Introduction to E-commerce website testing
How to effectively test your e-commerce website? We will give you insights into the best practices of efficient e-commerce testing.
The Internet has, in a relatively short time, changed the way humans interact with each other. It would be an overreach to say that people spend more time online than in the real world, but it is noticeable how it has impacted our lives basically in every aspect. From social networks to real-time news, from online courses to auctions.
The Internet facilitates these and thousands of other processes. Among those, one of the most popular is E-commerce (Electronic commerce), so much that online shops have become an easy and effective alternative to physical stores. This is the Golden Era of e-commerce, and many businesses are taking advantage of that.
E-commerce has been carried out mostly on websites, but with the popularization of mobile devices, mobile applications have also thrived in online shopping. Even though their benefits are countless, there are too many technical aspects that should be taken into account, testing is one of them.
A setback in online shopping is that it is effortless for potential clients to lose attention since there are thousands of alternatives within reach of a click. Hence, the website owner has to catch the potential client’s attention from entering the website.
The website needs an attractive landing page, specific categories, a search option, and other things that give a more pleasant experience. Another setback is that many potential clients can become suspicious of an online store if the website lacks information, if the shopping cart does not work correctly, or anything that might indicate a glitch in the website.
Even though hundreds of things have to be looked over for an online shop to work correctly, don’t get overwhelmed. In this article, we will go over the necessary functional testing of your E-commerce so that you can have a guide that makes it easier and a better-organized task.
Why you should do testing of your e-commerce website:
As with all projects and businesses, it saves money, time, and a lot of headaches to test and fix the issues before they present a problem. Here are some detailed reasons to test your e-commerce website to ensure its optimal performance:
- E-commerce is a critical part of a business, so if the customer has a bad experience on your website, that might damage your business’s image and cause clients to try someplace else.
- Failures and bugs can lead to uncomfortable and wary clients, causing revenue losses and drops in customer satisfaction.
- The e-commerce site owner must be sure that all financial transactions are secure and correct. This is essential to protect the customer’s sensitive information.
- You must perform UX (User eXperience) tests to insight what customers hope to experience and design an optimal E-commerce platform.
- Any technical difficulties during shopping, such as slow page loads, twisted pictures, glitches, and similar problems are reduced in proportion to the number of test cases completed.
- Interrupting user experience automatically decreases the quality of the marketing efforts of your e-commerce shop.
It is a certainty that if these techniques are implemented, the chance of a failure in your E-commerce will be significantly lower. The broader the set of tests, the better chance of avoiding functional problems. So, when in doubt, test.
Testing should be an ordered process, and that means that to do it correctly, you have to organize your information and environment. Here is something you should take into account before testing your E-commerce website:
- Keep in mind the test scope and how far and deeply do you have to test.
- Your test has to be managed and organized beforehand, so the test runs smoothly.
- Check your resources and the best way to utilize them.
- Organize your test environment, check the applications and software you will use, and how you will use them.
- E-Commerce testing often works with a lot of data. You might want to check that you have the necessary organized test data to do it successfully.
Generalized types of testing:
There are two general types of testing used for Quality Assurance (QA) on an E-commerce website:
1. Functional testing
The focus of this article is on this type of testing. Functional testing is done to monitor how the E-commerce website performs with respect as to how it should be functioning. This type of testing asks the question: “does the application do what it should do?”. After this test is done, the website owner knows the functional aspects of working optimally and can be improved and take measures to improve them.
Among the benefits of functional testing:
- Tracing bugs that cause problems for the clients and affect user experience on your website.
- Adapt the User Interface (UI) to the requirements for the website.
- If there is a problem with the data from the database or with the data obtained from the clients, this is the perfect opportunity to detect and fix it.
- Check that navigation along with any page on the website works fluently and without error.
