Ecommerce Oops When Cool Design Makes It Hard to Buy(Places soap box on the ground and steps onto it.)

Cool ecommerce site design should never make it hard to buy from you.

Let me say that again.

Cool ecommerce site design should never trump making it easy for your customer to complete an ecommerce order. Cool ecommerce site design is only “cool” when it makes it EASIER for the customer to complete a purchase. If “cool” design complicates the purchasing process, don’t do it.

Here’s a quick summary of my recent shopping experience and why I am preaching that cool should never trump simplicity.

The Problem

I shop online a fair amount. I like to think that I am a savvy online shopper. I work for a company that designs ecommerce sites as it’s main line of business and I write about ecommerce best practices all the time. Shopping online should be simple for me, right?

 I recently found myself searching online for a good price on my favorite kind of socks. They aren’t your cheap discount store socks and so I figured I would see what savings the World Wide Web could offer. After perusing a few sites that offered pricing no better than my local department store, I checked the ever-faithful and was pleased to see that my socks were there and for a much better price.

I surfed around and decided on a style. Here it is:

Ecommerce Oops When Cool Design Makes It Hard to Buy

Jack pot! Great price, 6 pairs of socks and in black and white. So I go to click on the add to cart button and I get this message:

Ecommerce Oops When Cool Design Makes It Hard to Buy 2

Okay, so they want me to choose an option. I start looking for a drop down box. Or instructions. Nothing. I scan the  whole page. Twice. Three times. Nothing. Still won’t let me add the socks to the cart.

At this point, I am starting to get flustered and crabby. I just want to buy some socks. The page shows a large white and a large black sock sold in 6-pair packs. This is what I want. Three of them, in fact, and I can’t get the page to let me buy.

(insert grumbling here)

Then, by complete chance, I accidently moused over the tiny little thumbnail pictures on the page.

Ecommerce Oops When Cool Design Makes It Hard to Buy 3

When I do, a little box appears around the “selected” color family and, miraculously (okay, maybe not really but by this time I was relieved to see that I could, in fact, order my socks), I could now add the items I wished to purchase to the cart.

Ecommerce Oops When Cool Design Makes It Hard to Buy 4

I was stunned. Now maybe I hadn’t had enough coffee when I was shopping or maybe I just missed what was obvious to others, but I had thought those thumbnails were showing me other colors available as a cross-sell, not a selection device. As in, “If you like the white and black socks, you’ll love the khaki ones too!”


I don’t know why my brain didn’t register that I needed to choose a color family first, but I can only assume that I’m not the only one to be flustered by this very clean, very cool design choice. A short instructional blurb placed above the images–something like “Select a color family from the thumbnails below to add the item to your cart”–would have helped me immensely.

The Lesson

It might seem that your site design is intuitive and maybe it is for most people. However, this shopping experience reminded me that it never hurts to make the process that much clearer with a bit of instruction for those people that don’t immediately understand.  It could save the sale!

(steps off the soap box and goes about her day)

Ready to learn more about ecommerce website design best practices? Download the white paper, Sell More With Stunning Design – Increasing Conversions and Decreasing Cart Abandonment.