A Comprehensive Guide To Designing eCommerce Websites

Designing eCommerce Websites

While there are many factors to be considered when setting out to create a successful eCommerce website, one that you simply don’t want to overlook is the overall design. A great design lends itself to an improved user experience, better product showcasing, and a website that your users will remember. There are a million reasons why someone might go on your website and “bounce” – that is, leave without taking any actions like buying a product or signing up for your newsletter. Don’t let a lackluster website design be one of them.

In this article, we’ll be covering some of the techniques you can either use to improve your existing design or even apply when making a brand new eCommerce website. Keep reading to learn more.

Design Considerations

When it comes to basic design, keeping in mind what to avoid can be just as important as implementing best practices. We’ll cover five of the major design considerations to follow to ensure that your visitors will have a better experience when visiting your shop.

Brand Identity

One way you can really help your visitors connect with your business is by establishing a strong identity. In eCommerce, brand identity can be expressed in a few ways; from the tone of your wording and messages (such as being playful, serious, or humorous), to the overall color scheme of your website. If your visitors can easily recognize your brand when landing on your website, it will help establish familiarity and trust, making it easy for you to accomplish what your website is set out to do.

Essentially, everything from the colors, copy, and layout should be made with your target market in mind.

Visual Hierarchy

In eCommerce design, visual hierarchy is the best way to relay items of importance to your visitors immediately. Their time and attention are limited, so being able to convey key takeaways with a visual hierarchy can translate to a better experience overall. The question is, how?

Proper use of visual hierarchy can come in a few forms. These include page layouts, size, space and texture, font, and color.

For layouts, many are focused on “F” and “Z” designs. These are based on the premise of how people tend to read websites. “F” designs believe that people read down the left side first and then catch titles and other important information while scanning left to right. “Z” designs are based on the principle that people read left to right, scan diagonally, and then read to the right once again. 

For size, it’s simple: visitors quickly scan larger headlines to see what catches their attention first and then proceed to read from there. That’s why in advertising, larger sized words always convey the main message, while smaller fonts are used for additional information. 

Spacing and texture is really important and we’ll cover it next in more detail. Choosing the right font and color combination can be crucial too. Similar to size, these two factors will determine which parts of the page your readers’ will be drawn to. They give you the power to direct your readers’ attention toward the most important parts of your website, so use that power wisely.

Keep it Simple; Don’t Over-Design

The worst thing you can do is cram everything together as close as possible and stuff the page with content and images. For your visitors, this will feel like sensory overload and it will detract from your ability to draw them to certain parts of the page. If you want to really grab their attention, keep in mind the age-old principle: less is more. “White space” is the word to remember. Give your page room to breathe and you’ll help certain elements really stand out and get the attention they deserve. On the other hand, avoid having too much white space as it will make it seem like the web page wasn’t fully built.

Stick to Known Symbols

Using symbols and logos that your audience is familiar with will help create trust and help them recognize that you are a brand they can count on. There are a few ways to do this:

  • If you have an SSL certificate, use one of the verified SSL logos. 
  • While offering secure checkout with Visa, Paypal, or another form of payment, use the accompanying logos.
  • If you have a money-back guarantee, a symbol can help convey that easily to the people who are about to purchase. And it helps build trust.

If you use symbols people are familiar with, they will treat your brand with respect and will be more likely to spend their time and money on your website.

Avoid Popup Windows

It’s trendy for a lot of eCommerce websites these days to hit you with a gigantic popup when you first land on their site. We’ve even seen it overtaking the hero image, logo, and everything else associated with your brand. These often do more harm than good. Before you can even offer anything of value to your visitor, you are already “taking” from them – asking for their email address, for them to sign up for an offer, etc. Some pop ups will even go so far as to make a snide remark if the user doesn’t want to opt-in: “No, I don’t want the latest updates for digital marketing”. This adds to poor user experience and makes them less likely to return to your website, and worst yet, they could close out completely. 

When it comes to popups, follow this one simple rule: avoid them! On average, a person visiting new websites on any given day could run into dozens of websites with popups, so stand out today and make sure yours doesn’t have any. Give value before you seek to take.

Navigation Bar

A well-placed menu will make all of the difference when it comes to users successfully navigating a few pages of your website. When it comes to eCommerce in particular, it can help organize categories of products, allowing visitors to quickly pinpoint exactly what it is they are looking for. After all, if they can’t find it, they won’t buy it.

When it comes to the navigation menu though, don’t get too fancy. Links to your main pages should take up the top-level items; the links that appear without hover. Subpages should appear beneath them. In many cases, you can make it so the navigation menu is sticky (always showing) or only appears when a user scrolls up – useful if you value the additional space on your website. 

Designing eCommerce websites

Categories

If you sell a lot of items, keeping them organized in neat categories will make it easy for people to find what they want. This almost goes hand-in-hand with having a clean navigation menu, but it goes a bit farther. 

When it comes to cataloging your products, be sure to display them in a way that makes sense, keeping similar items together. People should be able to search by category tags, whether it’s on the search function on your site, your menu navigation bar, or on the product page itself. They may not know exactly what product they are looking for, but if they can easily view all products within a single category, they’ll probably find it quicker. 

Filters

Filters tie in with categories in a way: you are letting your visitor narrow down exactly what they are looking for. Sometimes, too many products to choose from can be overwhelming. It can cause your visitors to freeze, rendering them unable to pick exactly what they want. And the end result is terrifying – they leave without choosing anything. The key is to let them narrow down their options as specifically as possible – filtering – so they can start to weed out the results that aren’t right for them.

