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How to test an e-commerce website

Poradniki

Recently, our whole life has shifted to the Internet. On the web, we maintain our relationships with friends, contact with colleagues and of course… buy. Most of  online shops have now taken over their stationary counterparts. Major players are enjoying the growing sales charts,  smaller ones are trying to catch up to them, and others are just entering the world of e-commerce with the hope of maintaining their business.

In all this chaos, it’s easy to make a mistake. And where there are mistakes, there are also their hunters – testers. In today’s article, we will tell you what and how to test in an online store.

Is it even worth it to test online stores at all?

Let’s start with why it is worth spending your time or (if you decide to entrust this task to an external company) resources for testing. Many entrepreneurs assume that the lack of testing and potential errors on the website mean at most a little more difficult purchasing process for customers. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s put it clearly black on white: errors on your website carry with them real financial losses. According to Bisnode, in June 2019 the number of online shops in our country amounted to as much as 31.7 thousand. Therefore, customers have a lot to choose from and if shopping in your e-commerce will be a frustrating experience for them (and you don’t offer highly competitive prices) they will simply go shopping somewhere else.

Lack of testing amounts to :

  • loss of shopping cart / higher cart abandonment rate,
  • less chance for the customer to recommend the store to his friends,
  • loss of customer confidence (and as a result often the customer himself),
  • risk of high financial penalties (in the absence of security tests).

What’s more, if you don’t catch errors in your shop – others will. For example, those who deliberately search for errors in order to use them to buy products at an erroneously low price.

The question should not be “Is it worth testing” but “What is worth testing”. Here is the answer.

What to test in the context of e-commerce?

We will be honest with you: there is a lot to test – both individual elements and whole processes. We don’t want to give you trivial advice, but at the same time we realize that the topic is so extensive that it’s impossible to cover all issues in one article.

So we’ve decided to focus on the most important ones, to make it easier to assign them to different types of tests.

Let’s get started!

Performance testing

It is worthwhile to start testing the shop with what the customer comes into contact first, even before he starts browsing the Internet shelves. We are talking about the loading time of the page and all its elements. Year after year, users are more and more demanding in this respect.

Source: marketoonist.com

The solution (or rather the diagnosis of the problem, which is also the first step towards a solution) is performance testing. Here you can learn more about them: https://testarmy.com/en/services/performance/ 

One of the elements checked during the performance tests is the above mentioned loading time of the page, individual subpages and their elements. The result in this case is influenced, among others, by appropriate resource caching, so it is worth to take a look. It wouldn’t hurt to check if the resources, such as photos, pdf files and others, are optimized accordingly. This also affects the speed of the website.

Apart from the above, it is also worth noting how much traffic the website is able to handle. This issue becomes particularly pressing during periods of increased customer traffic, such as holidays, Black Friday, as well as the current isolation, as a result of which customers of stationary stores move to their online counterparts.

Usability testing

Once the performance issues have been settled and are not a hindrance to users’ shopping, it’s time for another milestone on the way to a well-tested shop – checking its usability. As the name suggests, this is what the usability/UX tests do. Find out more about them here: https://testarmy.com/en/services/user-feedback/ 

In the context of usability tests of an online store, it is worth taking a look at:

  • Shopping process – The core of e-commerce. Is it easy and intuitive? How many steps does it contains and are all of them necessary? Is it possible to simplify it? At what stage do most users give up and what can be the reason for that? A good practice is to test the purchasing process for different types of users: logged in, not logged in, B2B, VIP, etc;
  • Forms – purchase, newsletter subscription, contact and others. How do they react to  incorrect entered data, e.g. e-mail address with non binary characters? Are all fields of appropriate length? Is each of them necessary? Or maybe it is worth simplifying something? Let’s not forget that the longer the form, the greater the chance that the user will resign from filling it out;
  • Other elements of the interface – Poorly thought-out or full of errors page interface   will cause annoyance to users and, at the end, will make them ultimately leave it. To prevent this, it is worthwhile to test the individual elements for usability in advance: Does the search engine always return the right result, even after typing a phrase with a typo? What about ASCII characters or lack of them? Do the filters work properly? Can more than one be used, or does it cause errors in the results? If a user leaves the site and returns to it again, will the previously selected products still be in their cart? Does the box for entering the discount code work correctly?
  • Advertisements, pop-ups – This is a kind of an extension of the previous point. Does the information about the collection of cookies and processing of personal data not interfere with the usability of the shop? Do they not cover a significant part of the screen (this is a problem that usually occurs on mobile devices)? Can they be easily switched off? It is also a good idea not to force the customer with a large number of suggestions immediately after entering the site. A dozen or so banners encouraging customers to like particular social media channels, chat, subscribe to a newsletter, etc. are far too many.

