In today’s episode, we tackle the large and weighty topic of ecommerce. Well, specifically, we’re going to look into two facets of shopping online: product sorting and checkout processes. We’ll review how and why sorting can be confusing for users, what makes it ineffective, and how overly complicated checkout procedures are costing online retailers millions of dollars. Do you want to make millions of dollars? I bet you do. Listen to today’s episode to figure out how.*

You can now join the Drunken UX Podcast on our Slack channel as well. Join in to discuss past episodes, future ideas, your experiences, or just kick back and talk with other listeners!

* We here at the Drunken UX Podcast do not promise that listening to today’s episode will make you millions of dollars. But you’ll probably feel like a million bucks because of what you learn. Maybe.

Followup Resources


Good evening, this is the Drunken UX Podcast. The Drunken UX Podcast is brought to you by our friends at Gas Mark 8, at I am your host, Michael Fienen.

And I’m Aaron Hill, thanks tuning in this week. You can find us on the internet on Facebook and Twitter at /drukenux

This evening I’m going to be enjoying a fine Apothic Inferno red wine. I actually really enjoy this wine. It’s aged in whiskey barrels for sixty days, and it is just delicious. I’m not a huge wine guy, but I tell you what, I’m starting this show about half a bottle in. So, y’all, this is gonna be a show.

I’ve got some Seagrams that I’m drinking. It’s all we got. It’s been tons of snow this weekend, so no trips this week.

Oh yeah, yeah. No, we just got the snow here as well. So they’ve cancelled school, they’ve battened down the hatches, sending people home from work. It’s gonna be an interesting time in these parts. That’s for sure. I don’t know about on your side, but I’ve also been sick, so I apologize if I’m a little bit raspy

We’ll just have to edit out the coughs.

Yeah, I think I’m over that part of it. We’ll see how the wine does to keep the vocal cords nice and loose.

What are we talking about this week?

Yeah. Tonight is gonna… I guess I keep saying tonight, like people are listening live. We’re recording this in the evening, we are gonna be talking about e commerce. I think specifically we’ve got two aspects of this. Ecomm is, of course a huge topic, and we wanted to grind this down into a couple things you can look at. Specifically, we’re gonna be looking at the sorting and filtering of products. I know that’s really granular, but it’s something that I find extremely irritating. And so we’re gonna talk about it. And then what was the other half of this? I don’t have my notes and out the front me now, right?

Oh yeah, the checkout forms. We’re talking about the check out forms.

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. I remember now. Give me a break, half bottle in… we’ve got forty minutes of show here to go through. It’s gonna get rough. There’s an article that just came out, of course, we just had Black Friday. I say “just.” What? A month ago. So we come through this time of year where everybody is shopping online. It was CNBC, they put out that we were spending a billion dollars a day shopping online, think about how many products.

US dollars?

US dollars, a billion dollars. This is everything from coloring books to irons to miniaturize armored personnel carriers.

Tactical miniaturized armored personnel carriers.

The shear volume of stuff that people order online is, of course, it’s big, it’s growing. This is not news to anybody at this point. Hell my Amazon account, and I’m not kidding, I’m not kidding anybody out here. I’ve screened shot at it before on twitter, my Amazon account is now old enough to vote.

It’s not voting though, right?

No, not last time I checked. Now, I think it may have submitted a comment to the FCC on neutrality on my behalf, though, I don’t know. It’s out of my hands. And my Newegg account is almost that old. I think it’s about sixteen years old. Amazon I signed up in 2000.

I think my Newegg account is about fourteen years old. Twelve to fourteen years old. I’m not sure about Amazon. Not as old as your’s. You’re OG Amazon right there.

I was looking for those college textbook deals way back in the day.

What was Amazon even like then?

They do have it in it’s worth on looking at. They were very book focused in those days. There’s stuff that will look familiar and their stuff that looks very… not familiar, but it’s definitely a fun trip, especially having grown up with that site, basically, and seeing all that change.

I think I was getting all my books through back then. Although I guess Amazon purchased, right?

Probably? It does go to show though, online shopping and the amount of money we spend. Convenience is a part of it, yes. But a big part of why Amazon has been so successful is because they also bring a lot of selection and access that we simply don’t have online. There was a podcast recently, I think it was a Planet Money. I hope it was Planet Money if my memory’s right. They did an episode on Starbury shoes. Starbury shoes are incredible. They’re high quality, they’re well made, they’re stylish, they’re nice looking, and they’re fiftteen freaking dollars.

And if they wanna sponsor us, there’s details at the end of the show.

I’ve been trying to buy a pair and they have been sold out for the last three months. But I can’t go to JC Penney and buy a pair of Starbury’s. I can’t even go to JC Penny and get a pair of Converse half the time. Or I could, but they have one style of a shoe that has thirty That’s part of why online shopping has been so successful of Late. But even with all of this growth, and I think this is what kind of inspired this topic to come so early in the podcast series, we have all of this growth, but according the Baymard Institute, shopping cart rates have an abandonment rate of 69%.

Oh, wow. Is that from window shopping or what? Why so high?

So it is all of those things, and they do have a caveat in the research, and the research will be link as well as tons of other stuff that we will talk about tonight. It’ll all be in the show notes. So if you’re wondering about any of this, please drop by the site. Look in your podcast-listen-app thing, we’ll have links to all of the stuff, but a lot of people do window shop and there is a built in component into abandonment that cannot be resolved through any kind of change you make or anything like that. Because we do a lot of research. We do a lot of price comparisons between stores, and abandonment is gonna happen. But they also found a lot of it that is tied to things we very much can affect.

