5 e-commerce Site Design Trends for 2016

e-commerce Site Design TrendsOnline shopping has become a regular affair today. Almost everyone shops on the Internet, not only during the holiday seasons when online retailers offer huge discounts but throughout the year. According to Commerce Department estimates, annual e-commerce sales in the U.S. totaled $304.91 billion in 2014, almost 15.4 percent up from the previous year. The fourth quarter i.e. the holiday seasons sales accounted $95.98 billion, which represented 31.4 percent of the total eRetail sales in 2014.

In its recent report, the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce estimated that the U.S. eRetail sales for Q3 2015 was $87.5 billion, up 4.2 percent from this year’s second quarter e-commerce sales.

But what makes people click the purchase button?

Well, it isn’t easy to answer. From pricing to usability of your e-commerce site, a lot of factors can encourage your visitors to make the purchase. But one thing is extremely important – the overall look and feel of your online store. The design of your e-commerce website affects your business in more than one way. To begin with, it obviously affects how your customers view your brand. In addition, your website’s design also affects the user experience, which again, affects your sales directly.

e-commerce Web Design and Sales

A 2006 study by Lindgaard, Fernandes, Dudek, & Brown indicates that it just takes 50 milliseconds for a user “to develop an impression of a website and decide whether he or she likes it. If your users feel that our e-commerce store is difficult to navigate, requiring tons of clicking they will abandon your site sooner than you imagine. In fact, users can even abandon your online store if they don’t like the theme or color of your website.

The design of your online store is therefore as important as any traditional brick and mortar store. The layout, the navigation, the look and feel, everything affects your sales. Attractive online store design has always been a key factor in determining the store’s sales and marketing as it increases your products’ perceived value to your customers apart from making your website seem more trustworthy.

One thing with e-commerce website designs (just like any other website design) is that the trends change almost every year. In 2016, for example, online stores are more likely to look alike as designers are now employing similar user interface design patterns and card-like layouts to the e-commerce sites. The popularity of these design trends is most driven by the higher usage of mobile devices. Studies indicate that more than 50 percent of all e-commerce traffic come from mobile devices. In 2013, one-third of all holiday season e-commerce purchases were made using a smartphone.

eCommerce Web Design and Sales

The user interface design patterns that designers are now using work well on both mobile devices and desktop computers, making the online stores truly responsive. As a result more and more designers are incorporating these patterns to provide convenient and similar shopping experiences across devices.

The following are 5 e-commerce design trends that you should keep your eyes open for in 2016.

1. Flat and Material Design

Flat and material designs have similar design style, although they differ in certain aspects. Both the designs are trending right at this moment. The key reasons for their popularity are as follows:

  • You can easily adopt them for responsive sites
  • They are content-focused
  • Provide a young, fresh look to your website

Both the designs have minimalistic style that highly appeals to users in terms of accessibility and simplicity. For one thing, both flat and material designs provide a gimmick-free feel. Combined with vibrant and bright colors, these design patterns reflect the true essence of young brands like Google, Dunked and Needle in Seattle.

Flat and Material Design

Although they look very much alike to the untrained eyes, difference lies in the details. Besides, they both have certain pros and cons that you need to consider when settling for one design over another.

Flat design, for example, is a great option if your users are highly attuned to digital interaction. Material design, on the other hand, allows you to communicate and response to your users’ actions. It basically attempts to combine the real and digital worlds and is essentially multi-dimensional, even though it is aesthetically flat. It is an evolution of flat design and more robust in nature.

But keeping aside the debate regarding flat design vs. material design, we will be seeing a lot of e-commerce websites implementing these design patterns to focus on UX.

2. Responsive Design

Responsive web design is here to stay, thanks to the growing trend of mobile Internet usage. This is definitely a good news for online retailers as responsive design provides a rather affordable and simple way for businesses to create an effective mobile-friendly site that also improves user experience.

In fact, responsive web design is more than a trend now; it is a best practice, especially after Google released its Mobile Friendly update in April 2015. It is therefore quite obvious that more and more websites, including online stores will become responsive in 2016, if they haven’t already. Now, this isn’t happening just because Google says so; responsive design is highly compatible with minimalism, helping designs to keep the page weight down. In addition, it works well with other popular design trends like cards and car-like layouts when it comes to fit the screen size.

