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Checkout processes are supposed to be made as easy as possible for customers to complete. Of course, a certain amount of detail is required to complete a transaction, but this should be made relatively painless for the user.

The checkout and purchase process should be smooth and easy to understand, distractions should be removed, while the amount of information required and the number of steps should be kept to a minimum to make it as quick as possible. This is not the case on VistaPrint though, which has one of the most complicated checkouts I have seen.

The VistaPrint website, which allows you to design and print business cards and other stationary, is reasonably easy to use until you get to the checkout stage, where it becomes way too complicated.

Some of the basics of good checkout design are there; much of the navigation has been removed so the checkout is part-enclosed, logos indicating server security are displayed to reassure customers, while a progress bar displays the various steps in the process:

However, the number of tabs underneath the five checkout steps give a clue about how annoying it is to become. Having selected my business card, text etc, I just want to add my address and payment details and make the purchase, but this is not so simple here.

Cross-selling is a good way of increasing average order values, and has been used to good effect by sites like Amazon, but VistaPrint takes it too far here, by trying to sell you a range of accessories and related products before you can begin to enter address and credit card details:

Having already been offered different options for paper quality and printing something on the back of the business cards, something that should have been dealt with on the product pages, I am then offered matching products, accessories and even the option of a very basic three page website, despite the fact that my card design included a URL:

The cross selling doesn't stop there either. Before I can actually begin to enter address details, VistaPrint wants to show me some products and services from its partners:

Any cross-selling should ideally be done before customers reach the checkout, on product and shopping basket pages and in a way that isn't too intrusive. It is also better to try to learn from customers' previous shopping habits and make recommendations as accurate as possible.

VistaPrint goes too far here, and risks annoying its customers with the sheer amount of product recommendations it provides. Also, because it has done this, the 'next' button to proceed to the checkout, which didn't particularly stand out anyway, is now below the fold where it is harder to find.

Depending on the product chosen, there are between 10 and 14 steps in the process, between selecting a product and completing the purchase. Many customers who have already spent time adding text and choosing the design for their stationary, may go through the process despite the distractions, but I'm sure there are plenty who become annoyed and bail out, which can't help the site's checkout abandonment rates.

Graham Charlton

Published 15 January, 2009 by Graham Charlton

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

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

Stu Bowker

Stu Bowker, Web Analyst at TUI Group

I work in conversion optimising and reducing abandonment rates, but Vista Print really take it to a whole new level. I just tried it out for myself and it truly is an overwhelming process.

Follow the Golden Rule: Keep It Simple Stupid!

over 7 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

Bit of devil's advocate: VistaPrint differ from most sites. By the time you reach the checkout, you've invested so much time and effort that you're much less likely to abandon than on the average ecommerce site. If they tested it over time, they could toss more and more up/cross-sells in there until they hit the point where lost custom outweighed the uplift.

Anyway, that really is devil's advocate. Am a former customer & lapsed after falling foul of their 'vprewards' scheme (do a quick google search for vprewards).

over 7 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Thanks for all the comments. I think you're right dj, enough of their users have spent too long on choosing business cards to dropout at that stage, but it's a poor way to treat your customers and will presumably impact on the amount of repeat business VistaPrint gets.

Looking forward to reading your review of our checkout Paul.

If anyone knows of any more annoying checkouts than VistaPrints, let me know, I might compile a top ten... 

over 7 years ago

Andrew Kirkcaldy

Andrew Kirkcaldy, Director Of Marketing at ao.com

Interesting post.I agree just went through the process actually forgot what I was buying with all that cross selling!

I put alot of work into the checkout process ensuring that it is simple as possible. (just as all the above comments advocate). I astonishes me that some site lose the focus of what the checkout process is for and make things to complex. I agree that when cross selling this needs to be held wihtin the product page or the basket, but as soon as the customer clicks the checkout button the objective needs to be to get the customer to choose a when they can have and pay.

I think one of the other main reasons for cart drop out is the need to register before you buy. I think this point is more prevalent when you are a retailer that sells products that customers buy infrequently. I do think that there is significant benefit in having a registration when you sell goods that customers by alot more frequently. Any thoughts?

over 7 years ago

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