Ecommerce Web Design

What is Required to Build a Beautiful (and High Performing) Ecommerce Website

Nation retail operations or hobby side-project, no matter which type of ecommerce site you plan to build the first thing you need is an ecommerce platform to help you build the best ecommerce store.

An ecommerce platform is a software application that lets you set up an online store and manage its marketing, sales, and operations.

There are 3 main types of ecommerce platforms on the market:

  • Open source.
  • SaaS.
  • Headless commerce.

Each of them provides you with a toolkit for creating an online store: page builder, checkout page, payment gateway integrations, and more. The difference between those ecommerce platforms lies in the levels of:

  • Customization.
  • Performance.
  • In-built feature set.

SaaS platforms offer out-of-the-box ecommerce store design experience. You can design a store using a drag-and-drop visual editor in several hours. But the tradeoff is limited customization and incapacity to add custom features.

Open source platforms are like a blank canvas that with enough time and effort can be turned into any sort of ecommerce website. But you are creating everything from scratch. That means heaving a coder and a designer on call.

You can choose between headless commerce and Open SaaS platforms such as BigCommerce, SaaS platforms like Shopify (does have a headless commerce offering, but has rigid API call per second limits), SaaS website builders like Squarespace and Wix, and open source platforms like Magento (doesn’t have a native theme editor) and WooCommerce (technically an ecommerce plugin). Such ecommerce solutions don’t limit your design capabilities so that you can create beautiful and unique websites. And you don’t need to build core commerce functionality from the ground up.

At any rate, no matter which store builder you choose to start up with, make sure that your top pick has the following features:

1. Mobile responsive.

When 46% of consumers complete their entire purchase process (from research to purchase) on smartphones, you’ll be missing a lot of sales if your website is not mobile-friendly. A responsive ecommerce platform ensures that visitors from all sorts of devices have equally great on-site experience, without any design constraints.

2. Customization opportunities.

“Beauty” is a highly subjective assessment. But when it comes to web design, “good looks” usually mean convenient layout, aesthetically pleasing typography and iconography, crisp visuals, and other on-site design elements that differentiate your store from others. If your ecommerce platform lacks customization features and beautiful ready-to-use templates, you are stuck with using the same mold as hundreds of other stores, with little room to show how your brand stands apart.

3. Easy-to-follow site navigation.

Navigation is an umbrella term for all the UI elements users can use to reach specific information on your website. These include header navigation menu, product category pages, filters, on-site search, and footer. When your ecommerce platform constrains your ability to create custom navigation paths, you’ll end up with a pretty, but dysfunctional website few customers will want to use, and your conversion rate will suffer for it.

4. Unique user experience.

Delight prompts consumers to complete their purchase, and then shop some more. What ignites that sense of delight and takes brand to the next level? The best marketing tools in the world won’t help if your site leaves them wanting. 

Well-thought user experience (UX).

UX plays a pivotal role in ensuring that your website is not only functional, but intuitive, reliable, user-friendly, and easy-to-navigate. These factors dial up the pleasurability of interacting with it and make other good things happen.

Think higher conversions, repeat purchases, rave reviews, and word-of-mouth recommendations. So you don’t want to skim on this. 

How do you determine if your ecommerce platform is UX-friendly? Check several ecommerce website examples, built on the selected platform. Specifically:

  • Assess the basic UI components. Browse the website to understand if you like the navigation, find the layouts effective, and all design elements intuitive and good-looking.
  • Scrutinize customization opportunities. The more elements you can tweak — the more unique UX you’ll be able to create as your operations scale. Remember: what looks like an OK ‘starter’ practice for a small store, may turn into a money-draining liability for bigger operations. Make sure that you can toss and add different design elements as your priorities change.
  • Measure the website performance. Page load time and overall website speed add or subtract from your UX. Sluggish pages, glitching design elements, and slow-loading product videos often result from a poor CMS/CDN and hosting provider, used by the ecommerce platform.

Design Differences Between B2C and B2B Ecommerce Sites

To design a high-performing website, you need to understand who your target audience is and what’s the best way to reach it. Both Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) ecommerce websites have the same agenda — make a sale. But the means towards that goal are somewhat different.

