How to create a user-friendly ecommerce website
There’s never been a better time to be in the ecommerce space. Thanks to the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and a desire for convenience, consumers are more than willing to buy what they need online instead of visiting a brick-and-mortar store. While there’s a time and place for in-store shopping, ecommerce allows customers to purchase items at any time and access previously out-of-reach goods.
As online stores grow rapidly, organizations must prioritize their digital customer experience to meet and exceed customers' changing buying habits and expectations.
In this guide, we’ll go over how to construct an online shopping experience that’s user-friendly and built to stay competitive for years to come.
You may be hesitant to invest your valuable time and resources into optimizing a website that seems to work—rightfully so. Continuous optimization is a big job for any organization or individual. However, getting in the habit now will help you stay competitive in the long run.
With an almost never-ending variety of ecommerce websites to buy from, customers have higher expectations than ever. It's critical to test and optimize your website to provide an exceptional customer experience that meets customers where they are. Gathering customer feedback before, during, and after launching your sites is critical to keep your decisions customer-centric. Placing your customer at the forefront of your ecommerce business drives conversions, builds trust, and enables you to make design decisions confidently.
Remember: If you need help with what to do during this process, ask your current or potential customers. Talk to your target audience—check in with past buyers. Ecommerce testing is simple and easy when you use a human insight solution.
See how EssilorLuxottica optimizes its digital experience with the Human Insight platform:
Based on the statistics and industry trends, ecommerce sites are the future and serve as bountiful investments for online retailers. When you invest in your customer experience, you should expect the following in return.
There's a growing amount of people using the internet and digital devices. Brick-and-mortar shops serve a fraction of customers. Online stores can attract buyers from around the globe. Reach potential customers with the right advertising, cutting-edge digital marketing tools, and a great customer experience.
Improved brand awareness and recognition
When you perfect your search engine optimization (SEO), your site will rank higher on search engine results, resulting in more potential shoppers viewing your site—and becoming aware of your brand. To set this in motion, use specific keywords and phrases associated with your products and services for a higher rank on search engines like Google.
Additionally, if your products are featured on marketplaces, your brand typically won’t be at the forefront. Shoppers will have a smaller chance of discovering your brand and other services. An ecommerce site ensures you maintain control over your products, customer experience, and brand perception. This level of control goes a long way in cultivating brand awareness and recognition you might miss in a marketplace.
Better email marketing results
When you sell products on a marketplace—like Amazon or eBay—buyers of your products are also customers of that marketplace. However, when you have an ecommerce site, you can be confident that those customers are all yours. Use email marketing to personalize your experience, offer discounts and promotions, announce new products, drive traffic to your site, and improve sales.
Increased customer retention
Use your optimized website to encourage customer loyalty. Suggest products and services that align with their interests, ask for customer reviews, and engage your biggest fans.
8 steps to building your ecommerce website
Building an ecommerce site may seem complex and confusing, but it can be easier than you think when you follow tips and best practices. In the subsequent sections, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about building your ecommerce website, including
- Leveraging ecommerce platforms
- Buying a domain name
- Planning and building your ecommerce website
- Choosing your site’s theme
- Adding your products
- Setting up payment and shipping options
- Testing your ecommerce website
- Launching your ecommerce website
- Post-launch testing of your ecommerce website
OK, let’s get started.
1. Pick an ecommerce platform, host, and solution
When deciding on an ecommerce platform, you have three platform types with various advantages and functionalities.
Ecommerce platform types
Open source platforms
Open-source platforms are free and accessible. They're free to install and easily customizable. However, they require advanced coding knowledge. In addition, they can fall prey to security breaches. This makes them more expensive, as you may need to hire someone to maintain your site security if you decide to go this route.
SaaS, or software as a service, is a platform that runs on a subscription service. It's easy to install, security-compliant and can handle logistical transactions like payment processes. The downside of SaaS is the lack of customization. These platforms leverage built-in customization templates, which are more convenient and accessible if you're not skilled in coding. Still, if you prioritize innovation and originality, this option may limit your amount of creative control.
