Until Black Friday Begins
Table of Contents
This holiday shopping season is going to be very busy. For many retail businesses, the holiday shopping season is typically the most important period of the year to earn revenue. This year is even more crucial as there is a lot of financial uncertainty for businesses due to the coronavirus. This holiday season is the chance to cash in on eCommerce and generate much-needed revenue.
Deloitte forecasts eCommerce sales to grow by 25% to 35% during the holidays. This expected growth in eCommerce can be attributed to the coronavirus forcing many traditionally non-digital businesses to scramble to sell their goods and services online. However in the mad rush to sell online, some companies have quickly implemented eCommerce systems without the know-how to ensure that they work seamlessly.
A seamless user experience is key. When a small inconvenience in the order flow, the uncertainty created during checkout, or a slow website could lead to the customer abandoning their shopping cart, it’s important that your system is tested before the season starts.
With that important statement in mind, this article will give you an overview of the most important parts of your eCommerce website to test before the holiday shopping season starts. We will start with functionality and performance-related elements. Many businesses who’ve recently made the transition to a webshop are using services like Woocommerce or Shopify. The fixes for issues from those solutions are front-end or content related, which means even a pretty minimal development team can resolve them.
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Testing Webshop Functionality
Even if your website looks like it is working correctly and you are getting orders in, there are still things your business can improve on. This is actually an important part of testing your webshop as it has to do with conversion rate optimisation (CRO). In non-marketing speak, that is, ‘improve the percentage of visitors that purchase on your website.’ Things such as improving page load speeds by two seconds could improve sales by 60%.
An eCommerce website can very quickly go from a simple idea (selling stuff online) to quite a complex system; getting people to buy, setting up a CMS, integrating a CRM, automating the ordering process. As the market continues to innovate and change, so will your business and your eCommerce site. With all these systems working together and depending on each other, the impact of a small error could be huge. When you have 1 store and 4 different systems running on it, only 1 small technical bug in one of the systems could cause huge problems, such as payments failing.
Luckily there are lots of precautions that could be taken to ensure a great website experience for your visitors and higher sales for your business. We will explain some of the important areas to check. We’ve tried to explain these areas with the focus on things that small eCommerce teams can improve themselves, but please remember that you don’t have to do this by yourself if you feel overwhelmed. spriteCloud’s software testers are experts in testing eCommerce platforms, in fact, it’s one of our core disciplines.
Your Homepage is likely the first page a user will see, it is the digital equivalent of a storefront. Here users get a quick idea of what you sell, see any promotions or deals you have going on, and it provides links to other pages located elsewhere on your site (category pages).
On this page, you should make sure all visual elements are correct and all links out from this page are also working. Basically, you need to click everything (yes, everything!) and verify that they work properly. You wouldn’t think twice about fixing a broken door or window, don’t let the digital equivalent hold you back.
Your eCommerce website’s category pages are perhaps some of the most important pages to your business. This is typically where users will spend the most time sorting through your various products, and it is also where (assuming you’ve done your SEO correctly) users will land on your page after searching for the desired product (think “black leather shoes”).
This is also where your eCommerce system gets very complex from a functionality standpoint.
On this page, you will typically find a list of products with information such as the product name, price, colour and size options, and availability. You will also see some way of filtering the products based on various elements like size, colour, material, style, etc. This information needs to be entered correctly into the eCommerce backend and checked for accuracy. All of these factors need to be tested and it will take some time. Test by filtering the products in different ways and see if any irregularities crop up. You should also choose a random product and see how long it takes to find the product using the filtering options.
These elements have become expected from legitimate eCommerce platforms which means that if they are missing on your site, you stand a chance of losing a lot of business.
Product Detail Pages
While your category pages help users find the right products, your product details drive sales.
It is very important that these pages are working correctly and that all the information is accurate. Also, because this is where users select colour, size, etc of the product and also add them to their shopping cart, this is one of the most important places to check for functionality issues, such as if your stock levels reflect on the product page.
Does selecting a different colour or variation of the product update the images? Are the prices and any discounts displaying properly? Can the product be added to the shopping cart?