Do you know if that includes abandonment where sometimes I go on Amazon and I’ll put stuff in my shopping cart and then a be like, you know what? I don’t want to order this right now. Put it on my wishlist to save for later. Does that still count?

That, at least the way I read the research, no. They are strictly counting “I put stuff in my cart and then I didn’t buy it.” Return rate is different story, and that’s something we can talk about in a later part of the show, that I’ve had trouble with websites that do exactly that. Where I will leave with the idea that I’m gonna come back and they don’t have my cart saved. And even with sites that I have an account on, that drives me insane.

There’s some technical considerations there with storing your cart across computers or over a certain amount of time. With a small, reasonable amount of time, same computer, they should have it.

Shopping carts will come later. To start with, I want to talk a little bit about product sorting.


We’re gonna focus, I think, largely on, unfortunately, Amazon and Newegg, because they’re so big that they won’t listen to us and they will come after us for picking on them on this.

And we both shop with them a bunch despite the bad sorting.

We still buy our stuff there, so they get our money either way.

Stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself.

Step one to purchasing anything online is finding it. We have to find the thing that we want. Sometimes we know exactly what that is. Sometimes we know what we need, but not which model or which brand or anything like that. And so we use sorting in many different forms to figure that out and to winnow down those lists to say, okay, I wanna at least compare these two items and see which one do I like more.

So when we’re talking about sorting, we’re including filtering where you’re saying, well, I won’t shoes but, I want tennis shoes. Oh, but I want tennis shoes that are for men of this size. We’re including that, right?

There’s a case where filtering is confused with sorting, and that to me gets into the featured item discussion, but I think we wanna look at very specifically sorting.

So just ranking result sets.

Right, because everybody has categories. If I know I need a Sony TV, I don’t need to sort to find the Sony TV. I’m gonna click “Sony.” Newegg is great about this. If you’re hunting for a hard drive and you wanna stay away from Hitachi drives, you can click on Seagate and just get the Seagate drives. That’s very, very easy. If I go to… let’s say when you go to Home Depot, I need a doorknob.

What kind of doorknob?

How do I find what doorknob? Am I really beholden to QuickSet on this deal? I don’t think I have brand loyalty in doorknobs. I just know I need a silver one that has a handle and isn’t gonna fall off my door.

Is there a category for the ones that do fall off your door?

Maybe. I’ve been to theater shows where that is a requirement. So I guess there is a market for it if nothing else.

Actually, yeah, that’s a good point. I want a window that breaks easily.

Some sort make plenty of sense though, right. Easily the one I use the most is pricing. Either hide-to-low or low-to-high. Sometimes I wanna go high-to-low because I want to see what the price range is on something I’m looking at, if nothing else. Sometimes I just need the cheapest thing I can get my hands on.

But then if you do if cheapest, they always lump together all these other accessory items like you want doorknobs? Oh, well, here’s keys, or here is the hinges for the door, or here’s the ornaments for it or whatever. Unrelated stuff that’s not what you want.

And this is where sorting falls apart for a site that doesn’t keep its categorization right. If I’m searching for doorknobs, I don’t expect to get door stops for instance, or you look at some like Amazon, the big retailers: Amazon, Walmart has this problem, Home Depot has this problem. Most sites that involve third party resellers have this problem, where people will put things into categories, but nobody is making sure that it’s in the right category. Cell phone accessories. Oh my god, that’s just a painful experience. I want to find just a cheap case. I wanna find a phone condom that does its job. It is a plastic thing on my phone and you go and sort that, and you end up getting these fifty cent key fobs.

Yeah, actually, I had the exact experience. I got a Google Pixel 2 a month… two months ago, switching back to Android, and I picked up a… what is it… Inscipio something other… it’s real sweet, like fifteen bucks or something. But I was sorting by price low-to-high, and then the first two or three pages was all, not the phone condoms, but the other random crap that I did not care about, but was fifty cents or a dollar.

Lesson number one, retailers come on. If you’re sorting by price, make sure that your categories are clean because that is the quickest way – and this is true for any sort, really – but when you sort something, price is a very defined metric. If I say, I’m looking for doorknobs and I wanna see the cheapest doorknobs, when I sort that I expect as a user to see the cheapest doorknobs. I don’t expect to see anything that is not a doorknob.

Like when you’re going to the store and you’re looking on the shelf and you’re in the doorknob aisle at Lowes or Home Depot, and you’re looking at doorknobs, you would wanna go hit a magic button that would just reshuffle them all on the shelf by price left to right.

Right, and it’s gonna stop before it gets to the hinges or keys that are on either side of those doorknobs. Yes, they are doorknob adjacent. I give you that credit, but they are not doorknobs. And that’s been a weird example. Let’s not talk about doorknobs for the rest of the show. The funny part is I have a doorknob sitting in the console of my pickup truck right now.


And this is why I think this example is sticking in my head, because I’m building a studio in my basement that is gonna be for all of this fun recording endeavor stuff. And I had a friend who was able to get me a door. He had some doors from construction work. And so he got me the door and we dug through buckets to find doorknobs, and he found the doorknob, but it was separate. So I have the separate doorknob. But I was searching. I’d gone on Amazon to look at doorknobs and to price them out. And I had that exact problem. I would sort the doorknobs and I had to go three pages in before I got to doorknobs.