2. Non-functional testing
Non-functional testing can be described as testing aspects of your E-commerce website that do not affect the site functionality like performance, design, or reliability. It asks the question: “how does the application do what it does?”. The characteristics tested here are also crucial to optimize your business and improve the client’s experience, increasing profits. In our next blog, Part Two – Nonfunctional Testing we will have a close look into this subject.
Functional testing of your e-commerce website
This section will go over some crucial aspects to keep in mind when testing your e-commerce website for optimal functionality. These are just a few basic concepts, but depending on your testing scope, you might find many other things to check on your E-commerce website:
The landing page is by far the most visited page on the website. It is the front page and gives the first impression to potential clients. That is why it should be infallible. This page usually consists of a top menu (header), a footer, and an image covering most of the screen, traditionally called the Hero Image.
Some aspects of your landing page to keep in mind are:
- Image or slider? Check if the landing page’s image is just a static image or if it should work as a slideshow. If it is supposed to be a slideshow, check that it flows fluently and displays the correct images.
- Is the Hero Image of the right size? Sometimes image size changes on different web browsers, or even because of a bug in the code, the image might be shown too small or too big. If the image is too small, it might look bad with a small image at the center. If it is too big, the website might display a piece of it.
- Can the image be hovered or clicked? You need to check if the image should be just a display or if it needs to do something when you flow through it or click on it. And if it does, check that the link in the picture is the correct one.
- Does the image loads at the same time as the rest of the page? It is a common problem for big, massive images to take more time loading than other web pages.
- Can you see the rest of the content? Verify that the top menu, the header, the footer, the hero image, and any other section on your landing page is shown correctly. This has to be tested in different web browsers.
- Do the menu and links work correctly? Check each section on the top menu and the sub-sections, and any links on the page. You should check each link one by one and verify that the URL you are taken to is the correct one.
- What about Login/Signup? Your E-commerce website likely has a feature that lets you create an account. If that is the case, verify that your landing page shows the Login/Signup buttons in a visible space. Also, you should test them.
It is widespread for users to use the search bar instead of browsing through categories as a primary way of finding their desired product. That is why the search function is crucial for your E-commerce business because the more comfortable you make finding products, the more your sales will increase.
The problem is that it is complicated to guess what each client will need, so you need to check that your search algorithms are reliable and help the clients most of the time. Also, having stable and consistent test data is crucial for search engine testing. That is something that should be checked occasionally.
Here are some aspects of the search function that you should overview:
- Speed. The Internet has accustomed us to high-speed searches, so you need to make sure your search function is up to the task.
- Categories. It is good to divide search function into categories, from broad ones like categories to more specific like the brand name.
- Autocomplete. This is helpful when clients forget the real name of a product. Don’t forget to test this function.
- Filters. As it happens with search categories, it is good to test this to be more precise and fast.
- Product information. Test that when a product is found, some information about it is displayed to help clients confirm what they are looking for.
- How many results to show? Check the size on the result pages and find out the optimal size for the results.
- Test the options to navigate along with multi-page results.
- Sorting. Verify that searches can be sorted by brand, price, reviews, etc.
- Advanced search. Test advanced search feature for those times when clients need a particular product.
It is recommended that clients create an account on your website as a way to organize their purchases, receive newsletters, promotions, and other benefits. An engaged client is beneficial to your E-commerce business. For this, you should test the mechanisms to make sure accounts can be created and managed correctly.
Here is a couple of things to keep in mind when managing client’s accounts:
- Registration/Loggin. Check that both the buttons for registration and login work correctly and take you to their respective forms.
- Personal information. Make sure the client’s information is secure. Information such as an address, name, email, payment methods, etc., is sensitive and should be kept hidden from third persons. Test different methods to ensure it is.
- Orders. Verify that orders are saved on the client’s account. Make different accounts and place dummy orders to check this works correctly.
If a potential client does not use the search bar and prefer to search on the website manually, you need to have categories to keep products organized. This is essential for big business with thousands of items but is also helpful for small online stores. Usually, the categories are on the top menu of the page.