While this design is versatile, there are certain things you need to consider to provide optimum user experience. Your responsive e-commerce store should be lightning fast across all devices. Performance remains the biggest issue for many. It is therefore recommended to apply performance testing in order to measure and optimize your e-commerce store effectively for each device and screen size.

3. Card Design

Card Design

Card and card-like layouts are trending for one simple reason. It allows you to add and organize amounts of content with little or no effort. The card-like boxes are used to encapsulate text, images and resources. e-commerce websites are highly leveraging this design pattern not only because it allows them to add huge amount of content, but is also pleasing to the eye. A bonus – card design is extremely easy to use. Users can check out their options with an immediate glance. And as mentioned earlier, card design works really well for responsive themes.

This design pattern has just started heating up and isn’t going anywhere soon. Rather, quite the opposite; it will be much more prevalent in 2016 and beyond especially in the e-commerce landscape.

The popularity of cards and card layouts was largely driven by their inclusion in Google’s Material Design. Microsoft too is jumping onboard in order to stay relevant. In addition, many websites, e-commerce and otherwise, are using card designs. Coca-Cola’s “Ahh” campaign and Pinterest are the two most popular examples. Some e-commerce examples include Adidas, Lord & Taylor, Watb and Belk etc.

4. Parallax Scrolling

Parallax scrolling or long-scroll pages are nothing new. The technology was initially used in 2D games and has been extended to business websites, especially e-commerce sites in the recent years. In fact, this design trend gained much momentum in 2014 and hasn’t lost its charm yet. But why parallax scrolling?

Statistics indicate that users spend 76 percent of their browsing time in scrolling. It is, in fact, great for capturing your visitors’ attention quickly, to ‘wow’ them. It allows designers to:

  • Guide visitors through storytelling model, which has gained a lot of popularity lately
  • Show 3D model using movement, page depth and animation
  • Create timelines to provide a fun and very visual presentation

With the popularity of m-commerce, clicking is fast becoming a thing of past. Hand-held devices are designed in such a way that users find it easier to scroll down pages for a seamless content experience. And the smaller the device’s screen is, the longer the page scroll would be. This is the basic theory behind parallax scrolling sites.

Parallax scrolling also reduces the loading time and information is presented in a storytelling format, further enhancing user engagement. It is easier to navigate the store, which in turn increase your chances of generating sales.

When it comes to designing, sites implementing parallax scrolling usually have one larger home page linking to other similar kind of pages. Some sites are also opting for one single long page, aided by infinite scroll. However, they aren’t recommended for e-commerce sites.

Using parallax scrolling technique along with scroll-triggered animation and Ajax/jQuery techniques, designers can really get innovative with the setup. Being such a dynamic technique, parallax scrolling sometimes challenges designers to look for more creative and innovative methods to leverage this trend.

Further advancements with CSS and JavaScript are opening new opportunities for designers. More and more businesses are embracing this technique, especially after market players like Facebook and Twitter adopted this style, breaking the ‘above the fold’ stereotype. Many leading e-commerce sites are also implementing this style including Porsche, Sony and Fitbit. Other e-commerce sites that did a brilliant job with this technique include Ditto, 47 Brand, Neronote and White House | Black Market.

Parallax Scrolling

You can refer to them in order to emulate their style but remember that just like any other design style, parallax scrolling too has its drawbacks. So choose wisely and consider its advantages and disadvantages instead of following the trend blindly.

5. Interruption Merchandising

Interruption merchandising. A fancy name for something we are already familiar with. Remember the pop-up advertising! Of course you do, who can forget those annoying online promotion? In the 1990s the so-called pop-up advertising were first introduced; when you click at them, albeit mistakenly, the ads and sometimes the entire website opened in new browser windows every time. Worse still, many of them were deceptive and you never know what will open.

I hated them; in fact, most consumers hated those irritating pop-up ads. It was therefore no surprize that pop-up blocking services became commonplace soon enough and shortly after, web browsers too started blocking them.

