E-commerce Web Design Tips - 5 minutes read
Entering the world of e-commerce is an exciting step for any business, allowing you to reach new markets and customers, and COVID-19 has made online businesses even more popular. Yet if you’ve never run an e-commerce business before, it can be difficult to know what to do and where to start. Here are some of the best web design tips, to ensure you don’t make common mistakes and can provide your customers with a great user experience.
The first step is to work out how your e-commerce website design will reflect your branding. One of the benefits of many e-commerce platforms is their customizability, making it easy for businesses to offer their wares while keeping their brand identity front and centre. If your main strengths are in areas other than design and branding, it can be worthwhile to seek advice from professionals in these areas, who can guide you towards the best ways to make your brand and website stand out, while maintaining consistent branding.
Cluttered websites with lots of information, photos or links can make it difficult for users to navigate, particularly if they are vision-impaired or have other accessibility requirements. Rather than trying to cram in as much information as possible onto the main webpage, it’s best to divide things up and go for a more simple look, making it as minimalist and uncluttered as possible while still giving users the info they need. The Web Content Accessibility Guide (WCAG) can give you some excellent information on how to design e-commerce websites that can cater for people with different accessibility needs.
While almost everyone has access to a camera in their phone, using phone pics to advertise your products may come across as cheap and unprofessional. This is another area where gaining the services of a professional – in this case, a photographer – can make your business appear serious and professional, as well as allowing customers to get a clear idea of what your products look like.
Remember the user
Your e-commerce website has to satisfy your own needs and requirements for your business, although you always need to keep in mind how users will interact with it. If a website is too confusing, cluttered or doesn’t easily give users the information or access to products that they need, then they will very quickly leave and go to one of your competitors – and they likely will never tell you why they’ve gone somewhere else.
This is where user testing can be exceptionally handy by having potential customers (not just you or your website designers) interact with the site and point out any potential issues. The last thing you want is for your brand new e-commerce website to go live but only then do you realise there are major issues keeping customers from buying from you.
If you only have a small inventory of products available, it’s possible you can live without a search or filter option. However, the greater the number of products, the more vital it becomes to allow users to easily find what they want. If, for example, you’re selling products that vary greatly in terms of colour, materials, dimensions or other criteria, give users the option to sort through your products so they can see which ones conform to their needs. Many websites with lots of products take the easy route and only have a basic search/filter option, so as stated above, always ‘remember the user’ and what could make their visit more productive and enjoyable.
Many large or medium businesses will have dedicated teams (sometimes employed externally) to deal with enquiries and issues, and some even bury their ‘contact us’ pages so users can’t easily get in contact with them. Don’t make it too difficult for potential customers to contact you but be honest about the process, that it might take you 24 hours or more to get back to them, for example. The more open and honest you are about wanting to help customers, the more likely they are to do business with you.
If you’re a small business operating out of your lounge room or garage, or a larger business with a small team, it pays to give customers some information on who you are, where you’re based, and why you’re in business. You don’t need to give out too much private information, but adding a personal touch can help customers know a bit more about the people behind the brand.
There is a reason popup blockers exist: popups can be incredibly distracting and take customers’ focus away from what they’re doing. While you may be incredibly keen to get potential customers to sign up for a newsletter or to show them any current specials or sales, try to limit the number and frequency of popups or look at different ways of giving the same information which isn’t as annoying such as with a banner. If you simply must include popups, make it easy to close them, such as by clicking the mouse cursor on a different part of the page, rather than needing to click on a small ‘x’ in the corner of the popup.
With increasing numbers of people using their mobile phones to search the web and shop, it’s now absolutely vital that you test your website and e-commerce platform in mobile environments, to ascertain if there are any potential issues that will harm the user experience and stop people from doing business with you.
A handy tool that will help your customers and make less work for you is to show current stock levels for your products (as can be seen on websites such as eBay). This will allow users to know how much of a product they can buy, saving you the hassle of then having to contact them and refund money if they buy something which isn’t actually available.
User reviews can be a handy way for potential customers to gauge the experiences of others in regard to your products. There are now plenty of external websites that offer this service, such as Google or Yelp, or you can choose to show some testimonials directly on your site. Be aware that not all reviews will be 100% honest, but if you have received many negative reviews on Google, for example, but only show positive reviews on your website, potential customers may be discouraged from dealing with you.
View cart button
Once customers have added products to the shopping cart, they need to be able to see what’s in there and make any necessary changes, such as regarding quantities. It also helps users keep track of how many items they have added to the cart if the number on the ‘view cart’ icon updates with each addition.
Once a customer has decided on what they want to purchase, make the checkout process as simple as possible. Many e-commerce platforms do all this work for you, while others will allow you to customise the process. One potential bugbear is the need for customers to create an account before they complete the checkout, which can add an unnecessary layer of complexity and annoyance, particularly if they’re not likely to be repeat customers.
Finally, as eager as you may be to have new customers sign up for your newsletter, allow them to opt-in for this by checking a box, rather than needing to check a box to opt-out. Being surreptitiously subscribed to a newsletter can even be against the law, such as with the European Union’s Global Data Privacy Rules (GDPR). In Australia, privacy laws can require businesses to state what personal information they will hold, collect, use and disclose about their customers, so be upfront about how you will handle this information and make sure you’re operating well within the laws.
These are some of the e-commerce web design tips that we have for you. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need help with user testing or to improve your website to increase your sales.
- User Experience