For example, if you sell computers, there are tons of filters you can list – PC or laptop, required memory, graphics processor, and so forth. This goes for pretty much any category or item.

Quickview

Having a “quickview” option can help keep your visitors on your page without bogging them down with additional loading or taking their focus away from your products. Essentially, what it does is open the product details in a modal window over the page they are currently viewing. Imagine clicking on an image and it popping up in a larger box – quickview is sort of the same thing, except it also encapsulates the most important features of a product alongside the image. 

Quickviews aid in the buying process and can help give people quick snapshots of what they are looking at, without getting bogged down in all of the minutiae. 

Special Offers

Special offers can help convert buyers who are on the fence as well as stir interest in people that may not have been considering purchasing in the first place. There are many reasons why special offers work, from the psychological sense of getting something cheaper to simply providing more value than the competition. 

If you have special offers, or exclusive deals, move them to the forefront of your website so that they are visible. The success of your eCommerce business shouldn’t be contingent on special offers, but it’s possible for them to be the most sought after deal you have. Consider placing them prominently on the homepage, the first image of a slider, and during special times of the year to make the most of them and really drive interest to your products.

Product Page Design

In eCommerce design, product pages go beyond a simple image of your product. They tell the story, give detailed info on the item, and help people make the decision of whether or not they need the product. Here’s a bit more in detail.

Designing eCommerce websites

Product Images

Your products should have more than one image describing them. Different angles, various closeups, and shots of the packaging can help sell the overall picture. The higher ticket the item, the more you’ll need a comprehensive view of everything associated with it. A simple t-shirt can only have one or two images (front and back), whereas more expensive items items – like furniture, cars, or even houses – are going to need a lot more support behind them. 

The best practice of product showcasing consists of video, interactive images, or even 3D models which are navigable by the user (depending on the type of product). It’s essential to include as much as possible. Think abundance instead of austerity; your visitors will appreciate it.

Product Info

In eCommerce, if you want to help shoppers make the best decision, you need to help them get as informed as possible. If you aren’t informing your visitors, someone else will – and they will be more likely to get the final sale.

Including as much product info as possible will help build trust and answer questions. People are less likely to buy if they have an important question regarding a product, so try to cover the most important facets of it – or what might be the most frequently asked questions.

Consider options like availability, colors, dimensions, sizes, materials, and warranties. Giving your product a story will make people connect more easily with it.

Product Scarcity

Showing that a product isn’t always available – because let’s face it, it might not always be – is one way to motivate your buyers to take action. With that said, it’s not smart to go listing every item on your website as temporarily unavailable or low on stock – but if there’s a certain item you want or need to sell, you can use this principle to help push it along.

If you have run out of a product – be sure to say so. Grey out sizes or colors that you don’t have any more of. Let buyers know when you are running low. The key here is that you don’t need to be dishonest to create product scarcity. 

Shopping Cart

The shopping cart or checkout basket is the eCommerce version of getting in line at the local grocery. It is where your website visitors have picked out what they want and are ready to buy. They have mentally already made the purchase – so the key here is to make it as easy as possible for them to finalize the details, review their order, and get on with their day.

There’s a few things you absolutely need if you want your shopping cart to aid in the buying process rather than slow things down. First, you’ll want a clear call-to-action button which prompts the user to checkout. A big button here should do the trick, just make sure it’s noticeable. 

Next, make sure the shopping cart is interactive and immediately showing the buyer feedback when they add or remove items for it. Many websites do this by showing the number of items in the shopping cart in the top right hand corner of the website. 

Lastly, ensure that the shopping cart you use is highly interactive. Allow users to change the number of items for each product they chose without leaving the shopping cart page. Users should be able to delete and add items at will, with as seamless a process as possible.

Designing eCommerce Websites

Mobile Design

With so much web traffic coming from mobile, you’ll want to make sure your eCommerce website is optimized for mobile. Like the desktop or tablet versions, it should be fully responsive – meaning it adapts to the size of the screen it’s being viewed on, so that images and text aren’t out of place. Images should be compressed as much as possible so that they load quickly and don’t eat up all of the visitor’s mobile data plan. 

The key is to just make it as simple as possible for the people visiting your shop from their phone. You don’t want it to take forever to load, show up funny, or eat all of their data, or else they might not come back. 

Social Media

 Social media can play a huge part for any eCommerce website. Whether it’s showcasing your products on a platform like Pinterest, or giving snippets of info alongside an image on Facebook, you can use social to reach new audiences. Links to your social media should be clearly visible in multiple areas of your website – such as in your main menu, alongside blog posts, and in your footer. Being able to communicate with your followers (and have them share your products with their friends) will help your brand grow and stay in touch with those who love it most.

Checkout Design

Finally, there is the checkout design. Checkout happens after your user has put everything in their shopping cart and is on the final page, ready to purchase. This page should be simple and easy to navigate – as you don’t want anything to actually impede them from making the final purchase. Consider the following:

  • Minimize the amount of buttons and steps needed.
  • Make registration optional.
  • Make sure any errors or reasons preventing the purchase are clear.
  • Allow multiple payment methods.
  • Offer support if they run into issues.

Remember, the checkout page is the last thing standing between the customer and the purchase – don’t make it harder than it needs to be.

Final Words

For your visitors, your eCommerce site should represent a true shopping experience, rather than just another website.  It should be designed with the end goal of selling your products. Everything from the initial homepage, design and layout, to the shopping cart and checkout should be created with user experience in mind. Doing so will ensure more success for your eCommerce business.

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