These product details pages should also be tested by checking these elements:
- the product title and code (SKU #),
- product images, product description,
- displaying related or recommended products,
- changes in inventory levels,
- adding a product to a shopping cart,
- full body view of the product,
- reviews and ratings displaying for the correct products.
We mentioned this in the Product Details Page section but using the “recommended product” or “others also bought” functionally can increase sales significantly. Typically there are plug-ins or features in the eCommerce solution you are using that will enable you to add this to your website.
Be sure to test that this feature works on the various Product Detail Pages and well as in the Shopping Cart, for a boost in sales.
Search and Results Page
This is a very useful feature of eCommerce systems that should not be overlooked. Often time users will search for the product they have in mind or conduct a search based on a few features they want. You should test how those results are displayed and whether they are relevant and related to the search query. Also, test navigational features of searches that display multiple pages of results.
Testing the shopping cart is also a critical function and mistakes here can create quite the headache. Tests should be conducted on the functionality of the shopping cart, changing item quantities, testing display options and notifications, as well as adding and removing items from the cart.
You should spend time in testing this process in a non-linear shopping fashion. By this we mean, pretend you are a shopper that remembers they forgot an item and went back to look for it, from the shopping cart page, without being logged into an account. Losing the shopping cart items at the moment would almost certainly stop the purchase from happening.
Checkout and Payments
This process involves money, so extra care should be taken when testing the checkout and payment processes. You should aim for this process to be as smooth and secure as possible.
You should check that the payments are successful and that your payment gateway provider works well. Test the make sure refunding process and email communications to the buyer are working correctly. Thoroughly test the various payment methods and see what happens when they are interrupted. Also when you are done testing, be sure to remove the free or super low-cost testing items from production. This could lead to a nasty surprise if someone finds it.
Login and Accounts Pages
Allowing users to create accounts on your eCommerce website has a lot of advantages. They can see their order history, update billing and shipping information and service their own support issues.
All these lead to opportunities for great customer experience and a long relationship with the customer, this stuff leads to more sales. The goal is to ensure that the user has a trouble-free experience on your site.
It also means that the account registration, login, lost password, and account updating processes need to be tested from security, functionality and UX perspectives.
Order Confirmation and After Purchase Processes
In the opinion of the author, few things are worse than purchasing something online and getting no confirmations of payment, order processing, shipment stages and delivery. Ensuring that your webshop is notifying your customers at important after-purchase stages will reduce customer support workloads and give you more opportunity to communicate your branding and messaging with your customer.
How many times did you expect an email and found out later it ended up in your spam folder? This is a really annoying situation and you don’t want to let your customers experience the same thing with your emails. That is why it is important to test your emails and see if they end up in someone’s spam folder. Gmail, Outlook and Apple’s Mail app all filter spam mail differently. To prevent your emails from ending up in spam folders there are multiple guidelines you can follow, for example, link to ‘HTTPS’ instead of ‘HTTP’. Of course, this isn’t the only way to prevent mail ending up in someone’s spam so take the time to explore some other tips.
There is a lot of communication and integration between subsystems here that have to go right. Test this often.
Device and Browser Compatibility
As was mentioned earlier, 2020 is going to be an explosive year for eCommerce and it’s also expected that many shoppers will do their shopping from a mobile device (a smartphone). Mobile devices behave differently from computers in many ways that can disrupt the shopping experience. They have smaller screen size, less computing power and they are slower to handle websites with lots of images (i.e. an eCommerce website).
When you are testing all the elements mentioned previously, you also need to make sure you are doing it on the various devices, operating systems, and browsers. Check out our recommendations on what to test on. There are tools out there like LambdaTest and BrowserStack that can allow you to virtually test on different devices, browsers and systems. At spriteCloud, we also have a fully kitted out test lab we can physically test on for you, message us for help.
Write Down Regression Functions
One of the most effective tips for testing is to write down your regression functions. Regression functions are the basic functions that should result in your ecommerce site selling stuff to people, think of them as small testable steps. For example, adding an item to a shopping cart, is a function.
These functions can and should be updated over time but the foundation of your website should always be covered by them. Well, what to do with these regression functions? Before releasing your website you look back at these functions and make sure your primary flow and functionality work on your website. If you don’t want to run these tests manually, you can automate these tests with frameworks like Cucumber for example. More on automated testing in a later section.
