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3 Bad eCommerce Website Practices (Yet Everyone Does them)

Ah, eCommerce website trends. Some are cute, some are annoying, some make me want to tear my hair out. The latter keep popping up across the web, despite their complete and utter lack of utility or respect for visitors. The following are my top 3 bad eCommerce website practices—what they are, why they stink, and what you can do instead.


If you’ve been online any time in the past few months, surely you’ve seen pops ups like this:

Bad eCommerce Website Practice - Pura Vida popup with nasty exit intent text: "I don't like discounts"

Seem standard enough . . . till you get to the “No thanks” button which says: “I don’t like discounts.”

Uh, excusez moi?? I do like discounts, Pura Vida, but I’ve been on your website for 30 seconds and I’m not sure if I want to give you my email address just yet, thanks.

I feel like every website I visit these days is trying to make me feel bad about myself with this needy dark pattern known as manipulinking: a (disrespectful) psychological trick to get people to opt in to sales funnels. It presents visitors with a false dichotomy: either you opt in, or you call yourself a schmuck. Awesome.

Imagine a waiter at a restaurant saying, “Would you like pepper on your entree, or do you prefer your food to be bland?” Manipulinks are the digital equivalent of that interaction. If it’s rude to say it in person, it’s rude to say it in copy. Kate Meyer & Kim Flaherty, N/N Group

If you have popups, fly-ins, anything users can close, don’t make them apply negative qualities to themselves to do so. Simply let them close the modal: No Thanks, Close, X, Maybe Later, etc.

More manipulinking examples this way >

Mystery Content

I saw some cute as hell swimwear by Ark Swimwear on Instagram and jumped over to their site to check it out. Here’s how Ark presents Bottoms:

Bad eCommerce Website Practice - several products photos in a catalog with no product names or prices displayed

No prices, no style names, no real information I might want to compare options. (And the same photo for two different products, but that’s a problem on its own.)

This catalog page has poor information scent—instead of seeing essential product information clearly, visitors are left to forage for it. On desktop, visitors can hover over the images to see what information lurks behind:

Bad eCommerce Website Practice - Only hovering over a catalog photo reveals product name and price

This is a bad idea because I have to 1) think to hover in the first place (or find the behavior by accident), and 2) recall the information after I hover away.

On mobile, the experience is more dire. Across mobile decides, taps enact hoverstates because you can’t hover a finger. Meanwhile users use taps as mouse clicks. Ark Swimwear hyperlinked the entire photo square, so a tap sent me into the product page itself. To find out which bottom was which, I had to tap one, scan the product page, go back, remember which I had tapped, tap the other, scan it, and recall the information from the first tap to compare. The second product is called Black Cheeky’s. What are the odds if park this page and come back to it an hour later I am going to remember any of this?

Slim to none.

My guess as to why sites hide content behind hovers:

  1. Myth: Photos are all that matter and text just adds clutter
    Truth: Visitors want the relevant information needed to compare options laid out clearly for quick scanning. For most products, all you need to achieve this is name, price, and a photo.
  2. Myth: Hovers provide fun interactivity
    Truth: Interactivity is only fun when you’re playing a game. Back to the restaurant metaphor: imagine a menu where one side is a grid of photos of the dishes. To see what the dish is called and how much it costs, you must flip the menu over. That would get real annoying, real fast.

Here’s a radical idea: if you want to show content, don’t hide it behind a hover, click, or tap. Just show it.


Sliders are basically supercharged mystery content. Yet they are still a thing, probably for the same reasons. Don’t perpetuate them. Check out this post for more on why they are the worst, and what you can do instead.

Does your website suffer from these poor practices? Let me know in the comments what you think of them.

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