A new study by web development firm Questus using their online survey service BigLook, finds that web site design and usability are critical factors that influence online transactions. Though the findings are based on an Internet survey of a puny sample size of 425 employed American adults, the results corroborate an October 2002 Consumer Reports WebWatch survey of 2600 Americans. Because of that, I believe the Questus study has validity.
The Questus study found that good design leads to better sales. Specifically, though price was the most influential factor when making a decision to buy a product on a web site (68% said it was), other factors such as shipping options (44%), product descriptions (38%), site navigation (37%), and the checkout process (32%) were critical factors as well.
Fifty-one percent of the respondents said that they had purchased something from a web site this holiday season from whom they had never purchased before.
Sixty-eight percent of the respondents said that they would distrust a web site that did not have a professional appearance, compared to the 8% who said they’d trust a web site that did not look professional and the 24% who said it didn’t matter either way.
A clean, easy-to-use site is important in closing the online sale. Jeff Rosenblum, co-founder and research and strategy director of Questus, says that customers want an uncluttered, obvious site design that doesn’t overwhelm them with choices. Surfers were more likely to complain of a site having too many links rather than too few.
The study found that 29% left a site without buying something because they did not want to register with the site; 22% felt it too difficult to find products on the site; and 17% did not believe the site was trustworthy or secure.
The Questus survey is in line with the comprehensive 2002 WebWatch report, How do people evaluate a web site’s credibility?
The WebWatch report found that "nearly half of all consumers (or 46.1%) in the study assessed the credibility of sites based in part on the appeal of the overall visual design of a site, including layout, typography, font size and color schemes."
Further, "consumer credibility-related comments about visual design issues occurred with more frequency with finance (54.6%), search engines (52.6%), travel (50.5%), and e-commerce sites (46.2%), and with less frequency when assessing health (41.8%), news (39.6%), and nonprofit (39.4%) sites."