We know; we know. You paid a lot of money for that ecommerce site, so it’s about time we stop attacking every aspect of it. Ask yourself, though: What if a few design tweaks could lead to more conversions? Don’t you want to know if your website is holding you back?
Before we dig right in, let’s talk about the companies that manage to do what you’re not supposed to do and still become mega-successful ecommerce businesses. When you read the following mistakes, one of the big boys will probably jump into your brain. All we can say is, they do a lot of other stuff right. Before you point fingers at Amazon or Wal-Mart, remind yourself why you still shop there. Then you’ll know why they still succeed in spite of their web design.
Too Much Photo, Not Enough Text
When you rely on the pictures to tell the story, you’re only reaching a small percentage of your audience. Believe it or not, most people actually want the text; they rely on it to make their decisions. In fact, many of the images on your website may be completely ignored.
The details included for each product are the most important text you’ll write. This is where you give all the information about the items, giving buyers the knowledge they need to make informed decisions. This is especially important if you sell several similar products. Take a look at the example below to see what we mean.
At first glance, every item looks the same. Even the text provided doesn’t help too much, does it? A buyer would need to know exactly what the product is by sight, and then understand how the product descriptions differentiated each.
Too Many Choices
Here is where Amazon probably comes to mind. After all, even the home page of the website shows everything from cooking utensils to romance novels, and yoga pants to drill bits. Every rule needs an exception, and these guys are it.
For your own ecommerce site, you need to understand that too many choices will essentially paralyze your buyers. We already mentioned how a larger number of products from which to choose can create stress for the buyers. Now, apply that same principle to the number of items shown on one page.
To make matters worse, these products may match one over-arching category but still present too many differences. For instance, take a look at the product page for jeans from Hot Topic below. Skinny jeans, denim shorts, and even skirts show up for one search.
Then see how Torrid fixed the problem. One filter, beautifully designed, at the top of the page, lets buyers narrow down the search. Instead of scrolling through dozens of items that don’t fit their needs, users can instead drill right down to the products they love.
Too Many Websites
This is a strange situation that crops up when an established company starts an ecommerce division. For instance, if a brick-and-mortar accessories store already had a website but wanted to expand to online sales, they may instead have had a dedicated ecommerce site created instead of expanding their current website.
Let’s take a look at the same situation with a larger company: Thermos. A quick search for travel mugs easily brings up results for Thermos and directs buyers to Thermos.com, as you can see in the example below.
The Thermos website looks and feels just like an ecommerce site, with images, menus, and product descriptions. Then, a little link in the corner says “Shop.” You click that link and are taken to a whole new site.
ShopThermos.com is the actual site for ordering products online. This means if you find what you want on Thermos.com, try to buy it by clicking “Shop,” you’ll have to search all over again on the second website. Buyers probably won’t stick around that long.
We could probably beat bad design to death, but for ecommerce purposes, these are three of the biggest no-nos. If you have any other thoughts, we’d love to hear them, so leave a comment!
Originally published May 21, 2014 10:00:00 AM, updated January 18 2023