Starting an online store is a lot more than just standing up a site that sells things. Just like a brick and mortar shop, there are many functional and aesthetic considerations that make purchasing an attractive idea.
When creating your eCommerce storefront, it is important to think about how your ideal customers will be interacting with it. Enter UX (or user experience, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing). As the name suggests, it is all about thinking of the user’s experience of your site.
So, let’s just get into it. These are the top UX tips for improving your eCommerce store.
Make your product easy to find and easy to buy
The number one rule of selling things—make purchasing easy.
From searching for a particular product to perusing a category, removing obstacles from the process is key to driving users to conversion.
For shoppers that know exactly what they want, a robust site search function is a must. While a lot of eCommerce platforms come with this functionality built-in, you want to make sure that it doesn’t get hung up on little syntactical variations and misspellings.
Find a great site search plugin or have a great development company customize a solution. It will be worth the investment. Visitors can then easily find exactly what they want and buy it.
The navigation menu is one of the first things that a user looks at to get acquainted with a website. When someone knows generally what they want, they can shop around by category to narrow their search to the specific.
Clear navigation menus can deliver users from the homepage to exactly where they need to be in the least amount of clicks. Fewer clicks mean less frustration and more sales. Include the most important things in the navigation menu for easy locating. Leave the less important links to the footer.
The structure and naming of categories are also important. Again, clarity reigns. Too many categories will confuse your audience. Too few will have them digging through page after page of somewhat related products.
Create clear hierarchies that can push shoppers closer to the products they want. Breadcrumbs help keep this hierarchical system easy to navigate too. Just as a brick and mortar store will have clear signs and sections for each type of product, so should your store.
For example—Men > Tops > Button-ups. See? Easy.
Know your audience
If you don’t know who you are selling to, how can you be effective? Taking the time to identify who your ideal customer is can help drive the rest of your UX strategy. Enter personas.
These are your archetypal customers. By laying out each sort of person you expect to frequent your brand, you can understand how best to target them. Who makes up your audience decides how you construct your site to serve them.
Persona breakdowns include gender, age, economics, device preference, etc. With a clear understanding of these audience factors, your site can serve your customers in the best way possible.
Function above all else
Fancy and fun is nice, but if it isn’t functional, forget it. While great design is important for grabbing attention, superfluous features like parallax scrolling and image carousels only serve as distractions to the shopping experience.
What a shopper wants above all else when they have found a site is that the site is easy to use. The thing they are interested in is the product, and the product is not your site. The site exists to highlight the awesome things you sell.
Form without function is art, not eCommerce.
Product photos matter
What do your customers want to see? Your products. Don’t skimp on making them look great.
The rest of a site can be beautiful but if the product isn’t looking its best, customers won’t be engaged to buy. As was mentioned in the last section, great design is important as long as it serves to highlight the product.
If possible, have multiple photos available so the customer has the opportunity to really visualize it in their home, at the office, or on their person. We are visual creatures and decisions are often made, in part, with our eyes.
Mobile on the rise
As our phones have gotten more and more advanced, an ever-expanding percentage of sales have occurred on them. On buses and trains and runways and at home, people are increasingly using their mobile phones to make purchases.
Google has gone as far as to consider a site’s mobile version as its main site with regard to search indexing and visibility.
So, obviously, your site should be properly optimized to best serve this ever-rising contingent of customer. Make your site mobile-friendly and mobile responsive ASAP or else lose a significant revenue source. This is most important in menu navigation and easy checkout.
A brand has a unitary voice and style. This develops a unique and consistent experience for the customer. Every brand should create a style guide and abide by it.
When visiting a site, shoppers expect a consistent experience from page to page, from homepage to product pages to cart and eventually check-out. Be certain that you are providing an experience that is clean and consistent throughout.
The reason that you enjoy running your shop is that it reflects your own passion and personality. Create a brand and experience that follows through with who you are and who you aim to serve.
Your passion will extend out to the user’s overall experience of your site, engaging them to continue a relationship with your brand. Because, ultimately, you are fostering a relationship.
Obviously, UX is a big deal for your business. No time like the present to start improving your users’ experiences. Make them want to come back!
Sean Flannigan is the Digital Marketing Specialist at coolblueweb. coolblueweb is an eCommerce web development company based in Seattle, WA. Sean delivers SEO improvements to online stores large and small.