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Top 15 eCommerce Website Design Essentials

If you weren’t already convinced of the importance of having a brilliant eCommerce website, the events of 2020 should be enough to push you off the fence. The effects of Covid-19 on our shopping habits have sped up the digital revolution and online sales saw a massive 44% rise in 2020

So, how can you capitalize on this new audience looking to spend money online? The answer is simple – you need a well-designed, user-friendly eCommerce website to welcome online shoppers and secure sales.

Graphic design image of woman using a checkout portal for ecommerce.

Simple to say, but less easy to do. With thousands of online retailers competing for attention, a great website isn’t a luxury. It is an absolute necessity to help you stand out online.

In this article, we’ll look at the essentials of eCommerce website design and run you through some of the features you’ll need to make your website a success.

Designed with Your Customer in Mind

Designing a truly great website starts with understanding your customer. How do they think, how do they shop, how will they navigate your site? 

The best eCommerce sites are easy and intuitive to navigate. They have a clearly structured menu, clear calls to action, and every step of the customer journey feels smooth. 

So, how can you achieve this? Well, you start by looking at other sites your target audience shop at. Notice the navigation – what are different sections called? Where are they placed? 

There’s a reason that many eCommerce websites share common features. Our audiences have learned to expect to find certain things in certain places. Tempting though it might be to try something new, you are more likely to confuse your customer than make yourself stand out. 

Keep it simple and give website visitors clear cues on what to do next.

A good eCommerce site should include the following to help customers navigate easily:

1. A Clearly Laid-Out Main Menu

Your main menu should appear in your eCommerce site’s header section. Depending on how many products you have available, you might have top-level items directing visitors to different sections. But don’t let this main menu get too cluttered. You can always include subsections under the main menu items.

Keep the terms you use clear and simple. This isn’t a place to use clever names for things – you’ll just confuse your customers.

2. Well-Organized Sub-Menus

Your main menu should hold only links to your most important pages. For most eCommerce sites, that’ll be your products. But there’s other essential information you want your website visitors to be able to find.

The footer section of your site holds links to all the practical pages you don’t want to clutter up your main menu. Your FAQs, information on shipping, how to contact customer services, etc.

Again, each item should be clearly named so that visitors can easily find what they need.

And you can also put personalized links behind a login. This helps existing customers find out about their orders, update their details, and checkout using their saved information.

3. A Search Bar

Help your customers find what they want quickly by keeping your search bar prominently displayed near the top of your site. And make sure it is visible on every page too, so they can always start a new search from wherever they are on the website.

4. A cart icon

Like the search bar, your customer’s shopping cart should be visible from everywhere on the site. It should show them how many items they have in it – this reassures them that the items they’ve tried to add have gone in successfully.

Your customer should be able to click on the icon to see the items in the cart and be able to add or remove them easily. Bonus points if you have this as a dropdown option so they don’t have to navigate away from the page they’re on.

And the cart should also link to the checkout for when they are ready to pay.

5. Clear calls to action

You want to make it as easy as possible for your website visitors to navigate their way from landing page to checkout, ideally with as many purchases as possible along the way.

Don’t leave them stranded on a page, wondering where to go next. At every stage, there should be clear calls to action that tell them what they should do next.

What is a call to action on a website? It is a signpost that encourages the visitor to act in a certain way. They are usually highlighted in blocks of colour or with eye-catching fonts.

Each product page should have a call to add the item to the shopping basket. The cart should have a call to check out, the checkout should have a call to pay. 

You can see how these calls to action usher the visitor along the customer journey towards making a purchase. They need to be eye-catching – don’t hide them away but use your website’s design to emphasize the next step in the journey.

6. A Concise Checkout Process

Do you know what a well-designed eCommerce site is excellent at? Making it easy for you to hand over your money. And it does that by making the checkout process quick and simple.

Graphic design of ecomm checkout order process.

Cart abandonment rates are sky-high online, averaging 69.8%

Several different factors influence how likely it is that a customer will abandon their cart, but a clunky checkout process is easily within your control.

Keep your checkout forms short and sweet. Much as you may want to get as much information on your customer as you can, now is not the time. Only take the essential information you need to take their payment and deliver their products.

7. Multiple Payment Options

While we are on the topic of making it easy for people to pay you – give them different options at checkout, so they can pick the one that suits them best.