But why am I talking about pop-up advertising once again? Because, they are making a comeback. And quite interestingly, interruption marketing is now being embedded in website design. This design trend is using the pop-up as a model. Online retailers are using them to offer special discounts and in exchange asking you to subscribe to their email list and/or follow their various social media profiles.

Interruption Merchandising

The reason behind this comeback is obviously email marketing. For online retailers, email marketing is one of the most powerful tool to reach out to their target audience. More number of email subscribers means more visitors and more chances of getting sales. Online retailers understand this very well and therefore use any means to attract more subscribers (read sales).

These pop-ups and interruption merchandising will become a common sight in 2016, especially for online stores. Many of the top retailers will start leveraging them, although selectively. This means, these pop-ups won’t be showing up every time you visit the online retail store. Sometimes, it will be displayed only when you take a specific action such as scrolling or when you attempt to leave the site.

Some of the brands that are already using modals on-site effectively include Ann Taylor, COS, Big Lots, AQ/AQ, Taylor Stitch and Pretty Little Thing. There are several apps to help you set up a pop-up seamlessly to promote your email subscriptions.

Conclusion

There are some e-commerce website design trends that are fading fast, while others are here to stay. Designs that further aid consumers’ mobile shopping experience are specifically hooked for long as the popularity of mobile Internet usage is likely to increase even more in the coming days. As a result, more and more online retailers will be focusing their e-commerce design strategies on those platforms to stay relevant. Minimalism, simplicity and clarity will play key role in the year ahead. But before jumping onboard, make sure they are best for your users. After all you following some trends blindly only because they are ‘in’ at the moment isn’t your goal; you should rather strive to provide the best possible user experiences to your consumers.

Image Source: (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

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10 Things Missing In Your Site Design

Web design is such an organic field of work that every day, there’s some new insight being uncovered, some new dimension being revealed that will make visitors to your site stay on just a tad bit longer. From white space to parallax layouts to responsive design, there’s some new ‘it’ thing that’s always on the brink of sweeping web design world by storm.

However, while fads come and go; some design basics stay true irrespective of which year it is. These are the fundamentals that you simply cannot afford to mess up. Stuff like the Gutenberg Rule of eye movement.

Dimitry Fadeyev explains the Gutenberg Diagram below as he breaks down the process in which the human eye consumes content on a page.

The Gutenberg Diagram

The Gutenberg Diagram

Fadeyev elaborates, “The Gutenberg diagram splits up a page into four quadrants: the “Primary Optical Area” in top left, the “Strong Fallow Area” in top right, the “Weak Fallow Area” in the bottom left and a “Terminal Area” in bottom right. It suggests that the bottom left area of the page will get least attention as our eyes scan the page from top left to bottom right and that our glance would end up in the lower right portion of the page.”

Let’s do a quick roundup of little things that you might have overlooked in your web design – things that can cost you big in terms of website conversions.

   1. Showcase the Product

As elementary as this may sound, make your product the star of your website.

This becomes more crucial considering how humans are such visual creatures – 65% of us learn best through images and visual stimuli.

Product Showcase

Travel planning app Tripit does a great job of putting its mouth where the money is. With large images of the app on a desktop and mobile screen displayed upfront on its home page, it gives users a sneak peek into what to expect inside the app without even downloading it.

Showcase your product clearly with large, attractive images, preferably depicting users actually using it. If your website is an ecommerce site, make sure every product has multiple images available from various angles and that the images can be zoomed in if needed.

If your product is a software or an app, show off screenshots of the awesomeness that is your product, allowing visitors to make up their minds easily about it a la Tripit.

   2. Clear CTA

A typical landing page or website homepage has a number of things going on simultaneously. What is it that you want your visitor to do on your site? Is it to check out your product demo? Is it to sign up for your newsletter? Is it to buy products that you’re selling? Make sure your visitor knows exactly what is expected of her while on your site.

