DO's and DON'TS
of e-commerce
 - - - SUPER LIST - - -
compiled from other lists of Do's and Don'ts 
+ the contributions from the students of  Prof. Tim Richardson

last updated 2008 Sept 19
.. This Do's and Don'ts unit is used in
    o MGTD06
    o MRK610 and MRK 410
    o BCS555
    o MGS523
    o CCT322
Not all of the material in this unit will be used in each of these courses; the amount of material covered will be indicated by the actual lecture given in class by the professor. Some courses cover this topic extensively, some courses deal with it briefly.
This web page has audio clips - just click on the icon (like the one to the left) and you can hear Prof. Richardson's voice adding additional information to topics on the page. turn on your speakers to hear audio clips
INTRODUCTION Kelly Mooney, self-described Cyber Shopper, made a list of Do's and Don'ts in 1999; Mooney spent more than 300 hours "roaming the cyber-aisles of 30 online retailers". A number of sites carried comments about her findings and this was the beginning of a Shopping Do's and Don'ts list

In Prof. Richardson's classes a number of students have earned class contribution marks by finding additional related material to add on to our "Super List" of Do's and Don'ts as we have greatly expanded to Mooney's original list of 1999. By 2006, the list has become quite detailed and we have also found other sites that carry our Super List. also has a page titled "Things to be convincing about" which is useful material to read in combination with this page on Do's and Don'ts.

Elizabeth D. in MRK 410 Feb 2003 found this site created by The State Technology Office of the State of Florida Do's and Don'ts at
- some of these Do's and Don'ts have been incorporated into our list below
Sorin T.  in MRK 410 Feb 24th 2003 found this site created by Craig Goldwyn of
Do's and Don'ts at
- some of these Do's and Don'ts have been incorporated into our list below
Czar L.  in MRK 410 Feb 26th 2003 found this site 
Do's and Don'ts at (not active in 2006)
- some of these Do's and Don'ts have been incorporated into our list below
Kristy de V.  in MRK 410 Feb 26th 2003 found this site 
Holiday do's and don'ts for retailers
written by Monte Enbysk who is the editor of Microsoft bCentral - some of these Do's and Don'ts have been incorporated into our list below
Sureha S. in BCS 555 in Sept. 2005 found this site by Wynn Wilder
from Dragonfly Design, a small web design firm in Baltimore, Maryland
check also 101 Do's And Dont's Of Website Building from contributed by Carol W. in MRK 610 March 2003
Website Do's And Don'ts  was formerly at contributed by Rohinie M. in BCS555 in Sept 2003
Category Do's (as opinionated by the students) Don'ts (as opinionated by the students)
click to hear
Be detailed and convincing about the process of returning an item for refund. You have more space on a website than you do on a product package so use this to elaborate about the guarantee. Some companies offer the customer a choice of the length of the warrantee period - commensurate with a different price Don't make a promise you can't realistically keep.

Don't have a long long list of exceptions under which the guarantee is invalid.

- location restrictions
Provide flexibility in "where" it can be returned.  If your company is a pure with no brick presence - establish a relationship with a click and mortar company that would allow your customers to return products to the locations of that other store.  Do not make the cost of returning an impediment.
- time restrictions
Be generous in the time allowed to return the product. People may make a quick decision to buy on line, but products need time for shipping. Be competitive.
some additional points about the guarantee are discussed in "things to be convincing"
Category Do's  Don'ts 
KM talks about an on-line statement which notes customers "bill of rights"
It is not enough to promise privacy, you have to explain your privacy policy in a way which is convincing and has consequence - meaning if , for example email address is passed on, your purchase price will be refunded Don't make your company vulnerable by allowing emails of customers to be passed on to third party entities unless they sign a non-disclosure agreement with you - that has penalties
see also Privacy Issues
Category Do's  Don'ts 
prepurchase - email We think that direct phone contact with an operator can be very useful, especially for bigger purchases or complicated FABs
- also allows for upselling and cross-selling
During purchase Tracking "where" the item is to ensure continued customer confidence that the transaction will be completed
ie. FedEx
Don't let the customer wonder where the item is and when the item is arriving - providing confidence at this "in-between" time will go far towards obtaining a repeat order.
Payment Gordon Whyte says "Unless you're selling high value products, then you need to accept credit cards. Nearly all B2C sites have come to this conclusion; however, it's surprising how many sites only accept the most popular cards and exclude Amex and debit cards. "
Gordon Whyte says "Don't Offer a poor selection of payment options"
postpurchase Follow-up contact to reinforce customer satisfaction is important. Additional information to use the product/service.

