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.