Some people are so used to the convenience of PayPal or Apple Pay that you’ll lose them if you tell them they have to enter their card details. Others hate to use those payment processors and prefer to put in their details fresh for every transaction.

Although having accounts with different payment processors does add a little admin on your end, it is worth it in customer convenience.

8. Optimize for Different Screen Sizes

More people are shopping from their phones than ever before. 45% of eCommerce sales are now predicted to come via a mobile phone. 

But a phone screen is a radically different shape and size from a computer screen. And that means your site needs to work well on both.

The best eCommerce website designs are optimized to work on different-sized screens. Images should resize responsively, menus should be configured to work on a smaller screen, and grid layouts should adapt too.

9. Make It Accessible

Accessibility is becoming increasingly important in eCommerce design. Not only does it make your website open to as wide an audience as possible, search engines like it too, so your content is more likely to be found organically.

Some core principles of accessible website design include:

  • High colour contrast to make your text easy to read
  • Alt. descriptions for images, so that people using screen readers know what is there
  • Text descriptions on design elements, such as labelling form fields
  • Plenty of white space to break up blocks of text
  • Heading and subheading tags to help screen readers understand your site’s structure
  • Links that are easy to click. Put them behind buttons and don’t cluster lots of links in the same area 

Highlight Your Brand

You’ve thought about your customer journey and started to design your eCommerce site with the end-user in mind. But you still need to make your website stand out and showcase your brand.

A good eCommerce design does more than just convert your visitors to become customers. It also builds brand awareness and loyalty, so they are more likely to return to shop with you rather than one of your competitors.

To make sure your customers have no doubt who they are shopping with, incorporate the following into your website designs:

1. An Attention-Grabbing Homepage

Your homepage is the most frequently visited page on your site and acts as a doorway to the rest of your website. So, it needs to stand out.

You have around 10 seconds to convince visitors that your website is relevant to them before they bounce. Your homepage must grab their attention and hold it.

From the moment someone arrives on your website, they should know what you do. On an eCommerce site, that means you’ll want your most popular or newest products in a prominent position.

Images will catch your potential customer’s eyes before words do. Make sure the photography is excellent. You can also use your brand colours to add personality and give your site a clear identity.

2. Consistent Branding

Speaking of brand colours – these play a vital role in the design of your eCommerce website. They give your site a clear identity and help to connect It to your marketing and your bricks-and-mortar stores (if you have them).

Keep your branding consistent to build awareness. That means the same fonts, colours, and styles across the whole site. It also means developing a clear tone of voice for your website copy, so everything sounds like it comes from the same brand.

3. Logo

Your logo should display in your website’s header section and be visible on every page of your site. This helps to raise the profile of your brand and reassures customers that they are in the right place.

Your logo shouldn’t just be on the site itself either. It should display as a favicon – that little image that appears next to the URL on each browser tab. That way, users can easily find your website again if they have lots of tabs open.

4. Company Information

Although most people are now savvy online shoppers, there is still an extra level of trust needed when handing over your payment details on the internet. 

Reassure customers that you are a reputable brand by making your company information clearly visible. You’ll usually find this displayed in the site’s footer.

5. Social Media Links

Your website doesn’t stand alone. As an eCommerce brand, you want to catch the attention of your potential audiences on a range of different platforms, including social media.

Include links to your social media profiles on your website and encourage customers to follow you, so you can keep them engaged.

6. An Email Subscription Form

Despite all the different digital marketing options available to us, email still has an amazing return on investment, bringing in an average of $42 for every $1 spent. And that means you’ll want to capture as many potential customers’ email addresses as you can.

Put your email newsletter subscription form in a prominent place. You can also offer the option to subscribe at checkout. And the best-designed eCommerce sites have a pop-up that encourages visitors to sign up for emails. 

Keep this form as short as you can. First name and email address are all you should need to sign someone up for emails. And you might want to offer an incentive for subscribing, such as free shipping or 10% off their first order.

Final Note

Creating a good eCommerce website takes some thought. You’ll need to consider all the small details that keep your user’s experience smooth.

But if you start with a customer-centric approach, you stand a good chance of ending up with a well-designed eCommerce site that helps you attract new shoppers online

Ryan Pelicos

Marketing Coordinator

Ryan is a passionate storyteller who thrives on challenging the status quo. He is an avid researcher with a keen analytical mind able to strategize on technology, sales and marketing decisions by analyzing data and behaviours across various industries and technologies.


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