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It might look something like this:
Cart (link to detailed cart page)
It depends upon which pages you're on. If you're on the home page and haven't placed anything in the cart - no. But go to a product page and you'll see the option to add to cart. Add something and you'll see a mini-cart.
added - visibility may also depend upon cookies - not sure about this though
The fanatic testers over at marketingexperiments have stated again and again that 2 columns almost always converts better than 3 columns. The 3rd column completely messes up the eye path.
We recently removed our 3rd column, and voila!, plus 18% conversions.
So... test the mini cart, but if you decide to go for it, then integrate it in the header or in your main or second column...
However personally when I shop online I like to see which items I have already put into the cart on every page.
Because often when I shop around I put something into the cart, so when I find similar products in the shop I can get to the previous products page with one click. And back to the other product again with another when I have put it into the cart.
What I do not like at all are those shopping sites where you do not see any cart at all but only get a short popup "added to cart".
I would also would not recommend to look at Amazon anymore as an example for good usability. The website is so messed up and cluttered with useless stuff and options no one ever uses. I bet they could double their conversions if they would tidy up their website a bit.
Bryan Eisenberg says that it takes around 90 seconds to load amazon.com, but users *perceive* the speed to be very high since they find what they want and are able to do what they want. Interesting, huh? Because they find the site useful, they perceive it to load fast.
I don't know what you exactly mean with mini-cart, but a well placed and big enough link/cart-image leading the customer to the checkout page is an absolute must, and it HAS to be placed ON EVERY PAGE as soon as there is one single item in the cart.
Although I used amazon a couple of times before, their mini-cart was simply too small for my nervous eye, and I almost abandoned the session without buying. What if I had been on a another not so famous page, without former experience in their trustworthiness and service?
I'd expect a graphical link to the minicart top right.
We use a mini cart and ever since we started using it, our product pages have not ranked well. We are thinking that it may be part of the problem. But the addition of it was done at the same time as a major redesign so we are not positive that it is part of the problem.