You would expect that by now the basics of website design should be pretty much written in stone. e-commerce websites are there for one purpose only – to persuade people to buy from them.
There’s also no reason why a small retailer shouldn’t succeed online, both locally and globally. But without the backup of the big boys (large web design agencies, SEO agencies etc) it can be hard to see the wood from the trees. Some website designers will try and use a small retailer’s lack of knowledge to encourage them to reinvent the wheel with the clever, quirky and sometimes whacky. Some small retailers will have clear ideas in their head of what they want….not knowing that what they want will hold them back. The main rules for web design were written long ago and for the main they haven’t changed.
So here are my five elements of website design you never want to find or include on an e-commerce website. Obviously there are more, but these will do for starters.
1. Black or coloured backgrounds – there are, I will admit, fewer and few of these. However, frequently they’re offered as an option and should be avoided. The main problem is a visual one, they’re a strain on the eyes, they make reading text much harder. And although we tend to be tempted by images, rather than words, we still want and need to be able to read them.
2. Complicated Navigation – If you want people who arrive on your website to stay there, you’ll make navigation as simple as possible. Navigation menus need to be short and clear, if necessary divided by sub headings. If you make it difficult for people to find things they’ll go away. E-commerce is about clarity and speed, none of us have time to waste, so make it easy for us do what we’ve come to do and leave quickly and you’re more likely to get the sale.
3. Small text in a flowery font. Many e-commerce retailers believe that people are going to look at the images rather than read the text, however we still need the detail. Anything that makes it difficult for us to read the words will shorten the time we’re going to spend on that particular website. Good website design will incorporate a font that is clear – and Sans Serif is easier to read than a Serif font, and of a size that everyone can read. Don’t just consider 12. But try out 14 and even 16 across all devices. Ask your mum, your brother, your cousin, colleagues and friends which they find the easiest to read.
The easiest to read text is going to sell the most. It’s as simple as that.
4. Images with not enough detail. A single image won’t do any more, not if you want to compete, and if you’re selling clothes and accessories (and jewellery) you need to show them back front and side, and how the proportions work on a normal person. Don’t even try and sell jewellery without a shot on a person, look at what the competition is doing. They wouldn’t think of it because they know it doesn’t help a sale. No one is going to spend decent money on a pair of earrings without seeing them on a real person.
This again is one that seems obvious, but smaller retailers, wanting to cut photography costs, and without much time, quite often take this short cut. It’s going to get them nowhere.
5. Mobile should be as easy to use as PC or Laptop. However good your website design is for PC or laptop if it’s not just as good on mobile (shartphone or tablet) you will be losing sales.
Mobile internet usage, including shopping, has overtaken the traditional. We browse, read, compare prices and buy on whatever device we have nearest, and that’s most often a smartphone or tablet. It may cost money to ensure that your website design works across all devices, but in the long run it will pay you dividends.
Make mobile shopping in any way difficult for your visitors and customers and they’ll go somewhere else that doesn’t.
In order to compete online in today’s market you need to use the same basic tools and knowledge that the big contenders have. In a way this is easier to do if you’re a small retailer, as there’s less necessity to be anything but simple and direct, which is what the web is looking for. but you have to take time to know what you’re doing, and not rely on a website design agency without doing your own homework first.