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Ecommerce Website Design Best Practices and Examples – Forbes Advisor

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Creating the optimal ecommerce website design and user experience (UX) can be challenging. Great UX combines multiple design options for website information architecture, site-wide navigation, and custom page layouts. Every decision can change the sales opportunity – in one way or another.

With razor-thin profit margins, ecommerce companies can’t afford to make bad design decisions. Learn what design best practices other retailers are using to be successful with this list of ecommerce website design examples.

1. Use Hero product photos on the home page

Ecommerce website design best practices and examples


Crisp, high-resolution product images on the homepage immediately grab the attention of consumers. Because our brain processes visual information faster than written text, Hero product shots also help new visitors understand your core value proposition and become excited about your offerings.

Even stranger, the Baymard Institute found that buyers are more forgiving of technical glitches in ecommerce site performance when they include vivid images. You can use a standalone hero image if you’re selling a core product like Cricut. Or create a carousel that highlights merchandise in different categories. Update your carousel regularly to inspire returning shoppers with new arrivals and seasonal offers.

2. Help users find what they need on the home page

Ecommerce website design best practices and examples

Verve coffee roaster

A hero image of your “signature” product on the homepage is a good UX practice. But what else should you have on your shop homepage? Feature popular product subcategories on subsequent screens to direct users to other areas of your site.

By highlighting different categories on the home page, buyers can jump straight to more relevant sections of the site without having to rely on the site’s main navigation or search functionality. Minimizing the steps in the purchase path is one of the most popular conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategies for ecommerce websites.

Verve Coffee Roasters is gradually revealing its complete inventory on the homepage. On each new screen, the coffee e-tailer features the latest coffee blends, seasonal summer deals, and then classic coffee blend categories.

3. Provide preview for visual products

Ecommerce website design best practices and examples

Neiman Markus

Enhance your visual merchandising by adding a “quick preview” option for results displayed on product category pages. When browsing an online store, many shoppers might be wary when visiting a product listing as it would slow down their research process. Forcing them to open multiple tabs or switch back and forth between product listings and individual product pages also creates frustration, especially for mobile users.

A “Quick Preview” feature allows users to remain on the main product listing page while quickly reviewing multiple products before finalizing their selection. This design technique works particularly well for visually-oriented products such as clothing, accessories, jewelry, and furniture.

4. Create a convenient content taxonomy

Ecommerce website design best practices and examples


Merchants with larger product catalogs need to focus more on website taxonomy. The site taxonomy is a logical structure that you create to group different pages into categories to help users navigate between pages.

Divide your product catalog into appropriate categories and subcategories. Your goal is to create a series of mutually exclusive category sections so that the same product isn’t listed multiple times under the same category or subcategory. IKEA solves this by organizing all products into descriptive categories and subcategories.

If you direct users to category sections that are too narrow, users may underestimate the size and variety of your inventory. On the other hand, if there is too much choice within a category, the buyers will be overwhelmed. Also, avoid flat top categories: textual descriptions that don’t lead to a corresponding sub-page. This way you waste valuable virtual space within the limited navigation menu.

5. Design compact hover-based drop-down header menus

Ecommerce website design best practices and examples


Huge header menus cover the screen and hide information on the viewed page. Since many shoppers can inadvertently trigger the drop-down header menu area (especially on mobile), it’s best to keep it visually compact, as Casper does. Additionally, it’s a good UX practice for ecommerce sites to program a hover delay – a minimum amount of time the user must hover over the header area before the drop-down menu appears.

A delay of 300 to 500 milliseconds is optimal to prevent “flickering” behavior and accidental menu activation. The best ecommerce websites also use intelligent mouse path algorithms to analyze users’ cursor movements and predict intended actions. This is another way to prevent accidental triggering of menus or other hover website elements.

6. Minimize form fields on checkout page

Ecommerce website design best practices and examples


The average fill rate of checkout forms on ecommerce sites is 46.4%. If you lose more customers at this stage, reduce the number of form fields and checkout steps required. The average checkout process is over five steps long and has 11.8 form fields.

However, many e-commerce websites make do with a total of eight form fields. Request only essential information for delivery and payment. Delay account creation or loyalty program subscription to the next screen or a separate step after purchase.

You can initiate account creation at any time in the subsequent order confirmation email. At this point, the user is excited to complete the purchase and is therefore more likely to complete account registration or enroll in your loyalty program.

7. Display product reviews and ratings

Ecommerce website design best practices and examples


Buyers usually rely on verified product reviews when making their purchase decisions. Statistically, a product with five reviews is 270% more likely to sell than a product with no reviews. If your goal is to maximize your conversion rates, design a scoring range. A good practice is to display a numeric rating next to each product, like NIOD does—then set the bottom of the product listing page for detailed customer ratings.

You can also design a standardized product review form with writing prompts to get more product reviews. For example, offer a drop-down list of choices based on age, product size, preferred fit, or any other rating criteria that your buyers consider important. A template reduces the cognitive load a person experiences when seeing a blank page. It also helps get more valuable feedback and more accurate ratings.

8. Minimize on-site pop-ups

Ecommerce website design best practices and examples


Most of the time, pop-ups are found annoying and disturbing, especially when they are automatically programmed to appear within a few seconds of visiting the page. Instead of highlighting important information like a discount code, feedback form, or live chat support as a self-activated popup, design them as static, sticky UI elements.

Purple added a sticky bar above the header menu for current promotions, and hid “Chat” and “Feedback” behind buttons in fringe zones. All of this information stays within easy reach of consumers, but doesn’t distract them from sifting through the available inventory.

9. Create a prominent search bar and keep it visible

Ecommerce website design best practices and examples


Website visitors use “seek’ as a fallback strategy if they get stuck navigating or want to find specific products or pages quickly. Similar to the main website navigation, the search bar needs to be clearly visible.

Wayfair intelligently uses a sticky search bar to help shoppers navigate its vast catalog of products. It remains visible as users continue to scroll through product listings. You can also make your search bar stand out by using bolder borders, contrasting background colors, or different fonts.

10. Integrate search auto-complete

Ecommerce website design best practices and examples


Search plays an important role in customer interactions. Still, typically one in ten web searches is misspelled — and typos are common on ecommerce sites. Auto-complete searches can help minimize the impact of minor typos on product discovery.

However, many e-commerce sites do not support auto-spelling suggestions or return relevant product results for misspelled search queries. This is an oversight, as the on-site search auto-complete feature can help retailers boost conversion rates by a significant notch.

On Amazon, the conversion rate for shoppers who use search on the site is 12.29% versus 2.17% for those who don’t use search. That’s 6x higher conversion rates and additional revenue.

11. Offer direct access to products in inspirational images

Ecommerce website design best practices and examples


Lifestyle and inspirational graphics help shoppers better visualize the products in real environments. A catalog-like product presentation also offers an excellent opportunity for upsells. You can offer users to shop the entire “Room”, “Look” or “Routine” and thus improve your average order value (AOV).

However, it can be daunting to find the products pictured or to purchase the entire look if you don’t provide a clear path to selecting the products on display. Over 90% of the most successful ecommerce websites now include links to products shown in inspirational images. An alternative option is to curate the suggested range in a carousel view under the lifestyle shot.

bottom line

The goal of your ecommerce website design is to transform a casual browser into a loyal brand shopper.

To achieve this, test different strategies to improve site navigation, checkout, product presentation, and overall customer support. UX design is a constantly evolving field. Develop new assumptions and design hypotheses, then test them on your website to develop a new “best practice” for your brand.

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