Design Elements for a Successful Ecommerce Website | Virtual Stacks Systems
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Design Elements for a Successful Ecommerce Website

Design Elements for a Successful Ecommerce Website

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Ecommerce is experiencing a boom as more consumers than ever shop online. Lockdowns necessitated by the spread of COVID-19 accelerated a trend that was already well underway. One result is that the business environment today’s ecommerce websites face is intensely competitive. Consumers have high expectations of the websites they choose to do business with. Whether your business is exclusively online, or you have a physical retail location(s) but also sell online, the same conditions apply. Likewise, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been conducting ecommerce for several years or just starting. People make quick judgements about their willingness to buy from you based as much upon the quality of your website as the quality of your products or services.

Good design and easy checkout are the foundations of a successful ecommerce website. According to branding expert Deanna deBara in her article for 99designs, “Web design is critical when creating an ecommerce website. Good ecommerce web design is all about using the right colors, fonts, images, words and graphics to convince visitors to make a purchase. Your ecommerce website design should attract potential customers, provide great user experience and present your shop in the best light.”

In addition, good design goes a long way in establishing customer trust. Big brands already enjoy high name recognition. But for small-to-medium size businesses, members of your target market are less likely to know you or your reputation. People need to be confident that the website they’re trusting with their credit card number is reputable. As digital marketing legend Neil Patel puts it, “Design matters; and good website design signals that there’s a solid company behind the screen.”

Keeping all this in mind, here’s what you need to know to optimize your site to engage and convert visitors to customers – and to make sure they complete their purchase instead of abandoning their shopping cart!

Have a Strong Brand Identity and Keep it Consistent

There is no brand too small to have a strong brand identity. Even if you sell only one product, you want it to shine and show its worth in the marketplace. Your brand’s colors, graphic design, labeling and even tone of “voice” all go into establishing an image among your target audience of what your brand is all about, what they can expect from it and how it can provide an experience that compliments their own identity as individuals.

Obviously, this ground-level work should be done before developing your website. But once it is, making your website the logical extension of your brand will be easier – and much more successful!

Go With the Flow

According to Lyfe Marketing, studies and heat maps have shown that people view websites in an “E” or “F” formation – starting at the top-left corner and working their way horizontally across the page, then down the left side, horizontally again, and so on. “This is why navigation menus typically appear horizontally across the top of each page of a website. Utilize the E formation in your web design to guide visitors’ eyes towards main conversation points.”

Regarding the classic grid layout, the Lyfe Marketing article recommends it as “… the best for ecommerce sites, and for most sites in general. When users are browsing products, it’s best to keep them in organized rows and columns. Just be careful not to cram too many different products in one row … Keeping plenty of white space around each item gives people breathing room and allows them to clearly differentiate between products.”

But Don’t Forget Mobile Optimization

According to Google, 61% of users are highly unlikely to return to a website that doesn’t work well on mobile, with 40% moving on to visit a competitor’s site. Making a purchase is impossible when your website is rendered in miniature on a smartphone. Having a responsive design allows your ecommerce website to automatically adapt to any type of device screen or operating system. “Just make sure your image sizes, CTAs and form fields work on all different platforms,” Lyfe Marketing writes. “The bottom line is that when testing your site, always be sure to view it from several different devices and operating systems, just to be sure.”

Less is More – Keep Website Design Simple

Lyfe Marketing points out that minimalist websites are consistently rated as more visually appealing and trustworthy than visually complex websites.

“When you provide too many different things for people to look at and interact with on your website, it can create a great deal of confusion. Users might not know where to look or even where to start when it comes to navigating your site. Simple website design allows you to guide users’ eyes along your website with effective use of white space and clear navigation tools … If you want to optimize your ecommerce web design for conversions, you should consider simplifying it.”

Make Product Categories and Product Pages Easy to Navigate

Don’t put up obstacles between your website’s visitors and your products. Provide filters that allow customers to search based upon brand or category (if applicable), then drill down further according to size, color, etc. The sooner they can find what they’re looking for, the more likely they are to buy. Conversely, if they have to click around as if your website is a treasure map with arcane clues, they’ll be more likely to give up and go to a competitor’s site.