Use a single, clear and direct call to action telling your visitors to perform the key conversion oriented tasks that you want them to. Drop words like ‘Submit’ or ‘Know More’ from your CTA and replace them with action oriented copy. Create a sense of urgency to prompt immediate conversions, nudging along the procrastinators among your visitors into action right away.

CTA

Constant Contact’s utterly simple, yet superbly effective homepage has one loud and clear CTA.

Make sure your CTA button stands out from the rest of the page – make it bigger than other buttons, use a color that jumps out from the color scheme on your page – basically make sure it’s unmissable.

   3. Useful Microcopy

Microcopy is one of those little design touches that delight by virtue of being so unexpected. While whimsical microcopy does have its own place, it is more important to ensure that every single element on your page is geared towards one thing only – giving your users what they want as easily as possible, hence increasing the chances of converting them into actual customers.

Microcopy

Microcopy works beautifully in areas like form fields, error messages or even little ‘next step’ pointers across a website. It tells the user exactly what it expected of them without being intrusive or loud. Also, it adapts to various use case scenarios, serving up customized content, instead of having the same microcopy plastered across the site all the time.

   4. Visual Hierarchy

Visual hierarchy is the order in which we consume content and images. It is applied in web design by using images, text and their interplay to create a distinct and unmistakable message for the user.

With visual hierarchy, a good designer draws in the user’s attention to important pieces of content using images, arrows or even playing with the size of the text in and around the focal point of the page.

Pamela Wilson illustrates visual hierarchy very simply in her post “Design 101 | Successful Design: Who’s in Charge Here?” with two striking images.

No Visual Hierarchy  Visual Hierarchy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   No Visual Hierarchy                          Visual Hierarchy Employed

The image that uses clear visual hierarchy (the one on the right) focuses the reader’s attention to the most important part of the message – bit about ‘lowest prices’. Using that as the hook, the ad reels in the user’s interest and offers all important information in a clearly discernible manner.

   5. Speed

While loading up your website with the latest bells and whistles, you’ll sometimes end up with a site that is too bulky to open on slow internet connections (thank God, those are only a handful these days!) or open so slowly that users lose interest and leave the site even before the site is completely loaded. This need for speed is even more important in these days of the mobile web.

A huge factor in slow websites is the amount of graphics content that it carries. Use large images, sure. But instead of using print quality images on your website, optimize them for web use before using them.

Another issue that slows down websites is having no caching information on your images. On the topic of caching images to help them load faster, Mark Isham advices “To cache your images, update your webserver configuration to provide an Expires header to your image responses from the server. For images that do not change often, you should specify a “far future” Expires header, typically a date 6 months to a year out from the current date.”

Use a tool like Page Speed Grader that will check how fast your site is vis-à-vis worldwide averages. It’ll also help pinpoint reasons that may be slowing down your site.

Remember, speed is crucial for any website. Even a 1 second delay in page response leads to a 7% drop in conversion rates.

   6. Planned User Flows

Most websites look like a collection of pages designed in isolation, with no relation to one another, no real thought given to transitions from one section to another.

Designing your website based on a user’s expected journey across your site is step one in web design. These expected user journeys or ‘user flows’ as Morgan Brown call them in his article about designing user flows that lead to conversions, help in visualizing where a user arrives from and what path she might take to eventually convert.

User Flows

Conversion in user flows is often measured at page level, but for a website to actually be profitable, conversions are needed at the overall site level. This means sales, subscriptions, viewership, and loyalties. To fulfill this overarching need, designers need to also see how user flows within each page merge into those of the next leading up to the final goal in one seamless action.

   7. Product Recommendations

Research shows that users actually look forward to product recommendations on ecommerce websites. A full 56% of online shoppers would return to a site that offers product recommendations.

Recommendations can be made to returning visitors based on their last viewed items like the ones on Amazon’s home page. You can also offer similar products to what the customer is currently viewing on the inside product pages.

Another option is recommending complementary products to buy along with the product being currently viewed.

   8. Upfront disclosure of costs

Imagine hunting through tons of online shopping sites for that one elusive spare part for a broken home appliance and finally finding it on Site ABC. Super, right? Now imagine your dismay at finding out at the checkout page, just before you pay that the shipping cost is actually higher than the cost of the item itself. Bit of a bummer, I’m sure.

