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  • Writer's pictureMichael Hixson

18 Essential Elements for Great E-Commerce Website Design

Updated: Sep 18, 2019

First impressions matter, especially to a potential online customer on your website. A well-designed, highly-functional, easy to use website is essential to e-commerce sales success. A bad website experience can lead potential customers to click to a competitor’s site in an instant. But achieving that is not always an easy thing to pull-off. There are multiple factors to consider, below are the most important factors to consider when launching or re-designing your e-commerce website.

A Great Logo

The website logo and branding should capture the essence of the company and communicate clearly what your website sells in an instant. It should be highly visible, and well designed. Don’t skimp on creating a good logo, it is essential. Check out Crowdspring, 99Designs, and Ink’d to get multiple submissions from graphic designers after submitting your logo parameters. It is not too expensive and you can refine the designs as they come in. Another option I have used for logo design is Upwork.

Mobile Friendly

Website traffic to smartphones continues to grow with no end in sight. Your website design for mobile should be emphasized, and is essential to your continued success. You should test your website on all devices to make sure it is rendering properly with no problems. Browser Stack and others makes it easy to see what your site looks like on almost every browser imaginable. Another good resource is the Google Mobile-Friendly Test which can help uncover design issues on your mobile website. A new design protocol for mobile called PWA (progressive web app) allows you to treat your responsive mobile site like a mobile app without the hassle of building one. Customers can opt in and then put an icon on their phone just like any other app. Then all they have to do is touch the icon to launch your site instead of opening a browser. Using PWA technology speeds up your mobile site as well which is always a good thing.

Great Navigation

Your website should make it easy for customers to navigate quickly to what they are looking for. Navigation should be intuitive, straight forward, and not overly complicated. If customers cannot easily find what they seek they will not be adding it to the cart. When in doubt, keep it as simple as you can. If they are surfing your site on their phone that is all the more reason to keep it simple and friendly.

Search Engine Friendly

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an important aspect of e-commerce design which should not be overlooked. Properly done SEO can help you stand out from the competition and be found more often for organic searches. This is important as the price for online advertising continues to rise and be more competitive. Many e-commerce platforms have designed their systems so you can input SEO information for each page or products as you are building them. This should not be ignored. A big part of SEO for e-commerce sites is doing Keyword Research for terms people use when searching for your products and then using those terms or related terms on your website. SEO Resources: E-Commerce SEO, SEO in 2019.

Seamless Checkout & Add to Cart

Adding items to the cart and checking out should be intuitive, simple, and seamless. Don’t make it a lengthy process to complete the sale and make setting up accounts optional. Make it obvious what to click, how to choose colors and sizes, and what your shipping options are. You should also consider mentioning with graphics that your checkout process is Safe & Secure via encryption to set some people at ease.

  • It is worthwhile setting up Heat Maps and looking at detailed analytics to see if there are any hitches in your checkout process so that you can improve it.

Fast Page Speed

A slow site is one that is easily abandoned. A recent study showed that 47% of people expect a website to load in 2 seconds or less. You must be mindful of your page speeds so that users do not become frustrated and move on. Studies have shown for that sites that are slow, revenues drop precipitously for each second longer that it takes to load. Image size is often a big culprit with slow page loads, so be sure that your images are saved for ‘web’ or highly-compressed but still high enough quality to look good.

  • There are many other factors that are very technical for page speed so it might be good to hire a professional to troubleshoot if you have page speed issues. Resources to check page speed: Pingdom, Google PageSpeed Insights, YSlow.

Customer Personalization

Delivering a personalized shopping experience for each customer should be high on your list to stand out from the competition. Personalization can provide enriched experiences for your customers based on their past website behaviors such as what they shopped and bought. Then delivering content and products based on this behavior can be a powerful indicator to the customer that you understand them and what they like. The technology to deliver this is still evolving but it would be good to start deploying personalization wherever you can.

Social Media Use

It is important to easily integrate your customers shopping experience into the social media channels they use regularly. Make it easy for customers to share your products to their networks and get involved in discussions around your products. Social media is a great way to keep tabs on trending consumer sentiment and issues that come up with your products or brand.

  • Social media can be key to driving traffic to your website, and many start-ups focus on social media to launch their brands.

Email Collection

Email is still a big driver of revenue for most e-commerce sites, and it’s low cost per conversion makes it a very attractive tactic. Have an obvious way to signup for emails on every website page, and all other channels such as Facebook. Many employ the ubiquitous pop-up on the homepage offering a discount for signing-up. Just delay that 15 seconds or more so that customers can look around a bit. It is also a good practice to trigger a pop-up when it looks like the customer is getting ready to exit your site.

  • An exit intent popup offering a discount might just keep them on your site and shopping.

Clear Calls to Action (CTA)

Make it easy and obvious what action you want the customer to take as they surf through your site. Employ buttons in bright contrasting colors to ‘Add to Cart’, ‘View Product’, ‘Checkout’, ‘Signup’, ‘Save 20%’, and etc. It is a good idea to A/B test these call to action buttons to see which are the most effective. A small tweak such as changing the color or phrasing of a button can have a big impact.

