If you’re ready to sell your products and services online, you’re ready to talk about eCommerce website design. By design I mean the parts of your site the customer can see and the parts they can’t. Both are equally important, and you can’t have one without the other.
From the text and photos on each page to the technical elements that make checkout seamless, every design decision must do the same thing — put the customer experience first. This is the secret to keeping your customers coming back. It also affects your Google search ranking.
Editor’s note: Learn what the big online retailers already know — read our start-to-finish guide to building a high-performing eCommerce website.
DIY or hire a web developer?
The first question to consider is whether or not you want to design and maintain your eCommerce site yourself or if you want to hire a web developer.
Easy-to-use eCommerce site builders are available for those who like to get their hands dirty. Platforms such as GoDaddy’s Online Store, Shopify and BigCommerce help non-web developers create great-looking web stores that showcase products, process payments and ship orders.
If you don’t have the time or aren’t ready to tackle the technical side of building an eCommerce website, look for an eCommerce web developer using these questions as a guide. You’ll be able to find someone who’s happy to help you.
Another option is a hybrid of the two. You can hire someone to set up your site but maintain control, including the option to make updates and changes on your own. For example, you could hire a WordPress developer to build a WordPress eCommerce website for you. That way, you could change content as needed without calling in the pros for every little update.
Now let's talk about design tips and tricks.
The customer experience is priority No. 1
Your eCommerce website design, from the layout to the colours and content, needs to entice shoppers to come inside. If you choose a brand font and colour, stick to it! A customer should be guided through the store just as if they were in a physical store. The entire shopping experience is the same; your brand essence should carry over from one page to the next.
Consumers want to relate to your brand, understand the product and buy with ease.
Imagine walking into your favourite store. From the outside, you recognise the brand by the logo, colours and other design elements. Inside, the products are organised with helpful signage and descriptions. It’s easy to understand the product by trying it on or testing it out. A salesperson is ready to assist when you need it, and the checkout is easy to find.
An online shopping experience should be the same as going into a physical store.
Okay, so trying something on and testing out a product aren’t possible online, but you can help the customer ‘experience’ your products through visual content.
- Photograph your products from different angles, including closeups.
- Use short videos to demonstrate how your product works or what happens when customers come and try your service.
Including lots of photos and videos allows visitors to make an informed purchasing decision, telling them exactly what they’re going to get.
An online store done well
It’s obvious from their website that home goods retailer AppliancesOnline carefully considered the customer experience.
They understand that buying appliances is overwhelming. There are too many options and technical details to consider. With thousands of products for sale, AppliancesOnline addressed this pain point and simplified the shopping experience for potential buyers.
Appliances Online does a number of things well, starting with its clean, easy-to-scan layout. Notice how:
- There’s a prominent navigation bar at the top of the home page.
- Products are set up in categories.
- The layout is clean and uncluttered.
- It includes customer ratings and reviews.
- There are product photos from various angles.
- Product descriptions are complete and easy-to-read.
- Product videos are included (when available).
Appliances Online’s 24/7 customer service via chat or toll-free phone call helps differentiate this retailer from all the others vying for customers.
Visual design takeaways
For the most effective eCommerce website design:
- Do keep every page clean and uncluttered.
- Do use video to share your brand story and model products.
- Do test your website with real shoppers before going live.
- Don’t settle for average photos and videos. Consider hiring a professional.
- Don’t think of your online store as a transaction; focus on educating the customer.
- Don’t be afraid to share customer reviews. Research has proven customers trust such social proof.
Follow these dos and don’t to create a website that customers will find visually appealing and easy to scan.
The technical side of eCommerce website design
An eCommerce website focused on a great customer experience also carefully considers the technical design. You don’t need to know how to code, but you will need to understand what’s happening behind the scenes to make your online store successful.
Page load speed
If your site takes longer than a few seconds to load, customers will walk away and the sale will be lost. Photos and videos need to be sized correctly, so they don’t hinder your site’s loading speed. You’ll also need high-quality hosting like that included with Online Store.
Premium user features
Other features like hovering over a product to reveal more information, an option to compare products side-by-side or suggesting alternate products will help your eCommerce store stand out.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Just as important as the functionality of your online store, is SEO. It’s how search engines like Google and Bing bring shoppers to your store.
If you want customers to find you, you can’t ignore SEO.
SEO is a series of tactics that you can do yourself or hire a pro to do for you. Think of search engine optimization as your sales team bringing customers through the door. In some cases you have to pay this sales team, in others they do it for free.
When designing an eCommerce site that’s technically sound:
- Do optimise your photos and add meta tags.
- Do make the shopping cart easy to find and visible from every page.
- Do implement a responsive design so customers can shop from their phone or tablet.
- Don’t expect customers to find you without working on SEO.
- Don’t forget about customer security and privacy.
- Don’t undervalue the SEO power of well-written product descriptions and blogs.
Although your customers will never see the technical infrastructure behind your eCommerce website, they will certainly feel it. Remember, most customers will exit a site if their browser alerts them that it is ‘Not Secure.’ Learn more about how to secure your business website here.
By keeping the customer experience in mind — from the look of the home page to the way your website works — you’ll be setting yourself up for success.
Whether you use GoDaddy's online store builder or hire a pro web developer to build your site, use these tips as a guide in your decision-making. Remember to keep it simple, clean and always, always think about the customer experience. Finally, make sure everything works just as it should before you launch your new site!