It definitely affects us outside of the doorknob world as well. I’ve encountered that same problem with everything in ecommerce.

And Amazon, Amazon I think is the worst possible one for it because they just have so much stuff.

Everything A-Z, right? So, what’s one that doesn’t work?

So if pricing is one that makes at least sense, and works relatively more than not. When I start thinking about alphabetical sorts… I wanna know, Aaron, your name starts with an “A”.

Two “A”s.

Two “A”s. So you are at the top of the list. You are, however, behind aardvark… I’m sorry. What was the last purchasing decision that you made that was dependent upon the first letter of a product name? Outside of purchasing the letters to go on the sign on the side of your house or the address on your mail box?

I think the only reason I think I would use it as if it didn’t have the ability to sort by brand, and I knew specifically that I wanted a particular brand. I wanted a Samsung TV or whatever, I would sort alphabetically and then jump to there. But that shouldn’t happen because there should already be a thing where I can search filter by brands.

Anybody that sells TVs is already going to have a category filter. You go to Walmart, you go to Amazon, you go to Newegg, you go to Best Buy. All of them have those category filters that just say, I want this brand. Click. Done.

Sorting alphabetically is one of those things, the developers were thinking, well, all we thought about was if we could, we ever thought about if we should.

Yeah, that’s an absolutely perfect example. It makes sense because we can and it’s easy. Sorting things alphabetically is one of the absolute most primitive and basic concepts we have in a sorting algorithm. So of course, it makes sense to throw it there. But as an online retailer when have- I don’t know that I have ever consciously used an alphabetical sort to purchase something.

Yeah, me neither.

I don’t know why it’s there. I don’t know why it’s an option. And a lot of these are gonna fall into the realm of… I want to see analytics. I wanna see somebody – and all of the articles we’ll reference and we’ll link in the show notes – I didn’t see any that really looked at how many people are actively… who uses an alphabetical sort and then purchases an item that directly stems from that sort.

I would walk to see that.

I would love to see that data. I don’t think anybody has it though.

I think the only time alphabetical sorting makes sense is when you don’t have the ability to sort digitally by any other means. When you’re at a library alphabetical sorting is great because it helps you find that book you’re looking for much faster. But when you’re dealing with a website or with the card catalog in a library, you don’t wanna see all the books on the library website in alphabetical order because you don’t need to.

And it’s a really good example, thinking about libraries because if I am looking for a book in the Gs, let’s say, I can walk into that room and go to those bookshelves and see if I walk three shelves over, I’m gonna pass a thousand books and get to the Gs and it’s gonna take me ten seconds. How long does it take you to click through forty pages of products? Even if you’re skipping pages waiting on page loads and having to completely guess when you’re gonna hit those Gs in that sort.

I would like to put on a challenge to our listeners, give us an example of a website where you would want to sort alphabetically, because that would make more sense than any other means. Seriously.

I like it.

I wanna know.

“Answer Aaron,” that’ll be the name of one of our segments, “Answer Aaron.” He will pose questions to you and make you answer them. So the other one, and it means well, it means really well, is customer reviews. Sorting by customer reviews. And some sites do this very well. There are plenty of sites that when you sort and you want highly reviewed things, it makes a lot of sense. Amazon is not one of these sites. If you’ve shopped on there enough, I sort stuff because I’m trying to find the best. I need the best pair of silicone kitchen tongs. Because you do, you don’t want to get a cheap Chinese pair that falls apart three uses in. In your head, it makes sense. A 5.0 rated item should be ranked higher than a 4.8 ranked item. But what happens, and this happens on Amazon, happens on Newegg, that if a product has one rating or two ratings that are 5.0, that puts them ahead of the 4.8 item that has 437 reviews.

Yes. I actually watched a game developer conference talk on Friday about… it was three statistical tricks that every developer should know that are easy to learn in 30 minutes. And I think the third, one it dealt specifically with when you have rating distributions that are a lot on the top end and a lot on the bottom, such as you see with reviews. People are like, look at the five stars or sometimes four or one. You rarely ever see two or three, you’ll see some but not a lot. And I think the statistical test is called the Mann-Whitney, or maybe Whitney-Mann. This one, it accounts for the quantity and it sort of normalizes the distribution down better. I’ll find that link and put it in the doobly-doo. But yeah, that’s so annoying, and it happens every time I go to Newegg.

And we see this a lot with- Ivanka Trump’s new book is a prime example of a product too, that when we’re talking about weighting and figuring out what the value of something is, in terms of people’s opinion. Her book, of course, when it was coming out, got slammed with thousands of one star reviews by people who had never read the book. I don’t care if you like her or don’t like her, that is no reflection on her ability to produce a quality book. It could be a great book. Your one star reviews are both unhelpful and badly weighted, and somebody like Amazon for all of the researching, all of the stories you can go pull up about the money Amazon spends doing user research and checking “is this button two pixels too far to one side” and whatnot. How have they not solved this problem in a way that keeps well reviewed items floating towards the top, poorly reviewed or lowly, whether it’s a higher view score, but low numbers, this seems like a weighting statistical problem that how can they not have seen this?

