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Online store design - tips and tricks

BY Steven Fernandez 4 Dec, "12

Ever struggled to find your way around a retail store and the staff are no help? When you struggle to find what you’re looking for – whether the right product or necessary help – you get frustrated, give up and walk out of the shop. Well, online stores are no different. Like any physical store, selling online is all about user experience. There are an endless number of ways to customize the layout of your online store, so here are some online store design tips to make sure your store is user friendly enough to keep customers coming back…

Clean Functional Design

You don’t want your customers getting lost in a cluttered website, so keep the layout clean and functional. By maintaining a simple layout, you allow easy navigation between pages, which contributes strongly to the user experience. Customers browse before they buy, often flicking back between pages they’ve already viewed, so make sure they can do this easily.

There are a few ways you can help people navigate your store:

  • Clearly title the different pages with the appropriate headings and subheadings, no matter how obvious. This way the customer can comprehend where they’re sitting in the overall context of your website. You may know it well, but remember they might not.
  • Leave breadcrumbs so the user can see where they have been and easily get back. Either at the top of your webpage or perhaps below the title is a good place to leave these links, so customers can easily move back and forth.
  • Make it easy for users to get back to the beginning. An obvious Home page button means that customers can easily return to where they started.

Clear Product Photos

Getting quality product images is a great way to enhance the user experience because no one is going to buy if your products look old and second hand. A picture says a thousand words, so rather than trying to overcompensate with fancy graphics, let your products sell themselves.

Here are a few tips to great product images:

  • White backgrounds are the best to really show off your product. Clear cut if you need to.
  • Don’t just upload images off your camera. Adjust the color and contrast of your images first.
  • If your product is to be worn then make sure you include a model wearing the product and mention what size they are wearing. For example, the model is wearing a medium size T-shirt.
  • Magnifying zoom is also very helpful

Avoid TMI (Too Much Information)

Explaining the specs and benefits of your product is important, without going on about it. Customers like information, but not too much. A page filled with information is overwhelming and likely to turn people away, so stick to the point. If your product description requires detail then break it down into smaller bite-sized sentences that customers can quickly consume. Bullet points are always a good option and allow customers to get the information they need quickly. Shopping online is all about ease, so make it easy for the buyer.

Show Them The Cart

Making the shopping cart and “Add to Cart” function obvious is very important. The last thing you want is to make it hard for people to give you money! It’s amazing how many online stores make it difficult for visitors to see what they’ve put in their cart or complete a purchase. If someone has come to your website, browsed your store and decided on an item, then it should be very straightforward for them to complete the transaction. Have a link to the cart and the checkout button on every page.

Create Trust

Online shopping is different from regular shopping because people don’t leave the store with the item in hand. This means that online shoppers need to trust you before they give you their money. They will be looking for these three key thing:

  • Delivery time - when can they expect the products to be delivered?
  • Refund policy- what can they do if it’s not what they wanted?
  • Privacy policy - will you be using their details after their purchase?

Give them want they want and explain these policies very clearly, so they have trust in your business and faith in the product. If customers don’t think they’ll receive it or don’t know how they could return it, then they certainly won’t buy it. Telling people what to expect and then fulfilling (or exceeding) these expectations will please your customers and keep them coming back.

Don’t Hide Behind Your Website

People like to deal with people, not contact forms. Add your contact details to your contact page. It’s comforting knowing that a person is dealing with your request and processing your order rather than a machine, so at least provide an actual email address rather than a rigid contact form. This way the customer feels like you’re only arm-length away and is much more likely to make a purchase.

Where To Start

Now you know the fundamentals to a great e-commerce user experience. Go through your online store and make sure you have all these in place. If not, make changes because the better your store the more sales you’ll make.

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