Physical retail or eCommerce, customers today have an ocean of alternatives in both the online and offline markets. Dozens of super-markets built side-by-side or thousands of eCommerce sites on the internet, all of this mean the same thing –
“As the ocean of choices is expanding and more and more eCommerce businesses are hitting the market, it is getting easier for customers, but eCommerce sites face an unprecedented level of competition from each other.”
Today, a failed eCommerce site is one that is not able to keep up with the variable customers’ expectations and modern eCommerce trends. We live in an era where E-Commerce is no more about offering an online alternative to physical retail. The sole purpose today for eCommerce stores is offering a ‘better’ customer experience than offline and other online alternatives and driving as much ‘repeat sales’ while competing with hundreds of similar businesses.
In all this, three things become the most important requirements for every eCommerce store: Marketing, Value-proposition, and Positive pre-sale and after-sale experience. Marketing to drive them on your store, Value proposition to induce a buying decision, and Positive experience to lock the buying decision with you alone and ensure a repeat sale through customer loyalty.
E-Commerce website design influences all of the three necessities, both positively and negatively. If your eCommerce design fails, your business becomes unprivileged on all the three grounds, and even if somehow you manage to pull sales, repeat sales and happy customers just become a dream. One mistake on any of the three fronts, and your competitors pull every sale you were supposed to make had your store pulled-off a competitive web design.
What makes a bad eCommerce web design?
Anything and Everything, to be exact. Today, a bad eCommerce design is not just about poorly planned web pages and cluttered information, but it is also about dealing with modern browsing behaviors and fine-tuning the same appropriately. A design element that worked for Amazon a decade ago might become a bad element for it or any other website in today’s scenario. Unless and until you know what works today, you would keep on making the same mistakes repeatedly.
Today, different eCommerce, the marketplace, and shopping cart software solutions have made website development easy, quick, and affordable but not the overall eCommerce website designing. Coding might have gone easier, but the strategies have gone complex than ever. You might know how to code, but you cannot do so unless you know ‘what to code’.
In short, with every design change you adopt, you ought’ to be sure enough of its overall ramification. If something is solving a problem, it doesn’t mean it’s not creating a new problem elsewhere. Unless you have a perfect blend of competitive design elements and the fastest possible loading speed, your eCommerce store doesn’t get a ‘good web design’.
How can you identify and fix a bad eCommerce design?
I could have started with eCommerce website design tips upfront, but that would have made my tips invalid if we did not talk about the consequences and the necessity to handle them technically. My article is not about how to design the eCommerce site and what tips should you adopt. Nobody can tell you this, as what’s works for one doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. It’s the first rule of eCommerce website designing –one size doesn’t fit all.
You must know how to identify your bad design elements and practices. You would be able to identify the correct measures and best tips by yourself if you pay attention to the mistakes. For example, some experts will say- ‘You must adopt a one-page checkout process to reduce the shopping cart abandonment. ‘
No doubt, a single-page checkout is a good idea to let users complete the buying process faster while avoiding the frequent page re-directions, but is it a choice without any ramifications? Answer these-
- Would a single page checkout allow you to accommodate everything without compromising with certain details you need from customers?
- Would a one-page checkout, which looks good on desktop browsers, would look equally good on mobile web browsers too?
- You may avoid frequent page re-directions, but would you be able to avoid frequent page re-loads because it’s hardly possible that the checkout would complete without any page refresh and updating certain details.
- Most importantly, frequent re-direction is a big issue when the internet is slow. However, when most of the world today is connected with 4G, broadband, and soon going to be with 5G, is considering slow internet-speed as a constraint still a good idea? Shouldn’t we be updating our eCommerce website design tips with the changing trends?
That’s a few more reasons for me saying, “one-size doesn’t fit all”, and you must discover your own eCommerce website design tips based on your unique situation.
I am going to enlist two types of tips that together include:
- Technical ways to identify design mistakes
- Data-backed ways to catch bad design elements
- Data-backed ways of applying unique best practices
- Standard ways of implementing best legacy design practices
1. Use data, analytics, and unique design practices
Unless and until you know how to read the data and pull out meaningful insights, you can’t use data at all. That’s where you need certain analytics techniques and tools to refine data, pull significant perceptions, and plan your move accordingly. Data is equally important in eCommerce website design, identifying bad design elements, and implementing unique best practices. The following are three of the most crucial tools and techniques you can use to deal with a very bad eCommerce store design and improve it consequently.
A. Reliable tools to identify technical mistakes
You can test both desktop and mobile sites separately on this free-to-use tool. The best part is its test results are not limited to just website speed optimization but also concern the overall browsing experience of the users too.
You can filter your test based on geo-location and type of network, and see personalized tips to improve your website on mobile browsers. Besides, the tool generates a detailed report about everything and sends it to your email box as well.
