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Best Practices For Ecommerce Website Design

Ecommerce website design is more than just aesthetics. It is also about functionality, usability, and conversion. A well-designed ecommerce website can attract more visitors, engage them, and persuade them to buy your products or services. Here are some of the best practices for ecommerce website design that you should follow to create a successful online store.

Use a Responsive Design

Responsive web design is a web design approach that aims to create websites that can adapt to different screen sizes and devices. Responsive web design allows users to have an optimal viewing and interaction experience, regardless of whether they are using a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. A responsive design can therefore improve your user experience, SEO, and conversion rate. According to Statista, mobile ecommerce sales reached $2.2 trillion in 2023 and account for 60% of ecommerce sales.

Responsive web design is based on three main principles:

  • Fluid grids: Fluid grids are layouts that use relative units, such as percentages, rather than fixed units, such as pixels, to define the width and height of elements. Fluid grids can adjust to the available space and resize accordingly.

  • Flexible images: Flexible images are images that can scale and crop to fit the screen size and resolution. Flexible images can use techniques such as CSS properties, HTML attributes, or JavaScript functions to achieve this.

  • Media queries: Media queries are expressions that can detect the device type, screen size, orientation, resolution, and other features of the user’s device. Media queries can apply different styles and rules based on these conditions.

Optimize Your Site Speed

Site speed is another crucial factor that affects your ecommerce website design. A slow-loading website can frustrate your visitors, increase your bounce rate, and lower your sales. According to Google, 53% of mobile users abandon a site that takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Therefore, you should optimize your site speed by using a fast web host, compressing your images, minifying your code, enabling caching, and using a content delivery network (CDN).

There are numerous tools that can help you measure your web page load speed:

  • Google PageSpeed Insights: Google PageSpeed Insights is a free tool that analyses your web page and provides a score and suggestions on how to improve your web page load speed. It also shows you how your web page performs on both mobile and desktop devices.

  • GTmetrix: GTmetrix is another free tool that analyses your web page and provides a comprehensive report on your web page load speed. It also shows you the waterfall chart, which displays the loading time of each element on your web page, such as images, scripts, stylesheets, and fonts.

  • WebPageTest: WebPageTest is a free tool that allows you to test your web page load speed from different locations, browsers, and devices. It also shows you the first view and repeat view of your web page, which indicates how your web page performs for new and returning visitors.

Common tactics used to improve page load speed include:

  • Minify your code: Minifying your code means removing unnecessary characters, such as whitespace, comments, and line breaks, from your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files. This can reduce the file size and the bandwidth usage, and improve your web page load speed. You can use tools such as HTMLMinifierCSSNano, and UglifyJS to minify your code.

  • Optimize your images: Optimizing your images means reducing the file size and the dimensions of your images without compromising the quality. This can improve your web page load speed and save your storage space. You can use tools such as TinyPNGImageOptim, and to optimize your images. It’s also advisable to consider using a Content Delivery Network that resizes images as pages load so that a low resolution device such as an older mobile phone does not have to download very large images when they cannot be displayed. Systems such as Cloudinary and Sirv will ensure that images are sized appropriately for the device they are being viewed on.

  • Enable caching: Enabling caching means storing a copy of your web page or its elements on the user’s browser or a server, so that they can be retrieved faster the next time the user visits your web page. This can improve your web page load speed and reduce the server load. You can use techniques such as browser caching, server caching, and a content delivery network (CDN) to enable caching.

  • Reduce redirects: Reducing redirects means minimizing the number of times your web page sends the user to another web page or URL. Redirects can increase the web page load time and create a poor user experience. You should avoid unnecessary redirects and use them only when they are essential for your website functionality or SEO.

Simplify Your Navigation

Navigation is the way your visitors find their way around your ecommerce website. A simple and intuitive navigation can help your visitors find what they are looking for quickly and easily. A complex and confusing navigation can make your visitors lose interest and leave your site.

These are some important things to consider for ecommerce site navigation:

  1. Use Clear and Descriptive Labels

    The labels of your navigation menu should be clear and descriptive, so that your visitors can understand what each category or page contains. You should avoid using vague or generic labels, such as “Products”, “Services”, or “Resources”. Instead, you should use specific and relevant labels, such as “Men’s Clothing”, “Women’s Clothing”, “Accessories”, “Blog”, or “FAQ”. You should also use consistent and familiar terms, such as “Home”, “About”, “Contact”, or “Cart”, that your visitors can easily recognize and relate to.

