Increase online sales using 5 UX principles applied by the inventor of eCommerce


ClickMechanic enjoyed a 50% increase in conversions by making the buying process …


Her (Mrs Jane Snowball’s) connection to the TV was a standard 1970s remote with an additional button which said ‘Phone’. All she had to do was press “Phone”, up came the directory with telephone numbers and she’d hit one of them for whoever she wanted … it took about 15 minutes to teach her how to do it.
— Michael Aldrich on the first B2C, online shopping transaction in 1984


“How long does it take me to use your website to do the things I want?”



If using your website takes longer than people expect, or are willing to invest, they’ll just leave.

But you already knew that. #ThanksCaptainObvious

Here’s what you may not know – improving efficiency isn’t just about removing design barriers – e.g. unnecessary steps and pages – or increasing site speed.

It’s also about removing psychological barriers – situations that make users stall and weigh their options, which can slow decision making and cause abandonment.


What can only your users tell you about being “super-quick”?

Speed is a great film – it’s also good for your site’s users. But remember, only users can tell you how fast they feel comfortable moving.

That’s why things like security badges will sometimes increase conversion rate and sometimes decrease it. Sometimes people want to breeze through without thinking about that and sometimes they don’t.

In some cases, faster is always better – i.e. loading times. But if you’ve ever been in a speeding car, you know speed can also make you feel out of control.

Exactly the same thing can happen with your site – if you skip vital steps because you’re drooling for a conversion, users will likely feel niggling doubts and leave.

Focus on helping users make key decisions quickly and confidently, rather than on moving them to the buy now button as quickly as possible.

Your design will be optimised in the process.


Case Study:

ClickMechanic case study: sometimes, slowing things down will speed up online sales

Putting more “hurdles” in the path of the user will sometimes increase conversion – if these hurdles also help users more readily make the decision to buy.

Think of these hurdles as speed bumps in parts of the funnel where the user has to process a lot of decisions. They help users avoid mental collisions.

To illustrate, here’s a case study of a real company that boosted conversion by adding more steps to its online sales process.

ClickMechanic increased online sales by 50%

Andrew Jervis is the founder of ClickMechanic – an online service that lets you access a network of freelance mobile mechanics. You tell them which repairs you need, the mechanic comes to you… bada bing, bada boom and your car’s fixed.

When the time came to pimp ClickMechanic’s old website, Andrew wanted to get rid of problems that had been killing conversion.

To find out what these issues were, he ran remote user experience tests with WhatUsersDo and watched people using the ClickMechanic site.

Efficiency of design vs efficiency of decision making

Andrew and his team found lots of areas to improve but let’s focus on one:

The fella in this video was confused because he didn’t understand how ClickMechanic’s repairs had been categorised.

Even though this section of the website efficiently categorised all repairs on one page, it didn’t efficiently help users figure out what kind of repair to get a quote for.

That meant checking out took longer and was abandoned by a significant number of people.

How did ClickMechanic solve this problem?

ClickMechanic added an extra step – a diagnostic tool – to help users figure out which repairs to request.

Another user suggested in her video that having some guidance at that stage of the checkout would’ve been helpful. Somebody give her a cookie – she saved Andrew and his team beard-lengthening hours of guesswork.

New ClickMechanic diagnostic tool



Adding this snazzy piece of wizardry meant ClickMechanic increased conversions while adopting a seemingly counter-intuitive approach.
But the confidence to do that came from knowledge of what users wanted.


What were the results of user experience testing?

By introducing the diagnostic tool and upgrading a number of other areas, ClickMechanic drastically improved the performance of its eCommerce site:

  • Conversion rocketed by 50% in just a few months – from an average of 1.6% to 2.2%, peaking at 2.4%
  • Calls into the contact centre decreased from 1400 in April 2015, to 1200 after July – despite a significant increase in site-wide traffic

Andrew’s case shows that your users are a goldmine of conversion-boosting ideas… also, simply a goldmine – the biggest one there is.