Imagine you are walking along a street and pass a row of boutique stores. Each has an elegant sign and a nice display in their window. These boutiques have obscure, hipster-sounding names and it is difficult to tell what they offer just by looking at the lettering on the door. So what is it that makes you walk in and see what they have?
Is it their window display? The writing on the windows, arrangement of the products and the decorative touches around them? Would you walk into a run-down store with a rusty sign and dusty windows, where everything is piled up like no one cares? Of course not.
The same thinking applies in eCommerce. If your store does not look professional, there is a good chance your potential customers will pass it by, never to return.
Elements of a good design
While you do not have to spend thousands of dollars to get a professional website design, standard out-of-the-box templates just will not cut it anymore. You need to do a bit of polishing to make it work.
There are a few things that are very important:
- Header and navigation
- Homepage layout
- Category and product page layout
Your logo is your brand’s personality. How many logos can you assign a brand to without having to read the words? McDonald’s? Pepsi? Mercedes?
All of these companies have excellent branding symbolized by their logo. While your business may not be the multinational giant those companies are, a good logo does wonders to convey your message.
Take Toys R Us, for example. Their logo is in a kid-friendly typeface with the ‘R’ playfully written backwards - the sort of mistake a child might make when first learning to write. Their logo identifies with both parents and kids!
On the other hand, look at AT&T. Their logo is a globe, which signifies that they are a communications company.
When someone comes to your site, they are going to look at your logo to see the name of your site. If it looks like “Joe Average’s Home Page” from the 1990s, it is going to set off alarms in your customer’s head.
This section includes additional branding elements, the search bar, and navigation menus. Getting this right is important because it appears on every page of your website.
Utilize the header for displaying your unique selling proposition that sets you apart from your competitors. Why should shoppers buy from you and not someone else? Your USP needs to convey that. The additional branding elements that you put up are crucial — do not make this area too congested.
Zappos does a really good job with their header. They clearly communicates all of their USPs:
- Get free next business day shipping if you order before 1 PM.
- Free shipping and returns.
- 24/7 customer service.
And to top it off, they have snuck in a sale banner too.
Next up is navigation: the roadmap to all the important pages on your site. Make sure you only have links to the largest pages on your site. These pages (i.e. category pages) are important hubs for the rest of your pages.
You do not want to clutter your navigation to the point that it becomes confusing for your customers. It needs to be in the "Goldilocks" zone. Not too much, but not too little either.
If you sell only a handful of products, like 21 drops, you can get away with a minimalist navigation. If you have a lot of products, you need to be very careful. A good way to structure your navigation is to keep pages with high keyword counts in the main navigation only. Then, lesser keywords would be pages you can access from those main pages. This also helps shoppers understand how to navigate from one category to the next.
There's a lot of flexibility when it comes to homepage design. Going in to 2014, we may see a shift in how they work.
Traditionally, most retailers like to advertise big sales and highlight products on the home page using a giant slider.
Or, they go for a more minimalistic design using large, clean images.
Amazon has a dynamic homepage where the advertised products are customized to your purchasing and browsing history.
There are many ways to handle this. Just make sure the images are uniform, the design is neat and the arrangement makes sense.
Category pages and product pages
Category and product pages are often neglected. This is a shame because a lot of people will end up visiting your site for the first time by landing on a product or category page.
To make that first impression count, make sure your category page has plenty of meaningful content. Copy that explains the products within a category can be explained in 200 to 300 words. This will help your search engine ranking in addition to helping the customer decide what they want.
In product pages, make sure you have large beautiful images, text that describes how the shopper will benefit from the product and be sure the add to cart button stands out.
The product page is another great place to highlight your unique selling propositions; usually near the add to cart button. This is where your customer is going to decide whether they want to buy from you or not, so it makes sense to highlight your USP's again.
Not to sound like Captain Obvious, but…
These things should really go without saying:
- Seplling msitaeks are a universal turn-off and substantially hurt your credibility.
- grammar, Errors too.
- Layout and navigation elements on your website should be uniform and easy to follow.
- Every shopper should be aware of your unique selling propositions before they leave your website.
Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer at ShopPad