How to do a Heuristic Analysis for Ecommerce

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Here at GrowthHit, we kick off every new client with a heuristic analysis. 

We do this because It’s one of the best and fastest ways to find usability problems and uncover potential opportunities for CRO test ideas early on.

CRO is a research game. The more upfront research we do, the better we understand how a visitor interacts with a site, what they need to see, and how we can get more of them to convert.

In this article, I’ll take you through the exact steps and let you peek behind the curtain of how we do a Heuristic analysis for clients. By the end of the article, you’ll be able to quickly spot conversion blockers, uncover testing opportunities, and see your website in a whole new light.

Ready? Let’s dive in…

 

Table of contents

What is Heuristic Analysis?

A heuristic analysis or heuristic evaluation is basically a process to uncover usability issues and conversion opportunities on a website. And while it sounds complex, it can be pretty easy if you know what you’re looking for.

For Ecommerce, we focus on 4 main pages: the homepage, category pages, PDP’s (Product Detail Pages), and the cart. If there’s something blocking visitors from converting into a customer, it’s on one of these pages. 

And it’s usually not far down the page either. Having seen a lot of session recordings and scroll maps showing how far people scroll, the surprising truth is, people don’t scroll down a page as much as you might think.

Your biggest opportunities to make the most impact on conversions will come from the areas above the fold and directly below it.

 

Heuristic Analysis in CRO

A heuristic analysis is great for gaining momentum early on. The problem begins when companies stop here and rely only on “best practices” or guesswork to come up with test ideas.

The insights gained from a heuristic analysis can give us a rough outline of possible conversion blockers and test opportunities. But the real magic comes when we pair these insights with other research methods, like heatmaps/scroll maps, session recordings, exit-intent polling, and analytics data. 

That’s when the real picture starts to unfold and we understand what visitors are actually doing and why they’re doing it.

 

Heuristic Analysis Mindest

For Ecommerce sites, from a high-level perspective we want to focus on:

  • Above the fold and directly below it for the most part. Visitor behavior changes from site to site and page to page, but more often than not, people don’t scroll that much. Keep this in mind when you’re going through your website. The biggest bang for your buck is above the fold and it’s where you should focus on quickly capturing attention, directing visitors to the right place, and overcoming objections.
  • Site functionality – Identifying issues with the navigation and menus, filtering options, and any other interaction points. How difficult is it to find a product or get to a specific category on Desktop or Mobile? Is there a roadblock or an excessive number of clicks?
  • Content and CTAs – How prominent are the CTAs and are they above the fold? Is the messaging clear and specific to the visitor? Are you showing social proof and overcoming common objections?
  • Layout and design – Are the most important elements you want visitors to see high up on the page? Are text and headings easy to read on Mobile and Desktop? How about background colors and CTAs? Are they being emphasized or falling into the background?
  • Conversion paths – Does the visitor have a clear path to the end goal? What could stop them from quickly finding the right product? Are you overcoming objections and displaying key information at critical conversion points?

Now that you have a high-level picture of the kind of questions we should be asking ourselves as we do the heuristic analysis, let’s break it down across the different pages and walk you through the thinking behind it. 

 

Main Menu Navigation

We want to make it as easy as possible for visitors to get to where they want to go. This means reducing the number of unnecessary clicks and making it super simple, especially on mobile where menus are often frustrating to navigate. 

mobile-menu-navigation-heuristic-analysis_

Q: How easy is your menu to navigate on Mobile and can you reduce the number of taps?

Q: Could you expose key menu items on your page as a menu bar, instead of hiding them in a hamburger menu?

main-menu-navigation-heuristic-analysis_

 

The Hompage: Above the fold

One of the first steps in our heuristic analysis is looking at the homepage ‘above the fold’ section. It’s the first thing visitors see when they land on the site and should clearly answer 3 questions in the visitor’s mind:

Where am I? What can I do here? Why should I do it with you?

fuchsia-shoes-homepage-heuristic-analysis_-min

If visitors are struggling to answer any of these questions then your headline needs work. This is a great area to test on a homepage as you can quickly find the right message-to-market match and discover what’s really important to people with a solid value proposition.

People don’t often scroll far down the page, so your main CTA should be above the fold, clear, and funnel visitors down your main conversion path. This could be direct to your best selling product or category page.

Q: Does your main headline and subhead convey the value you’re offering?

Q: Is your CTA clear and directing visitors down the best performing conversion path? 

Q: If you have competing CTAs, is one of them emphasized over the other?

Q: Is your hero image connected to your value proposition? Does it show your product or is it aspirational?

Q: If you have free shipping or other incentives, are you emphasizing these in your header?

 

The Hompage: Below the fold

If you’ve done a good job with the value proposition and primary CTA, your visitors will be driven deeper into the funnel. When visitors land on your homepage, they’ll often navigate using the main menu or your ‘above the fold’ CTA button.

However, directly below the fold is an important piece of real estate as your visitors may not scroll very far. 

