Designing an eCommerce Site: What You Need and What You Don't

Michelle Kowalski

ecommerce design what you needWhen updating or executing an eCommerce site, one of the most exciting phases for our clients is the Design phase. This is when they get to see their new site come to life and get a better idea of how their changes will become reality. But, in order for the Design phase to be successful, we follow certain steps and requirements. It comes down to what your eCommerce site needs and doesn’t need.

We’ll get to what your site needs in a minute, but what about what it doesn’t need? It often comes as a surprise to our clients when we say that they don’t need a wireframe.

We promise there’s a method to our madness. Read on to learn why you may not need a wireframe and what our design method is instead.

Why You Don’t Need a Wireframe

The point of a wireframe is to map out how a user will interact with the design and flow through the site. For eCommerce, this includes how they will find a product, add it to the cart, and checkout. But, while wireframes were originally intended to streamline the site design process, they often hinder the designer’s ability to solve the problem at hand. After all, design is meant to solve problems.

That’s something that often gets lost in the excitement of building a new site; a designer’s role isn’t just to make things pretty. Designers are problem solvers, and making a wireframe, more often than not, either creates more problems than it solves or is creating a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. And no one wants to waste time or money creating unnecessary deliverables.

So, if you don’t need a wireframe, what do you need? Here’s how our design process unfolds.

Our Design Process

We typically use Magento when we’re working with a client to create a new eCommerce site. Not only does Magento offer top-of-the-line eCommerce features and functionality, it also provides a site template to build on. 99% of the time, that template meets the needs of a wireframe: it captures the user experience and shows how the site will streamline the users’ end goals.

ECommerce site design is all about being efficient and working through design aspects that make the most sense for the project at hand. Magento’s base offering gives us a great starting point that utilizes eCommerce best practices to provide customers with a shopping process that they are familiar with.

We love working on our clients’ custom order processes and custom site functionality. In these cases, we will create something more like a designframe. A designframe combines both the UX and design requirements to build a frame with the correct fonts, buttons, etc. This gives the client a better idea of what their custom site aspects will look like. Let’s spend our time, and your money, focusing on the complicated parts of your site, instead of trying to reimagine eCommerce best practices through wireframes. 

With these guidelines to work from, we then include the following design elements to create a flawless shopping experience.

Clean, Crisp, and Uncluttered

Cluttered webpages are a big red flag to customers. Sites with too much information, graphics, offers, and forms on a page are likely to be overwhelming for the readers. You might think that showcasing all of your best content on one homepage will increase conversion rates, but in fact, it is the exact opposite. Overly cluttered homepages drive customers away since they have too much information to focus on at once. 

Keep your homepage uncluttered by highlighting only one or two pieces of top-rated content and trust that your customers will be engaged enough to seek out additional information. 

Easily Navigable Menus

Menus should aid customer searches, not inhibit them. If your menus are not organized in a logical way, your customers will have trouble navigating your site. Your main menus should cover the largest aspects of your business such as products, contact us, about us, etc. 

If you have pieces of information that could fit into one or more categories, run A/B testing to see where customers access this information the most. 

Additionally, fixed navigation bars allow the consumer to scroll further down your site without having to scroll back to the top to access menu tabs. Long scrolling pages are better for consumers than short pages that lead to additional pages. A consumer is more likely to read an entire article on one page than click through ten pages to complete the piece. 

Design With Your Customer in Mind

You could have the most visually well-designed site in your industry, but if it does not meet your customers' needs, it serves no purpose. If your customer does not appreciate large design elements, do not spend the time and money it takes to include them. It is best to have a simple and usable site that your customers will want to use rather than an overly designed site that looks great but doesn’t appeal to your customers. You should use your site design as a way to improve your business metrics and increase conversion rates. 

Easy Check-Out Process

The harder you make your check-out process, the less likely your customers are to complete a transaction and return to your site in the future. When designing your site's check-out process, make sure to think on behalf of both the company and the consumer. 

As a company, you want to make sure that your products are easily searchable and the "add to cart" button is large enough for customers to find. There is a fine line between designing an eCommerce site that increases sales and a site that seems too pushy. 

Designing an eCommerce site well can improve your conversion rates immensely. By following these tips, your site will convert leads into customers, and goals into sales. 

Have an eCommerce project you're working on, need help with, or want to update?  Contact Us!

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