Headless commerce platforms
Headless commerce is when the digital storefront, or the parts of your site that customers engage with—site design, fonts, images, etc.—is separate from the back end, the pages where you hold data like customer information and orders. The benefits are that organizations have more creative control and can make customer-facing changes quickly.
Now that you have your platform, where will you store all your data? Choose your ecommerce hosting site carefully, as it’ll hold private data. When you better understand your options, you can choose the best host for your business to avoid problems such as a slow website or security vulnerabilities.
On-premise or self-hosting gives you control over your servers. Your software isn't accessible to anyone outside your network, offering increased security. This option is good for large organizations with physical servers and data centers. Suppose you're a smaller business or unwilling to bring on a dedicated IT team. In that case, this option is not ideal, as maintaining a secure, always-on network will require money, effort, and talent.
Cloud hosting is offered by headless commerce and SaaS platforms. Unlike on-premise hosting, cloud hosting is run by a third party, so your organization won't have to front the costs and demands of dealing with IT technicalities or maintaining your servers. It's more flexible and scalable, as cloud hosting can accommodate high demands, which can be more common during the holidays when ecommerce sites have more traffic and activity.
However, cloud hosting can be less secure because a third party has access to your data, putting you at risk of security breaches. Be sure to ask for their security practices and procedures beforehand.
What to consider when choosing your ecommerce solution
Ecommerce solutions—like website and mobile app builders—help ecommerce businesses thrive. To deliver the best and most seamless experience to your customers, here are a few things to consider when deciding on an ecommerce solution.
No matter what, your ecommerce platform must be secure, or customers may grow wary of entering their credit card information or other private data. If your platform isn’t secure, customers may leave for a competitor. Additionally, your organization's data must be secure. Ensure your platform supports HTTPS/SSL, a certificate ensuring the security of an ecommerce platform.
More online shoppers are relying on their mobile devices for online purchases. You may miss out on buyers if your website isn't mobile-friendly and mobile-optimized. To avoid losing potential customers, look for ecommerce platforms that optimize for phones, tablets, and watches.
Scalability and flexibility
Let's say you start your ecommerce site with few shoppers, but over time business is booming. Your platform must be scalable and ready to accommodate a rise in traffic. In the early phases, certain features aren't necessary because you likely won't utilize the services, but as your business grows, find platforms that can accommodate your increasing demand.
If you need more information on which ecommerce platform to work with, here are some of the top ecommerce platforms.
Squarespace is one of the best platforms if you prioritize creativity and customization. They offer various free and paid templates, and you can sell countless products. Their intuitive platform accepts different payment processing, such as PayPal, Apple Pay, Afterpay, and Stripe.
Shopify is easy to use regardless of how technologically advanced you are, and its themes are mobile-friendly. The more expensive the plan, the lower your transaction and credit card processing fees will be, which you might find worthwhile.
BigCommerce is scalable, so it's best for large and fast-growing organizations. They boost traffic by providing SEO and conversion tools. It offers 24/7 customer service support and multi-layered security. However, premium themes can become expensive, and plans don't include domain names.
2. Purchase a domain name
Your domain name, or URL, is your web address. It's what buyers will search to find your website, so choosing a memorable domain name is imperative for overall brand identity and recognition. Here are the best practices when purchasing and deciding on a domain name.
Make it relevant
Ensure your domain name is relevant and applicable to your products. Most commonly, it’ll be the same name as your business. This alleviates confusion, and your customers will know what you sell upfront from your domain name alone. Avoid using generic names, as these can be forgettable, and consumers could go to a similarly-named website, not yours. Make sure your domain name makes sense on social commerce channels.
Make it short and memorable
Aim for a short and catchy domain name that's 6-14 characters. A short web address helps customers remember your domain name and is easier to type. Avoid hyphens and numbers, as it’s harder for customers to share your web address, especially in conversation.
Check for trademark infringement
Before deciding on a domain name, make sure another organization doesn't have the same name or something similar trademarked. To combat this, research and use a registered trademark lookup tool.
3. Plan and build
Now that you’ve decided on a platform and a domain name, here are the components you need for the next steps.
