eCommerce websites are some of the most complicated and time-intensive projects. Each design requires many page styles like the products listing, single product page, user profile, and naturally the shopping cart. Adding onto the project is a concern of security, and just building a single eCommerce site can be quite draining and very stressful. But when you approach the whole design from a user experience perspective ideas tend to make a little more sense.
I’ve put together a few guidelines and free resources for enhanced checkout forms. These should prove useful on any website including responsive layouts. Checkout pages are certainly detailed but not overwhelming. Once you learn how to organize content the presentation becomes like second nature. Regular checkout forms work – enhanced checkout forms work even better.
Form UI Design
Although it seems shallow, many users will pull away from a site if it doesn’t have a clean interface design. You really need to polish up your forms and webpages in order to land those sales. There is always an option of building your own custom form design with the basics of CSS3. Newer properties and transition effects can really pack a punch.
But you also might try building customized forms on top of UI kits or plugins. For example Ideal Forms is a jQuery plugin which not only helps style the form, it also provides useful interactive elements too. These elements range from tooltips to progress steps with plenty of other goodies in-between.
This is an excellent choice because with Ideal Forms you get all the main defaults with custom input fields like select menus and radio buttons. It’s almost like Bootstrap except catering directly to forms and input fields. Checkout menus can improve dramatically by introducing such concepts into your layout.
Similarly you might try adding completely new input styles and customizing the design yourself. For example jQuery Multiselect is a plugin based off the common checkbox field. But instead of listing a series of checkboxes, the input becomes a select menu where users can select many different items from a list of items.
In the context of a checkout field this may be useful to organize items in a cart, update quantity, material, or colors of a certain object. And the Multiselect plugin is just one of many to be found on there in Google.
I would personally recommend Unheap as a very reliable plugin repository. This site includes a list of the most interesting plugins directly related to forms, input fields, and user-interactive page elements. Best of all Unheap catalogs free jQuery plugins that are all open source and free to use for any type of project.
Although the form design is very important, interaction may be even more important. People continue going onto Craigslist despite the insipid and tasteless design. Why? Because it just works!
Remember that people want something that works. The point of a good design is to promote credibility and build trust. If enough people start to trust your website then design isn’t as important. However the user experience is always important regardless of trust, design, or any other talking points.
For checkout pages I would recommend adding plugins or interfaces that expedite the checkout process. One such item you might try is the jQuery Credit Card Validator. This is a free open source plugin which can analyze CC numbers and check CCV’s to determine validity in real-time. Talk about convenient!
Another more simplistic example is jQuery Validity which performs the same task using a different codebase. I suppose the choice is really up to each developer but inline credit card validation offers a sense of professionalism and high-quality design. It also gets customers moving through the checkout queue a lot quicker and more secure with their purchase.
In the same vein as a checkout validator would be the jQuery spinner plugin. This is a free open source tool for building numeric forms that increase by up/down arrows. These inputs are obviously useful for editing the quantity of an item, but they can also be used for any input field that’s based on numeric content.
I feel this is a much simpler option rather than forcing a user to manually input their quantity. You can even change the numbers to include decimals or similar punctuation. Customization is brief yet thorough and quite useful in most circumstances.
Naturally I couldn’t talk about the checkout process without bringing up payments. Most online stores can handle digital payment systems like PayPal, but lots of people would still rather use their Credit Card. So how do people know which stores to trust?
This is a difficult conundrum and not easy to solve. The first and most obvious step would be to acquire an SSL certificate for the domain. This will encrypt all data moving through HTTPS to ensure a higher level of security.
But how else can you handle payments when content is physically entered into the checkout form? Well if we’re talking about credit or debit cards the jQuery payment plugin is an excellent choice. This was developed by Stripe which is a large digital payment processor for online and retail businesses.
jQuery Payment behaves very similar to the credit card validators except that it can handle payments and also restyle inputs. So as the user enters a series of numbers they automatically form in a valid CC number syntax with proper dashes. Cool huh?
Putting it all Together
By placing a focus on the user experience other ideas should arise naturally. Of course you need to work for a good design because nothing comes easy. But if you’ve studied interactive design you should be able to determine what feels right vs what feels odd or confusing.
Once you have a concept for interactivity put it down on something. Paper, digital wireframes, Photoshop mockups, or just plain HTML/CSS. Make your ideas tangible so that you can judge for yourself how easy(or not-so-easy) they really are. Applying slick designs and icons into the layout only adds to the underlying structure.
The overall message is to never lose sight of the design’s recipient: the user. Checkout forms are not made specifically for you, or your developer, or your boss. They’re made for the massive number of Internet users who might purchase something from the eCommerce shop. If you can building something that works and entice users with a dazzling design, there shouldn’t be any problem selling quality items on the web.
Not everything in this article should be included with each checkout page. Sometimes you need to weigh the pros and cons of a certain design style to see how it works compared to the rest of the layout. But I do advise every designer to try out a few of these ideas just to see what works best. Similarly if you have any top-secret formulas for baking up a sweet checkout form you can share with our community in the discussion area below.