Designing an eCommerce website is certainly not a cakewalk. If you are an e-commerce entrepreneur, a sizeable amount of your attention tends to get devoted towards choosing your e-commerce platform and service provider. But having effectively done so, has it ever occurred to you that when a potential customer has thousands of e-commerce websites to choose from in a matter of few clicks, why should he prefer to make a purchase on your website? What impression do you put forth in the first 3 seconds (popularly known as the “Blink Test”) that captivates the visitor and prevents him from moving on to other sites? Does your website have the ability to offer substantial value to visitors and convert them into loyal customers? Do you have what it takes to stand out from the crowd? Most of the answers to the above questions are encompassed in the designing aspect your e-commerce website.
The Basics of Design
Lauren Freedom from the e-tailing group has said, “E-commerce is an evolution. You don’t have to get everything right immediately; you can learn from it.” This is undoubtedly true in case of e-commerce web designing considering that technology and consumer expectations are two extremely dynamic variables that a designer needs to remain abreast with at all times. Due to these changing trends and evolvement with time, one cannot have a Rulebook of e-commerce design per se, but one can certainly understand and comply with the basics of design, and gradually experiment and evolve with changing times.
Getting it right
All said and done, the primary intention behind setting up your e-commerce website is for you to make money. Therefore during the process of designing, always keep one question at the back of your mind- “Will it sell?” With this basic motive clear, let us understand how to get it right.
1. ALIGN YOUR DESIGN TO EMPHASIZE YOUR PRODUCTS
This means that when a visitor logs on to your site, your website should be designed in a manner to instantly communicate the products/services that you offer. In case of any ambiguity here, the visitor will not be able to comprehend what you sell and he will abandon you before you even realize it. Designing your homepage is like putting your best foot forward, so display clear and crisp content with appropriate colors, typography and a distinct style to captivate the user in one shot.
2. MAINTAIN A BALANCE BETWEEN STYLE AND FUNCTIONALITY
Refrain from using flashy or over-the-top designs to create awe. You might end up unnecessarily confusing the visitor instead. At the same time, a very somber design with plain looking content will not generate sufficient interest to retain the user. The trick is to mix up both the elements and maintain a fine balance.
3. IT’S ALL ABOUT CREDIBILITY
If your website design fails to foster the requisite trust in a user to reveal his personal details like credit card details for instance, you might end up with an extremely low conversion rate of visitors into customers. To give an overall impression of credibility, every small detail matters. If your site has copied content, or if you probe for too much information at the outset, or if your customer care contact details are not implicit, you will not be able to generate the necessary trust. Having a live chat option, ready to access FAQs etc helps here.
4. EMPOWER THE USER
Provide options, reverse options, filters and search options wherever possible. Put yourself in the shoes of an average visitor who is looking for a specific product or information? Is your site designed to provide ease of navigability? Are you able to view product catalogs based on a variety of sorting options such as price and popularity? Finally, are you able to find what you want instantly without having to probe much?
5. A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS
Unlike a real store where one can physically see and touch the product prior to purchase, an e-commerce customer adjudges your product primarily from its picture on your site. Please note that both quality as well as quantity is important here. Try to upload high quality images from multiple angles, which a user can browse through using thumbnails or filmstrips. Provide sufficient options to zoom in and out. Also try to upload videos wherever applicable to provide clarity to the onlooker.
6. SHOWCASE YOUR BEST
Make sure that your best selling products and your latest deals are showcased effectively through your overall design. Facilitate your visitors by providing options of related products, product reviews, product ratings and sufficient information and specifications about the product, its advantages, guidelines for usage, warranty, pin code serviceability, model and brand details to engage the users. An established thumb rule says that an engaged visitor is more likely to make a purchase.
7. PERSONALIZATION IS THE BUZZWORD
8. SHOPPING CART DESIGN
Design your shopping cart in such a way that adding or deleting items from the cart must not impair user experience. At the same time, the user must be able to view how many items he has put in his cart as well. The cart-to-product page as well as product page-to-cart interface needs to be smooth and seamless.
9. CHECK-OUT PROCESS
It is a commonly known fact that the checkout process is where most users abandon your site. The reasons could be varied- it might be because you have a complicated checkout process that causes confusion, or you have asked for too many details or the user loses interest because the procedure is too long or even the fact that your suggestive selling attempt on the page puts off the user. Focus on the design of your check-out page to seal the deal instantly from the point of view of the user, and you have won half the game!
10. KEEP TESTING AND IMPROVISING WITH TIME
As mentioned above, E-commerce is more of an evolution process rather than a fixed set of guidelines. Once your site has been designed, keep testing the with colors, buttons, drop down menus, catalogs, product categories, coupons etc to determine how they impact your website traffic and conversion rates.
It would be apt to conclude with this quote from Steve Jobs that emphasizes on the importance of design: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”