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I'm currently working on the wireframes of a webshop for a chain of electronics stores (TV's, washing machines, etc). Users can place products in the shopping cart and start the checkout process from the shopping cart; nothing fancy, basically your default webshop.

Consider the following option's:

  1. The shopping cart page is not part of the checkout process. The checkout process is divided up in steps (1, 2 and 3). The shopping cart features a button that initiates the checkout process (e.g. 'checkout')

  2. The shopping cart page is part of the checkout process and displays the checkout steps (1, 2, 3 and 4) somewhere on the page. The shopping cart features a button that initiates the checkout process (e.g. 'checkout')

I'm personally leaning towards option 1; the shopping cart is a place that the user uses to gather his products. He's going to visit the page more then once, reviewing his order and finally to decide on continuing the actual process of ordering the order.

To have the shopping cart as part of the checkout process feels wrong because of the way it gets used. Clicking 'add to cart' on a product page is not the start of the checkout process; you're simply placing a product in the cart. Only when you're ready to order would the user initiate the checkout process, from the shopping cart.

A colleague of mine does favor towards option 2, because it gives more insight in the checkout process.

So I'm wondering, what's the best place for a shopping cart in the checkout process as a whole?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

I'd agree with #1. Adding/checking/modifying the items in my shopping cart feels like a separate process than checking out (which signifies that I'm done). Personally, I'd feel a bit preempted if just checking my cart kicked off the checkout process.

Historically, there's usually been a small separation between the two processes (clicking the "checkout" button typically takes the user to the secure site, makes them login or re-authenticate, makes them get their out credit cards, and so on). This matches the physical model, too; after all, with a real shopping cart, I can look at it all I like, but I have to wheel it over to the register to check out.

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I'd go with both.

  1. It's a tool to rearrange, remove, add and review your stuff within the shopping process. At this time the visitor might not be ready for the (linear) checkout process. It should have a prominent "Order Now" button. I guess that's where you want to lead your customers, but still you might want them to add more stuff.

  2. It's content will show up somewhere in the checkout process after all the annoying payment and delivery forms. To give you a last view on the items (and maybe order 10 instead of only 1 washing machine).

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Just noticed that I didn't clarify that I meant 'shopping cart page'. Your answer still stands though, because it's indeed important to show the cart with it's contents during the checkout process, thanks for pointing that out. – TomvB May 18 '11 at 8:15

Well, it's actually both. Consider, that when you are in a store, you bring your shopping cart with you through the checkout process.

As such, consider the cart to belong to the user, and it's used while browsing and checking out.

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