Site location roadmaps: Your GPS on the uncharted eCommerce site

We took a trip to Pigeon Forge Tennessee this past weekend. With our Garmin Nuvi GPS leading the way, I wondered how we ever managed without one. In some ways, having that GPS makes a road trip shorter because the GPS chunks the trip into shorter segments. Mentally, as you watch the GPS you are thinking about getting to the next turn.

Just as the GPS showed us a map of the road to get to our destination, you can use site visuals on an eCommerce site to talk to your customers about their location and final destination. A site visual of the current location is particularly important during checkout. Use of visual queues provides three pieces of information to your customers:

  1. How many steps are in the checkout process – It’s good for the customer to see the steps required in the checkout. Typically, they will expect to enter information about delivery and payment.
  2. Their current location in the checkout process – This gives the customer a clue as where the final order submit button resides. It’s important for your customer know exactly when their order will be placed and payment charged.
  3. The ability to go backwards to a specific step if they feel they have made a mistake – Customers can use the visual cues to also navigate within the checkout process. This allows for quick navigation if they know they have made a mistake or would like to change an option bore submitting the order.

Traditionally sites have used breadcrumbs to show navigation links. The breadcrumbs themselves are click-able navigation elements. Visually, they look like this:


Recently, I have seen a new style of navigation in use. Instead of listing the breadcrumbs horizontally across the page, it shows the steps vertically stacked and numbered sequentially. The active step is in the foreground and visible in dark font. The non-active steps are not expanded and are listed as a light color to indicate they are not active. Here is an example:


Which method do you prefer and find easiest to navigate as a customer? If you are a marketer, have you tried both methods to see if the conversion of customers differs?