by category directly from the homepage. Users who did not start searching began browsing by category. While it is not necessary to provide users direct access to categories from the homepage, they should, at a minimum, have a clear option to begin browsing.

Fig 1: Walmart                               Fig 2: Best Buy

Some sites did not provide users a clearly defined browse option on the homepage and users felt forced to use the search feature.  For example, users did not notice the Walmart browse feature because it was labeled ‘Find Rollbacks’.  This term was related to the store brand and did not fully describe its functionality.

Best Buy provided users with a way to offer specific categories on the homepage in a small amount of space and users found this presentation to be intuitive.

For sites that had an extensive list of product categories, users did not mind selecting an initial category on the homepage and  then navigating to a page that contained a breakout of that category.

Navigational Browsing

Provide users with the ability to view products as they browse by category. Additionally, provide broader and more general sub-categories.  Many sites forced users to continue refining their results when they began the process of browsing by category and users did not see the results of their search until they were four or five levels into the site (see Fig. 3 and 4 below).  By the time they navigated this far, the categories were often too granular and users indicated that they wanted to see products sooner and abandoned the process.

Fig 3: Sears Homepage                Fig 4: Sears Categories

Target offered users the option to select a department on the homepage. However, once users were presented with page after page of categories and sub-categories, they were frustrated with the number of levels they had to navigate through before they viewed any products (see Figures 5-7).

Fig 5: Product Categories (Target)

Fig 6: Shoe Categories               Fig 7: Women’s Shoe Categories

On (Figure 8), the sub-categorization was broader and more general in scope which allowed users the ability to browse the sub-categories, which they appreciated.

Fig 8:

Next week, in Part 2 of this post, we will share more learnings from our internal competitive test of  mobile websites, including effective ways to present the search feature, search results and  product listings.


2 comments on “Usability Best Practices for M-Commerce Sites – Part 1

  1. […] and accounts management,enables mobile commerce,aids in managing orders and payments …BlogUsability Best Practices for M-Commerce Sites – Part 1 « Usability.comBy tsuscUsability Best Practices for M-Commerce Sites – Part 1. Sep23 by tsusc. People are […]

  2. […] of tasks using an iPhone. This is the first of a two-part series that reveals some of our findings. Link – Trackbacks Posted in User experience (UX) | Permalink. ← Design for […]

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