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Ecommerce Website Best-Practices: 5 Trends We Love

By Snap Agency September 27, 2013

As an ecommerce website designer, I frequently look at other ecommerce websites to stay current on what is trendy and make notes on what I believe to be working well. Good e-commerce design comes from a mixture of three things:

  1. Getting quantifiable data from using tools like “Visual Website Optimizer”. We can run tests on design elements and page layouts, and pages with a higher conversion “win” the test.
  2. Plain ol’ common sense. Keep the message simple. Make things easier for your customer, not harder.
  3. Subjective, gut instinct that comes with years of working with websites. My fancy word for it is “visual literacy”.

Lets take a look at some real life examples of great ecommerce websites. You don’t have to look at them for very long to know that these companies are online retail giants. That’s why their websites are ripe with sage advice on ecommerce design best practices.

In alphabetical order:

  1. Apple.com
  2. Carters.com
  3. Garmin.com
  4. Target.com
  5. Sony.com
  6. Timex.com
  7. Toms.com
  8. Toysrus.com
  9. Victoriassecret.com
  10. Walmart.com

In general, here are my thoughts and overarching themes that make these websites really stand out among other ecommerce websites.

Ecommerce Website Best-Practices

  1. Amazing photography. (Victoria Secret) When your customer buys something from you online, excellent photography and lifestyle shots help them understand what they are buying, and can help them visualize using your product. Show off your products with multiple angles. I understand that many small businesses don’t have the budget to devote to professional photography, but get the best you can afford and you will not regret it.
  2. Clutter-free. (Apple) Don’t load up your home page and sidebars with all kinds of features, text-heavy paragraphs, calls to action, links and what-have-you. Think about why your client is on your website, and what single action you want them to take while they are there. Make sure you broadcast a clear message that can help them achieve their goals—and ultimately yours.
  3. Good product organization. Your menus need to have a logic to them. If you have a smaller product offering, you can worry less about it, but if you have 100 SKUs or more, it’s a good idea to organize them in a spreadsheet and have at least 3 non-retail people look at it and critique it. One of the latest trends in product organization is “mega-menus”. They are both a blessing and a curse, in my opinion. One the one hand, it’s a much more thorough look at your product offerings at a quick glance, but on the other—it could paralyze your visitor with choice. Target’s mega menus are a bit much to take in, but when you have an inventory as vast as they do, it’s hard to strike a balance. However, if you consider Amazon—they probably have 10 times the inventory of Target, yet their mega menus take a broader approach.
  4. Pop-out assistant. Some websites, after you’ve browsed for a bit have a pop-out tab from the side of the browser window that offer assistance, usually in the form of live chat. Specifically, it does not pop up like a lightbox and grey out the browser behind it. It’s more unobtrusive, and gives the visitor a “heads up” that it’s there. I think it’s a great idea, and the human interaction could be extremely beneficial to the buying/researching process.
  5. Big search bar. (Walmart) This isn’t a ubiquitous trend, it’s a good for companies that have massive inventories—people prefer to bypass the general browsing and quickly jump to relevant products. My advice—the more product you have, the more important the search bar is—and the more important your QA process is for testing the search bar. Keep an eye on your website analytics. Make note of the search queries people are making and test it to see if it is returning relevant results.

This is just for starters, but leave your own favorite trends in the comments below!

If you would like to have someone help you optimize your customer’s online shopping experience, consider hiring Snap Agency. We have a long, rich history of building and managing ecommerce stores, including five of our own brands. Discover how our experience can help you today. Give us a call at 763-548-2297 or email us.