Why don’t they – maybe they do, and I just didn’t know this – but why wouldn’t they weight reviews by the people who actually order the product from Amazon higher than those that people that didn’t buy it. You would think that if you give it a one star review and it’s somebody that didn’t buy the product, then why is that being counted+

They do the deal where they say, “verified purchaser” or whatever, “verified purchase.”

That’s true, you’re right.

I don’t know if that accounts for anything more than a label at this point, and they’ll never say. They won’t tell you how they factor any of that in. But review sorting is just… it’s super weird and it gets in to what Newegg has done. And I still don’t entirely know what this amounts to, but they have the most reviewed sort, and then they have the best selling sort.

Doesn’t best selling just mean they’ve sold a lot of it.

It makes sense in my head, but if it’s also the most reviewed, doesn’t that mean they sold a lot of it? Don’t you have to sell a lot of it to be most reviewed?

The Cards Against Humanity guys that did the Christmas thing a few years ago. You ordered a package that contained bull feces

I got it. I was one of the guys.

Of course you did. That would be a really well selling product. But I can’t imagine that if you were to review it, the reviews are probably gonna be mixed because I think there are some people that thought they were getting something else, even though the FAQ said clearly they weren’t.

I can get- especially the best selling piece. I can see where that is a valuable sort. But then the most reviewed piece of it, what if it’s just a super bad item? I don’t want that at the top of anything. I don’t care. I don’t wanna buy something that a thousand people were dumb enough to get and found that was garbage.

The first thing I do when I look at reviews, especially both Newegg and Amazon, is I find the product that has a reasonably high review average with a lot of reviews. And then I look at those and they immediately go to the one stars. And I am like, if I can tell from these bad experiences, if I can deal with whatever their situation was or whatever the problem was, it seems like something I’m okay with or their situation doesn’t match mine, I’m good.

It makes sense from a consumer standpoint and to be able to say, yes, I’m a well informed buyer. I make my own decisions. I look at my research, but I learned something in debate when I was in high school. One of the tenants of debate that we learned was you never let a judge think for themselves. You don’t ask them to vote for you. You tell them to vote for you. You explain why you are going to do what I want you to do. And ecommerce to me is very much like that. Yes, I will make my own decision and I will make an informed decision. But if I’m a retailer in the business of making money, my job should be to not let you think for yourself. My job should be to make you think you’re thinking for yourself, but you’re really just doing what I want down my funnel. I mean, that is the hard truth of that.

I don’t disagree disagree but-

Yeah, no, it’s an ugly way to describe it, but that is what marketing is at this point. Okay, I wanna knock out two more here only because they annoy me, but featured items. Why is featured items a sort? Newegg does this.

I hate those.

First off is featured items, not a filter, it’s not a sort. How is one item more featured than another?

Yeah. There’s zero value to the customer here. Because if you sort based on featured item or if they just force to the top, all this says about the product are these brands have enough budgeted for advertising to pay us to be shown first? It doesn’t say anything about the quality of the brand or anything, just that these people want to be noticed. So we’re showing you, but that doesn’t help the customer.

And it’s always the default sort for the places that have that.

And even when you specify a more specific filter or sorting ranking scheme, it still shows the future items of the top.

Right. Yeah. Not a fan of feature items. And I’m also not a fan of newest or most recent items, partly because I don’t know what that means as a user. Does that means it’s just the most recently added thing, or is it like the most recently released thing.

I’m gonna guess that this is another one of those “we could do it, so we did,” because the newest most recent thing pattern is something that you would see a lot with articles or content, and that is useful in those cases because you get a lot of repeat visitors.

The database has a time stamp on that item and it makes it easy to just put it in and the filter down based on that.

If they’re assuming if you had a product set or if your inventory is so limited in scope, but you manage still get a lot of repeat visitors where people are gonna notice or care that there’s a new thing here. Let’s see, what’s the newest item? I guess maybe Apple products might fit because Apple has within the domains that they produce, they have a pretty narrow scope of different kinds of things. They have a very loyal fan. And so maybe having… what’s the newest thing that we’ve produced because our visitors do actually come to our site frequently. Maybe in that case, I can see that sort of. But in any other case though, especially at Amazon or at Newegg… but eBay…

Of which, nobody who listens to us is Apple or Amazon. No, but that’s a good example though. Ebay is, I think an example where your product inventory is very dependent on when stuff is added. That’s a good point.

But a normal shopping cart website where you’re buying stuff-

I don’t think eBay qualifies as a normal shopping experience.

For a number of reasons.

That requires half a bottle of wine to really get into the nitty gritty on that. So anyway, that’s I think the long and short of filtering, and I don’t wanna get into a whole lot because there are a lot of ways can be interpreted and everybody’s experiences will be very different in terms of what works for them, what doesn’t work for them, what their customers expect. The refrain that will be repeated over and over, is do your research and figure out what your people want, but don’t do it just because you installed WooCommerce and WooCommerce has a sort and allows you to have newest, come on. Anyway.

I think it goes back to the thing of what does your user want? Let’s not do things because we can, or because we want to, but what would our user want when they visit the site as you should do for anything you do anyway.

It takes work and it takes money ultimately, because that takes time and effort and developer skills, but if it makes you money it is worth it. At the end of the day, if you make it easier for people to find products and you help them get into your cart faster, then it is all worth it. And it is all measurable, at least you owe it to yourself and you owe to your bottom line to at least look at why things are the way they are. I was going to Walmart, as I do. Actually, not as frequently as I used to, but our Walmart was late to the game. I live in a small town and we just got self check out. This is a new thing for us. They redid the whole interior of Walmart, and they added in six of these self check type lanes.

