Testing an online store. What (and how) to test in e-commerceE-commerce
These days our whole life has shifted to the Internet. On the web, we maintain relationships with friends, keep in touch with colleagues and of course… do our shopping. Most online stores have now taken the upper hand over their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Big players are enjoying growing sales, while smaller ones try to catch up and others are just entering the world of e-commerce with the hope of keeping their business up and running.
So, things are happening.
In all this confusion, it’s easy to make a mistake. And where there are mistakes, there are those best equipped to find them: testers. Drawing from our testing experience, in today’s article we will tell you what and how to test in an online store.
Is it worth testing 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 on testing. Many entrepreneurs assume that a lack of tests and potential bugs on the website mean at most a slightly more difficult purchasing process for customers. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Let’s be clear: bugs on a website carry real financial losses. According to Bisnode Polska, in June 2019 there were 31,700 online stores in Poland. So customers have a lot to choose from and if shopping in your e-store is a frustrating experience for them (and you don’t have a strong competitive price to offer), they will simply spend their money somewhere else.
A lack of tests means:
- loss of shopping carts/higher cart abandonment rate,
- lower probability that the customer will recommend the store to friends,
- loss of customer trust (and as a result, often customers themselves),
- risk of high financial penalties (if there are no security tests).
Moreover, if you don’t catch the bugs in your store, others will. For example, those who deliberately search for bugs in order to use them to buy products at an erroneously low price.
The question should therefore not be “is testing worthwhile” but “what is worth testing.” The answer is coming soon.
What should you test in the context of e-commerce?
We will be honest with you: there is a lot to test – both individual elements and entire processes. We don’t want to give trivial advice, but at the same time we realize that the topic is so extensive that it’s impossible to cover every issue in a single article.
So we decided to tell you about the most important ones, assigning them to different types of tests to make it all easier to understand. Let’s get started!
Testing the store starts with what the customer encounters first, even before he or she starts browsing the virtual aisles. We are talking about the time it takes to load the page and all its elements. Year after year, users are becoming increasingly demanding in this regard.
The solution (or rather a diagnosis of the problem, which is also the first step toward a solution) is performance testing. Find out more about it here: https://testarmy.com/en/services/performance/
One of the aspects checked during performance tests is the already mentioned loading speed of the website, individual pages and their elements. The result in this case is influenced, among other things, by appropriate resource caching, so it’s worth taking a look at. It is also a good idea to ensure resources, such as photos, PDF files and others, are properly optimized. This also affects the website’s loading speed.
In addition to the above, it is also worth noting how much traffic the website can withstand. This issue becomes particularly acute during periods of increased customer traffic, such as holidays, Black Friday, and the current lockdown, which results in brick-and-mortar footfall moving to online stores.
Once performance issues have been settled and are not a hindrance when users are shopping, it’s time for another milestone on the way to a well-tested store – testing its usability. For that, usability/UX tests are employed (as the name suggests). 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:
● The purchasing process – the core of e-commerce. Is it easy and intuitive enough? How many steps does it take and are all of them necessary? Can you streamline it? At what stage do most users give up and what could be the reason? It is good practice to test the purchasing process for different types of users: logged in, not logged in, B2B, VIP, etc.
● Forms – order forms, newsletter subscription forms, contact forms and others. How do they react to incorrectly entered data, e.g. an e-mail address with Polish diacritics? Are all fields the right length? Is every one necessary? Or does the form need simplifying? Let’s not forget that the longer the form is, the greater the chance that users will give up on completing it.
● Other elements of the interface – A poorly thought-out or buggy interface will annoy users and in the end will make them leave the website. In order to prevent this, test individual components for usability in advance: Does the search engine always return the right result, even after a phrase with a typo is entered? What about Polish diacritics or lack of them? Do filters work properly? Is it possible to apply more than one filter, or does it cause errors in the results? If a user leaves the site and returns, will previously selected products still be in their shopping cart? Does the discount code field work correctly?
● Advertisements, pop-ups – this is an extension of the previous point. Do the cookie and personal data processing bars interfere with using the shop? Do they cover a large part of the screen (a problem that usually occurs on mobile devices)? Can they be closed easily? It’s also a good idea not to bombard the customer with offers as soon as they enter the site. A dozen or so banners encouraging visitors to like a social media channel, chat with customer service, subscribe to a newsletter, etc. are far too many.
Have you ever wondered what the purchasing process in your store looks like from the perspective of a blind person? No? You should!
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is a collection of documents on good practice in creating websites to meet the needs of users with disabilities. It is worth applying them to make sure that your store 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 encourage you to contact us if you need help with WCAG implementation.
Store security tests
The more customers enjoy your offer, the more pressing the issue of security becomes. Failures in this field can have serious consequences, such as high financial penalties, a tarnished image and loss of customers. How can you avoid them?
The answer is security tests of your online store. You can commission a security audit, during which a specialist will perform manual and automatic tests of IT system security (in this case your e-commerce system), 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 about how such a step-by-step audit works: https://testarmy.com/en/services/security-testing/
Another solution is penetration testing. Penetration tests consist of a controlled attack to detect potential security gaps. They verify the store’s readiness to withstand a hack, investigate what damage such an attack could cause and develop a plan to protect you in the future. Here you can find more information about penetration tests: https://cyberforces.com/uslugi/testy-penetracyjne
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 shops collect quite a lot of these. Customers, loyalty program members, newsletter recipients… Contact databases can be quite large and should all be protected. It’s essential to check whether the site uses HTTPS and security headers (and if not, to immediately remedy this!). Nobody wants to follow in the footsteps of Morele.net – a computer store that received a financial penalty of almost PLN 3 million from the Office of Personal Data Protection last year for insufficient protection of its customers’ data.
E-commerce testing. Good practices
To wrap up, we have some more tips for you. First of all:
● Give yourself enough time – surface-level testing doesn’t make sense. If your tight schedule does not allow you to spend time on reliable testing, it is probably a better idea to entrust this task to a third-party 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. A tired mind is not overly perceptive. It is better to divide the whole process into several (dozen) shorter sessions.
● Check out different variants of the website – If you only see one rendering of your store every day (for example, in Chrome on your laptop), you may be surprised by the bugs you find when you use a different device or browser.
How often should you perform tests?
In the context of good website (and store) testing practices, the question is sometimes asked: “How often should you perform tests?” E-commerce owners wonder if it is enough to test their stores once, before they start, or if they should do it regularly, and if so, at what intervals?
Unfortunately, there is no one good answer.
The appearance and performance of your shop requires most attention right after the website is made available to customers. Then you can perform tests less often. However, it is certainly worth performing a test when you change the whole layout or its individual elements.
E-commerce security, on the other hand, is worth testing quite often, especially the store’s resilience against newly detected vulnerabilities.
It is also worthwhile to study user behavior on a regular basis. Keeping up to date with it will allow you to react quickly in case of an unexpected change in behavior (which may be caused by a new bug on the site).
Who can support you in this?
As you have probably already noticed, there are several links in the article leading to broader descriptions of the different types of tests we perform on a daily basis. We can’t deny it: testing has been our passion for more than a decade and we will be happy to support you in this area.
Whether you decide to use our services, or work with another provider, make sure to check out their portfolio, ask about their experience and brands they have worked with so far – it’s one thing to test a modest online store, and another thing to test a mature e-commerce system, integrated with many tools and offering customers numerous shopping facilities. It’s worth keeping that in mind.
That’s it when it comes to testing online stores. We hope that this article has enriched your knowledge and wish you many successful tests!