The 50 Club: Ecommerce’s Biggest Mistakes


There’s a famous quote in baseball, from Joe DiMaggio, who was asked why he puts so much effort into seemingly inconsequential plays or meaningless games. He replied: “Because there is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first time.”

I think of this often when I’m putting together my teardowns, both for clients and for Revise Weekly Premium members. They’re seeing me for the first time. I, on the other hand, am seeing the same set of problems for the Nth time. In direct-to-consumer ecommerce, the same problems are legion, with groupthink and ego ruling the day, that it almost becomes too easy to spot them – and consequently hard to dig into crunchier questions around conversion.

The 50 Club: Ecommerce’s Hall of Shame

And so for the past few years, I have been keeping a tally of common incorrect design decisions that I call out, clients fix, and their conversion rates or AOV go up. Now, I have a list of incorrect decisions that are so common that I have seen, fixed, and profitably proven their elimination over 50 times apiece. The 50 Club’s initial round of inductees are:

Carousels in the home page masthead

We’ve talked about carousels a lot in Revise Weekly before, but in short, their implementation issues are too significant & complex for almost all DTC brands. They take months to iron out, and usually are too hard to test. Even if you get it right, most customers just hit the first module in your carousel, defeating the entire purpose of having a carousel in the first place.

In almost all cases, carousels are indicative of one of two things:

  • Internal politics resulting in an incoherent home page content strategy.
  • An ego play, wanting to convey the false impression that a bunch of cool things are going on with the store.

Both of these harm conversion by increasing page weight & harming usability.

Monochromatic or “ghost” buttons in the home page masthead

We already conclusively proved that ghost buttons harm conversion, yet they remain legion on the stores that we analyze. People want their buttons to look cool and contemporary at the expense of usability, I suppose.

Generic copy in the home page masthead

For every phrase in your home page masthead, ask yourself: could this apply to any other store in my industry, or any other store in general? If so, reword it. Put another way, “shop now” buttons almost always underperform something more specific to what your store offers.

Cramming your entire navigation under “store” and talking about yourself for the rest of the primary navigation

This is a recent trend, but we’ve already seen it over 50 times now. For an example, see Aesop. The links under “Shop” should themselves be your primary nav. Informational & utility links should be moved top right.

Nobody cares about your brand pages except for you. Spare the customer a click and make your nav specifically and exclusively about your products.

Talking about your brand positioning on the home page for any longer than two sentences

The best place to talk about your positioning is right below the home page masthead, for fewer than two sentences. Most home pages spend too much time talking about their brand, to the detriment of conversion.

Smart brands know they have solved a problem, present the problem that they have solved and the way that they have solved it, and then get out of the customer’s way.

Please do not add semicolons to your sentences to make them very long. That is cheating, and I will be sad about it.

Non-mobile-first nav

Your whole store should be designed mobile first, and your nav tells me whether or not you’re embraced a true mobile-first strategy. I recently reviewed a client who didn’t list any product categories in their mobile nav. So how can 82% of your traffic view a product?

Your navigation should be designed with mobile in mind, and should be mobile-first and mobile-native, with all future changes QA’d in mobile before desktop. The book came out 10 years ago. It’s not too late to read it.

Infinite-scroll pagination on collection pages

Infinite scroll is an objectively-proven usability disaster. Removing it reduces page weight and makes products far easier for customers to locate. If you must, replace it with a “load more” button – but classic pagination still reigns as champ. There is no downside.

PDP cross-selling rows

In practice, cross-selling on your product detail page isn’t itself a bad thing – but it is almost always poorly implemented.

Its origins come from Amazon, which has spent years and multiple teams trying to create smarter cross-sells. You do not possess the Amazon-grade resources necessary to create proper cross-sells. Be curative about what you cross-sell or skip the dead weight and cut this section entirely.

Live chat widgets

These are endemic to the DTC web, but they are usually incorrectly implemented, with widgets z-indexed over all other elements (including sticky footers, sidebar carts, and mobile nav!), or sprayed across all pages of the store.

In reality, customers only engage with live chat when they are further down your funnel than your home or collection pages. Put them on your product detail pages and your cart – and make sure that they’re never sticky or floated above any other elements.

Instagram rolls

What is this, 2014? Nobody clicks on these, and they often load a bunch of images and JavaScript, increasing page weight significantly. Removing them store-wide almost always decreases page weight and increases conversion.

If you want user-generated Instagram content, do so only if you sell apparel or cosmetics, and be more specific to each individual product and curate your hashtags. You’ll see better performance than any Instagram roll app.

Oh, there are others

A bunch of incorrect decisions haven’t been admitted to The 50 Club. Yet. For example, collection page text bricks have been de-ranked by Google since 2018, but SEO consultants continue to incorrectly demand their inclusion, so I haven’t had a chance to test their revenue-generating removal on 50 stores yet. We’re only up to 48!

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