contributes to CLV - Customer Lifetime Value

Don't be too irritating and demanding of responses - be satisfied that people received the information and may consider it - but will be irritated if they have to take further time to deal with it
Category Do's  Don'ts 
personalization As far as it can be done cost effectively, make on-line presence of each customer unique. Purpose is to save the customer time, and save the offering company time. Don't make the time spent on providing customer information too time consuming as to irritate the customer. Don't second guess customers at the expense of causing them to have a more limited shopping perspective. Don't limit the customer from the flexibility of options.
Some people regard cookies as an invasion of privacy.
gift giving Allow the gift options of forwarding onwards, wrapping, personal card etc. to be available for all products. Be tasteful. Don't overcharge for this service. Don't try to upsell in the process because you may turn the customer away from the gift option in the future.

Time is important around gift giving holidays so make sure the customer has the information to know the gift was sent out in time to be received.

Category Do's  Don'ts 
navigation & browsing  . .
click to hear
Consistency is important. Buttons, links commands etc. should all mean the same. Design has to mesh with the rest of the layout (ie. if site is graphic, don't use text to navigate)

"Make navigation intuitive." says Craig Goldwyn "There are millions of people who are new to the net every year."

Don't get "cute" and use shapes and motions which are irregular and not easy to understand. Don't make people guess what images mean in the navigation process.

"Don't lose them with arcane symbols and visual language they might misunderstand."

- links
Use text as well as graphics to allow people to click on links forward or backward - do not rely on images only. Pick images that are obvious in what they mean. Don't rely on graphics only for links. Some users have slow-loading graphics, use the "graphics off" option, or screen readers that do not recognize graphics.
- minimize clicks
"Minimize clicks. Every click you put between the start and the destination is a filter and people get left behind."

Gordon Whyte says "Try this; imagine you're a customer on your site. Pick something they he or she want to buy, then count the number of clicks it takes to find this from your home page. Lots of clicks = lost customers."

- finding content
Make every effort to make sure that all the content is available from menu bars, or tabs or navigation buttons. It is not worthwhile to put content on the site if it is not being viewed. To test this, put silent hit counters on your pages and if the count is increasing very very slowly, chances are nobody is viewing the content therein. Don't use on-site search engines that do not work effectively. In truth, it is very very difficult to create an internal search engine that really works well.
Naming the pages
- file names
Name the file names with something that makes sense, if it is seat covers on an auto site, call it seatcovers.htm, not autoparts12.htm "Don't use symbols such as % or ! in urls. They will break some servers."
Links Make sure all links work - and check frequently Don't make mistakes in JavaScript code because it can make the whole page "unviewable"
Length of pages shouldn't be too long.
Category Do's  Don'ts 
browsing and buying . .
viewing the page Strive for fast download time. Reduce usage or size of graphics if necessary. Estimate download time as 1 second for every 2K.
Don't leave large images on the page, they load too slow, make the large images into thumbnails, which allows people to click on them later to see the larger size, and lets the page load fast in the meantime.
background wallpapers
click to hear
If you "right button click" something from another site, always give credit to where it came from in comment tags, or visibly on the page Don't use black backgrounds. Type breaks up against it, and it is getting hackneyed.
Black backgrounds mean the font would be light coloured and if the viewer printed it out on paper, you'd have white on white - nothing to see
visual merchandising Make sure layout of the product description is "well done"

"Make your website graphics and layout easy on the eye.  Break up large amounts of text with graphics, pictures or bands of colour to give the viewer a break." says

Don't make images too large, and, Don't use images that are not sharp and clear - better to use no image or substitute with text.