How often are they up?

They have worked whenever I have gone in, which, admittedly is infrequently. But Walmart, of course, has been on this game for a while. Home Depot had it here for quite a while. I saw a friend of mine on Facebook had posted a video where they were at… I think it was… I wanna say it was Wendy’s, and they had one of the self-order terminals inside. So you go inside, you just walk up to the deal. You hit what you want and they call your initials when your order is ready.

I did that at a Sheetz, gas station, at one time, I think. I was traveling and … It was kind of neat? But weird?

Well, the thing about them is; (A) I love them because I never have to wait in line. There’s never a line for the self check, because they can afford to pack a lot of them into a small space. They have to be simple and have to be absolutely and completely idiot proof. Our walmart neighborhood market has them, and it’s the perfect example of: the potential is there, but it isn’t as idiot proof as it needs to be. Especially when it comes to trying to check out produce and having to stop and figure out how to look up what it is and make sure you’re looking up the right…

Or when you buy cold medicine and things, ephedrine, which requires ID or…

…somebody to come over…

yeah, I bought compressed there to clean out a computer a month ago, and I guess, like, Endust is a thing that people get high on? Well, the thing I was gonna say earlier, is that they don’t have to be a hundred percent idiot proof because you have to have a person there, standing there, to watch everybody and to (A) make sure that people don’t cheat, and then (B) to handle those things when the age requirement or something is happening. But I’m with you, almost completely idiotproof, yeah.

What they are doing, and the drive for self check out, and this whole process of making it really, really simple is: they have to, right? Because to make it self service, you have to cater to that lowest common denominator or that system breaks down for you. And yet online checkout processes are absolutely laden with steps and processes that don’t add anything to the experience. Many of the times, you have to start by self-identifying: Are you a guest or are you registered? Do you have an account or whatever — You get to a sub-total, you’re asked to enter in any coupons or any discount codes you have; you would have paid, you enter your shipping address, you select your payment type, maybe you pick PayPal, and now you’re getting shipped off to a third-party site where you have to do a log in again, and maybe get your key fob out, then get kicked back to the original site, enter your billing address, review your order, and now you’re done.

Do you ever get Fear of Missing Out when it gets the coupon prompt and you don’t have a coupon and you’re like, “I want a coupon!”

Here’s my friendly advice to anybody has that feeling, get the Honey extension in Chrome —

Oh! Yeah!

Yeah. It is absolutely worth its weight in gold. So there’s my nickel’s worth of free advice to everybody who’s listening tonight: That is worth it. So when we started, very first, I said self-identify. Self-identifying is one of the first things you end up doing in the checkout process where you say: I’m either, I have an account, or I’m a guest, or god forbid, you have to make an account. This is — If you require me — Amazon does this because Amazon can afford to do it, and you are not Amazon. Whoever is listening to this and is trying to get some ideas or think about how they can improve their conversion rates: You are not Amazon, get it through your head: stop requiring me to sign up for an account, just because I wanna buy a drawer pole.

I saw one of the sources, that we will have down in the dooblydoo, the twenty common UX mistakes in e-commerce websites, I think it was that one… Anyways, one of them has a thing on about how — Imagine your ecommerce experience is like a brick and mortar one, and it says like: Michael: “here, I have a thing. I’d like to give you money for the thing!” And then you say, “okay, what year were you born?” “What?” “What year were you born?” “I don’t care, I just wanna buy the thing. Please take my money.”

Wasn’t there a Seinfeld episode about that?


I have the money. I will give you the money — or no, it wasn’t Seinfeld… It was a comedian

It was Mitch Hedberg — “No, I don’t want a receipt for a Donut! I give you the money, you give me the donut.”

“It’s a simple transaction. We’re done. Let’s walk away.” There’s… there’s a lot of research. Let me rephrase that. E-Consultancy did some research. They found that people have a twenty-six percent abandon *mumbling* I am two-thirds of a bottle of wine into this — twenty-six percent of people abandon their carts if they were asked to register an account before they could check out.

And these are all cases of not Amazon —

Right, right — These are like, these folks research tons — In this case, E-Consultancy’s article research like eight of the top-ten retailers. Baymard’s research spanned…YEARS, and a ton of — Everybody. Stop what you’re doing. Pause the podcast, go to the show notes. Read Baymard’s research, it’s incredible. Their numbers showed thirty five percent abandonment when people were asked to register for an account. This is losing you money. If you require somebody to sign up for an account and don’t offer the ability to just check out as a guest. And what I’m gonna get into in a little bit is, I don’t… you should even ask somebody to register until they’ve already bought.

Yeah, this should be something that’s enriching their experience or their relationship with your brand and not something that you’re — they’re not a captive audience, they’re not — Just don’t get in the way of the sale!

We talk about Amazon and NewEgg getting away with this because they’re huge. NewEgg has, maybe they don’t have the electronics and computer market cornered, but they do. They really have a strangle hold on that. Amazon, of course, is Amazon. And we said earlier, you aren’t Amazon; you aren’t NewEgg. There is a quote that comes from Justin Rondo, he’s the director of optimization at Digital Marketer. He said, “the bad news is these retailers aren’t Amazon. And by requiring guest check out are alienating their one time buyers or people who simply don’t want another darn login and password” There is an article from the folks at “What Users Do,” They went to 21 UX experts and ask what the best and worst experiences in online check out our online buying was. And 4 of the folks repeated the problem that is requiring registration.

