Fundamental elements of a successful e-commerce design

An e-commerce site, or online shop, is now an essential requirement for any kind of business.

Internet shopping is steadily increasing its market share, and as bricks and mortar stores are struggling, the e-commerce boom shows no sign of slowing down. E-commerce gives your business a global reach, with new markets in Asia expected to be worth billions to online retailers in the coming years. For this reason it’s vital that you put as much effort and consideration into the design and layout of your e-commerce site as you would into the presentation of a high street store: perhaps more so. For an e-commerce site has to do the work of a merchandiser, sales person and checkout staff all at the same time. It needs to not only be attractive and enticing, but also simple to use. Information needs to be passed on to the customer in a clear, concise and accurate manner that nevertheless subtly encourages them to make a purchase. And while all this may seem straightforward and obvious, it’s easy to get the design of your e-commerce site wrong, with potentially disastrous results for your business.

Fundamental elements of a successful e-commerce design

Inspire trust

The layout of your site should be professional and friendly, inspiring trust and confidence in your visitors. This is the most important initial impression to give. People won’t spend money on your site if they don’t trust it. A safe, welcoming look should be backed up with actual state-of-the-art security features and certification. If your site is regularly processing payments, you simply can’t afford for it to be hacked or compromised.

Keep it intuitive

Excellent user interface design is crucial. Using your site should feel natural and intuitive for your visitors. In HTML, use the H1 tag to make the product name your headline; this will also aid in search engine optimization. Follow this up with a strong photo of your key product. Ideally this should be interactive, allowing the viewer to zoom in or see the product from different angles. The ‘Add to Cart’ button should be clear, prominent and distinctive. This should also function as a call to action- e.g. ‘Buy Now’- and should stand out invitingly from the page. The price should obviously be easily seen, and you might want to include stock availability alongside a multi-choice ‘select quantity’ option. There may also be other options to choose from, like color, size, style, depending on the type of product. Bear in mind that while choice is good, too much choice can leave a potential customer overwhelmed and unable to make a decision. In other words, stick to the essentials for maximum sales conversion.

Easy payment

Payment options should be clearly indicated with universally recognized logos, i.e. different credit cards, PayPal. You may want to offer prices in different currencies as well, or include a converter. Shipping costs need to be made as clear as possible from the start of the process. This additional cost obviously plays a large part in any shopper’s decision about whether to make a purchase or not. Yet many e-commerce sites don’t reveal this detail until the last stage of checkout. Often this is because their shipping costs are offputtingly high, and a customer might assume this is the case if information to the contrary isn’t immediately apparent. So if your shipping charges are modest or reasonable, let your customers know about them as soon as possible!

Fundamental elements of a successful e-commerce design

Describing your product

A photo and the product name isn’t enough, and neither is a manufacturer’s description. Remember, you’re selling the product, not just describing it. On a physical shop floor a good sales assistant would be able to convince a wavering customer not to leave empty-handed. Online, you’ve got to make that pitch through your sales copy. Unique descriptions also help your site ranking in search results, and you can include SEO-friendly keywords. Don’t be too verbose or overdo it; make the tone suitable for your target market and point out all of the benefits and advantages of your product. Quotes from independent reviews or ratings can really help here. User-generated reviews are even better; a few positive testimonials from satisfied customers will correctly give the impression that real people have bought and been overjoyed with your product. Remember, if your customer has got this far then that means they’re actively looking for a product like yours, so you’re halfway there. You just need to close the deal.

A great example

The leading online retail site As Seen on TV immediately inspires trust with its familiar brand name and ‘https’ secure prefix. As it sells a wide range of products it makes sense that the first things we see are a selection of current bestsellers and, most importantly, a prominent search bar so we can find what we’re after. ‘Free shipping deals’ are also clearly trumpeted. Clicking through to an item, the price, availability and the option to buy or bookmark are all immediately apparent, as well as a full description.

e-commerce site

Be mobile friendly

Make sure your e-commerce site is also an m-commerce site; that is, mobile-friendly. The market share of mobile devices is increasing all the time, and you can’t afford to ignore smartphones, tablets and the like when designing your e-commerce site. These days its best to design it with mobile devices in mind from the start, which means keeping your design clean and uncluttered and making sure that your coding, checkout and payment technology function smoothly across all platforms.

Don’t be too demanding

Browsing and shopping on your e-commerce site should be an enjoyable experience for customers. Obviously the ultimate objective is getting them to spend their money, but that’s more likely if your site is somewhere they enjoy visiting and looking around without feeling too much pressure to make a purchase. Intrusive add-ons like pop-ups or lengthy registration forms are the online equivalent of the pushy salesperson that only ends up driving the customers away. Most popular CMS systems have a range of dedicated e-commerce plug-ins to help you get started in establishing a solid store system on your site. These have the advantage of being familiar to browsers, so inspiring confidence that their payment details will be safe and secure. After that, it’s up to you to create the professional, inspiring website that will best showcase your product and get your customers returning repeatedly.

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