Best practices in visual testing for ecommerce: a definitive guide

Stories
October 11, 2022
Leon

Visual testing is playing an important role in ecommerce today. Online brands that provide a high quality shopping experience for their customers, create a competitive edge for themselves in today’s marketplace. As a result, businesses are putting greater focus on the visual appearance of their online store and products - one that is engaging, consistent, and as expected.

However, visual testing may not deliver the intended results for the businesses if not employed correctly. It is therefore essential to pick the correct strategies that fit one’s ecommerce, so that visual testing can not only improve the customer experience, but also deliver efficiency and cost savings to the business.

Summary of best practices

Here is a summary of our top recommendations contained within this guide.

  • Verify the current state of your ecommerce - audit your ecommerce to confirm the expected behavior.
  • Verify both UI and UX functionality - test both visual and usability aspects together.
  • Test from a human perspective - always take into account the real user experience.
  • Create tests that are optimized for efficiency - streamline and don’t perform unnecessary testing.
  • Integrate visual testing with existing business processes for faster collaboration.

A brief introduction to visual testing

What is visual testing? In the context of ecommerce, visual testing is the process of verifying the appearance of all visual aspects of an online store. 

The reason why visual testing is so important is because of its role in detecting visual errors on ecommerce sites such as missing product information or a wrong price display. Evidently these errors have a major impact towards sales conversions and the customer experience. 

If you are new to the world of visual testing and are interested in diving deeper, this article might be worth a read.

How can visual testing help your digital marketing

Visual testing delivers numerous benefits to different stakeholders across the organization. Digital marketers can use it to track changes to campaigns, catalog, and content in different markets and online store locations. An automated visual testing tool can help a digital sales leader understand where and why users are not converting, through the identification of friction points in its digital sales funnels. Meanwhile, development teams are able to use visual testing to get immediate feedback of the real user experience with every code change, as a consequence being able to deploy with confidence without having to worry about undetected visual bugs.

The 5 best practices in visual testing for ecommerce

Without any further ado, let’s take a look at the five best practices to consider in your ecommerce visual testing strategy.

Verify the current state of your ecommerce

Before you begin implementing visual testing for your ecommerce, make sure that every website feature works as expected. It is important to confirm the expected appearance of UI elements on a webpage, as well as the behavior of functionalities available in each of these webpages. Pre-existing issues such as broken images or links in menus will only set up your tests to fail from the beginning. An error in a single user action can interrupt the sequence of an entire ecommerce test flow. 

The recommended approach would be to conduct an initial audit of the essential user journeys (such as the product navigation and the checkout process) in order to identify these pre-existing issues. Once these problems are rectified, the correct baseline - the point of reference for correct site UI / UX behavior - can be established and visual testing can proceed. 

Of course, most ecommerce sites are dynamic in nature and UI/UX journeys can change. The resulting changes to the visual testing process can easily be managed as we will discuss later below.

Verify both UI and UX functionality
Testing the checkout process with Valido - visual appearance and site functionality.
Testing the checkout process with Valido - visual appearance and site functionality

Most people would think that visual testing is only about testing the look and feel of the website (commonly referred to as the UI).

This is true in most cases, except in the case of visual testing for ecommerce. With ecommerce sites in general, you have both UI and UX designs to be considered.

While visual testing is different from functionality testing in that the former focuses on visual bugs, these two testing practices have to ultimately go hand-in-hand. This is one of the fundamental pillars of Valido.

Verifying that all UI elements appear as expected on a single webpage - can help detect errors in your ecommerce, but is only useful to a certain degree. The problem is that it takes that single page and validates it in isolation with the rest of the user experience. Performing a test in isolation does not give the proper context needed to make a comprehensive evaluation of the visual experience of an ecommerce. 

Visual elements that appear on an ecommerce website are a product of multiple and distinct user interactions. Therefore the recommended practice is to build your visual test plan with the entire online customer journey in mind, from A to Z. 

Test from a human perspective (the real user experience)

Human beings are highly unpredictable - different people approach things in different ways. That's why they are pretty good at finding out if something is not right.

Therefore, it is important to have a strategic approach to your visual testing, taking into consideration the real user experience and each step in the user journey. Where possible, investigate the analytics of your online store to determine how to prioritize your visual testing approach.