Here is some test you can perform to have your categories running smoothly:
- Verify that categories make sense and are organized so that potential customers don’t get lost.
- Check each image and link on the categories, verify that images are correctly positioned and that links take you where they should.
- A useful feature is the breadcrumbs navigation. Test your categories on that, so users can use it to return to previous categories quickly.
- Dynamic elements. A variety of items shown as suggestions on the home page or the shopping cart. These frequently change, so make sure the algorithm in charge of changing these sections works.
- Check the Data mining / BI (Business Intelligence) systems to find the queries used to populate the dynamic sections.
Product Description page
This is an important section of your website. Once clients get to a product description page, they may be evaluating if buying the item or not, and what is shown on this page might be the decisive element. You need to make sure that this section contains as much information and relevant details as possible to make a sale.
Here are some aspects to check when testing the product description page:
- Title and code. Check that each product has its respective title and code. The title will confirm to clients that it is the item they are looking for, and the code is to make sure that the item is the correct one on the database.
- Images and description. The image is essential. It gives the client a visual approach to the item, making sure it is of good quality. As for the description, make sure it is as relevant and informative as possible.
- Enlarging image. This is not crucial, but it is useful to take a closer look at the product. Check if your website has this feature or what needs to be done to add it.
- Price and reviews. You have to verify that the price is the correct one. This is one of the most critical aspects. Test this closely.
- Breadcrumbs navigation. As with categories, this helps users go back to other categories by clicking on them.
- In-stock/Out of stock. Verify that all selling items are in stock. Check that the ones that don’t have an “Out of stock” message to save the client and your time and troubles.
- Related products. On the bottom, check that there are a couple of related products. This might increase your sales if the correct products are added. For this, you might need to test the algorithm in charge of choosing them.
- Finally, a crucial element: the “Add to Cart” and “Checkout” buttons. Test these to make sure they are working correctly. They are the next step to complete a sale.
The shopping cart is the centerpiece of your e-commerce platform. This element is crucial for your website since it is the last step before completing a sale. An error in the shopping cart might discourage the client from purchasing, so it has to be tested extensively to ensure its perfect performance.
These are some of the aspects of the shopping cart that you should test
- Add/Remove items. This is the most basic function of the shopping cart. You need to check that the client can add and remove items easily. If you get this working correctly, clients might buy more products than they originally were looking for.
- Test the shopping cart’s capability to stack similar items to keep it simple. Instead of showing several similar items, it should only show one and the quantity of that item.
- Verify that, when opening the shopping cart, all the items are displayed and their prices and the total price. Check that the prices and that the sum of them is correct. This is crucial to avoid future problems.
- Remove all item’s capabilities. Check that there is a way to remove all items simultaneously. This saves time when clients want to start again with their order. Deleting each product one by one can be a tedious task that discourages clients from buying something else. Make sure that the total of the purchase goes to zero after deleting all the items.
- Make sure that, when looking at the items on the shopping cart, each product can be clicked and that it takes you to the product description page.
- Checkout. Verify that there is a “Proceed to Checkout” button, and test it. Ensure that it takes you directly to checkout and that the items, prices, and total cost remain the same.
- The E-commerce website should have some sort of memory for the shopping cart so that when a potential client leaves the website and returns later, the shopping cart will still have the products added previously. Testing and ensuring this is good for those indecisive clients.
You have to be thorough when testing checkout. It is the final step before the client completes the order, and an error in this section could ruin the sale. Worse yet, a bug during checkout could mean a severe monetary and security problem since here is where payment and sensitive information are processed.
It is recommended to go for written test cases and, if possible, a test management tool, use classes of equivalence and edge case analysis, and other methods. To ensure this section is tested as much as possible.
Here are some aspects of the checkout process to test:
- Before completing checkout, the website should check if the client logged in to the page. If they have, it should take tax, address, and any relevant info from their profile. If they didn’t log in, two options could be presented: log in or check out as a guest. Test all these possible options.
