When you have an e-commerce site, it’s important to adhere to general web design best practices for professional sites. They’re necessary for conveying credibility and trustworthiness to visitors on a subconscious level. Plus, they make your site more simple and pleasant to use, which is always good for conversions. But there are also some more specific web design best practices for e-commerce websites that you need to take into account, too.
These e-commerce website best practices further foster trust and improve the user experience so that ultimately, your site makes more sales. Remember, it’s not enough to look credible; if the process for buying something from your site is confusing or complicated anywhere along the way—from browsing and searching to the final click of checkout—a lot of people will move on to a more user-friendly competitor.
So, whether you’re building a new e-commerce site or just planning to revamp an exiting one to make it more effective at generating sales, make sure you’re familiar with these web design best practices for e-commerce websites.
Tips for Designing a Great E-Commerce Website
- Advertise checkout security. Online shoppers want to know that their credit card number and other information is safe should they choose to buy from your site. They look for messages about card information being secure and encrypted, and for logos that validate the security software and measures that are in place. Make sure they see it.
- Keep the product menu simple. If you have a lot of products, it’s not hard to get a little carried away creating categories to organize them under. It may seem like the more specific you get, the more appealing it’ll be to your users. But people do get overwhelmed by too many choices, and they also may not appreciate having to bounce around through several different categories to look at items of interest. Stick to broad but helpful, descriptive categories for the menu.
- Have an effective search capability. Unless you only sell a few products, give customers the ability to search for what they want to buy. While browsing is of course an important function, nobody wants to scroll through a bunch of items to find something they already know they’re looking for.
- Offer filtering options, too. In addition to search, many online shoppers like being able to filter results. A few common filtering examples include by price, size, color, type, etc. Obviously, these will vary depending on what sort of products you sell. Keep the categories broad enough that all your merchandise fits in them, but specific enough to be of use.
- Include on-site customer service. Usually, most of this can be handled by an automated chatbot that answers frequently asked questions. This is an effective way to avoid losing sales right at or near the end of your website’s sales funnel because a customer just needs some clarification about something.
- But also make it easy to contact you. Your contact page should be in the top-level navigation, and ideally it includes a phone number, email address, and web form for quickly and easily getting in touch with someone. This is an important trust signal for an e-commerce site (and for any brand), and like the above entry, it helps convert visitors into buyers when people just need some clarification before making a purchase.
- Pay attention to the product descriptions. Tell people about the features, but don’t forget about the benefits! And don’t be afraid to show a little personality and make the descriptions engaging (just be careful to stay consistent with your brand image). Some extra effort to create product description copy that sells is guaranteed to pay off.
- Make checkout as fast and simple as possible. Shopping online is all about convenience. Users don’t want to have to think about the process or spend much time on it when they’re ready to buy. E-commerce sites lose sales along the way with each additional step or click required to complete the checkout process, so keep them to a minimum.
- Don’t make people create an account in order to buy. It’s great to give people the option of creating an account. Many will like the convenience that comes with it, and you take a step toward solidifying a relationship with them. But lots of people don’t want to create an account, or at least not right at that moment when they’re just trying to make a purchase. You’re guaranteed to lose a good number of sales if creating an account is a barrier to placing an order. Give the option to check out as a guest. People who genuinely want to have an account on your site—the only ones that actually add any value for you—will set one up; you don’t have to force them.
- Set up shopping cart abandonment emails. Often, people stick items in their shopping cart for later, but end up forgetting about them. For those who’ve given you their email address, automate a reminder email to go out if an item is left sitting in the cart. Wait a few days, though, and don’t continue spamming them beyond a second reminder at least several days after the first.
- Highlight featured and/or recommended products. Give people ideas for what to buy. Feature your most popular product(s), or combine displays of products that many people like to purchase together. Make it clear to the visitor why they’re seeing a particular product (by labeling it “Most popular,” explaining that two items are often bought together, etc.).
- Give people ways to share your products on social media. Integrate social sharing buttons on your product pages so users can easily share images and links to them. When people see a product they really like, they’ll often share it with their network—but it’s much more likely if they can quickly do so with the click of a button. This, of course, can mean new visitors and new customers for your e-commerce website.