Most shoppers feel the same way and will drop off mid-purchase on discovering hidden costs like shipping or convenience fees at the very last step. This is one of the biggest causes of the abandoned shopping carts epidemic that plagues most ecommerce sites.

   9. Trust Marks

When a user arrives on your site, it’s your job to put them at ease and help them find exactly what they are looking for. A lot of times, even when a customer finds what they’re looking for on a site, they hesitate from making a purchase from the site as they feel insecure about trusting it with their payment information.

This is a very real problem. A Trustmark Attitudes and Perceptions Study in 2013 by Harris Interactive found that 89% of consumers are hesitant to interact with a site they do not trust.

Another 73% from the same study felt that their personal and financial information were safer in the presence of a trust mark.

Use trust marks wherever possible on your website. Trust marks could range from logos like McAfee or VeriSign to your own shopper protection guarantees like the one eBay has on its site and on their email communication.

Trust Marks

It does not matter if you are not an ecommerce site and don’t sell anything on your site. Building trust goes beyond collecting people’s financial data. It extends to them considering your site as a bona fide authority for information that has been trusted by millions of other users like them.

For ecommerce sites, trust marks are almost as important as payment gateways. Place recognizable trust mark logos like McAfee or VeriSig on the payments page to build a user’s confidence in the security of your financial network. Also place them across your site at strategic locations to reinforce this message in a more subliminal manner.

10.  Social Login

One of the major headaches that the proliferation of websites has caused for users is the need to remember tons of username and password combinations. With the security loopholes that are being brought to light every other day, passwords keep getting more complicated and consequently tougher to remember.

What if there was a way around this predicament? Social logins give users and website owners a ready solution.

Social logins are plug and play tools that can be built into your site, which will enable users to log into your site using their social networking profiles. This eliminates the need to create a fresh username and password for your site and makes the user’s web experience completely seamless.

Social Login

The benefit to a website owner is two-fold. Social logins reduce the user’s hesitancy to use your site, while simultaneously giving you rich social profile data about each user via the social login app.

Conclusion

While artistic web design will make your site stand out from the clutter, it’s only websites rooted in web design fundamentals that will give you the returns that you’re hoping for. Invest your time and energies on improving these aspects of your website before you launch into hyper expensive marketing campaigns to promote it.

Lay a strong foundation and your skyscraper will stand tall for years to come.

Image Source: 1

How to optimise your landing pages and increase conversions

Apollo moon landing

Don’t underestimate the importance of a good landing.

Landing pages play an integral role in maximizing online conversions. Yet, a surprising number of small online businesses overlook their importance.  A good landing page should engage your visitor, generate a response, increase conversions, answer your customer’s information needs, reduce your ‘bounce’ rate and support your brand.

“Landing pages can be described as the entrance doors to a website that only selected customers are directed to” (Gay et al, Online Marketing, 2007)

Put simply, your landing page is the destination web page a customer arrives at when they click on a link – usually from a marketing communication or referring site. The landing page, the page on which your customer enters your website, is incredibly important as it is often the first impression that they get of your business.

Do you recognise this all too familiar scenario? You spend time putting together a fantastic offer and communicate it effectively to your customers via a great, targeted email campaign.  Your customer, enticed by your exciting offer, clicks on the link through to your website – then inexplicably exits your website immediately? So what might be going wrong? One possibility could be down to the web page you have sent your recipient to – the landing page.

Exit signBounce rate – how are your landing pages performing?

“In a nutshell bounce rate measures the percentage of people who come to your website and leave “instantly”. Thought about from a customer perspective rather than I came, I saw, I conquered, the action is I came, I saw, Yuck, I am out of here.” Avinash Kaushik

The bounce rate is a really useful measurement to use when you are evaluating the effectiveness of your landing pages. Your bounce rate is essentially the number of customers who arrive at your website then leave immediately – without looking at any other pages. The basic rule of thumb is the lower the bounce rate the better. A high bounce rate may suggest some issues with your landing page.

