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

Are you wondering...

What kinda dummy writes a “storybook” for eCommerce people? Everyone knows they’re all about improving the numbers...


But numbers are worthless if you don't understand the stories they're trying to tell.

There’s an addiction to numbers in the world of eCommerce (think analytics and dashboards). And like all addictions, it’s clouding our judgement.

We’re so fixated on the metrics that we’ve forgotten it’s not the numbers we’re trying to influence – it’s the people those numbers are tracking.

User experience (UX) is everything that happens to people when they interact with your your eCommerce website. It includes everything they see, hear and do, as well as their emotional reactions.

It determines whether or not they buy on your site.

All numbers really give you is an incomplete view of the user experience – what people did but not why (or how to change that). We’ll show you how to get the full picture.

This is the story of how the inventor of eCommerce – Michael Aldrich – made online shopping a success by firstly testing the user experience of his creation.

You’ll also see how companies today have taken their online sales to the max by focussing on user experience:

  • Lovehoney increased revenue by 115% and conversion rate by 24%
  • ClickMechanic increased conversion rate by 50%
  • Schuh increased smartphone sales
  • ASOS improved 6 international websites

You’ll get the tools and knowledge they used to achieve these results... for free.


Online shopping was invented in Sussex, in 1979...

10 years before the world wide web and 5 years before the Internet


Every Friday night, Michael and his wife, Sandy, would bundle their kids in an estate car and drive off to do something they all hated – weekly shopping.

In the summer of 1979, Michael and Sandy were walking their Labrador, Tessa, near their home in Colgate, Sussex.

Michael spread laughter in his official capacity as the Archbishop of Banterbury, while the couple enjoyed what passes for sunshine in England.

Then came the subject of weekly shopping to rain on their parade.

Michael had had enough – he thought there had to be a be a better way. And that gave him an idea, “What if I can get the supermarket to deliver my shopping?”

An IT innovator and eventual adviser to Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, Aldrich connected a TV to a phone line and invented Videotex online shopping.


Numbers tell you everything… except everything too complicated to be expressed in 1s and 0s


There was no market, no demand and no infrastructure. Perhaps it was all nuts. We had to get a reality check. Talk to real people. Get some feedback. Get some reaction.
— Michael Aldrich on deciding to test online shopping at the Data Entry Management Association Conference in September 1979 (3)


Numbers don’t show you things like emotions. Like why people do the things they do. Or why the data is the way it is and how to change it.

When Michael Aldrich invented online shopping, here’s what data would’ve told him:

  • Chicken cost 222 cents per pound and pork cost 156 cents per pound
  • 100% of people who shop, do so in a physical store
  • 0% of people shop online

Data only showed him how people behaved, not how he could change their behaviour. So, he did the only reasonable thing that could be expected of someone trying to influence human behaviour – he watched how people behave. He ran user experience tests.

He took his invention to the Data Entry Management Association Conference in September 1979 and asked people to try it out. He learned how to refine his invention based on what they wanted.


“Statistics are human beings with the tears wiped off.”

Paul Brodeur, Outrageous Misconduct


“Cool story, bro…. but did testing with users actually bring in the cash?”

Considering people hadn’t seen a web browser when online shopping was invented, the success of Aldrich’s invention can seem mind-boggling.

  • In 1981, the first B2B online shopping system was installed by Thomson Holidays
  • In 1984, the first B2C online shopping transaction was completed between Mrs Snowball of Gateshead and Tesco
  • France’s own Videotex system – Minitel – was launched in 1982, generated €832 million in 1998 and had 25 million users by 1999

Aldrich had seen what people liked and didn’t like. He knew how to make his invention a hit before even launching it!


The visitors were interested, intrigued and excited. They even loved the picture quality on the TV! We could have sold many systems. The big issue was that they loved the idea of shopping from home. It was a winner.
— Michael Aldrich on the results of testing online shopping at the Data Entry Management Association Conference in September 1979


He designed online shopping according to 5 criteria of usability which, even today, determine the success of eCommerce sites. Customer behaviour, video evidence and data all confirm this.

So we’re going to use all those things to show you:

  1. How to apply the same 5 criteria of usability in Michael Aldrich’s approach and boost online sales
  2. Results real companies have achieved by applying the 5 criteria of usability
  3. How to get started right now with improving the user experience of your eCommerce site

The 5 criteria of usability that boost eCommerce sales

Give your users a dead-easy, super-quick, time-defyin’, smooth-sailin’, endorphin-releasin’ experience!

According to usability experts like the Nielsen Norman Group, online user behaviours are determined by these 5 criteria:


[codename: Dead-easy]

“How easy is figuring out how to use your website, at a glance?”


[codename: Super-quick]

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


[codename: Time-defyin’]

“Does using your website come back to me intuitively, after some time has passed since I last did so?”


[codename: smooth-sailin’]

“How easy is it to make mistakes while using your website? How easy is it to correct these mistakes?”


[codename: Endorphin-releasin’]

“How much do I enjoy using your website?”


Correctly balancing these criteria will make quitting your site mid-purchase harder than quitting Candy Crush Saga mid-game.