Four e-store design tips — front end considerations

  1. Use search engine optimization and other marketing methods to ensure that your site is seen and used by many. “I’d rather have an ugly Web site with a bunch of traffic than a nice Web site with no traffic,” says Jason Muir, marketing director at NRJ Design. “You’re not going to sell anything if you don’t have traffic.”
  2. Make your product catalogue accessible. You should either have products listed or pictured for sale right on the home page or something that guides visitors to the catalogue in one click.
  3. Make sure your site looks professional. This is especially important to those doing business online, says Muir, since you’re asking for credit card numbers, asking customers to trust that your goods are as as you describe them, and asking them to trust that they’ll receive their orders on time. “If you have a Web site that makes it look like your business is run out of your basement, obviously that doesn’t help.”
  4. Keep it clutter free. Web sites that hammer you with two or three paragraphs of text about the company right away are on the wrong track, says Muir. “Who reads that text? I know I don’t,” says Muir. The information may belong on the site, but it shouldn’t be forced upon the visitor, he says. If they want to know more about the history of the company or see client testimonials, they can always check the About Us or Success Stories sections.

Top five e-store design tips — back end considerations

  1. Browser compatibility is important. “If you operated a retail establishment, you wouldn’t put the handle on your front door seven feet off the ground so some people couldn’t reach it,” says David Boroditsky, president of Emergence By Design Inc. Thus, you don’t want your Web site to work only with Internet Explorer for Windows. The five per cent who can’t access your site (perhaps all potential Macintosh users) could mean the difference between your Web store’s survival and failure.
  2. Keep up your site’s responsiveness. Sites that are too graphics-heavy or on a server that can’t handle the demands placed on it are not popular.
  3. Simplify checkouts. “So many Web sites really fumble the ball when it comes to the checkout process because they can be very complicated, very demanding,” Boroditsky says. Don’t force people to set up accounts to make purchases, and certainly not just to place something into a virtual shopping cart. They may want to compare your shipping rates or speeds to your competitors’. Being asked to set up a whole account will put an immediate end to many a potential online buy.
  4. Make your product detail pages bookmarkable. Your visitor may be browsing your product line in conjunction with a spouse (who is in a different location). If the product is buried inside a frame, site visitors canít bookmark or send links to your pages.
  5. Be sure it’s secure. People don’t just want the perception of security, they want real security. Boroditsky still sees scary practices from time to time on e-commerce sites. For example, if your customer winds up at your “Thank you for your order” screen and the URL at the top contains his credit card data in the long query text, he will likely be a one-time buyer from your site.

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