A good starting point is to look at your Google Analytics (or equivalent) Landing Page report and look at the landing pages with the highest bounce rate. From here you can visit those landing pages and review what might not be working so well – unrelated or irrelevant content, no call to action, confusing format and so on.

So what is an average bounce rate to measure your performance against? Actually, an average bounce rate is difficult to pin down as it will differ for industry and web page type (for example a contact us page is automatically going to have a high bounce rate due to the nature of it use – in fact a high bounce rate in this case would indicate your contact page is doing its job). However to give you a ball park figure , Google put the average around 40%-60% so this is probably a good starting point to begin with.

“According to Google the average bounce rate for most sites falls in the range of 40% – 60%.  If your site bounce rate is below 40% you are doing well and if it’s above 60% then you definitely need to find out why”. Anders Analytics

Welcome mat imageWhat makes a good landing page?

So, your hard work has paid off. You have successfully grabbed your customer’s attention and they’ve clicked through to your site. How then do you make sure you don’t lose them? The first thing to remember is that the page your customer arrives at may be the first experience they have had of your website. You need to make them feel welcome and reassure them they’ve arrived at the right place.

1. Create different, campaign specific landing pages

Often the first place that visitors are automatically directed to is the home page, and sometimes this is appropriate. However, the problem with the home page is that due to the broad  job it has to do, it can’t be very message specific. This can make  it difficult to develop a customer’s interest and elicit a particular response.

You need to consider where it is the customers is coming from – be it an email newsletter, search engine, social media site or a specific marketing promotion – and direct your customers to a landing page that is appropriate to the message being communicated. For example if your customer has been enticed by a special promotional offer, then you should have a specific landing page dedicated to that offer. The landing page should enable the customer to easily find out further information about the offer and there should be a clear call to action.

2. Think about it from your customer’s point of view.  

Before you write the copy for your landing page, think about what it is that will drive your customer to click-through to your website. What link has bought them to you – what are they expecting to find? You then need to write your copy accordingly. Your landing pages should provide additional, relevant information to your searchers based on the offer or referring site that they have just clicked through on.

3. Have a clear and specific message

Make sure that the message you are conveying to your customer is clear, targeted and specific. Don’t get distracted and try to be all things to all people. Keep your message concise, relevant and to the point.

4. Have recognisable and consistent branding

Make sure your landing page reflects your brand and is consistent with the rest of your website – even if your landing page is just temporary for a time-specific promotion. Remember, even if your ultimate objective is conversion, you must try to ensure all visitors (even those who choose not to convert at this time) have a positive experience. As we mentioned earlier, this maybe your users’ first time on your website and so you need to create a good first impression if you want them to come back.

5. Clear and easy call to action

Make it as easy as possible for your visitors to convert. Your call to action should be obvious and it should be easy for your customer to respond to. If you’ve got them this far, you don’t want to put them off with a complicated call to action or a request for too much information. The more straightforward it is, the more likely it is you’ll get that conversion.

6. Well thought out page design and layout

As with any other web page, think carefully about page design and layout. It should be easy to navigate, user-friendly (for example how easy is it for your user to complete an action?) and visually appealing.

I’ll leave you with some solid landing page advice from Web Analytics guru Avinash Kaushik on improving your bounce rate:

“If you want to have high performing web pages make sure that you:

1. Have a clear understanding of what the purpose of that page is and

2a. a clearer understanding of what drove customers to the page and

2b. what they want to accomplish to ensure that

3. #1 and #2 are in alignment.”

We’d really love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic, so please do leave a comment.

Exit sign image courtesy of cbenjasuwan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Welcome mat image courtesy of John Kasawa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

7 website essentials for a successful online presence

Web Design Button on Keyboard The basic principles of good website design are universal, regardless of whether your website is a small brochure-only site or an all singing, all dancing interactive experience.  Understanding and implementing the following suggestions will help result in a positive online experience for your customers’ which in turn leads to the increased likelihood of sales and repeat visits for you.

Whether you are building the website yourself, outsourcing development to a web designer or reviewing your current online presence, an understanding of what makes for a good website is essential. By combining a number of key elements you are more likely to create a successful commercial website.

