Are you Overwhelming your Customers?


In 2015, some online customer experiences are in a sorry state.

A study by Harris Interactive/RightNow found that 86% of customers quit doing business with a company because of bad customer experience—and that 89% of consumers began doing business with a competitor as a result of poor customer experience.

With numbers that high, doesn’t it make sense to re-work your strategy so that you’re in the minority of those who can provide an exceptional online customer experience? We think so.

But before you start revamping your site, it’s important to understand why poor online customer experience is so common.

Information Overload

One of the most common causes of poor online customer experience is that the customer simply feels overwhelmed by too many options.

You might think it’s a good idea to give your customer as many options as possible, but in fact, research shows that too many choices can be a bad thing. The classic jam experiment illustrates the burden of choice.

When grocery shoppers had the opportunity to purchase gourmet jams, they found that presenting 24 varieties of jams versus six varieties of jams had astounding effects.

The table with 24 jam varieties got more general interest, but buyers were only one-tenth as likely to actually purchase the product as people who saw the simpler six-variety display.

Overwhelming customers

Psychologists believe this happens due in part to cognitive load, which is the human mind’s finite capacity of data-processing space. Too many options can result in information overload.

Nielsen Norman Group discussed cognitive load in relation to online customer experience and how it impacts the purchase journey.

They found that when overloaded, consumers often opted not to act at all rather than committing to making a choice. We know this situation as cart abandonment.

Cart abandonment is much more common in the ecommerce industry than you might think. The Baynard Institute found that on average, only one in four customers actually follows through with an online purchase.

So the question is: What specific aspects of the online customer experience can we perfect to reduce cart abandonment?

Search for Opportunities to Simplify

We know that too much information can be detrimental to the online customer experience, so it’s a good idea to audit your site for places where you could offload tasks by distilling different elements down to their simplest states.

Where should you start?

Leverage Whitespace

Think about leveraging the whitespace around product images and text so that information has room to breathe. Proper spacing creates a well-balanced, aesthetically pleasing experience for browsing shoppers.

Look at Ugmonk’s online store, for example:

Whitespace example

Notice how the whitespace between items makes the products easy to digest from the page? Now look at the Typography Shop’s setup in comparison:

 crowded example

It feels a bit more cluttered, right? Without whitespace, the eye has a hard time deciding where to stop and pause on an interesting product. Whitespace helps to differentiate products and create balance.

Re-Think Your Product Gallery

The online customer experience can also be improved by making information as simple to understand as possible. The brain understands images 60,000 times faster than text, so keeping text-heavy item descriptions off of a gallery page makes for simpler product exploration.

Concise item descriptions can be used on the individual pages for an item, but aren’t necessarily needed until the user clicks on the particular item.

Compare the two examples below.


 Alibaba Product Page


Ebay Product Page

Alibaba overloads the eye with a bundle of unrelated items that are all squeezed tightly into a small space, while Ebay groups similar products together in a clean, simple presentation with a single text description.

Use Common Site Tools

It’s a good idea to build on existing mental models of how websites work and past experiences so your site is easy to use. Navigational features and complex design elements are a great way to show off your advanced design skills, but can be detrimental to the online customer experience.

Stick to conventional formats and tools so that the focus is on your products–and not trying on to figure out how to use your site.’s impact map is an example of how confusing website features distract visitors from what they’re really there for—to buy a product.

 Distracting Homepage

Instead of shopping, a user could easily get lost trying to figure out how to properly view this map. The theory behind the concept here is easy to understand, but the actual experience of using the tool is far from simple.

Reduce Clutter and Redundancies

Each design element and piece of written content should have a purpose within the online customer experience.

You can audit your ecommerce site by looking at all of the various elements and asking the question: “Is this piece really necessary?”

Further reduce clutter by enabling filtering options so that customers can view only the most relevant products, grouping similar products, and by limiting the number of options that display on a single page.

Researchers Claudia Townsend and Barbara E. Khan noted that a high volume of product images on a single page resulted in higher cart abandonment rates.

Nike has lots of products, so they make it easier to browse by relevance using both categories and filtering options, as seen here:

 Nike Product Search

Suggest Relevant Items

You can simplify the decision-making process for your customer by leveraging tools that suggest items commonly purchased together or also viewed by other customers.

Forever 21 stocks thousands of items at any given time, making the opportunities for customers to reach cognitive load endless. But employing the “You May Also Like” sidebar makes it easier for shoppers to discover other items they are likely to enjoy (and purchase.)

Forever 21 Product Page

This feature encourages an increased purchase volume while also simplifying the overall online customer experience.

Reduce Form Length

If you’re using a form to collect information about new leads, consider the number of required fields you’ve included there. A form that’s too long can result in a low conversion rate, because the user gets tired of filling out information before clicking the ‘Submit’ button.

Think about the most essential information you need. That might be:


Email Address

Phone Number

Billing/Shipping Information

Neil Patel found that just removing one form field on his site increased conversions by 26%. He left off the ‘Revenue’ field he’d included before after realizing this may be a friction point for potential clients.

Form Length

Skip the Registered Checkout

You can reduce cart abandonment rates by not requiring customers to fill out an exhaustive new customer form at checkout.

It’s proven: Online shopping expert Christian Holst noted that 30% of shoppers abandoned their carts when required to register as a new user at the checkout process.

Instead, let shoppers have the option to proceed as a guest. You’ll speed up the process and give buyers the choice skip over the parts of the checkout they don’t feel they have time for.


The last thing you want your customer to feel when he or she visits your website is overwhelmed, frustrated, or confused.

Examining your online customer experience piece-by-piece can help you pinpoint areas for improvement and spot causes of cart abandonment before they start eating away at your bottom line.

Bottom line: In more cases than not, less is more.

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