Although we answer individual questions in the Zen Cart forum and we talk to Zen Cart shop owners everyday… We have never really put pen to pad for the proper steps to organically optimize your Zen Cart. I will make this list as detailed as possible without losing the attention of the average store owner…
Consider this a 12 Step Program to build your business.
Keep your Zen Cart software patched and up to date. This is not only a requirement for PCI compliance, but getting hacked is not good for any business. Let’s face it, you change the oil in your car and lock the doors right?
Design and usability are huge factors. Even if you have tons of traffic, it matters none if shoppers cannot quickly and easily find your products and checkout. Use SALES, NOT traffic as your measurement. When working on your design, development or existing, search for bottlenecks in your navigation. Remove EVERYTHING that is not helpful or necessary for shoppers. Hire a group of friends to shop and checkout on your site for a particular item each… Then, NO MATTER what you think, fix the issues they find. You see, your average shopper has never built, owned or even knows what a Zen Cart is.
Optimize your checkout. There are free modules to reduce the number of checkout steps available from the Zen Cart Module Repository. Use your common sense… Remove the sidebars from checkout, remove every account creating bit of text that exists and let shoppers checkout without an account (even if they are really creating one), language is everything for the shopper’s perception. Remove every single unnecessary thing from your customer information form. Do you really need: Salutation, Fax, Company, Date of Birth, Referral, and yes… even remove your newsletter check. Change the language for the newsletter option to say “Email preference” only. If you have need for newsletters (you should) then use a separate Zen Cart newsletter module. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, use IE and checkout on your site to check for Secure/Non-Secure warnings… as this will stop a shopper dead in their tracks!
Turn off everything you don’t need on your product pages off…. Date added? Do shoppers really need this? Move your attributes & add to cart area to the topside of the page… above the description so I can purchase quickly if I already know about the product. IF you intend to use social media buttons, your product page is the spot…. Why on earth would you want people to bookmark your login page for example?
No matter what misconceptions you may have… Your site’s visitors read text first. Your shoppers need to be able to effectively scan the text on a page to determine if this is the page they need. TEXT, not images! While images obviously have their place in your store, people need text. You also need text to better rank your pages and create relevance for your topical content. So yes, use great demonstrative and high quality product images… But do not f