Another way to frame that would be, “Do you not want money from people who only want to buy from you once?” Are you so much against single time customers that you’re saying “You know what? No. What if you don’t wanna come back? I don’t want your money at all. Keep it. I don’t want to go somewhere else.” Because that’s basically what you’re saying.

I think one of the absolute pinnacle stories of this model is what Jared Spool at UIE wrote… years ago. It was Luke… I’m sorry you have a last name that is harder to remember and say than mine. It’s Wroblewski. Right? I can never remember. And I’m two thirds the bottle into a Apothic Inferno, they are not sponsoring this episode. but I do enjoy their wine. At any rate Jared Spool got invited to write a story for his book, and he wrote the story of the three hundred million dollar button.

Oh! Okay!

This story does not fit everybody’s situation, but it certainly fits everybody to an extent that a company who was nameless came to UIE and said, “we want to figure out how to get better conversions out of our shopping carts. What can you help us do?” And so UIE came in, they did some research, and they found that this company was requiring people not requiring… but when you went to your cart and you hit the checkout button, the button that said, “check out”, you got a login prompt. And UIE researched it, they talked to users, they watched what people were doing, and they came back to this company and they said, “if you change the label on that, let’s see what that does. When they get that pop up. Don’t have the register button there, just say continue. Let’s see what happens.” This twenty five billion dollar company changed their button and on the year saw three hundred million dollar increase in revenue.

That’s insane!

It’s absolutely mind blowing, but it makes perfect sense as well.

Oh, totally! At that scale? Yes.

If you go back and look at Baymard’s research: 35% abandon rate. E consultancy’s research, twenty-six percent abandon rate. Whoever is listening, if you are in e commerce, if you work for somebody who has an online store, what would it mean to you if you were able to increase your online revenue by twenty-six to thirty-five percent? What if it was five percent? How is that not worth all the research you’re gonna put into it, all the testing you’re gonna put into it to get even a modest ding in that percentage number.

Especially since the research has already been done.

Yeah, the work has been done for you on this problem, and we’re relaying the anecdotes at this point. But literally every piece of research says, “do not require your users to register that is a bad process”

Or flip it around and reframe it as: “Are your users being better served by being forced to register before they purchase something from you?” Isn’t that something you can do later? You know?

The argument always is that “I wanna make sure that I can track their orders and I can send them follow ups and all of this”, and that’s part of why people don’t want to do it. They literally save email. They literally say, I don’t want to get emails from the company after I purchase.

Okay, I have to make a really quick aside here. I signed up… I had a question about… I have an NVidia graphics card and a question about it today, and I just went on to look at the forum and you can’t search on the forum or interact at all unless you’ve logged in and registered. I go to sign up and I’m like, “ugh, alright.” So I registered and sign up and it says, there’s a checkbox, it says, “opt in to communications from NVidia?”. And it’s like, “oh, it’s not checked [by default]!. That’s nice of them!” I go to hit next. And it was like, “no, you must opt-in” — “what? *laughing* Fuck you, man…”

This voluntary action is mandatory.


And what we were saying a little bit ago, all of this factors in… because it is true retailers do want to market to you. They do want to get you into their email system. But here’s the bottom line of that is: I forget, and I wish I could remember who this was because it was the perfect example of this transaction, which they did not require me to sign up for an account. I bought something once, but I ultimately went back to them and I bought from them two, three more times. At this point, you would expect me to remember who they are. I still don’t. I’m getting older. Give me a break. On my last purchase, I went ahead and set up an account. When I signed up for my account and looked at my profile. All of my previous orders were there.

Because you gave them your e-mail address or something?

Right! When you make an order, just as a retailer, you have all of the information you already need in order to both keep track of that user, to understand what they’re doing. If you’ve got something like a MixPanel account — MixPanel is an analytic service. It’s like google analytics except it actually gets down to the individual level. It’s able to track people, not just aggregate numbers. There’s no reason you don’t have everything you need without them setting up an account. And what you do is you incentivize them in order to get them to make that account at the end of the transaction. And then you can just tie it all together. Like in the experience I had, it’s like magic!

“End of the transaction” meaning … After

After they have paid.

Yeah. You give them the *option* of signing up.

It’s just like if you’ve gone back to a store a dozen times and they’re like, “oh, hey michael, how you doing?” Well? I didn’t sign up for their special credit card or anything, but you just remember me because I’ve been in there a few times.

Well, if you went to a brick and morter store, say you went to… I don’t know, you just went to Lowe’s or any random local hardware store, or fast-food place, and you wanna buy a taco, or something… and they say “okay, well, we’re about to take your money for the taco. But before we do, we need all this information from your first.”

I think that the point with, especially the voluntary, like, “hey, you’ve completed your transaction if you wanna follow up and keep track of your order or get a special coupon: register for an account.” The thing about that is it also gives you an extremely valuable additional metric to measure on that consumer. If they then take that extra step, now you have identified them as a much higher-value type of client, than if you’re forcing everybody to just blanket sign up for an account, I think that’s extremely valuable.

