A lot of people are doing more and more things online. One of these things is shopping. It is just so much more convenient to be doing it from the comfort of your living room sofa than having to drive out to the store for a few items. It’s one of the many reasons businesses and their processes are shifting online as well. It also makes sense to start an online store rather than a brick and mortar establishment because of the reduced overhead costs.
Whether you want to add an online component to your business or want to start out with just an online store, here are some great design tips to help you succeed. Keep in mind that you will be competing with a ton of competitors out there. Many of these tips will only help you keep up. But if you do enough things right, you might find yourself pulling ahead.
Keep It Lean, Mean and Built for Speed
You many not already know this, but page load times are a ranking factor with Google, and Google will be one of your main sources of traffic. Also, customers tend to be turned off if they have to wait too long for a page to load. Smriti Chawla of OneExtraPixel.com says:
The moment a visitor lands on your website, you’re on. You can either use your design expertise to reel them into the site in the first few seconds, or you can drive them away by making them wait while your page is loading. According to Strange Loop, a website optimization company, every one second of delay in load time reduces conversions by 7%.
Flashy websites are visually appealing, but if they slow your page load times and task your customer’s browser to a crawl while loading all those Flash animations, it’s time to start streamlining your site.
Provide Helpful Content on Every Product Page
As mentioned, Google will be one of the major drivers of traffic to your site. However, you have to do a good job of providing informational and helpful content on your product pages for it to recognize that these are pages worth returning at the top of the search results. And no, cramming as many other products onto a single product page isn’t helpful. David Mercer says it simply on SMEPals.com:
Why would Google return a thin product page in the search results when it can return a much better page from Amazon?
It’s important to include really useful information such as product reviews of the product being featured on the page, user reviews, and perhaps articles on how to use it. If it’s something you can find on Amazon, it isn’t likely that you’ll top it in the rankings, but being on the first page is still a realistic goal. David goes on to say that:
It’s a lot of work, but building great content into the fabric of your product landing page design is arguably the most important thing you can do to attract customers via the search engines.
Showcase the Product As If Your Customer Was Really There
The thing about online shopping is that customers can’t physically examine your products. The only thing they have to rely on are pictures, descriptions, and any customer reviews on the page that they can find. AWGHost.com says to:
Make sure to use high quality product images that will give customers a clear picture of how the actual item looks like. Have all the information such as prices and product description placed near the image. Use large fonts for easy reading. Highlight the product’s best features and come up with a well written description that can primarily answer the basic questions such as: sizes, available colors and dimensions.
The goal is to make your customers feel as close to the products as possible. Try to get as many high quality photos of your products and of all the angles that make sense. Don’t just go with the standard front view, side view, top and bottom, etc. Get photos in angles that would make sense to a customer. Does the product description highlight a specific feature? Get an image that zooms in on that feature so your customers can take a closer look.
Design a Separate Mobile Site
It’s important to note that one of the main reasons a lot of people are shopping online these days is because their smartphones and tablets have made it easier to access the internet from anywhere. However, a lot of sites still adhere to a desktop view, making it a bit of a chore to navigate them when using a device with a smaller viewing area, such as a smartphone.
There are two ways you can go about optimizing the layout of your site for mobile users. One is to design a responsive site while the other is to design a separate mobile site. Each one has its pros and cons, but I’m going to side with a separate mobile site on this. Why? A responsive website doesn’t necessarily make for a good online shopping experience. It consists of several modules that are simply stacked vertically when you’re viewing the site on a smartphone.
Also, a responsive site is actually more expensive to develop and can actually add to your site’s loading times. According to Brandon Whalen of CaptureTheConversation.com:
Mobile users have slower internet connections and responsive web design requires them to load the same heavy front codes as desktop user, which significantly increases loading time. This is detrimental for ecommerce.
Slow-loading responsive sites simply do not provide the same experience as a separate mobile site for ecommerce. With a mobile site, you can fine tune the design and have all the onscreen elements where they should be. Sure, you’re designing a separate site, but at least you can have full control over both the desktop and mobile experience.