The world of internet retail is rife with opportunity. Year-on-year, more people are shopping online than ever before – and e-commerce retailers are doing better than they ever have.
As a result, the competition is fierce and new online stores are emerging at a steady rate. However, many of them are poorly designed – meaning that a well-made site has a real opportunity to stand out.
Good web design for an e-commerce shop isn’t just a matter of making a layout that ‘looks good’. There are numerous specific considerations that can help your site offer a truly enjoyable shopping experience for the customer (and increase your sales in the process).
In this post, we will look at how to get the most from your e-commerce project and offer six key tips to help you set the site up for success.
1. Keep the shop organised
The first principle to bear in mind is to make sure the customers can easily find the products they’re looking for – particularly if you have a lot of items on offer.
Try to keep your products arranged in common-sense categories, and consider offering extra tools for finding things (for example a search box, or a system for filtering the available items by tags). In other words, it should be very obvious where the customer should start looking first.
Similarly, don’t make it difficult for the user to locate the shopping cart! It should be a simple matter for them to view the items they’ve currently selected (and update or remove products however they like).
2. Minimise distractions
Many sites today make use of various pop-up messages and interstitial screens designed to upsell products or show you sponsored content. The majority of users find these annoying, and we don’t generally want to distract them if they’re in the middle of buying something.
Other common eye-catching website elements might include video files, GIFs or animated banner ads. Ideally, it’s good to minimise components that could draw the user’s eye away from the main shopping content.
However, videos and GIFs can be good tools for adding interest to a product page or showing off variant colours and designs for a single product.
3. Leverage social proof
It’s a well-established psychological fact that people are drawn to things that other people seem to like, and there’s certainly no harm in using that principle in your online store.
Allocating space on your product pages for user reviews and testimonials is a great way of building customer confidence in your items. Few users want to be the very first to take a chance on something, and written reassurance from a prior customer that their purchase was a positive experience can go a long way to encouraging further sales.
Another tactic for giving the impression of social proof could be the addition of a section for ‘trending’ or ‘hot’ items – making it clear that a particular product might be enjoying a ‘moment’ and tapping into the customer’s ‘FOMO’ (Fear Of Missing Out).
Many online retailers also make use of user-generated questions and answers on their product pages, providing additional information for the customer (and also implying a wide community of prior customers familiar with the product).
4. Make sure it works well on mobile
Many developers still treat mobile responsiveness as an afterthought, preferring to build the desktop version of the site first and foremost.
However, the majority of internet traffic happens on mobile devices in today’s world – and failing to design for small screens may discourage customers using handheld devices and force them to look elsewhere.
Having a site that doesn’t work well on smaller devices may also affect the shop’s position in search results, as Google ranks pages on a mobile-first basis and tends to prefer sites that offer a good handheld experience. However, they do offer a free automated tool known as the Mobile-Friendly Test which is an invaluable testing aid for new websites (and helps to flag up common issues).
5. Use awesome imagery
While well-written text descriptions of your wares are important, you’re going to need decent photographs, too.
It’s definitely worth taking the time to produce very high-quality and detailed images of your products. A low-resolution or blurry photograph isn’t likely to inspire a purchase – the customers will want to zoom in and see the product in all its glory.
As well as neutral images of the product, you might also – depending on what you sell – use some ‘aspirational’ or ‘lifestyle’ images as well. For example, if your e-commerce shop sells sports shoes, you might have a few professional photographs of athletes or models wearing your merchandise.
6. Make the checkout process quick and painless
The more steps your checkout process has, and the more things the user has to fill out and click, the more likely it is that they will change their mind and leave – abandoning their cart at the same time.
Ideally, the process should be as streamlined as you can make it, collecting the minimum of information from the user and involving as few screens and click-throughs as possible. This might include not forcing your customers into an account registration process if they just want to buy one thing.
The more simple and efficient the overall process of using the site, the more the customer is likely to remember they enjoyed shopping with you and return at another time.
Another good feature to add is the ability to save the contents of the user’s shopping cart – if they are unable to complete their transaction, but return later, it would be nice for them if the items they wanted to buy were already waiting for them in their cart.
Site speed in general can also be a factor in giving users a great online shopping experience, as a site that takes a long time to load each page can make browsing through your catalogue a chore – but a site that is quick and responsive can be a joy to use.
The world of e-commerce represents a great opportunity to establish a presence in an exciting and ever-growing market, and the quality of your web design can dramatically increase your chances of success.
By keeping your site’s navigation well-organised, making good use of social proof and deploying high-quality product photography, you can position your site as a top-tier online shopping destination to which customers will be sure to return.