A great example this in brick and mortar world is there’s a grocery store. There’s two that I shop at locally, Wegman’s and Tops. Both of them have loyalty cards, and loyalty card is an optional thing you can sign up for. You just, beep it — it’s a little barcode. And if you do, then there are certain items in the store at certain sales and things that only apply if you’ve signed up. It’s totally free to sign up. You have to give them contact information and other things. And it also creates a thread of all your purchases, that the data mine to suggest and offer you coupons for those things. I get maybe one mailer for Wegmans a month, if that, and the items that are in it, the coupons are usually relevant stuff that I actually buy — and the Tops thing, they just print off coupons on the register. But in both cases, it’s optional, but you get access to discounts and things that you wouldn’t have otherwise. And so it’s incentivized. That’s great. I was happy to sign up.

Is it a hard sell? Is it something that every time you go in, you’re turning down, or… I guess once you have it…

No, you… um… On the shelves, they list the price and the right below that it says, “if you’re a Tops member, it’s *this* price” and sometimes the discounts are significant, like fifty percent off and stuff. So it’s substantial. There is a good incentive for that and you can do it right at the point of sale. When you’re checking out, you get your card.

I haven’t paid for a turkey in about four years, at Thanksgiving. Because my local grocer, they have similar type of program, and it’s not a hard sell type program as opposed to when you go to Sears and they’re like, “do you have your Sears credit card?” Well, because in their case, the associates — I used to work at sears so caveat — the associates are incentivized to hard-sell those things, but it is, from an allegory standpoint, it’s similar in terms of “Register your account!”, “Have you registered your account?” The end story, the end lesson to take away from this: If you can simplify your checkout process, you will make money. There is no simpler argument to make here at this point. I think 360 Studio, they put out an article that said that lengthy check out is the worst mistake an E-commerce site can commit. And it’s a simple statement. It’s one that you don’t need research at this point to reinforce because it’s all done. We know the more you add to form, every bit of ux research that’s out there on forms will tell you, the more you add to a form, the more your conversion rate drops. There’s no way around that.

Don’t put barriers in the way of people trying to give you money.

There’s an article on UX mag, they looked at “Charmandising”, I’ve never seen the site. I don’t know what — it’s a fringe commerce site. That’s what I know. They switched their checkout process, they sell pop music memorabilia and whatnot. They switched to a single page checkout process. Their purchases increased by sixty seven percent

Yeah, I’ll believe it.

By streamlining that process and getting it down to one page. So Baymard, I keep coming back to this and I’m gonna reinforce it. I think the actual, the meat and potatoes you do have to pay for, fair warning, but a lot of it is available on their blog and we’ll have a link to some of it as well. In their research, they showed that you can complete a sale, that is: get everything you need, payment wise, shipping wise, in twelve form fields. That’s all you need. A dozen fields.

That’s information beyond saying what things you’re buying?

Yeah. That is the checkout process at that point; outside of the cart. But they found that the average ecommerce site had twenty four. They had double the number of fields necessary to complete that transaction. So again, we go back to this idea. Every field you add to a form reduces your conversion rate.

A really easy way that you could approach that is by simplifying your checkout. If you want that information. Maybe there’s actually twelve fields are important, or important to you or to your boss, and do the simplified checkout form, and then just have — after they’ve done the check out it’s like, “hey, if you provide is an additional information, we can offer you this.”

Don’t get in the way of people giving you money.

No, *unintelligble*

How, how is this even something we have to argue and point out to people that if somebody is willing to give you money for an item, why are you getting in the way of that? And I said before, if it means increasing your sales by twenty five percent, twenty six percent or five percent, can you really afford to say that you would not be benefited by getting that?

In my experience, it’s the people who tend to think that they need to put all the things on their website because it’s gonna be where people gonna go and just hang out. Let’s put the weather on there. A chat feature. If you have a news feed from other people, even, not our own news, other people.

One of the folks, we’ve really crapped on Amazon and NewEgg a bunch in this episode. But I think we do need to give one good example and all the people, the one group of motherfuckers who comes out of this clean is Cards Against Humanity.

Honestly, I’m not all surprised there, they are so “no bullshit”, except when they’re literally —

— Except when they’re actually selling you bullshit

Literal bullshit

I bought because they had no friction in their sales process.

“Sales so good, we literally sell bullshit!”

They literally told me they were gonna sell me bullshit. They made it easy and I bought bullshit and, as stupid as that allegory is: how accurate is it? When you go to their checkout process and do this for everybody who is listening this far and has made it to this point — after everything, we’ve said, go to Cards Against Humanity’s website — Go to, its — Add something to your cart and hit “check out”, go through the process, don’t pay for anything unless you want to, but just pay attention. When you go in, they’re gonna say, “what’s your shipping address?” It’s four fields. You give them your name, give them your address. They have a secondary address field which I would argue could actually be eliminated, but I get that a lot of people live in apartments. And they have a zip code. There is no field for city. There is no field for state. You enter your zip code and they use… I don’t know if they use google’s location API, if they’re using the USPS, but they do a look up on that and then let you confirm what you’ve entered. They fill in the city, they fill in the state, you can fix it if it’s wrong at that point, but they don’t make you do it. And they just say “hey is this right?” You click the button, you land on the page that says “okay, what’s your credit card? What’s your name and what’s your CVC?” It is as close to that twelve field minimum limit that Baymard said that you need as I think I’ve ever seen a company get.

Yeah, that’s awesome. I did actually look up — when you shared that research with me… I looked up on USPS and it’s pretty easy. You just register for the API and then you can do look ups; is just over a web service — XML.