Logo and brand imagery
Most ecommerce platforms have built-in templates to design a brand logo. If you create your logo without a template, use third-party platforms like Canva or Adobe Illustrator. Remember that your logo represents your business. Make sure your logo is recognizable and well-designed.
Detailed product descriptions
The first step to marketing your products is to let your customers know what your product is and why it's useful. Provide details like the size, weight, and material. To go a step further, add answers to frequently asked questions, use keywords in your descriptions to improve SEO, and encourage customer reviews (whether positive or negative).
Take pictures and videos of your product from different angles. Depending on the size of your business and budget, you may not have professional photography, which is fine! You can get creative and take high-quality shots on a smart device.
About us section
Curate a detailed "About Us" section, which entices people to support your organization and learn more about your story. Consider discussing the origin of your business and why you do what you do. Enhance the page with photos and videos to help show your brand's journey.
Detailed customer service pages
Great customer service entices any customer purchasing from a business. Create a customer service email or phone number, and ensure it’s easy for the consumer to find. Additionally, provide detailed shipping rates and times. Add clear return and privacy policies to boost transparency and limit customer confusion.
Contact a developer to set up your ecommerce website
The benefit of using a developer is that they will save time, so you can start selling sooner. They’re familiar with the latest technology and trends and can help you achieve your unique vision. If you decide to outsource to a developer to set up your ecommerce business, ask to view previous websites they’ve built. Early on, have conversations with your developer to ensure a unified goal for your site that you can accomplish within your budget and on your timeline.
Or, create your ecommerce website yourself if you're tech-savvy and want to create your site without the cost of a developer. If your vision is simple or flexible, and you desire complete control over the final result without the added cost, this may be the best option.
4. Pick your template
Perfecting your web design and layout is a crucial step to your ecommerce site. Although the products you sell are essential, your site should be user-friendly and pleasing to the eye, or you may lose a potential customer. Consider using templates or a content management system (CMS). Pre-made templates allow you to spin up a site to meet your needs as closely as possible. Templates don't require you to have coding or design knowledge, which is beneficial if you're new to building a site. When picking a template, here are some things to remember.
Choose templates with various customization features. Some templates allow you to change the font, image size, colors, and other sections. This array of options is ideal when changing elements to match your brand's identity.
These templates allow you to adjust the layout of your site across different screen sizes and devices. Mobile users constitute a large portion of web traffic, so it's wise not to leave them out due to an unresponsive mobile site.
Can your customers easily navigate through your website? If customers struggle to find what they want, they'll leave your site and find it elsewhere. Ensure you have a search bar, categories, and subcategories so people can easily find what they want. Smooth site navigation is critical to ensure customers leave your site satisfied and with their needs met.
5. Add your products
Product pages educate prospects and customers about what you sell and why they need it. An effective product page with stellar design and enticing explanations encourages customers to purchase products from your store.
Images portray products to customers and invite them to learn more about your product. Your image is the customer's first impression, so take high-quality images that show your product from different angles. Show your product in use to show them what it’s like.
6. Set up payment
This step can vary based on which ecommerce platform you choose. Some platforms like BigCommerce or Shopify come equipped with payment processing, tax calculations, shipping label printing, and marketing tools. However, there are other platforms where you must integrate with third-party sources to complete these tasks.
There are three types of ecommerce payment gateways to choose from. Weigh the advantages and limitations of each and how secure they maintain payment information.
Redirects take customers to another site to complete the transaction. Examples are payment platforms like PayPal and Klarna. It's a simpler process for business owners because you know your customer is processing their payment in a secure and convenient platform. However, it requires customers to do an additional step and leave the current site, which may turn people away.
Checkout on-site, payment off-site
In this gateway, you process checkout details, like your customer's name and address, then the transaction is completed off-site. Stripe is a prime example of this method. Similar to redirects, this gateway simplifies payment processing for you, but you can't control the entirety of the user experience. Ensure your site is encrypted correctly for a safe and secure transfer of information.
On-site payments happen on your site. Larger organizations use this because they process more payments and can afford to maintain a secure network.
