Expert Ecommerce Website Design Advice

From basic design tweaks to hiring a design firm, industry experts offer their best advice on getting the right ecommerce website design.

When it comes to ecommerce website design there are many options for getting a unique layout and feel that matches your small business brand and presence.

An ecommerce site design -- compared to other types of business sites -- has a very specific goal of converting a site visitor into a paying customer, and everything from writing an original product description to providing organized Ecommerce Website FAQs and custom shopping carts must focus on making that conversion happen.

If you don't have a good website design and you're looking at your options, our expert website designers offer tips on using ecommerce templates, how to find the right design firm and how to add curb appeal to an existing ecommerce website.

Ecommerce Website Design: Templates or Design Firm?

If cheap and easy is on your requirements list, an inexpensive ecommerce template design is something you'll consider. Template ecommerce sites are popular with the very small businesses (including SOHOs and entrepreneurial start-ups), because you can dip your toes in ecommerce website design without a big cash investment for an operational site.


 Ecommerce Website Design Advice


A template is the fastest and easiest way to get a professional-looking ecommerce website, but the downside to using an ecommerce template site is that any business using the same service provider might have an ecommerce site that looks just like yours. You'll also have less control and fewer options for functionality.

John Miles, chief of What's Next and CEO at Integritive, a Web design and emarketing firm, recommends that you determine your business intent before opting into a template-based website.

"Templates generally do not set a business apart from their competitors but make them all blend into a homogenous, undifferentiated mess, making it more difficult for prospects to discern who to select," Miles said. "Ultimately, a well-designed site should leave the Web user with a positive feeling inside, and the innate sense of connection."

Tips for Finding the right Ecommerce Website Design Firm

If you lack in-house ecommerce website design expertise but want go beyond a basic template site, the next best-option is to hire a good website designer or firm. This route will cost you money, but the website is the backbone of any ecommerce business, so it's a worthwhile investment in the long run.

Know that finding the right designer will be challenging. Start the process internally and decide what type of website you need, set a project budget and do your research to make sure the design firm or freelancer you hire is good fit.

Jay Melone, CEO of DigitalXBridge offers these three tips to help business owners select the right digital vendor.

1. Find a good fit

You can choose from freelancers and design agencies with hundreds of people around the globe, and you want to find a match that's right for you. "If you're building a large-scale technology platform that will be the basis of your business, even the most talented solo freelancer probably won't be able to deliver all of the pieces in a reasonable amount of time," said Melone.

In addition, Melone continues, "if you're a startup, hiring an agency that has a tendency to work with Fortune 50 clients, is likely going to be out of your budget and won't get you the attention you deserve. Start your interviews by asking agencies to speak about their typical project budget."

2. Educate the design firm about your business

Melone says that the most important thing you can offer the design firm you hire is an education about your business. "Consider that many design agencies are serving dozens of clients across as many industries. You want to provide a background on your trade, and then guide them along your specific business concept so that they can provide you with an accurate estimate, and create what you asked for. But be prepared for things to shift," he explains.

3. Come with an open mind and be prepared to be flexible

"You may have spent years vetting out your business concept with industry experts. You prepared a business plan and then further refined the technical components into a requirements spec. You've done your homework. Now be prepared for some or all of that to bend and sway as your product is built and your customers begin using it," said Melone. "Just like Facebook, Groupon, Instagram, Flickr and many more, pay attention to what's working, refine and then be prepared to pivot."

Ecommerce Website Design Tips to Boost Curb Appeal and Conversions

If you have an ecommerce website design that you're mostly happy with, you can look at adding small features and ecommerce software to boost curb appeal -- and conversions. From basic tweaks to designing a smartphone-friendly version of your site, here's what industry experts recommend:

Include Mobile Website Design in Your Plans

For an ecommerce site owner, growing consumer adoption of mobile devices changes everything. Diane Buzzeo, CEO and founder of Ability Commerce, calls the mobile revolution a "culture shift," and it means you have to adjust your website for mobile to be successful.

"You need to supply your website in a smartphone-friendly version, display it a different way to customers on a tablet and, differently again on a computer," said Buzzeo. "And make sure that your ecommerce site can determine what device a site visitor is using, so that it can display the appropriate look."

Website Design Tweaks Anyone Can Do

While ecommerce website elements like products reviews and mobile versions of your site are extremely important, good website design doesn't always mean new software or a total overhaul -- but the basics must be present.

Bryan Boettger, chief creative officer of The Buddy Group, has helped build business websites for clients like Reebok and Old Navy, and he recommends the following website design tips for ecommerce business owners.

  • Embrace open space: sitting in a field or looking out at the ocean relaxes us, thanks to the calming effect of the open space. The same goes for website design. You need to pack a lot of information in a tight space, but make sure to provide some breathing room between products and content blocks.
  • Think like an onion: Not because you want to stink or make people cry, but because you want layers. Give the basics on the first layer, some details on the second layer, and in-depth specifications on the third layer.
  • Make it Pinnable: more and more people are using Pinterest as a potential "wish list" when researching and browsing the Web. Make sure your product detail pages are easily Pinnable with a quality image of your product. Test it to make sure Pinterest reads your website code correctly.

More Ecommerce Website Design Tips

Are you looking to improve your ecommerce business? Try these website design tips and guides for small business ecommerce sites:

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has spent the last decade contributing featured articles and reviews to more than 20 technology-focused publications, including Webopedia and Ecommerce-Guide. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

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