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Ecommerce 101: I know what you did last go-live

By James Hepton, Managing Director



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June 7, 2016 | 4 min read

If you’ll forgive the Wes Craven-esq title for a moment, I have my own horror story to share with you.

James Hepton
James Hepton, managing director of Test Approved

James Hepton

James Hepton, managing director of Test Approved

Everyone in ecommerce has one thing in common: they have a website (or a page listing, a la Ebay) that sells things online. If you’re in ecommerce, the ability to read and click on links is a necessity. Therefore, everyone is capable of testing at the most basic level. The worrying thing is hardly anyone does it properly. Even more worrying still is that it’s a taboo problem that everyone ignores and pretends isn’t happening to them, especially in SMEs where resource is often limited.

Some of the most common issues standing in the way of essential testing are:

  • Assuming it will work (because why wouldn’t it?)
  • Reluctance to question design/dev teams through fear of looking ignorant.
  • Lack of resources to test thoroughly.
  • Assuming that the customer will go out of their way to point out anything that doesn’t work rather than just leaving.

Now, if you’re an ecommerce manager or similar and you can tell me that you’ve never had any of the above issues, then I would call your bluff.

I think the scariest part of those bullets above are the last two words, ‘just leaving’. The reality is that each of the bullet points can potentially lead to this. Your customer can’t figure out how to get the hanger off the rack, so to speak, so simply walks out of the store and goes next door – to your competition. In a world of back buttons and instant Google searches, your competitors are even closer than next door. In fact, it takes customers far less effort to click a mouse than it does to walk all the way to another store so as an ecommerce retailer you’re at even greater risk of losing customers.

One of the biggest barriers to conversion you can ever have, and I cannot stress this enough, is a broken or flawed site. Forget SEO, PPC, social et al. The first investment you should ever make in digital marketing is making sure your site works the way it is supposed to.

This requires no particularly special skills and no additional spending - just some time to check your pages properly. Don’t assume someone else will. Having your design/dev team do it is also far from ideal. They are likely to be a little biased towards their own work and too close to it to notice any errors. You need to get stuck in yourself or if you don’t have the resource, get a third party to do it for you with fresh eyes.

I’d say as a bare minimum you should be checking your high-risk pages before every launch or major site update.

Your high-risk pages are those on some form of conversion path:

  • Home page
  • All check-out pages (including new customer registration)
  • Product page(s)/template
  • My account pages
  • Landing pages

And the basic elements you should be checking as a minimum are:

  • Check all page links
  • Check all page content
  • Check all page images
  • Sanity check all displayed prices
  • Check font consistency (size/style)
  • Mobile friendly checks

These minimum checks ensure that a certain standard is delivered across your site, and ultimately, your consistency and vigilance in catching bugs will be rewarded. You just need to start making these steps part of your processes.

…and yes, before anyone says it, I am aware that Wes Craven did not direct I Know What You Did Last Summer.

James Hepton is managing director at TestApproved.

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TestApproved is a website testing service for use by independent web designers, SME and large Ecommerce operations, digital agencies and public sector website developers.


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