When a customer decides to add an item to their basket, what should an e-commerce site do? Should it allow them to continue shopping, send them straight to the shopping basket page, or provide the choice? 

This may depend on the type of website, but there is a balance to be struck between encouraging the customer to complete the purchase as quickly as possible, and making it easy to add extra items. 

I've been looking at several websites to look at button design, the language used on calls to action, and the transition between a customer adding items and the checkout process. 

Adding items to the cart / basket

Once a customer presses the buy button, there are several possible next steps. Here are three: 

  • The customer is taken straight to the shopping basket page to review and complete their order. 
  • The item is added to the basket, and the customer is given the choice between proceeding to checkout and continuing to shop. 
  • The item is added to the basket, but the customer remains on the product page. 

According to E-commerce consultant James Gurd:

There is no right answer. Good practice learning suggests that you dynamically update a mini-basket with “view basket” and “checkout” buttons but don’t navigate users away from the page in case they want to keep browsing. The logic is don’t interrupt the user’s thought path and force them to change behaviour to fit in with your site process.

My advice is always to test what works best for your website. This should be part of a CRO project and test variations in process as well as design/copy changes to see how the creative delivery impacts behaviour and conversion.

These are the approaches used by some well-known online retailers... 


Here's Comet's 'add to basket' buttons. Note the choice of 'buy online' and 'collect in store' rather than add to basket.

Rather than asking customers to select home delivery or in-store pick up later in the process, it makes sense to allow them to choose this route from the product page. 

Once a customer clicks the button, a lightbox appears to provide the option of checkout or 'continue shopping'. There's also the question of where to send users if they choose to continue shopping, but that's a topic for another post. 

House of Fraser

The 'add to bag' button is initially grey, but turns pink when customers select a size. 

When customers add an item to their bags, this basket preview is shown for a few seconds. then it's up to the customer to click on the basket icon at the top right of the page when they're ready. 


ASOS takes a similar approach to House of Fraser. 

After clicking, a preview window appears briefly: 


Sears takes a similar approach to that of ASOS and House of Fraser, but keeps the preview on screen until people actively click to close it. This means customers have to actively decide whether to continue shopping or head for the checkout. 


BHS takes a subtle approach. Once you click the 'add to basket' button, there is no noticeable result. The basket simply shows one item at the top right of the screen: 


On Debenhams, the call to action could be clearer. It's a dull colour and doesn't really stand out on the page: 

Once customers select 'add to bag', Debenhams takes them straight to the shopping basket page. 

This basket page could be clearer. As on the product page, the calls to action are grey and don't stand out, while customers who'd like to continue shopping have to press the 'back' button.


As with Debenhams, customers who select an item on Lovehoney are led straight to the shopping basket page after adding to basket:


Lovehoney E-commerce Manager Matthew Curry explains why: 

It's a hangover from old tech, but I've tested a persistent basket for Lovehoney and there was nothing between them in terms of revenue per visitor, if anything the persistent was slightly behind.

I think if your average number of items in basket is say five or fewer, then it makes sense to provide a continue shopping option. But for us, cross-sells can be added at the same time as adding to the basket, so folks will buy a basque and stockings for instance, rather than this multi-product page process.

Appliances Online

Appliances Online has a nice clear call to action. (I like the curation in action here, with the top five products in some categories picked by an Editor). 

Once customers click add to basket, they are sent straight to the basket. This makes sense, as people are less likely to buy multiple items on a site like this. 

What's interesting about this site is that Appliances Online has a one-page basket and checkout. This removes one step from the process, while there are no registration barriers. 


I think the best approach to this will depend very much on the type of e-commerce site and, of course, it makes sense for retailers to test these variations until they find the best solution.

It does make sense to have a clear indication that an item has been added to the basket, and to show the next steps in the process. 

At the very least, sites should give a clear visual indication that something has been added to the basket. In this respect, the BHS example is way too subtle. 

The approaches used by Sears and Comet make sense in this respect, as they give customers a clear choice of what to do next. However, sending customers to the basket page may work very well and, as Matthew Curry points out, much may depend on the average number of items in customers' baskets. 

What do you think the best approach is? Have you tested these variations? Please let me know below... 

Graham Charlton

Published 4 October, 2012 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (6)

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James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Graham,

Useful to see a visual comparison of retailers, thanks for sharing.

One thing e-commerce designers need to appreciate is accessibility and usability. For people with visual impairment, how noticeable is the on-site state change? If an icon zooms up to the mini-basket, will it be missed? What techniques can you use to ensure that these people are not adversely affected? For example, when people are using screen readers it’s essential to use an alert.

Take a peek at this old article from November 2011 on accessibility issues: http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw121104

Read the 4th para on Sears – can be really frustrating when people using screen readers don’t get an alert to tell them the action was successful.


almost 6 years ago

Chris Gibbins

Chris Gibbins, Director of User Experience & Optimisation at Biglight

Great article Graham - one aspect of the shopping journey that's definitely worth paying a lot of attention to. We've seen some excellent results recently from carrying out A/B/n testing around this part of the user journey - by testing some of the options you've discussed in this article.
Also thought I’d mention another add-to-basket approach, where immediately after the user clicks the 'add to basket' button a new link to the basket and a checkout button appears on the page right next to the 'add to basket' button. This approach can be seen on the John Lewis website. Interestingly a few years back John Lewis used to take users straight to the basket.
Regarding which approach you should take - I've seen (in usability testing) the 'add to basket stay where you are' model work particularly well on websites with a good 'related products' or 'complete the look' area on the product page. This makes it even more useful for the user to remain on the product page - rather than going straight to the basket. However, totally agree that it all depends on the type of e-commerce site - hence the need for testing.

almost 6 years ago


Jeff Bronson

I think having a popup on the product page directly after adding item is the way to go.

The popup should give the option to either continue shopping, view cart or checkout.

This is giving the user maximum choice. You could try being aggressive and bringing the user directly to the checkout page with no navigation options and Guest checkout. However this can greatly skew your actual check funnel abandonment rate .

almost 6 years ago



Everyone loves it whenever people get together and share ideas.
Great blog, stick with it!

almost 6 years ago



I love it when folks get together and share ideas.
Great site, keep it up!

over 5 years ago



Thankfulness to my father who shared with me about this
website, this webpage is genuinely awesome. I JOHNATHAN
I live in San Antonio

over 5 years ago

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