Here are the main factors that have a huge influence on the visual experience of an ecommerce website.

  • User actions: Users can perform all sorts of actions and do not only consist of mouse clicks. They can also consist of mouse hovers, scroll, text input, drag-and-drop, carriage return, etc.
  • Discover the critical UX paths: Design and test the UX paths that are most important for the business. For example, if there are several ways to sort a product listing, which are the filters most commonly used? 
  • Determine the best time to conduct testing: When are your users likely to shop online? Are there certain hours of the day where visual testing is critical for your business?
  • User device profile: What are the common resolutions, devices, browsers, and orientations used? 

Some organizations still rely on manual testing due to the comfort it provides that the real user experience is being tested, even though it is extremely resource-intensive. 

Nevertheless, an automated visual testing solution like Valido not only allows you to detect visual errors that are usability related, it is also able to do so efficiently, effectively and with comprehensive coverage.

Create tests that are optimized for efficiency 
Visual test schedule in Valido
Visual test schedule in Valido

While it is possible to flood your ecommerce with hundreds of different tests with an automated visual testing tool, this has the potential to create unnecessary test traffic. 

It is important to take efficiency into account when planning out and executing tests. Here are three reasons:

  • Test results eventually need to be validated manually to distinguish between the expected and unexpected visual changes. Therefore, generating unnecessary tests will only burden monitoring resources.
  • If there is an error on the same webpage that is used across several different tests, it generates duplicate results of the same error. 
  • Running multiple tests in parallel slows down computing resources if not properly optimized.

Here are some tips to creating streamlined visual tests and to optimize resources:

  • Test different pages where possible. For example, you can test different products for different types of checkout tests.
  • Validate certain user actions only when necessary. For example, we discussed the importance of testing the full webpage, however this is not always necessary especially for a product listing page that generates a long list of products that constantly change. 
  • Design your tests to make sure that they are as simple as possible and easy to maintain.
  • Configure tests to ignore elements of a webpage that do not need testing or are irrelevant. An example is a shipping estimation date that regularly changes, which does not have to be tested in most cases. This practice not only eliminates false positives, but also saves you effort in reviewing these visual changes that would be highlighted otherwise.
  • Limit multi-device testing to what is necessary. If your business prioritizes mobile commerce features, then there is no need to carry out extensive or large-scale testing across various desktop resolutions. 

Integrate visual testing with existing business processes for faster collaboration
Valido Visual Validation Dashboard
Valido Visual Validation Dashboard

It is important to have the tools not only to perform visual testing, but also to store the results, digest the data, and produce actionable insights to the business. 

An example is Valido’s visual validation dashboard, where there are several collaboration features:

  • The ability to share a link to the test results, or download captures of visual errors.
  • Generate trends of visual errors and web performance across time periods.
  • Console log and performance reporting at the time of error detection.
  • Real-time alerting of visual changes via email or the app.

These types of dashboard features facilitate the root cause analysis of errors that are detected from visual testing. Easily accessible information on the date, time, device, browser, location and developer console logs enable easier debugging and faster fixes by the developers. 

Valido’s monitoring platform can also be integrated with ticketing systems like Jira. This subsequently allows for smooth management and escalation of issues through tiered operational support models that exist in most organizations.

The easy accessibility of Valido as a SaaS tool also means that with just a simple account configuration, commercial teams such as sales and digital marketers can have easy access to visual testing results to directly track campaigns and content changes.

Closing note

The strategies and tips mentioned above can greatly assist and optimize visual testing procedures for your organization. 

In general, the secret sauce to success is to always design and execute visual tests that focus on the needs of the ecommerce business and, of course, the final customer.

Like most forms of testing, visual testing should be ideally automated. This requires the right tool: one that can execute tests according to the needs of the business, and with test results that can easily be examined and managed by different teams. As a leader in automated visual testing for ecommerce, Valido provides these capabilities by capturing screenshots, comparing them against the baseline images, highlighting visual changes, and subsequently generating actionable insights for the business.

By incorporating the best practices above, visual testing can be streamlined for greater speed, accuracy, and efficiency. Coupled with the right tools, they should greatly aid in ensuring a robust and consistent visual experience for your ecommerce.

Simple guy who likes simple stuff. Also writes about the latest trends in ecommerce.

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