  2. Create a Logical Hierarchy

    The hierarchy of your navigation menu should be logical and organized, so that your visitors can navigate through your ecommerce website smoothly and efficiently. You should group your categories and subcategories according to their similarity and relevance, and use drop-down menus or mega menus to display them. You should also limit the number of levels in your hierarchy, and avoid creating too many or too few categories or subcategories. A good rule of thumb is to have no more than seven main categories and no more than three subcategories per category.

  3. Add a Search Bar

    A search bar is a useful feature that can enhance your navigation and help your visitors find what they are looking for faster and easier. A search bar can also help your visitors discover new products or pages that they might not find otherwise. You should place your search bar in a prominent and accessible location, such as the header or the sidebar, and make it visible and noticeable. You should also optimize your search bar functionality, such as providing autocomplete, suggestions, filters, and sorting options, to improve your search results and user experience.

    Wired In are experts with the Algolia search platform, which significantly enhances the standard search features of most ecommerce platforms.

  4. Provide Breadcrumbs

    Breadcrumbs are indicators that show your visitors where they are on your ecommerce website and how they got there. Breadcrumbs can help your visitors keep track of their navigation path, and allow them to go back to the previous pages or categories easily. Breadcrumbs can also improve your SEO, as they can provide links and keywords to your web pages. You should place your breadcrumbs below your header or above your main content, and use symbols, such as “>” or “/”, to separate the levels in your breadcrumbs.

  5. Simplify Your Footer

    Your footer is the bottom section of your ecommerce website that can provide additional information and links to your visitors. Your footer can also complement your navigation and help your visitors access other pages or sections that they might not find in your main menu. However, you should avoid cluttering your footer with too many or irrelevant links, as this can confuse and overwhelm your visitors. You should simplify your footer by only including the most important and useful links, such as your contact information, social media icons, privacy policy, terms and conditions, or sitemap.

Showcase Your Products

Your products are the main attraction of your ecommerce website, so you should showcase them in the best possible way. Products need to be displayed in a way that can capture your visitors’ attention, interest, and desire to generate action (the AIDA model). Here are some important considerations for showcasing products:

  1. Use High-Quality and Relevant Images

    Images are the first thing that your visitors see when they browse your ecommerce website. Images can convey a lot of information and emotion about your products, and they can influence your visitors’ perception and decision. Naturally, you should use high-quality and relevant images that can showcase your products in the best possible way (we have a guide on taking great product photos here). Use clear and sharp images that can highlight the features and details of your products, ideally with images that can show your products in different angles, perspectives, and contexts. For example, you can use images that can show your products in use, in comparison, or in action.

  2. Provide Detailed and Accurate Product Descriptions

    Product descriptions are the second thing that your visitors see when they click on your products. Product descriptions can provide more information and value about your products, and they can persuade your visitors to buy your products. Therefore, you should provide detailed and accurate product descriptions that can showcase your products in the best possible way (we have a guide on writing product descriptions here). You should use clear and concise language that can describe your products’ features, benefits, and specifications. You should also use keywords and phrases that can match your visitors’ search intent and expectations. For example, you can use keywords and phrases that can highlight your products’ uniqueness, quality, or value proposition.

  3. Include Social Proof and Trust Signals

    Social proof and trust signals are the third thing that your visitors see when they scroll down your product pages. These can provide more credibility and trustworthiness about your products, and they can influence your visitors’ confidence and decision. A product with 5 reviews is 270% more likely to be purchased than one with no reviews. You should use elements such as customer reviews, ratings, testimonials, and trust badges that can show your products’ popularity, customers’ satisfaction with them, the security of your website and any other recognitions of the quality of your products and service.

  4. Add Call-to-Action Buttons and Urgency Triggers

    Call-to-action buttons and urgency triggers are the fourth thing that your visitors see when they are ready to buy your products. You should use buttons with words such as “Buy Now”, “Add to Cart”, or “Checkout” that encourage your visitors to take action and are recognised as typical buttons on an ecommerce site. To encourage customers to act now, you can use triggers such as discounts, offers, countdowns, or stock levels that create a sense of urgency, scarcity, or exclusivity for your products.

Streamline Your Checkout Process

Your checkout process is the final step of your ecommerce website design. It is where your visitors become your customers, so it’s important that it is fast, easy, and secure. Minimising the number of steps, fields, and clicks required to complete a purchase is important, whilst offering multiple payment options, such as credit cards, PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay can improve conversion rates. We have a great guide to developing a good checkout flow here.

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