  • For B2C companies brand awareness is the #1 priority. A recognizable brand (think about this when choosing your domain name) with strong online presence = a higher share of the total addressable market.
  • For B2B companies the top priority is lead generation. With a niche market and longer purchase cycles, B2B brands need to keep a steady pipeline of warm leads.

Let’s take a look at what this means design-wise.

1. Customer intent.

Both Business-to-Business and Business-to-Consumer purchases are sparked by a need. But the underlying motivations behind those needs are different.

B2B customer intent is driven by business priorities and backed by a group of other people (stakeholders, teams, company’s customers, end-users). With many people to please, the product research timelines are longer, and the list of requirements for evaluating products is more detailed. That’s why B2B ecommerce websites dwell more on converting top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) and middle-of-the-funnel (MOFU) visitors to prospects and then turning them into customers using a mix of online (email marketing, eBooks, social media, online demos) and offline sales (phone consultations, in-person demos, etc) strategies.

B2C shoppers act on an immediate need. While most shop around too, comparing product specs and prices, their average time spent at every stage of the sales life cycle is shorter. Unlike B2B buyers who allocate more time to data-based product evaluation and consideration, B2C folks often act on impulse, and thus are more receptive to various cognitive triggers, activated by our bias

2. Purchase process.

More people are involved in the B2B buying process, including both end-users and the purchasing agents/decision-makers. An ecommerce website is a facilitating tool that has to inform, support, and demonstrate how your products can meet all the organization’s needs through content, interactive on-site tools, and supporting marketing assets. Remember: your main goal is to generate leads, not root for an immediate sale.

In the B2C space, purchase decisions are often emotional and event-driven. The coffee machine broken? OK, I need a new one. Oh, that shoe looks nice. Where can I buy one too? Most B2C consumers are in a constant state of product exploration and in-the-background evaluation. When they discover a good offer, they are almost ready to snatch it. In that sense, B2C ecommerce websites need to facilitate discovery and feed into that sense of urgency.

3. User experience.

User experience is equally important for B2B and B2C shoppers. But it has to account for the above-mentioned differences in intent and purchase process. Nielsen group identifies five important differences in UX requirements for B2B and B2C websites:

  1. B2B design must accommodate longer content to support long decision-making and sales process.
  2. All B2B content has to speak to two target audiences — “choosers” (decision-makers) and end-users.
  3. B2B product information needs to be longer, more comprehensive, and include a clear overview of integrations, capabilities, and regulatory requirements.
  4. Both B2B and B2C customers are price-conscious. But B2B pricing scenarios are more complex. Provide B2B buyers with different pricing ranges variations, pay-per-usage scenarios, or calculators to facilitate decision-making.
  5. Just like B2C stores, B2B websites cater to several customer segments, varying in size, industry, and operational budgets. Thus, B2B websites need to design a more diverse, audience-based navigation to cater to all of the targets.

Few Experts Advice on Ecommerce Website Design

We’ve talked and shown you how a winning ecommerce design looks and what pages it needs.
Now let’s dive into the how-to part and talk design tips for store owners.

1. Keep it simple.

The path to purchase has to be immediately obvious to the customer. Before adding a new design element to the page, ask yourself this: will this help or impinge the buyer journey? It’s best to start with a minimal landing page. Then add extra conversion-inducing elements as you learn more about your audience behaviors and preferences.

2. Conversion is about satisfaction.

Great user experience amplifies the pleasure of interacting with your brand. While design mishaps chip away that feel-good feeling. After you are done with the initial design, audit each page. Determine where you can remove friction and add extra delight to improve your store conversion rates.

3. A custom store protects you from competitors.

Branding is a powerful asset for building emotional connections with your audience and turning them into vocal brand advocates. Four out of five customers are more willing to promote a long-time favorite brand. By creating a distinctive ecommerce shopping experience, you are securing your spot as a long-time favorite brand, one interaction at a time.

4. A great user experience should always come first.

Attractive prices, cool promos, catchy banners are still important, but their effectiveness shrinks if the overall UX is clunky. Focus on ensuring high website usability and performance first. Then work on extra graphic design elements.

5. Embrace flat design.

By now flat design has become a ‘classic’ look around the web. And for good reason. The main principles of flat design prompt:

  • Clear hierarchy to speed up information processing.
  • Action-emphasizing iconography and adaptive design.
  • Usage of familiar patterns that helps us quickly understand affordances.

All of these elements add up to a great ecommerce experience.

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