Ecommerce Site Design and Usability Guidelines to Gain Sales (Part 1)

While in the past I focussed on website design tips in general, this time round I’m packing in specific information on how as an ecommerce website owner you can increase your online sales by incorporating succinct navigation and usability techniques into your website’s design. Several research insights indicate that ease of navigation is crucial in enhancing user experience, leading customers to make purchases from well laid-out websites.

Clear navigation leads the way

As an astute marketer you can’t afford to lose your customer as he navigates your site to make a purchase. Reduce his burden of having to figure out what to do next by guiding him to the product he desires to purchase, in a way that is simple and easy. Else you stand the chance of losing out on a prospective customer and potential sale.

Review your website’s status quo

Before you embark on the path to helping your customer navigate your website, you must first review your website’s status quo. The best method to find out whether it is usable enough is to find a test shopper and sit besides him as he navigates your website. You will be surprised at what this test experience throws up. More often than not, you’ll discover that poor merchandizing, insufficient and inaccurate information coupled with lack of credibility prove to be deterrents in clinching the online sale.

Construct structured buy-paths

Generally, a customer has two obvious paths to follow – an optimal one that spurs him on directly to the sale. The other, a long-winding one includes several diversions and areas of interest, which may not necessarily be relevant to the customer. Naturally, the choice is to choose the optimal path. You must be aware that the optimal path too offers myriad possibilities like providing the customer with the option to purchase the product offline, straight from the manufacturer or online from a retailer or reseller. Ideally the customer has made up his mind in advance as to what product and path he’s interested in embarking upon. Thus if he is unable to find the path that interests him, he will out of sheer disgust discontinue his purchase process.
It takes time and effort to incorporate structured buy-paths into your site, but it is definitely worth the trouble. Along the buy-paths you can include short stops where the customer can browse through accessories, product information as well as compare products too. But remember to include a prominent link that leads the customer back on track to his original purchase.

Prominently placed product buttons

If your customers are unable to find your product where they want to, then there’s no way they are going to buy it. Your product buttons must be in easy view of the visitor and placed prominently on the homepage, making it amongst the first things a website visitor notices. It has been researched that placing product buttons on the upper left hand side of the page layout; contrasting it in colour or size from other links and supporting it with page layout design that guide the eyes toward the button works successfully.

Focus on product winnowing

You could own a site that offers customers a comprehensive product catalogue, which will definitely satisfy the requirements of a broad range of customers. However your website should allow product winnowing, whereby customers can narrow down the product search list to the desired item. There’s a possibility that if you offer the customer a little too many choices, you may end up confusing him and losing the sale. However, if narrow down your choice list, allowing the customer to easily find what he’s looking for, your sales could look promising
Your first link that throws up in a search on a product name should lead to a product description page to ensure optimal results. This will ensure that site visitors are within easy reach of relevant product resources, images and corollary buy paths.

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