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I have worked with quite a few checkout systems and eCommerce platforms. Are there certain kinds of interfaces that convert sales better than others?

For me there are really only two questions:

  1. SSL self hosted vs. 3rd party checkout

    • for SSL this requires an SSL certificate and secure website routines to handle a credit card.

    • for 3rd party, there is PayPal, Authorize.net, and GoogleCheckout

  2. Single-Step vs. multicheckout see: step two on this page

    • Single-Step seems easy enough, but does it convert better?

    • multicheckout can get convoluted, but with a progress bar does it help the user convert?

Hopefully this will focus on the four possible answers given either/or answers to the above.

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hi Talvi, this question is a bit too general, discussiony and "no correct answer" for what we like to see here. Can you be MUCH more specific with what you want? –  Jeff Atwood Aug 1 '10 at 9:32
    
thanks Jeff, I narrowed it down a bit. :) –  Talvi Watia Aug 1 '10 at 23:31
    
I've edited your question for formatting and removed some broken links that you seem to have lost during your edits. The only link that still had a corresponding footnote was #5, which is now #1. –  Tim Post Aug 2 '10 at 9:50
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5 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I would argue the checkout is the most important component of the ecommerce platform. If your users get confused, they WILL abandon their carts. There are two things to consider with a checkout.

Steps
The checkout process should be at most 2-4 steps. I've seen carts that have as much as 10 steps to checkout... a death trap for any business. Each step should be obvious what is required of the customer and obvious where to go next. For a test on what is obvious, stand 6 feet away from your computer screen. What you can see 6 feet away, will be immediately obvious to most users.

Required Information
This is a balance with Steps. If you have a one page checkout and loads of required fields it can be confusing. Ideally, you only need Name, Address, and Credit Card information, how a cart handles collecting this is vastly different from cart to cart. Also, can a customer go back and edit his information from other steps without losing all the entered data? That's big.

It all goes back to the old mantra "Don't Make Me Think". If you have to search for a link or what to next... your customers will have a tougher time than you.

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Magento[1] is a very nice all-in-one solution. They have a good solution that's for free and fits the most needs you may have. For "bigger" business use there are really many plugins (like gift coupon, secure payment bridge, and many more).

[1] http://magentocommerce.com/

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Agreed. Magento is quickly becoming the defacto standard in self-hosted ecommerce carts. I've extended it in ways not possible with other carts. Caution though, with great power comes great complexity. It will take some time to understand Magento and under the hood is really difficult if you are not familiar with Object Oriented Programming in PHP. –  Shane Stillwell Aug 3 '10 at 12:38
    
Yes, I've heard about the complexity of Magento. I've also heard that documentation is lacking. –  milesmeow Oct 8 '10 at 23:06
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Not that i suggest wordpress for any eCommerce websites but if you are using it to sell a few things out of your site take a look at instinct one page wordpress checkout

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SSL self hosted vs. 3rd party checkout

One site I took over had already opted for Sagepay (previously protx)

The cost of implementing SSL vs letting a 3rd party handle it for small fee was a no brainer. Secondly, Sage is a recognisable/reputable brand in the uk (where all the sites customers are based)

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Your question is a little general, but I think I get the gist of it.

I've worked with VirtueMart for Joomla and I would avoid it like the plague. It's very buggy in the front and backend and you'll have to hack at it a lot to get it even close to working.

OSCommerce/ZenCart are okay function wise, but they could definitely use a refresh in the admin.

For the next ecommerce site I do, I'll probably try Magento. It seems like a solid solution, but I've heard that it's a little slow. The admin user interface is modern and far above most of the other options I've seen out there.

As for payment gateways, I've only used PayPal, but I've never had an problems with it.

There is a lot that goes into conversion rates. In general, the best converting interfaces are going to be the easiest. If your checkout is a difficult process, it's going to kill your sales. The easier you make it for someone to purchase something, the more sales you'll have. Other factors include layout, product images, sales copy, reviews, product info, price, shipping prices and information, and the product itself. It all ties together and every part is important. However, each store is different and the only way to tell what converts best for you is to iteratively test all of the things I mentioned.

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