I am designing a website (RWD) for a Telecom company and I was wondering whether you could provide with some rationales or papers for:

  • Having a shopping cart/basket (drop-down shopping cart icon like Amazon for example)?

  • What would be the benefits for the users? And from a technical point of view as well?

  • And for not having a shopping cart? - Product(s) could be shown before checking-out

  • What would be the best practice(s) for having or not having a shopping cart?

I could start the list by saying a shopping cart is needed if users are enabled to buy multiple products. It will allow the users to reduce their cognitive loads and don't store in memory products they bought.

Yes in that case I mean an overlay like Amazon - They use a dropdown. Then if you decide to see the product breakdowns, you have to click a 'view shopping basket' button and you will land to a separate page with all the product details ('Pre-Checkout' page).

My question is about finding rationale(s) for having (or not having) this shopping cart overlay feature in a website?

I am not against having an overlay shopping cart nor having nothing, however We could argue that if users buy only one product why would need a shopping cart? Shouldn't it be better to go to the checkout straight away?

The shopping makes sense in a supermarket, you would need something (shopping cart) to put the items you wish to buy later, you can't carry too much products on your own. This logic to me doesn't seem to make sense for a website (digital channel).

I was arguing about the fact of having an overlay shopping providing 2 rationales:

  • You need a shopping cart if users buy more than 1 product so that they can still browse the website and are not 'forced' to remember what they wish to buy (or update product details) - Shopping cart is a 'cognitive crutch'

  • You need shopping cart to create a single quote (query) for multiple products sent to the DB rather than creating quotes (queries) for each products you wish to buy - DB cost ; Data management issues etc..

I would like to find rationales or pros/cons for these approaches (overlay shopping cart or not?) If not, what would be the best approach? Separate page like 'Look at what is your current basket?' (pre-checkout)?

  • 1
    By 'shopping cart' do you mean a separate screen you go to that exists inbetween the regular products / shopping page and the final checkout (i.e. 'look at what is currently in your basket') - or is it an overlay that'll appear on the current page you're on so you can see what you have without having to leave your current screen?
    – JonW
    Dec 10, 2013 at 15:46
  • 1
    The shopping cart indicates what you have selected for purchase from anywhere on the site. That's rather important information for the user. What alternatives are you proposing to communicate that information if you eliminate the cart?
    – DA01
    Dec 10, 2013 at 16:19
  • In my case, end-users might only buy 1 product on this website and I was thinking about to get rid off the shopping cart. However if they buy more than 1 product, Shopping cart (overlay) would be required. I was wondering whether some papers about this topic (shopping cart or not) would exist. If so, what would be the pros & cons about the shopping
    – Jon Laza
    Dec 23, 2013 at 20:26

4 Answers 4


Shopping cart metaphor is simply a variant of view/modify order, allowing you to review your order before checking out, adjust quantities, remove items, etc. If calling it a "shopping cart" bothers you, then just change it to View/Update order.

But nowadays people are pretty familiar with the shopping cart metaphor, so changing the terminology may be violation of the principal of least astonishment.

  • Thanks for your reply, I was questioning about the added value of a shopping cart if the users only buy one product on a website. Would it be really useful to have a a shopping cart (overlay available from anywhere on the website e.g. amazon)?
    – Jon Laza
    Dec 23, 2013 at 20:30
  • People are even more familiar with basket. Actually I find basket nicer than shopping cart. Feb 11, 2014 at 9:57
  • Especially in the present case where, as far as I understand, there will often be only one item in the order. Feb 11, 2014 at 9:59

When you go to a store, you either want to buy a few things you can hold with your one hand (1 item in this case), or many, in which case you take a cart (or a basket if they're small and light and not that many).

Use Buy now button to avoid the unnecessary step of placing item in the cart altogether to proceed checking out immediately. But keep Add to cart in case the customer wants to buy several items (which is the usual scenario, really).


I have a problem with the shopping cart metaphor, namely, it breaks down when the user is performing a one-off transaction.

In this instance an interaction direct to the checkout is far more desirable than adding to a cart and then checking out. I don't know why ecommerce transactions are still built around the cart metaphor


You can't predict whether the user will buy only one product or multiple. What I would suggest: instead of clustering screen with multiple buttons (add to cart and buy now), after the user adds her first product, ask if she wants to check-out now or continue shopping.

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