Nowadays, the online medium has become very important and no one can ignore it, as there is almost nothing that can be done in the real world without being able to do it online as well. An important aspect regarding the Internet is its financial potential and the supreme proof is the annual amount of money invested in it, which is in a constant rise and paradoxically it seems that the global crisis has speed up this process. The concept of “e-commerce” is widely spread but its history is very short (in fact, is there any history, we are talking only about few years!). Any online store presents many things in common with the real stores and the main element is the necessity of selling in order to obtain profit, which is the finality of any commercial existence. Definitely, there are many advantages in having an online store than a usual one but there are also some disadvantages. Being a designer, I have asked myself how to realize a better design for this kind of online activity and I want to share my opinions with you and, obviously, to learn something new from the readers.
The layout of an e-commerce website isn’t special nor does it have some features which make it more complicated but it has a clear purpose: it should sell. This statement might not be saying anything to a designer but thinking in a logical manner the result must be valid and important. First of all, an e-commerce website should sell the products to the visitors so to be successful you need traffic; a well done layout attracts the attention of the visitors and here comes the first major rule of creating a good e-commerce website:
1. The overall design should be matching the products
Any website needs a good design and this category (the one of e-commerce websites) follows this rule but it also has to reflect the main features of the seller. The power of example is great (Cicero said): think of a design for an online store which sells women clothes and one which sells DJ’s equipment: the first one needs a very fine color scheme, huge collection of images with no highly complicated menus while the second should be modern, almost sci-fi, with powerful color schemes and many technical details. These are different and thus they need different approaches.
2. The design should emphasize the products
The specificity of the e-commerce websites is the fact that the design shouldn’t highlight only the content as in other online presences, it should put the products in the spotlight and this means using a lot of text and images. Any designer should know that a good design is the one which isn’t necessarily noticed but makes the navigation easily and subtle. If the client is the one who is always right then here the product is the only one which matters. A lot of websites have lost many clients because the products aren’t highlighted enough or the images of these aren’t relevant, but here comes another great rule to keep in mind:
3. High quality images attract high quality clients
Marketers have studied the ways of making an online store more efficient and more profitable and one of the main reasons of the loss of sales was the lack of information about the products. We all know that a hundred words is the equivalent of a single image and this statement is taken into account when designing a commercial layout. The relevant images, showing many perspectives should replace the natural touch in a mall or hypermarket in a successful manner and this is difficult…you believe in what you see, don’t you?…and an image can’t replace your eyes. In order to gain clients and to make them buy and not just visit, the high quality images of your goods are a must and the bankruptcy is near if someone neglects it.
4.Usability and accessibility are vital
An e-commerce website needs a layout which should help the potential customers in any situation else they will be naturally attracted by other shops. Nothing can be more disastrous than a layout where it is hard to find the shopping cart or one in which the information about the shipping is missing. When somebody creates the design of an online store the usability and the accessibility are the major facts to keep in mind; some specialists considers that even the aesthetics may be ignored but not these. The sales are in direct relationship with how accessible and universal a website is and, clearly, it is decisive. A FAQ and a contact page are signs that the website is serious as the help of these is invaluable.
These are various metric systems in each country and, in order to have more clients, all the dimensions should be offered to satisfy any preferences. These should be visible and easy to understand and, eventually, to transform for people from all around the world and it means that the written content should pay attention to this kind of audience. Online stores with local public target shouldn’t worry too much about the universality factor but it is highly recommended to pay attention to it.
5.The navigation menu is the key of success
Usually, people visiting an online store aren’t very decided to buy something; they check all the products, see others even check out other similar stores and finally they make a decision. They navigate the entire website and they always need to know where they are and how to get to another category. In this case, a functional and well established navigational menu is required and nothing can scare away your potential customers than a complicated or difficult to use menu.
Anyway, every online shop has its specificity and a general tip remains a generality and nothing more. A solution to understanding better what an e-commerce website should be like and how to design it is to see the best examples. Here are only some of them but surely, there are many others also extremely interesting. Please, if you know other cool layouts of online stores, put them in a comment!