Practical Tips to Improve Your E-Commerce Website - Part 1 of 2

Designing and building an e-commerce site is a massive undertaking for a business seeking to expand into the digital realm. E-commerce continues to grow year by year while brick and mortar retailers are forced to continually adapt to the changing landscape of retail sales. Many consumers clearly prefer the simplicity and convenience of shopping online. Here are a few tips to help ensure your site is as welcoming and efficient as possible in attracting business.

1. Simplicity

Leonardo da Vinci once said, "Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication." Think about some of the fastest growing companies on the market. Apple and Google are two great examples. They both have a core framework with user simplicity at the base. It's all about the experience. Apple's products, website, and ad copy are all very attention getting but do not drown you in an excess of information. The same can be said for Google. You should have a clean and simple hierarchy for navigation and never overwhelm the user with too much info on any given page. Be detailed, yet concise.

2. No hidden fees. No hiccups.

These constitute one of my biggest personal pet peeves. Taxes, freight, and other such costs should never be hidden in such a way that the user cannot see them until the final phases of checkout. Do NOT require a login or other such gateway for a user to get a freight estimate on your product or service. I cannot tell you how many times I have been ready to purchase something online and noticed an additional cost that was not initially included. This does not only apply to "hidden" fees but also to companies that only offer limited shipping options. The site below is a perfect example. With UPS Ground being the only service offered, a $2.80 bolt gets an $11 shipping charge. This will dissuade almost any customer from buying small items. Only a handful are willing to "bundle" small items into an order to justify the shipping costs.

3. Breadcrumbs - Keep the user continually informed.

Let's face it. At some point we have all been overwhelmed when trying to buy something. Whether in real life or online, shopping can sometimes be a hassle. If you have an e-commerce site that deals with multiple products across various categories then leaving the user "breadcrumbs" is a great idea to help them conceptualize where they are at any given time. Amazon, Office Depot, and NewEgg are all great examples of this. Breadcrumbs serve several different purposes. They let a user backtrack easily, show hierarchy, help eliminate additional (unnecessary) clicks, provide additional help, and generally lower bounce rates.

4. Search. Sort. Streamline.

It should go without saying, but having an efficient search tool on your website is an absolute must. I have visited a handful of sites before where it took me minutes to find an item either because their search was not working properly or there was no search function at all.

Sorting options are a must too. Most e-commerce sites do a fairly good job in this regard so you are going to be behind the curve if you don't allow your user to sort products by price, attribute, brand, reviews, etc. Lastly, make sure your interface is streamlined. Users don't like having to click four times to search something on your site if it takes two clicks on a competitor's site. The easier you make things for the user, the less likely they are to bounce to a competing site. Personally, I will return as a repeat user to a site if it is easy to search, organized well, and easy to checkout on. But you can count that if your checkout process is overly complicated or difficult, I will most likely avoid your site in the future.

Head right over here for Part 2!