1. Start with your website goals

Before you begin have a good think about what it is you want from your website – what purpose does it need to serve? Are you looking to sell your products online and therefore need it to be e-commerce enabled? Do you need a site that serves as an online showcase or catalogue for all your products? Or is it primarily an additional channel to enable customers to contact you? It is important to have a clear idea about your website’s objectives prior to embarking on any design and development.

Navigation hand with compass2. Navigation

Navigation is essentially how simple it is for the end user – your customer –  to move around your website. Can your customer get to the information they are looking for within a few clicks?  The more complicated it gets the higher the likelihood that your customer gets lost, gives up and abandons your website.  A good rule of thumb is to try to keep the number of clicks it takes to reach any piece of information to a minimum and to make sure your menu arrangements, page layouts and signposts are clear and logical.

3. Usability

Usability is a test of how straightforward it is for a user to complete an action on your website such as purchase a product, fill in a registration form or book an appointment. Your customer should be able to complete these tasks efficiently and effectively. Get people to test your site  – not just you or your web designers – but people who are representative of a typical user of your site. Ask them to perform specific task whilst you observe how easy it is for them to complete the process. You can then identify where, if necessary, changes need to be made.

Hands catching TRUST letters4. Credibility

Does your website make a customer feel secure enough to feel confident about completing a transaction on your site? Or does it make them leave to find a site that feels more trustworthy? In addition to making sure your security credentials are clear to see, there are lots of other things you can do to build-up credibility and trust online. For example make sure customers can get in contact with you easily and that your organisational details (registered address, VAT no. etc) are available. Content should be accurate, up-to-date and error free (no matter how small, errors make your site look unprofessional). Include testimonials or client lists and deal with queries any quickly and efficiently. Essentially make sure your site, no matter how small, looks and feels professional.

5. Accessibility

Accessibility is a central requirement for your website. Legislation states that your website needs to be accessible to everyone. Your customers should be able to interact with your website regardless any disabilities they may have. A full checklist of guidelines for website design and HTML coding is available from the World Wide Web Consortium, following is a link that gives you a useful overview of the guidelines. http://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/glance/ Another aspect of accessibility you need to consider is that your website can be viewed equally well from any device, whether it is a laptop, desktop, iPad, or a handheld mobile device.

6. Content

61% of global internet users use the internet to research products online (Interconnected World: Shopping and Personal Finance, 2012).   Don’t underestimate the importance of quality content and clear, concise copy on your website. Your customer has come to your website to look for specific information and so you need to ensure that the content on your website is accurate, informative and reflects your customer’s information needs. How your content is presented is equally important; visually it must be clear and easy to find. And, don’t forget to continuously keep your content fresh and up-to-date.

“Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left.” Steve Krug, Don’t Make me Think: A Common Sense Guide to Usability 

People read information differently online, they tend to scan information and jump around  the page. Users are unlikely to read through reams of text.  It is therefore essential you keep your copy concise and to the point using key words and phrases that customers are likely to pick up on. Your page layouts should be clean and clear, so it is easy for your customers to scan the page and find the information they are looking for – quickly.

Sitemap image7. Design and structure

‘Keep it simple, keep it stupid’ Bryan Eisenberg

A sensible approach when looking at the design and structure of your website is ‘simplicity is best’. Everything should be self-evident to customers so they don’t have to think too hard about anything. Here is a link to a useful article by Bryan Eisenberg that despite being written well over 10 years ago gives some helpful website design advice – much of which is still relevant today.  For example:

  • Make sure everything is obvious to the end-user
  • Do not assume your customer is an expert user
  • Keep everything short, sweet and to the point
  • Use simple and consistent navigation

The key things to think about are how the overall structure of your site works, individual page design (paying particular attention to your landing pages) and how you present your content to your users. Make sure your website is visually attractive and remember, if an image is appropriate then ‘ a picture paints a thousands words’.  The effective use of  relevant visuals can engage a user and reinforce a message.

Finally, remember to always keep your end customer in mind and try to think about  the points we have listed above as a useful checklist that will help create and maintain your online presence.