After setting up payment processing and a gateway method, configure sales tax rates to collect from buyers. Your sales tax rate will differ depending on your state and overall sales tax volume. All ecommerce platforms support sales tax collections and allow you to apply taxes to all products and orders.
Customers want their orders delivered promptly and without hassle. To streamline the order fulfillment process, incorporate shipping software with your ecommerce platform. This integration automatically connects orders to shipping software, allowing you to select shipping methods, print labels, and notify customers when their order ships. Fine-tune your shipping settings so customers have a seamless journey from order placement to receiving their purchase.
What carriers do you intend to use to ship your customer's order? Decide if you're shipping orders for free, at a flat rate, or a variable fee. Also, determine whether or not you offer international shipping. If you don't provide it, be transparent to avoid frustrating or confusing international customers at checkout.
Decide shipping solutions
Decide if you will pack and ship orders or intend to dropship. Dropshipping is an order fulfillment method where you don't keep products in stock and sell your products to a third-party supplier. Then, they ship your products to the customer, saving you time and stress.
Email and social media marketing setup
Some ecommerce platforms, like Shopify or BigCommerce, offer built-in marketing tools to connect more with customers. Email marketing is a strategy where you create email lists to send promotions, improve user engagement, and promote sales. Meanwhile, updating your social media accounts about current and new product offerings helps expand reach and boost customer awareness.
7. Double-check and publish
Congratulations! You can finally publish your ecommerce store—but not so fast. To ensure every site element is functional and intuitive, it’s time to test your experience. The last thing you want is a broken link or button to drive users away. To ensure site success, conduct usability testing before publishing your online store. Ensure you can answer “yes” to the following questions:
- Are buttons and links functioning properly and bringing customers to the correct destination?
- Is your site mobile-friendly? What about tablets?
- Is your site showing up correctly on web browsers like Google Chrome or Firefox?
- Is the checkout process working? Check to see if you can add products, purchase products, and if you receive confirmation emails.
- Are your store's settings set up correctly? Ensure the language, time, and other features are visible.
8. Test and optimize
Now that you’ve launched your ecommerce business, test your site regularly. Issues like slow page load times or confusing navigation reduce conversions and contribute to cart abandonment. Continuously test your e-commerce site and get feedback from your customer, even if it’s unexpected or negative feedback. This is an essential step for optimizing and offering a great customer experience. With the help of a human insight platform like UserTesting, you can continuously test and optimize your website to ensure the best possible experience.
Update product entries and descriptions
Keep product entries and descriptions updated. Make updates if you're offering new products or changing current products. If you no longer sell an item, make that clear or delete the product from your site. Customers get frustrated if the product they want is sold out. Provide clear and updated descriptions of what products are and aren't in stock to ensure clarity and satisfaction for the customer.
Leverage test templates built by experts:
- Product adoption templates
- Social commerce templates
- Black Friday ecommerce templates
- Ecommerce and shopping cart experience
- Messaging comprehension templates
Check your site's performance often
If your site is running slow, people may leave, so consistently check for any issues to ensure a high and speedy performance.
Leverage test templates built by experts:
- Website evaluation templates
- Website conversion templates
- Visual design evaluation templates
- Landing page conversions templates
Ensure your digital experience feels safe
Customers may be skeptical even if you maintain a secure and reputable site by meeting security requirements. They might be reluctant to provide their personal information and buy products if your site doesn’t feel secure. Test your website with your target audience to get customer feedback and learn how they feel about the experience. See if anything is chipping away at their trust and plan to fix it.
Leverage test templates built by experts:
- Sustainability perception templates
- Inflation and customer perception templates
- Diverse and inclusive perspectives templates
- Multichannel journey templates
Compare your site to competitors
Customers will always choose the digital experience that best fits their needs. To deliver the best experience to your customer, compare your site with a competitor to examine customer reactions. During competitor evaluation, ask users to complete tasks on your and competitor’s sites to compare results. See what goes right and wrong with your online store and adapt to best practices from other sites.
Leverage test templates built by experts:
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