So showcasing the main benefits of shopping with you, exposing CTAs to key category pages or best-performing products, and highlighting social proof will get the most engagement higher up the page.

A percentage of visitors will drop off shortly after the fold or a bit further down, but some will continue scrolling down the homepage.

Q: Is the content you’re showing directly below the fold helpful to visitors? Does it direct them to key category/product pages or build trust with social proof?

Q: Do you use easy-to-read bullets and icons to state brand/product benefits?

Q: Is your social proof compelling to your target demographic, focusing on different product/store benefits?

Q: Do you have a guarantee that helps reduce friction and overcome an objection?

the hompage below the fold heuristic analysis_

 

Category Pages

Every page in your funnel can be used to build trust, state the benefits of shopping with you, and move people further down the conversion path.

Category pages are where people can get lost or overwhelmed with choice. We want to motivate and move people from the category page to the product page or allow visitors to have a more efficient product browsing experience.

We can do this with things like ‘Quick View’ CTAs on product images allowing visitors to browse multiple products and their key information without leaving the category page. This can create a much nicer browsing experience, reducing clicks and the frustration of moving back and forth between pages.

To motivate more visitors to click through the best performing products, we can use badges to better emphasize and motivate visitors to click through. Things like “Bestseller”, “Trending”, and “Editor recommended” can all help push more people to specific products, creating differentiation on the category page.

Q: Are your filter options too complex or too far down the page?

Q: Are you helping visitors make a product choice and reducing overwhelm?

Q: Do you restate the benefits of shopping with you above the fold as icons and small copy?

Q: If you have a hero section and headline, can it be more value-focused?

product page heuristic analysis

 

Product Pages

Product pages are the biggest friction point in the funnel and the place where we must overcome objections, display benefits, and make it as easy as possible to go to the next step.

One of the key things we’ve talked about is that people often don’t scroll down the page. Or if they do, it’s only a small percentage. This means to make the biggest impact on conversions, we must focus above the fold, and the area directly below it where we get the most eyeballs.

When people go to a product page, they have questions and objections in their minds. It’s our job to help answer the questions and overcome those objections as quickly as possible. 

A good product page should clearly show above the fold:

  • High-quality product images
  • A clear price with savings if discounted
  • Benefit-driven description copy or bullets
  • Easy to use and understand select options if there are different product variants
  • Copy that can help a visitor in making the right selection
  • A clear and primary CTA above the fold
  • Objection handling copy: free returns, free shipping, guarantee, etc.
  • Urgency (if relevant to your business and products)
  • Social proof elements

product page above the fold heuristic analysis

Below the fold, focusing on what is most important to the visitor high up on the page will bring the most benefit. Whether that’s a deeper explanation of product features and their benefits, social proof, or technical specs. This is one of the most complex pages and there are many testing opportunities. 

The biggest wins come from utilizing the heuristic analysis with things like:

  • Exit-intent polling to see why visitors are leaving the product page.
  • Heatmaps to see how people are interacting with different elements.
  • Scroll maps to see how people are scrolling and content order.
  • Session recordings to observe visitor behavior and sticking points. 

Q: If you have different sizing options, do you show a link to a size guide near the size selector?

Q: Are you overcoming the most common objections a visitor might have above the fold?

Q: If your pages are long, could you use a sticky CTA button to make it easy to take the next action?

Q: What is most important for your visitors to see and are you showing it high up on the page?

 

Cart Page

For some stores this is a page, for others, it’s a sidebar. Whatever it is, it can be a sticking point for visitors and it’s a good idea to make it more optimized.

At this point, the visitor has made a few micro-commitments to get here and you’ve overcome objections to the sale. If you treat your cart page as another page to help build trust, show incentives, and increase feelings of security, then you’re doing it right.

While testing on the cart page can be difficult. There are some good practices to follow. 

  • Clearly showing prices and shipping information – restating free shipping and free returns if applicable.
  • Showing a clear checkout CTA button above the fold.
  • Showing concise customer service contact information
  • Making the experience as low-friction as possible and removing complexity or distraction.

Some stores make use of upsells, cross-sells, shipping incentives, and guarantees. There are many things you can do, but making the experience as easy as possible while reminding the visitor of key shopping benefits and easing anxiety will take you a long way.

 

Over to you

By now you have a solid understanding of what goes into a heuristic analysis and the kinds of questions and thought process our analysts go through here at GrowthHit

While a heuristic analysis is great for building testing velocity and gaining momentum early on with the help of experts. Using it in isolation will result in bias and never truly understanding visitor behavior or why people do what they do. 

Remember, the real magic happens when we combine different methods of research. When insights compound on top of insights, all feeding into and validating one another, that’s what leads to winning tests and increased revenue.

That’s the power of research-driven CRO.

Isaac Wardle, Growth Marketer

Helped grow multiple brands across Europe and Asia-Pacific with paid ads, lead generation funnels, and backend revenue optimization. Specialist in growth strategy, CRO, and UX copywriting. Bio-hacker and natural health nerd.
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