Designing your website for ecommerce
- Read time: 3 mins
- Tech level: low
- Key point: designing a website for your ideal customer is important for online sales.
When people talk about ecommerce website design they are usually referring to visual design. This blog post will definitely talk about ecommerce website visual design. There is another really important aspect of ecommerce website design, which is intertwined with visual design, and that is user experience design.
What does user experience design mean for ecommerce websites? This is all about making it easier for your customers to perform the critical tasks of asking a question, finding important information about what you’re selling and of course - buy your products online. Ideally your user experience expert would have a close and productive relationship with your digital / graphic designer because both their skill sets are needed for effective ecommerce website design. If they’ve successfully worked together in the past then that’s a bonus.
You also need to decide on your points of difference and then make them clear when you're interacting with your customer. For example, if you tell people that you have great customer service, it’s lip service unless they feel as though they’ve received excellent customer service. How will you know if all this is working or not? Tracking and statistics! Make decisions based on evidence not on gut.
Ecommerce website visual design
When building, or rebuilding, your ecommerce website - visual design is a really important element. The look and feel of your website will give your customers an instant impression of your business and it can easily make or break a sale.
It’s critical that you design for your target audience and not for you and your colleagues. Unfortunately effective design for ecommerce is not just about getting a visual design that is professional looking. The reason is that your design must appeal to your target audience and what they consider appealing can vastly differ depending on what their attributes are. For example, if you’re selling to high school teens, then what they feel is appealing would most likely be totally different to what ‘baby boomer’ senior executives would find appealing. So knowing who you’re designing for is really important for credibility. This is because first impressions count and people will judge your credibility of your ecommerce website based on the design. Obviously credibility is important when you’re asking people to give you their personal details and credit card information.
Ecommerce website user experience design
The user’s experience of your brand online will effect their opinion of your brand. Once you know who your target audience is and what their characteristics are, then an important part of the design process of ecommerce websites is user experience. Having a beautiful design is important but not much use if people find it difficult or confusing to make a purchase. Studies have shown that visitors’ opinion of your brand will be affected by how user friendly your website is. So for example, let’s say someone first goes to your website and has a bad experience. Even if your in-person support is exceptional – these people will assume that the in person experience will be just as frustrating as the online experience.
People are generally very self centred when they’re on a website. They don’t care about your internal limitations such as:
- Budget problems
- A template that’s too hard to change
- The fact that your website person is on leave
- Or that you can’t change the ecommerce checkout design because the boss likes it the way it is.
These are just some common challenges that can effect the success of a website. The customer just wants to find and understand your products or services quickly and easily and unless you’re the only person in the world who sells these particular products, then you better make your ecommerce website user experience really user friendly to your target audience.
When designing the user experience of your ecommerce website – try and leave your own personal opinions at the door or else they’ll shoot you in the foot. The customer is always right when it comes to the design of your ecommerce website.
Your business plan
In all facets of ecommerce website design, your design efforts will need to be based on a strong business plan. There are a few points I’ll touch on that are especially useful when thinking about ecommerce website design. I won’t go into too much on this point because there’s plenty of resources available on the web on how to create a business plan. However, here are some points about business planning that are especially relevant to e-commerce:
- Who your target audience and what are their characteristics?
- Is your plan to grow an empire or only offer boutique / bespoke products and services?
- Will you be the cheapest and engage in a price war with your competitors?
- Will you be a bit more expensive but offer extra value such as better ongoing service, unique products, high quality products, excellent customer service etc?
- What’s your point of difference? Why should people choose you over your competition.
Points of difference
Customers often want to know why they should buy from you instead of your competition. I’m going to expand on this topic of points of difference because, for a lot of Australian businesses – it’s tough to beat the overseas competitors on price. But the game is not over yet. What I think the future of ecommerce in Australia will be is customer service and physical presence. Research has shown that when people are considering to buy online, a physical address that’s clearly displayed is important. This is because people feel they can visit or phone if something goes wrong.
Web visitors don’t want to be limited to the option of email only if they need to resolve a problem. So this is a point of difference that I think Australian businesses can use to their advantage. The quality of customer service is also an important point of difference. I think that Australians have got a lot to learn from the US when it comes to customer service. Since Australian businesses won’t be able to compete with Asia on price, they can definitely compete and succeed when it comes to quality customer service and ongoing support.
Make sure you’re actually tracking the effects of all your hard work. Once you know who your ideal customer is, have decided on your point of difference, and are communicating this via a well designed and user friendly website – then ensure that someone is responsible for tracking and optimising your online sales. One of the main benefits of online, over traditional media, is that practically everything is measurable! Can you answer these questions?
- How many people are only making it part way through your checkout process and then dropping off?
- Which sources of visitors are providing the best quality traffic?
- What colour of the buy now button do your customers click on more – green or red?
- Are the people who are watching your videos have more of a chance of buying something from you?
- Which messages or business propositions on your website are more effective at getting people to buy from you?
The list goes on and if you don’t have answers to these types of questions then you better have someone responsible for knowing this or you’re missing out on sales! There are plenty of user experience experts in Sydney who offer these types of services. Optimising your site to avoid ecommerce drop off, as an example, is a service that’s available to you right now and work can start today.
Effective ecommerce design is much more than just visual design. Knowing your ideal customer and designing a user friendly website for them, is really important for making online sales and maintaining a good brand. Give your customer good reasons why they should buy from you instead of your competition. Once they are buying from you, your job isn’t over yet.
A great way to keep your customers loyal is constantly measuring how they’re using your website and improving their experience, and in the process, you’ll improve your bottom line.