Also, adding a Search bar will allow visitors to cut to the chase for even faster navigation to the desired product page if they already know what they want. This is especially helpful for repeat customers.

Use Color Psychology

Did you know that using the color red for the purchase button can increase conversions by an impressive 34%? Red creates excitement and a sense of urgency. Because you need visitors to trust your website before they get excited, however, incorporating blue into your color scheme can help build feelings of trust. Patel delves into the art and science of how color affects emotion (and buying decisions) in detail in his blog post, which you can read here.

Don’t Forget the Shopping Cart

Make sure the shopping cart icon is prominently displayed on the upper right of the page. Also have it keep count of the items it “contains” so customers can keep track of their purchases as they continue to shop.

Tell by Showing – The Importance of High-Quality Images and Multiple Views

Give your potential customers as much of the experience of seeing your products in person as possible. This means high-quality photos, as well as (if applicable) different angles of each product – so visitors can easily see what it looks like from the sides, back or underneath. Offer zoom-in views of fine detail by allowing visitors to mouse over the item and viewing a close-up window. Providing a 360-degree video view of each product is a definite plus.

Although you’re doubtlessly trying to save money, you can’t afford to skimp on this area. Low-quality, low-res product photos will actually work against you. This isn’t a DIY project or a favor to ask of a family member or friend who dabbles in photography. Hire a pro who specializes in product photography for the best results.

The quality of photography and graphics on the rest of your website is important, too. Avoid stock photography if possible – but if you do use it, subscribe to a premium stock photography provider and put a custom touch on it by using a graphic design platform such as Canva (which also provides stock photos to paid subscribers).

Tell by Describing – But Not Too Much

Research indicates that most website visitors only read about 20% of any given web page. They scan the text looking for key words rather than word-by-word. So forego lengthy copy and serve up the selling points in a user-friendly way. Use short sentences and paragraphs, use boldface to emphasize main points and use bullet points to list features and benefits.

How to Prevent Cart Abandonment – Improving the Checkout Process

Although it doesn’t exactly fall under the category of “design,” the checkout process can be the treacherous last mile of the customer’s journey – and is therefore worth bringing up. Writing for his firm, The Good, Jon MacDonald offers the following tips for optimizing your online checkout process:

Set expectations – Show visitors what to expect during checkout; use simple graphics to explain the process step-by-step.

Show progress – use a progress bar or other tool to show shoppers the steps they need to complete checkout and where they are in the process at each step.

Don’t require shoppers to register before checkout – Offer a guest checkout procedure. Requiring registration is a major cause of cart abandonment.

Keep the back button functional – Many people use the browser’s back button to undo an action they’ve taken.

Keep customers on the same domain – Directing them to another site creates suspicion – remember, you’re asking them to trust you with their credit card number and other sensitive personal information.

One More Important Factor – Speed

You can have the best-designed ecommerce website on the planet, but it won’t help your conversion rate if your site’s speed is slow. Our blog post – “Why Your Website Needs to be Up-to-Speed” – covers the importance of a fast-loading website in detail.

Basically, the average website visitor will only tolerate a load time of up to two seconds. Google’s engineers have found that potential customers will visit a site less often if it’s slower than that of a close competitor’s by more than 250 milliseconds. Yes, you read that right – milliseconds. Among their other discoveries: even 400 milliseconds – literally the blink of an eye – is too long for website visitors to wait for a page to load.

The Take-Home Message and Our Blatant Self-Promotion

As the popularity of ecommerce continues to rapidly increase, competition is becoming more intense. A poorly designed or functioning ecommerce website is at a distinct disadvantage, and is destined to fall behind in sales. You literally can’t afford to have your site be anything less than its best!

Our web development team at Virtual Stacks Systems has extensive experience in designing ecommerce websites for businesses of all sizes, in a wide variety of industries. Contact us today to learn more and get started!



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