"Don’t have too much happening on screen, and don’t be too heavy on colour." says

click to hear
Allow people to look at a non-frames version
(BTW - frames were kewl in 1999-2000 but by 2004 they are not so often used, flash is more popular)
Don't overuse frames on your site -- users often get lost, can't bookmark sites or get back to where they want to go.
product availability Tell the customer, as early in the process as possible, that the item is indeed available.
Offer "rain checks" - but make sure you can be certain of the date of availability.
Have comms links to be in touch.
Don't have the product described on the site if is not available for a period of several weeks, take the pic out, or take the link off
product availability
- specials
click to hear
"...if you are running low, let customers know."
says Monte Enbysk who is the editor of Microsoft bCentral
"Don't continue to advertise specials after the product has run out. This is a continuing problem for smaller merchants, who lack the Internet databases that larger businesses rely on. Don't run out of any popular products, if you can help it (especially this holiday season)." says Monte Enbysk who is the editor of Microsoft bCentral
software to view . "Don’t ask visitors to download additional software in order to use the site.  They want speedy service, or may fear downloading a virus.  Either way, they’ll leave the site to find a more accessible one." says
Updates - staying current Make a schedule for checking links and images once a week or once a month depending on how important each piece of information is. Check links frequently if lead to sites that have high traffic - high traffice sites often change the URL paths in order to cut down on bandwidth charges. Don't forget to plan for maintenance of the site. Decide who's going to keep it up-to-date? How often will it need to be updated?
Category Do's  Don'ts 
promotions . .
purchase incentives Discounts with affiliated companies - list the URLs for these companies on your site. Have those companies reciprocate - such 2-way links also have the consequence of increasing your ranking in Search Engines
Free shipping after a certain dollar level has been reached can be monitored if they log in with a userid and password - be caareful of privacy issues.
Do not have unreasonable restrictions which invalidate the recovery of the coupon or mail-in rebate.
contests, sweepstakes "Believability" is based on the customer actually thinking they have a chance to win. Showing pics and real names of past contest winners can help to be convincing. This is easy on a website, but you have to be careful of the privacy issues in the jurisdiction within which the website is hosted. Don't abuse the email information obtained in contests to send unsolicited email for unrelated products.
loyalty programs, air miles Should be based on realistic goals.
Some examples of points programs that seemed to have modest numbers of points required to achieve a prize are.
Make point accumulation more flexible. Don't limit the situations under which points can be gathered.
Category Do's  Don'ts 
community . .
who is it for
your "target market"
"Remember who the site is really for" says
"The site maybe yours, but it has to be built for your visitors.  Are they used to the Internet?  Are they technically adept?  Are they confident, regular users of other sites?  Are they your normal offline customers?"
KM commented about community in terms of the shopping situation, .."community" could also be interpreted to be the "social responsibility" of the manufacturer/retailers Be shown to be responsible for the environment (literally and figuratively) within which the customer lives
eg. Macdonald's
Category Do's  Don'ts 
who is it for

content ..

Make sure the content is oriented to people who would be using the site - you cannot do this yourself, you have to get "strangers" to look at a draft version and ask them if the pages they see make sense. Don't  design the site for top management.
Some people spend too much time thinking about pleasing the boss and not the customer. 
"If the site "mirrors your org chart" it is probably not designed for the people who will actually use it."
test the site Test your site with real users. Test your old site first. Then test the new design in stages as you build it. Testing can be simple (paper mock-ups, no coding) and save a lot of re-work!

Sept 2008
Jonathan L. from D06 at UTSC adds
"Google’s Website Optimizer ( has a method of “testing” websites (Called AB Testing) which allows you to upload two or more different site designs and test them on real users who visit your site. It does this by alternating which design it shows to the user. To test their effectiveness, you can also set a “target point” which tracks how often users will click a button or anything else you set it to. This feature is great for testing which of your designs have the best conversion rate.
In Sept 2008. Jonathan serves as
Internal Relations Manager, LIVE Conference 2008
Management & Economics Students’ Association (MESA), UTSC

Don't take too long testing the site. The best test is when it goes live and you start to get emails from real users. The important thing is to be able to make necessary changes almost instantly so the bad stuff does not stay on too long.