B. Reliable tools to identify conversion mistakes
Despite avoiding or fixing all the technical mistakes, your website often sticks into some abstract complications that degrade the shopping experience of your users. Sometimes, technical issues are not enough to ensure competitive user experience. This is where you are required to know your users, current market trends, and design your experience based on the expectations of your target audience.
Take my earlier explanation on the use of the ‘one-page checkout process’ for instance. We saw how using the same solved one problem on the desktop, but it also gave birth to certain other problems on mobile. However, that doesn’t mean, one-page checkout is bad. In fact, many ready-made eCommerce and online marketplace software solutions come with built-in one-page checkout systems.
If somehow you get to know how your users are interacting with your website on mobile and desktop, you can make an informed decision. This is where data analytics tools like ‘Heat map tracking’ come into play.
A website heat map is a graphical representation of the browsing behaviors of your users, which tells you about their interaction with the website through certain color variations. Something like in this heat map of a Wikipedia page-
If we take ROYGBIV as a scale, the darker color means more interaction on that spot. That means the portion marked in red color has received most of the user interactions while Yellow and Green got lesser interactions respectively. In this way, a typical web page can tell about itself and if users like or hate a certain element on it.
Many types of heat map tools give out a similar kind of data analytics in various other formats. Most of the heat map tool in the market support at least two or three formats. You can use any of them; all of them offer certain free trials. Use it; if you think it’s making a difference, it’s worth spending a little on their premium versions after the trial is over. Integration is not tough; it’s similar to Google Analytics integration on your website.
In fact, Google Analytics (GA) to has a good Heat map tool. It’s a little complex to use, but if you get a hang of it, it’s extremely useful. Standalone third-party heat map tools are just a little easier to use than GA’s.
C. Reliable tools to curb mistakes without consequences
Once you have a detailed insight into your users’ browsing behaviors, you can make certain decisions and modify the design elements appropriately. Say, a CTA button placed on the right side of your landing page gets a lighter color impression, while the white spaces on the left side get darker impressions. You may decide to move the CTA button on the left so that it gets most of the attention.
Seems simple. Isn’t it?
Well, it’s not that simple yet.
Although the analytics suggests that the left side of the page is getting more attention than right, it doesn’t mean moving the CTA on the left would keep the scenario alike, and the CTA button will start getting better interactions. It might be possible that placing the CTA button on that position will degrade the impressions on the left. Perhaps, users did not like your Call-to-action text itself, irrespective of its placement on the page.
Take the above image for example. Here, they have tested two variations of a web page and compared if the Green CTA button gives out better conversions or the Blue. The test saw Green as better, and thus the testers can now make an informed and data-backed decision.
This was the explanation of A/B testing in the simplest words, but be advised that A/B testing is a much complex undertaking. You should learn everything about it in detail before proceeding with it. You should do some internet search and utilize the resources at your disposal to learn more about A/B testing.
2. Implement standard yet crucial design practices and tips
Design improvement and conversion rate optimization (CRO) go hand-in-hand. The better is your website design, the better are the chances to improve your conversion. There could be an N number of ways to do the same based on analytics and errors you encounter. Here are some standard tips and ideas you can A/B test to improve your website design and CRO together:
- Don’t give too many choices. Keep the design minimalistic.
- Find the right balance between textual and graphical elements on your web pages.
- Test between vertical and horizontal product listing alignments for the home page.
- Avoid immediate newsletters or any kind of pop-ups. Nobody wants to share his or her email address right after landing on your page.
- Avoid Immediate live chat pop-ups. Let them roam around; interrupting in their browsing experience is not a good idea.
- Remove unnecessary fields from checkout forms. Ask only what’s necessary for you to offer a better customer experience.
- Show shipping detail on the product page itself. Nobody likes to be turned down once into the checkout form.
- Use high-resolution product images and give a zoom-in facility to check the minute details.
- Use extendable or categorized sections to include detailed information on product pages
- Put all kinds of trust signals on the prominent spaces like Header, Footer, Tabs, Product Page, Checkout Page, and Payment page, etc. You can experiment with trust logos, contact information, social media links, return policy, refund policy, and physical office address.
- Implement a cutting-edge web site-wide search feature. Offer multiple ways and filters to search for a product precisely. Don’t forget to make your search box stand out on top of the home page.
Of course, your eCommerce design should be responsive. You must optimize the design elements strictly as per their utility for a mobile screen. Alternatively, you can either develop your mobile website separately or get a mobile app developed for smartphone users.
Finally, avoid all kinds of silly mistakes that make your business look unprofessional. You should avoid blunders such as silly color combinations, grammatical errors in content, too many pop-ups, slower website loading, poor resolution images, and broken links, etc.
What else do you think would make a great eCommerce web design?