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How to Design E‑Commerce Websites

Did you know that U.S. retail e-commerce sales toward the end of 2018 totaled $127 billion? The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce reports an increase of 3.9 percent from the first quarter of 2018. This growing demand for retail e-commerce products means an increased need for highly trained e-commerce website designers.

Most likely, web designers will work on e-commerce websites for companies that already have a product, pricing structure, shipping options, payment processing options, and brand image. If not, these are all topics you will want to investigate before starting to design an e-commerce website.

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Why E-Commerce vs. Physical Store?

The most obvious benefit for building an e-commerce website is that it never closes. Customers can buy something at two in the morning, when they want to buy it and the store is not open.

Purchasing a product on an e-commerce website is a quicker transaction than having to go through the process of finding parking, going to the store, being hassled by a salesperson, and waiting in the checkout line to purchase the product. A website can also offer every size, color, brand, or variety of a product, whereas a store has space limitations.

The startup cost of an e-commerce website is minuscule compared with that of a physical store. The e-commerce website can even capture more customers, as the website is global rather than local.

Think Mobile Responsive Design

Each customer will visit your website on a different size screen. Some will view it on a desktop, others on a tablet, and many others on a phone. Making your e-commerce website design mobile responsive will allow customers to have a customized view of your e-commerce website regardless of the device they use to view it.

Further, Google uses mobile readiness as an algorithm variable, so those e-commerce websites that are mobile responsive have a leg up on the competition for ranking in organic search results.

How to Design an E-Commerce Website

There are many steps to designing an e-commerce website. The first is to choose an e-commerce platform. Then, you will create product category pages, a unique page for every product, lots of clear and well-lit images, detailed descriptions, related product hints, and proper navigation using menus and a search bar.

Once the e-commerce website is designed and built, the final steps include securing the website with an SSL certificate, simplifying the checkout process, making products easy to share on social media, and monitoring the analytics. With these steps, you will be well on your way to designing and building an e-commerce website.

Choose Your E-Commerce Platform

There are some initial questions you will want to ask before picking an e-commerce platform. Do you need an e-commerce platform that supports multiple languages? What are the payment options used for customer checkout? Which shipping services will the e-commerce platform allow? Free and less expensive platforms tend only to offer flat fee shipping costs. More robust shipping options are normally worth paying for.

Many of the click-and-go e-commerce platforms (e.g., Wix, Squarespace) use JavaScript, which is easy to use and makes for a quick website. It is important to note that Google still doesn’t fully crawl JavaScript, so your e-commerce website may be invisible to users who search Google for your products.

An e-commerce platform that is reasonably priced and that offers easy product uploads and lots of customizable options is Shopify. However, if you are hosting thousands of products, it may be a good idea to pick an enterprise e-commerce platform.

Create Product Category Pages

It is important to give both the customer and search spider a landing page on which they can find a category of products. Whether it is a type of product or brand, both the customer and search spider will understand the theme shown and have a clear path to find what they are looking for.

Every Product Should Have a Unique Page

The product page of your e-commerce website should create a personalized experience for shoppers. They should feel like they are at your store, holding the product in their hands, and looking at every angle of the product.

Make sure the product images are clear, a short description that sells the product is included, and the price is clearly marked. Customers should be able to pick the variables they need (e.g., size, color, quantity) and be provided with a clearly labeled “Add to Cart” button that is easy to find and click.

The other reason for having a unique page for each product is for SEO (search engine optimization). Each product will match a specific query, and Google will rank your product page higher if it is complete, simplistic, and matches the query of the customer. Taking the time to create an individual page for every product will be worth it in the end.

Use Lots of Clear, Well-Lit Images

Images sell products on an e-commerce website. The customer is not able to try on the products or see them first-hand, so the next best thing is to have product shots that show the product from every angle.

Proper lighting is important to accentuate the products, since poor images will turn customers off, persuading them to buy from your competitors. It is important to offer zoomable images so customers can see every detail. Quick view is also important for those customers who don’t want to click into an individual product page without seeing pictures of the product.

Make Sure Product Descriptions Are Detailed

Do your best to represent your products with detailed product descriptions. Make sure to be as detailed as possible in the descriptions without getting too wordy. Make sure the product pages clearly display the prices, colors, measurements, and materials used. Product descriptions that are too long may put customers off, causing them ultimately to decide not to purchase the product.

Cross-Sell Related Products

Every product is part of a set, and a customer who picks one product will more than likely buy many others. By allowing customers to see products that complement the product they are viewing, they are likelier to purchase more than one item on your website.

Many algorithms allow customers to see what other customers purchased in addition to the product on the page. This gives the customer a sense of community approval, and the customer is likelier to purchase additional items.

Include Menus and Search Boxes

Every customer will search for products differently, and you will want to give each one many options. Some customers will drill down on global navigation by category or subcategory until they find the products they are looking for. Other customers will use the search bar to find the exact product they are looking for in one easy step. Making sure customers can find what they want is the most important step in the conversion process.

Add an SSL Certificate to an E-Commerce Website

Nowadays it is almost mandatory to have an SSL certificate to make your e-commerce website secure. Customers are entering personal and confidential information, and they don’t want to have their information fall into the wrong hands.

Many customers are reassured that they are safe when the e-commerce website is secure. Further, Google Chrome has implemented pop-ups that show customers when a website is not secure. These pop-ups may dissuade customers from purchasing products on non-secure websites. Security software has even been known to stop customers from visiting a non-secure website. Make sure to implement an SSL certificate to make your e-commerce website secure.

Simplify Checkout

Ideally, the checkout process should use the least number of steps and be easy to complete. Make sure to give multiple ways to pay, including PayPal. Also, make sure there is an intermediary step to confirm an order before the customer purchases an item.

Making the checkout process hard can push customers to abandon their carts. If an account is needed, allow customers to create an account after the purchase is complete, so they do not abandon the purchase.

After the e-commerce website is built, and before any customers visit, make sure to test out the functionally of the website, especially the checkout process. Do a test conversion to make sure the checkout process goes smoothly and customers will be able to purchase the products they want without cart abandonment.

Make It Easy to Share

Not only is it important to allow social media users to promote your products, but many social media platforms allow customers to purchase your products without even going to your e-commerce website. Social media communities are influenced by social sharing, especially from trendsetters. Nothing is better than free word-of-mouth advertising on a social media platform.

Monitor the Analytics

Make sure to add both Google Analytics and Google Search Console to your e-commerce website. Google Analytics will allow you to understand how many customers visit the website and who your customers are. Google Search Console is a great way to monitor the functionality of the website and get alerts if anything is wrong with the indexing of the website.

Ready to get a job designing an e-commerce website? The hands-on web programming and coding courses taught at Hunter Business School prepare students for a career in the field of e-commerce. They introduce the main components of an e-commerce solution and enrich the Web Application Design and Development program student portfolios with practical implementation examples.

The Web Application Design and Development program transforms beginning computer coding students into entry-level, full-stack web developers. The Web Application Design and Development program focuses on the main programming languages, including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Java, Python, SQL, and PHP.

Career Services at Hunter Business School

Hunter Business School Career Services staff members help students jump-start, and then advance in, stimulating and gratifying careers in the web app design and development field. The entire department helps the prospective employee make the transition to the workplace as quickly and easily as possible.

Placement services include job interviewing skills, résumé preparation, cover and thank you letter writing, job internships, and career counseling and support. Job placement assistance is available for Hunter Business School graduates for life.

Contact us today to find out more about how to become a website designer, web application developer, or webmaster on Long Island.