Designing e-commerce websites is a lot different from other websites. We are so much occupied with designing portfolios or business websites that when we have to design an online shop, we usually make mistakes.
In e-commerce websites, the layout plays the most crucial role. You need to put the right things in the right places. Make it is easy for the visitor/buyer, and your design is a hit.
Today I’m describing what are these right things and how should they be placed or managed. I’m writing this article keeping beginning and intermediate level designers in mind, but even the gurus should be able to derive some useful tips.
e-Commerce Web Design Tips
As they say, put yourself in their shoes before saying something… the same rule should be applied to e-commerce web designing. You should look from user’s perspective and then design it. Try to figure out what doubts could the user have about the company, answer those doubts before they make the user press that deadly X button.
One of the problems of internet era is that if the user doesn’t like something, he won’t wait for a second to find the answer, he will just press the close button and move on. So we have to clear his doubts before he starts to have those doubts.
Let’s face it, internet is scam capital of the world! These days, all internet users have a fear of fraud whenever a website asks for money and/or personal information. They can have all kinds of fears and they have every right to have them. It is our duty to prove that this is the website of a genuine, well-reputed company.
To establish this credibility in user’s mind, you should add contact info of every possible kind. This includes:
- Postal / Office Address
- Phone / Toll-free Phone
- Chat IDs
- Map to Office
- Probably even a photo of the office
- National Tax / Business Registration Number
Tip: If the company shares its credentials, that means the company will take care of any claims or issues the user may have about the product in future.
Fraud or scam businesses never give out their identities in this manner. This will make the user confident about your company and he will be willing to share his credit card number and (even) social security number.
Detailed Product Information
In online shops, it is obvious that the user cannot actually touch or feel the product. So online retailers should display large size pictures and complete, fully detailed descriptions.
Tip: Make large image preview on mouse hover. Opening a new page annoys users!
For instance if your website is selling T-Shirts, these are the questions the user might have:
- what is the weight of the cloth?
- is it washable?
- is it available for women/men?
- is this design available in (any particular) size?
- is it this?, is that?
Of course, the same user won’t have all these questions but almost every user will have one or two questions which cannot be answered in brief description or tabular data. You need to place full product description right next to product preview image.
Tip: Adding multiple images and/or videos help to generate more sales as they make the user more confident about the product.
Even though writing down details are important but it is also important not to overdo it. For example if you take time to write down history of your product or how the idea came into being…. that’s just useless info for the user. Try to answer as many questions as you can but there’s no point in adding meaningless text.
Make it Simple
Steve Krug wrote a magnificent book and named it “Don’t make me think“. In a nutshell, I can say that he described how everything should be “obvious”, which means everything should come where it usually does. Don’t try to create something out-of-the-box (i.e. creepy) because internet users need to figure out the website in an instant. If you are making them think, they wont! Instead they will be annoyed and they will and they will never come back!
Keep your easy to understand and keep the concept of easy-flow in mind. If photography is your hobby, you would understand how important composition of an image is, just like that, keep the composition of your design balanced, attractive yet simple.
So design easy to follow navigation bars, make it simple to switch between products, add a shipping price calculator (plugin or widget) etc. etc. etc.
The bottom line is that your user must always have complete idea of what he is doing, what will be the cost and what information will he need to provide.
Simplified Check-out Process
Paypal conducted a survey some time ago, the observations suggested that 26% of online buyers abandon their shopping carts. That means 26% of users actually decide to buy the product but the check-out process annoys them so much that they just close the window and decide to go to shopping mall next day.
Avoid asking for unnecessary details, slow loading pages, or forced advertizing with “no thanks” nowhere to be found except at the bottom right corner. Allow users to buy products as guests and make the whole process as simple as 1-2-3.
No Sign-Ups, Never!
A student of mine in India started an online shop. He decided to make it compulsory for all customers to sign-up before they could buy anything. But the audience, they have all the power so what they did was that whenever he announced the product on the official facebook page, the customer just commented on the product “I want this” and that’s it. My student tried to make the users understand sign up process….. but in vain. Eventually he had to take user info from facebook, make the member account himself and then send them the product.
We have to realize that customers don’t wanna be bothered, and we should not try to do that, even if it looks profitable to us. We should always keep their convenience in mind.
If I have to sum it up in four words, I’ll say “Don’t Force, Request Instead!”
That’s the formula for success in business, electronic or physical, that’s the formula. If you force the consumer on something, for instance sign up, he won’t return but if at the end of the check-out process you ask them for sign up and describe how members don’t have to fill forms each time and they will stay updated with official newsletter, they would actually sign up. That is because you did not try to force them, you just requested that.
Make it user’s choice whether to do something or not, don’t force them. A better user-experience will bring the user back to your site, nothing else will, nothing else can.