You should also run a Lighthouse test on every page on your eCommerce site and you might be shocked at how many improvements can be done. For example, Amazon saw a 1% decrease in sales for every extra 100ms in load time.
This is a good segway for our next section. Testing your site’s performance.
By now, you understand how important eCommerce testing is
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Performance, Load, and Stress Testing
Perhaps one of the most important elements to consider for an eCommerce website is performance.
Sure your homepage might be fast but what happens when you visit a category page? What happens when you visit it on a slightly outdated mobile phone via a slower internet speed than the average for your target market? Research has shown that sales are directly correlated with load time, making addressing performance issues a priority.
When testing performance, your goal is to ensure that your website feels snappy (performance), can handle a large number of concurrent visitors (load), and doesn’t break when those numbers are exceeded (stress). Read the explanation of these various forms of performance testing below to get a better understanding of what they test and why it’s necessary.
Performance testing for websites or applications is a general term for tests used to determine the behaviour and performance of a system. Performance testing checks the performance of the components of these systems by passing different parameters in different load scenarios. This test helps to set the benchmark and standards of how a website or application behaves under normal parameters.
Using the waterfall methodology, a performance test should be run with each release; continuous testing should be done when working agile.
Load testing simulates real-world conditions to check how an application behaves during normal and high loads. This test mainly checks response time, peak performance, and server quantity while these attributes are loaded with expected normal and high loads. This type of test is usually undertaken near the completion of a development project, i.e. near the release of a new webshop.
This load test allows you to understand how many users your system can handle and how they affect specific areas of your application, like during checkout for example.
Application stress testing checks the stability and robustness of the system under extreme loads and how it recovers from failure. Stress testing your eCommerce platform aims to ensure that servers don’t crash while undergoing a sudden high load for a considerable amount of time. This test simulates a load higher than the expected breaking-point.
Stress testing should be run before important events like Black Friday Sales or the launch of campaigns expected to drive a lot of traffic to a site or application. A slow or downed e-commerce checkout could seriously affect sales and the organisation’s reputation.
Quick Performance Wins
If you want to test the performance of your eCommerce site yourself, a great starting point is found in your Chrome browser. When you have your eCommerce site open and press “ctrl + shift + I” on windows and “cmnd + shift + I” on macOS you can access Lighthouse (on the right side of the developer tools).
You can let Lighthouse loose on your website and it generates a report on Performance, Progressive Web Apps, Best Practices, Accessibility and SEO. You can use the report to gain some quick wins and further improve your sites performance, user experience and accessibility. You can even generate a report that is based on the mobile experience in Lighthouse.
You should also use internet throttling on your phone or use a throttling tool on your desktop. One of the easiest ways of checking your site with a bad connection in order to check if anything breaks, is actually built-in iOS devices. iOS offers the possibility to throttle your cellular connection from the factory. Go to your settings, open cellular, tap Cellular Data Options and turn on low data mode. From here you can select the data speed under “voice and data” and you are able to control the speed of your data.
Lighthouse is great at showing current performance values on a small set of virtual devices, but a proper eCommerce platform should thoroughly test its platform on a mixture of real and virtual devices. Also, you need to know how your website will perform when placed under various loads. How does your homepage or category pages handle 1,000 or 10,000 concurrent users? Can your servers handle image requests from 1,000 users at a time?
This is where experienced eCommerce testers like the ones we have at spriteCloud make a huge difference. Our testers can test your websites and apps more holistically to provide advice on how to improve the performance of your platform. We use specialised tools like OctoPerf for performing performance and loads tests, and BrowserStack (as well as our physical device lab) for checking compatibility on various devices and systems.
It might not sound like much, but when a 2-second improvement on page load times can lead to a nearly 60% increase in sales, it’s worth taking the time to invest in performance and load testing from an experienced service provider. spriteCloud is not only experienced in performance and load testing, but one of our core areas of expertise is working with eCommerce platforms. If you feel like your webshop could benefit from thorough testing, get in touch with us.