Accessibility (WCAG)

Have you ever wondered what the purchasing process in your shop looks like from the perspective of a blind person? No? But you should!

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is a collection of documents on good practices in creating websites to meet the needs of users with disabilities. It’s worth to take a look on it to make sure that your shop does not create digital barriers for potential customers.

Here you will find the latest WCAG guidelines: https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/.

We also invite you to contact us if you need help with the implementation. 

Security testing

As the number of online customers increases, website safety becomes a crucial issue . Failures in this area can have serious consequences, such as high financial penalties, image losses and loss of customers. How do you avoid them?

The answer to this question are security tests of your online store. In this case, you can use a security audit, during which a specialist will perform manual and automatic tests of IT system security (in this case e-commerce), assess the degree of exposure of the system to known vulnerabilities and help build a security strategy. On this page you will find more information on how such an audit works: 

https://cyberforces.com/en/services/security-testing

Another solution is penetration testing. This consists of conducting a controlled attack in order to detect potential security vulnerabilities. This will allow you to verify your shop’s readiness for a hacker’s attack, investigate what damage such an attack could potentially cause, and develop a plan to protect yourself against it for the future. Here you can find more information about penetration tests: https://cyberforces.com/en/services/penetration-testing

Both security audits and penetration tests should be entrusted to specialists who are up to date with newly detected vulnerabilities.

A separate issue in the field of e-commerce security is the security of personal data – and online shops collect quite a lot. Customers, loyalty program members, newsletter recipients… Contact databases can be quite large and each of them should be properly protected. Checking if the website uses the HTTPS protocol and security headers (and if not, immediately adjust this!) is an absolute must.

E-commerce testing. Good practices

In conclusion, we would like to add some more tips for you.

First of all:

  • Give yourself enough time – head-to-toe testing is of little use. If a tight schedule doesn’t allow you to spend the amount of time necessary to carry out the tests reliably, it’s probably a better idea to entrust this task to an external company;
  • Don’t overdo it either – Sitting in front of a computer for several hours to test everything in one go is not a good idea either. A tired mind loses its sharpness and skims over the details. It is better to divide the whole process into several shorter sessions.
  • Check out the different variants of your site – If you only see one version of your shop every day (for example, you display it in the Chrome browser on your laptop), you may be surprised by the errors you find when using a different device or browser.

How often should I test?

In the context of good website testing practices, the question is sometimes asked “How often should I test?”. E-commerce owners wonder if it is enough if they test their shops once, before they run them, or if they should do it regularly, and if the latter, at what intervals?

Unfortunately, in this case there is not one right answer.

The look of a shop and its performance require most of your attention right after handing over the page to your customers. Later on, you may return to their testing less often. However, it is certainly worth testing when you change the whole layout or its individual elements.

On the other hand, e-commerce security is worth testing quite often, especially the resistance of the store to newly detected vulnerabilities.

It is also worth to regularly test the behavior of users. Keeping your hand on the pulse in this area, will allow for a quick reaction in case of unexpected change in behavior (and this may be caused by a new error on the site).

Who can support you in this?

As you have probably already noticed, there are several links in the article to a broader description of the different types of tests we do every day. We will not deny it : testing has been our passion for over a decade and we are happy to support you in this topic.

Whether you decide to use our services, or start working with another provider, don’t be afraid to check their portfolio, ask about their experience and what brands they have worked with so far – it’s different to choose a company to test a simple online store versus to test a mature e-commerce, integrated with many tools, plugins  and offering customers many shopping facilities. It is worth keeping this in mind.

That would conclude the topic of testing online shops!  We hope that this article has enriched your knowledge and we wish you successful testing!

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