Web design for e-commerce sites is quite different from design for presentation or corporate websites. The main purpose of an e-commerce website is to get lots and lots of sales, and every visual element of such a website must be cleverly placed in order to stimulate the buying decision and facilitate the completion of a purchase.
Thus the design concepts applied to e-commerce websites are focused on the correct blend of colours and graphic elements which grab and maintain the visitor’s attention, showcase the products and encourage the buying decision. Basically, e-commerce web design must be clean and simple, with fast-loading pages and no distractions at all to derail the potential customer from the path to checking out.
So, what are the key elements of a successful e-commerce website in terms of design? We have examined the most popular online stores and identified these common elements:
- Flat Design
Flat design is a rising trend among all types of websites. The term flat design does not mean overly simplistic or boring. Rather, it is the opposition of previous design trends which used graphic tricks such as drop shadow or volumetric lettering to induce the impression of tri dimensional design.
Right now, simple design elements, employing clean lines and geometric shapes, are in trend and for some legitimate reasons: they are very easy to integrate in the responsive web design concept and offer a clean look to any page, with very clear pointers to contents and navigation elements.
- Full-Page Background Image
The era of textured backgrounds with small, repetitive patterns is gone. They make website pages look cluttered and distract the attention from the actual content. Instead, a high-definition, full-page image will create the right balance between content and design elements. One key term to remember from the previous sentence is: high definition. Your image must look impeccable both on a 5-inch smartphone screen and on a 26-inch computer monitor.
Customers are exigent and observant: they will notice a pixelated image and judge your e-commerce website as unprofessional. Needless to say, they will not buy anything from you once they have formed this opinion.
- Place the Shopping Cart Conveniently on Every Page
Whether you employ a shopping cart icon or an “Add to Cart” button, it must be placed conveniently for visitors to notice it and click on it while browsing products. One of the ways in which you can determine the ideal position of the shopping cart is by using a heat mapping service which analyses the behaviour of your website visitors and shows the areas of the screen where they click more frequently. Some of the most popular heat mapping services are Crazy Egg and SumoMe.
- Simplify the Checkout Process
A pleasant shopping experience is fast, easy and hassle free. An increasing number of people buy products directly from their smartphones, so a complicated checkout process with many type-in fields and screens will certainly discourage them. It is important to find the right balance between getting the minimum required information to complete a purchase and building a check-out form which is easy to use even on a smartphone screen.
- Enable Quick Product Overview
A product overview can be as simple as a floating window containing an enlarged image of the product thumbnail, the key characteristics and price of the product. Most e-commerce websites enable quick product overview on mouse hovering over the product name for computers and single tap for mobile phones. Although it may not seem a key feature of your website, many people are stimulated into a purchase by having a closer look at a product.
Last, but not least, every product image you include in your e-commerce website should be professionally shot (your iPhone is not good enough) and in high definition, allowing the designer to scale it to size both for full screen resolution and thumbnail size.