Automation Testing eCommerce Sites
Test automation is a little out of scope for this article as it requires some pretty specific skills that a front-end developer wearing a QA hat is not likely to have. With that said, however, it’s important to know what test automation is capable of doing for your organisation. We’ve included some best practices in the event you decide to dabble in automation, maybe with some low code solutions out there. spriteCloud has a lot of experience and knowledge in test automation, our guide to automated testing can help you learn about the topic in more depth.
Automation can be a big help for testing your eCommerce website. When done right it will improve the project efficiency significantly. It can provide large test coverage and is faster and often more reliable than manual testing. Regression tests, for example, test important basic functions but are often repetitive and time-consuming. Those are the regressions we discussed in the functional testing section. Regression tests benefit greatly from automation and give your testing team more time to focus on other important tasks.
Automation also enables executing tests more frequently, so that when there is an issue, it will be discovered right away. Bugs will be found earlier in the test cycle and thus can be resolved easier and quicker, saving time and money.
Best Practices for Automating Tests
The realization of automation comes with following certain best practices. You have to decide on the right tools and resources, and decide on what to automate as automating everything is not feasible. Some best practices are:
- Decide on which test scenarios. A selection should be made of which scenarios need to be automated and which are not as important. This is a very important step where you identify scenarios that will benefit from automation (core functionality, much-used features) and scenarios that can be better tested manually (complex cases, functionality that often changes).
- Select a test framework. What framework to use is another important decision and can differ greatly based on the application you use and the tests you want to run. There are plenty of popular open-source frameworks that you could consider. Have a look over some popular open-source frameworks.
- How to script. In most cases automation involves scripting. It is important to decide on scripting standards to improve efficiency. The code should be readable, reusable and maintainable. This way, anyone with sufficient coding knowledge can work on the code, reuse functions in different scripts and make sure everything stays up to date. But what if you’re a small business owner and you don’t have the proper experience within your company to code automated tests.
You could give codeless test automation a try. Just click your screen and follow the flow of your website, and the tool creates the tests for you. The thing about codeless automation tools is that they are limited in the freedom of what you want to test: Codeless test automation with Selenium. Another route to take is to hire spriteCloud to either set up your automation suite and hand it over to you to maintain, or to fully manage test automation for you.
- Resources. This includes the people working on testing but also test data, hardware, and software for the testing environment. These need to be chosen and prepared with care as it is of big importance for success when testing.
- Getting the team ready. Then it is time to get the team ready for testing. To be able to do this, testers will have to have a good understanding of the application and know the basic and critical cases. Next to that, training for the tools to be used and the way there are being used might be in place. Behaviour-driven development might be a good choice for training. Learn more about it in our Cucumber and Gherkin Guide.
Test Automation for Beginners
Well, where do you start if you want to automate testing on your eCommerce site? It all depends on the experience level with test automation within your organization. Are you running a small business and there isn’t someone with experience in software testing? Then you could start using a codeless test automation tool.
The power of a codeless automation tool is that you just click your screen and follow the flow of your website, and the tool creates the tests for you. While this certainly makes automation easier, codeless automation tools are limited in the freedom of deciding what you can test. Still, we always support a do-it-yourself attitude when it comes to software testing. Even if your experience with codeless tools does not succeed it will give you a better idea of the value of testing and automation, which is something we can always get behind.
Looking for something more advanced? If a codeless automation tool is not something that gets the job done then you could also get in touch with a quality assurance and software testing organisation like spriteCloud.
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Hopefully, this guide to best practices of eCommerce testing has helped you understand the most important area you should focus your attention on when testing your eCommerce platform. With the holiday shopping season coming up, it would be wise to start testing your site now.
If you are using eCommerce solutions like WooCommerce and Shopify to simplify the order, payment, and fulfilment process, it’s important to remember that they are not foolproof. Most of the issues you will encounter with these solutions are integrating them into your current platform (like a WordPress site), or content and front-end issues. The impact of these issues on your site could be very major.
So you may not need to worry about more technical issues, but your on-site functionality and performance should be tested regardless. Even with these tools taking care of the back-end, they are pointless if the front-end is not working properly or the content issues confuse visitors.
Happy testing and best of luck making the most of this season. When in doubt, feel free to reach out to spriteCloud for help.
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