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I often see e-commerce sites with a flow like this:

  1. You add a product and are automatically take to the shopping cart
  2. You click "Proceed to Checkout" are taken to a page where you give your shipping and billing information
  3. You click continue and review to see all that information again
  4. You click "Submit Order" to actually pay

What is the purpose of the third step? I figure we'd want to minimize the number of steps it takes to place an order. So there must be some advantage for those sites to put an extra step between giving your payment information and actually charging you.

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up vote 12 down vote accepted

Your shipping and billing information is pretty crucial to the process of placing an order. If it's incorrect, your order will be misdelivered (not cool) or you won't be able to charge the customer correctly for the order.

Like any input that has such huge consequences for a software process, it is good UX to allow the user to review this essential information before taking an important action (placing the order). The inconvenience is minor (although there exist features that get around this, like Amazon's 1-click order); for some users, this review step actually improves the UX of the process by giving them peace of mind before placing their order.

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Yes. It's ultimately a better experience to have the review step. I'd wager it's an evolved solution to problems of erroneous input. –  obelia Dec 17 '13 at 19:27
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But is placing an order such an important action? I know some systems are set-up to do nothing for 12 hours after your order. All they do is get an authorisation on your card. The user can easily cancel their order within this time, or change the delivery details, etc. I don't know why ensuring the information is correct has to be a precursor to committing to the order. You could just as easily email the details to be checked at the user's leisure. –  Brendon Dec 17 '13 at 19:45
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@Brendon As you say, you can engineer your e-commerce solution such that placing an order is not a crucial action (at least not immediately). I'd guess that most e-commerce systems are not engineered this way and place orders immediately (simplicity of design). Historically, this would account for this design pattern. Bottom line is, if you can design your whole system to obviate the need for a review step, then feel free to eliminate it; but also know that removing this step goes against widely established convention (which may cause further UX problems). –  Joshua Barron Dec 17 '13 at 21:27
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