- Taxes and shipping. Verify that checkout has the functionality of calculating taxes depending on state or country and different shipping options and their costs. These have to be tested extensively. Taxes and shipping costs must be added to create a total order price.
- Discounts. If any discount codes and coupons are given in your business, a section must add and remove these discounts. The total price of the order should be modified accordingly. Don’t forget to test this section.
- Payment options. Any online shop should have as many payment options as possible (credit/debit, Visa/MasterCard, PayPal, etc.). Once these payment methods are added, you should test each by making dummy orders with the different payment methods and using demo debit/credit card numbers.
- When storing customer Credit cards or any other financial or sensitive information, perform security testing around this to make sure it is secure. PCI compliance is a must.
- If the client checks out as a guest, it provides an option to register after finishing the purchase. They might buy something else later on. Check that this sign up form works accordingly.
- After starting the checkout process, a session clock should start. If the order has not been completed for a long time (usually 10 minutes), make sure the session is timed out and the checkout process is interrupted. Check what time threshold could work on your site and test that it works well.
- Confirmation. After the purchase has been approved, send a confirmation email or text to the client with the order number, shipping details, and other relevant information. This is important because clients need assurance that the order was properly placed. Test this function by placing dummy orders.
Unfortunately, not all interactions end up after placing the order. Problems of all kinds can arrive when the client receives their products, or even before they do. Cancelations, changes on orders, returns. All of these are extremely common in E-commerce, and if you want your business to thrive, you need to pay attention to them. Luckily, many of these tasks can be automated, but as with the other aspects mentioned in this article, you need to test them to work correctly.
Here are some of the most common necessities after receiving an order:
- Changes on orders. Clients tend to make mistakes when placing an order. If any issue arrives with this, you need to make sure the mechanisms to change orders are tested and working correctly.
- Cancellations. Sometimes clients get cold feet after placing an order and decide to cancel it. You should anticipate this and test possible ways to do so without affecting the business.
- Tracking. This cannot be sent at the checkout time but should be sent when the package is sent to the client. Make sure you test this function to send this information to the right client as soon as possible.
- Returns/refunds. The client might decide to return a product. You should test the mechanisms to create a return label, generate a refund, add the item to inventory again, and any other issue with this.
Now that the landing page is working correctly, the rest of the pages’ functionality needs to be tested. Smooth browsing through the website and elegant user interaction are vital factors for a satisfactory user experience and a successful E-commerce. It is also essential to test your website’s business processes, from the simplest one to the most complex.
Some of the processes that should be tested are:
- Login/Signup. This was checked on the landing page, but it is necessary to reiterate the importance of this function. The Login and Signup options should work on every page of the website, making dummy accounts to test every aspect of this process is recommendable.
- FAQs. If your website has the option of asking and answering the client’s questions, you should check that the questions can be submitted correctly and that the questions already answered are saved and displayed correctly.
- Contact Us. This is an essential process to build a client-vendor relation. You should check that the contact form works perfectly and that it sends data to the correct destination. Also, keep in mind that the email or phone number that will receive requests is monitored regularly for appropriate customer service.
- Check compatibility on different web browsers (Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc.). Even though the processes show a constant functionality on a web browser, that does not mean that a bug or incompatibility might arise on another one, causing potential loss of clients and profits.
As mentioned above, you decide the scope of your testing to go as deep with your testing as you want. It is different for small online shops that sell a couple of items and have a simple E-commerce website than those which handle thousands of other products categorized elaborately. Testing is crucial, but know your business and your needs.
The functional testing on the aspects of your E-commerce website mentioned in this article applies to any online store, so it is a useful starting guide to test your site. Look around for test cases in different places, and trust your intuition. If you think something can go wrong, fix it beforehand, test it, and save you a lot of trouble in the future. Testing is a great way to grow a business. It might take some time and effort now, but you will be thankful in the future.
Do you want to learn more about testing an E-commerce website? Read more about Non-Functional aspects of testing.