Great Images

Pictures are a big part of telling the story of your brand and product. Photography is not somewhere where you should skimp. Show your products from every angle, in every color, that shows all the features and textures of your products. Customers should be able to zoom-in to see the details. Use a mix of product shots and lifestyle shots with the product in use as well. It is important to remember that large image size can really slow down your site, so compress the images while maintaining their crispness and readability.

  • If you already have large images on your site there are many apps that will automate the compression of the images for you.

Great Product Descriptions & Product Titles

Apart from pictures your product descriptions and product titles are your biggest selling asset. SEO plays a part in constructing these, and before you start you should conduct thorough keyword research to determine which words people actually use when searching for your type of product. Then use the highest volume searched words in your titles and descriptions. The product title is a very important factor and should contain key attributes and keywords such as ‘Kids Black Leather Running Shoe’ instead of ‘XBrand Running Shoe’. The product description should be thorough, have keywords, and not be short. Research has shown that product descriptions of 1,000 words do better than those that are short. It is not always possible to do that for each product, but do it when you can.

  • So invest the time or hire a writer to do quality product descriptions. Resource: Keyword Research.

Great Site Search

It is highly important for customers to quickly find what they are looking for or they will leave your site. Site search is the way lots of customers look for products. Most e-commerce platforms offer basic site search, but there is a better way to go. There are multiple site search apps that offer tons of features with no development work, you just add them to your store and set them up. The host of benefits includes, auto-complete, personalized search suggestions, synonyms, antonyms, misspelling correction, review stars in results, advanced filtering, ‘did you mean’ suggestions, advanced stats, up-selling and cross-selling tools, and the ability to easily customize the search results page.

  • All these features are so much better than your basic search, that it is a no-brainer to use these low-cost apps. Search Providers: Searchanise, InstantSearch+.

Easy Customer Support

Don’t make it difficult for customers to reach out via phone, email, or chat. You want to answer questions or concerns as soon as possible so customers will complete the sale. Don’t bury your phone number in a hard to find place because you don’t want to answer the phone. Great customer service can help you stand out in a crowded market place.

  • Strive for excellence as this is often the only differentiation between you and competitors like Amazon or other large retailers.

Product Reviews & Company Reviews

Gathering reviews from your customers is essential to provide social proof that your products and company are worthy. Consumers are much more apt to purchase from you when they see the experiences of others with the same product or the experience with your company. Some e-commerce platforms come with a very basic Product Reviews feature that don’t do a very good job of collecting and displaying product and company reviews. There are numerous Product Reviews companies that make it very easy to collect, automate, and publish reviews in numerous places on your website, and even publish the reviews to Google.

Don’t worry if some of your reviews are negative, it is bound to happen, but always provide a visible response to these so that customers see that you care. People will also think your reviews are fake if there is not a mix of good and bad reviews.

  • The best way to gather reviews is a post-purchase email that is sent 2-3 weeks after purchase, enough time for delivery and initial use. You could also add an incentive like a discount or free gift to encourage participation.

Reviews published on your product pages also give you an SEO lift as keywords that people use are on your pages.

Reviews Vendors: Yotpo, Smile, Reviews

Great Homepage

Your hompage is the most important page of your website, the one with probably the most traffic, and the one that will convince the most people to shop with your brand. It should be obvious within 5 seconds what your company does and what it offers. Keep it simple and straightforward. The design will go a long way to getting people further along in their shopping experience. Provide stunning images and other visuals, but keep it simple, clean, and uncluttered. Have links to your popular products, and info on any promotions, as people love deals. You can also provide social proof with customer testimonials or product reviews. Make sure the Search Box is prominently displayed to aid in product discovery.

  • Put some time into it’s design and analyze what is clicked on and what is ignored with the use of Heat Maps or Analytics.

Great Blog & Video Content

It is vital that you demonstrate your expertise with blog and video content. It is essential for gathering potential customers who may be researching before purchase and is great for SEO. Make a regular habit of posting quality, well researched blog posts that address customer concerns, new products, product features, behind-the-scenes posts, and anything related to your niche. Don’t be afraid to stray outside of your niche, if you or staff has knowledge that can be shared you can attract new audiences who may check out your products. Keep in mind SEO as you write and be sure to research potential keywords you can target with each post. Blog posts are also a great way to acquire backlinks from other sites which are very valuable. Videos can be deployed in various ways such as vlog posts, product videos, behind-the-scenes videos, messages from the CEO, and many others.

  • Videos are more engaging and increase time on site, and when on the product page increase conversion.

Cross Selling & Up Selling

You can increase cart size and number of items purchased by offering relevant cross-sells and up-sells. We are all familiar with the ‘Related Products’ you see on product pages and shopping carts. But you can go much further with galleries of ‘Frequently Purchased Together’, ‘Popular Products’, ‘Trending Products’ and many others that utilize customer behavior and AI. And you can display these on more pages than just the product page or cart page, such as blog posts, collection pages, or any other page you like. This capability is not built-in to most e-commerce platforms but is available thru apps that you can add such as: Limespot.


Test, iterate and evolve your e-commerce design constantly to determine what is working and what can be improved. This can be a never ending task, but one that is necessary in the fast pace of change with online technologies and e-commerce.

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