The two pieces of this equation is the name field, and this is one I didn’t get from my notes, but I promise our listeners, I will go back, look up and add to the notes once I find it: Have a full name field. Don’t ask for first name last name. There are a lot of reasons. Many of them are cultural. Many of them are logistical. But there a lot of reasons to have just a name field — that eliminates one field right there — and ZIP code. The ZIP code literally gives you — it is the city and state. It is the encoded version of city and state. There’s no reason to ask somebody for that. If you’re collecting the ZIP code. That’s one thing that I just don’t get on checkouts anymore. Especially today. Google gives you all of those tools to make sure you can convert that. Hell, Google gives you tools enough, now, you can have a text box, the location-api-include that they offer now, you can just start typing in your address and it will auto complete the whole thing, as soon as it’s confident.

Oh! That’s creepy. I don’t know. I feel a littl weird about that.

Well, that’s just using location databases. They have addresses. So.

If you’re tech savvy, there’s even javascript and browser things that you can tap into with HTML5 that will location data based on your ISP. It’s not accurate down to city —

I would never trust that as a retailer though.

Yeah. It could be anywhere –I guess the thing too is that the Cards Against Humanity’s four fields doesn’t work for international people because you need a little bit more info. But that’s pretty easily remedied though. And if your main market’s the US — stick with the simple. So these are just two facets of an incredibly complex and multivariate interaction that users have with your site.

At the end of the day, read the research that we’ve linked to. But again, we can’t say this enough that always be sure to test your own assumptions, check your results and make sure that things come out the way that you think they do because everybody’s audiences will be different and will react differently under different circumstances. So what is true for everybody is not necessarily true down to your individual use case.

Just like with autoplaying videos.

Trust, but verify. That will be something we say a lot in in the series, and I think it’s a very true statement to trust, but verify.

I wanna really quick shout that if you use Google Analytics, you can do funnel visualization to identify the attrition points and see where you’re bleeding off your users on your checkout process. You probably know about it because it’s been around for a while, but if you don’t, it’s super easy to use. There’s some great videos online to do it.

You can do it with goal funnels — like hard coded goal funnels, but the eComm add-ons with Google Analytics all are incredible and add a lot of functionality onto that, and also let you value each step as well, so you can see how much money you’re losing at the end of the day. I have already written this in the little show excerpt, but it’s not that we’re telling you how to make millions of dollars, but were kind of telling you how to make millions of dollars here.

Depends on the scale of your operation

Yeah, it depends. But they look at it, consider.

If you’re a user, you should send feedback to retailers when you get frustrated — you can do it over twitter, you can do it over facebook. Whatever. Complain. Don’t be silent if you’re silent, they’re gonna assume that whatever they’re doing is okay.

Amazon probably isn’t gonna answer you, but I had a problem recently with an order I had from a place I ordered coffee from and they were like, “oh, let’s get that taken care of!” They sent me a free re-order of my coffee. They didn’t charge me anything for it. They made it right. It wasn’t a problem with their checkout or anything like that. But it’s a case where a lot of companies, especially the smaller ones, very much listen to their social media. So if you’ve had trouble with… if you think they’re sorting is just screwed, if you were trying to check out and you just entered road block after road block, tell them — a lot of these cases. And I think with the three hundred million dollar button story, actually, they make this comment that: it’s sometimes really hard to know you have a problem on this stuff. If you don’t stop to think “what if we look at this?” It’s an unknown Unknown in these situations. So take the time, talk to people, help the developers know that, “hey, you’re missing something,” because they may not even realize that there is a problem until you bring it up.

Maybe they did have suspicions, but their superiors weren’t wanting to do anything about it. So if you provide them some user feedback now they have a “well, these people have complained about this issue that we told you about six months ago…”

But be nice about it.

— Thanks, Gas Mark 8! —

Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of the DrunkenUX Podcast. We hope you found it helpful. Hopefully, you can take some of this, be sure to read the articles. We’ve got tons of research that we linked on the show notes page. That’s at — Tune in on the next episode. We’ll be coming back in a couple weeks, February 4th, with our higher ed episode. I spent six years working for university — Aaron, I think you spent a few more than me


Ten. I’m sorry. You have my condolences.

*laughing* that’s ok

We have a many, many opinions on this topic.

I’m looking forward to this.

This will be… eh… interesting to say the least, so be sure to tune in for that, that will be a fun time though. I don’t know what will be drinking then, but we’ll find something good. I think.

Something really could we get a special bottle for that one. And be sure to check us out on facebook and twitter, both of these -> /drunkenux — If you haven’t already, subscribe to us on Google play. If you like the podcasts — are we gonna get on it on iTunes?

It is going to be on iTunes, hopefully before they hear this. If it’s not, there is a post on the page, of course or on the website that has links to everything. We will have it on the home page, follow on twitter and facebook, we’ll announce when it’s on itunes. I am waiting. It is submitted, it is in review. So it will be available on iTunes

Is it because we say… bad words?

I saved my bad words for the end, but no, google didn’t like us for the bad words, we had to fix that. But, iTunes is just waiting.

Subscribe to us, follow us, interact with us, and please, please: I wanna hear about your stories where alphabetical sorting was useful for you. I’m serious. I really wanna know. Thank you very much!

See you next time!

See you!

This episode of The Drunken UX Podcast brought to you by Gas Mark 8.

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