How Fixing Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes Can Increase Sales

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Learn how to avoid and fix common mistakes many online retailers make every day and provide a better online shopping experience.

Why You Need to Fix Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes

We work with many e-commerce clients, and we noticed a consistent if somewhat alarming trend. Many businesses think they simply need to throw up an e-commerce website, add products and pricing, and start selling. In reality, there are many things that go into building and maintaining an e-commerce store. Today I want to focus on common e-commerce design mistakes and how to fix them!

Selling online can open up substantial new markets for many businesses. When your store can be open 24/7, and you can reach a global market without the costs of mailings and call centers, it can be a massive boon to your business. But there are plenty of things to consider when designing an e-commerce site. It’s not as simple as throwing up some shopping cart software and plopping products into a database.

There are tons of common e-commerce design mistakes that online retailers make every day, all of them avoidable with a little careful planning. And even if you’re already committing some of these mistakes, most of them are easy enough to fix. Eliminating them will significantly improve the e-commerce user experience of your customers.

Put Yourself in Your Consumers’ Place

Imagine you visit a mall. The first retailer bombards you with pushy sales promotions the moment you enter, so you leave. At the second store, you are entirely ignored, with the same results. Your online store works the same way. Don’t be overly “salesy” or pushy; your visitors will go elsewhere. Instead, focus on providing guidance and answering questions from potential consumers as required.

Below are 15 of the most common e-commerce design mistakes that many online retailers make, as well as advice on how to avoid or fix them. Take the information under consideration before embarking on a new e-commerce project or when thinking over your current e-commerce site and make efforts to follow the recommendations outlined here.

15 Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes

1. No Detailed Product Information

When you’re shopping in a brick-and-mortar store, you have the advantage of being able to pick up an item, feel it, look at it from every angle, and read any information on the packaging or labels. Shopping online removes that interaction. E-commerce sites need to do the best they can to improve upon the in-store shopping experience.

How often have we gone to an online store and found their descriptions to be completely lacking? If a customer is left wondering about specifics of a product, they’re more likely to look for information elsewhere. And unless your site’s price is significantly lower than your competitors’, they’ll likely just buy from the other website.

What to Do About It

Provide as much product information as you can. Sizes, materials, weight, dimensions, and any other pertinent information depending on what the product is. For example, in an online clothing store, you might include the fabric type, sizes and colors available, a size chart (usually linked from multiple products), the weight or thickness of the item, the cut and fit of the item, care instructions, and comments about the brand or designer. Using descriptive words rather than merely technical terms can have a significant impact on the consumer.

2. Hiding Contact Information

Consumers want to know that they’re dealing with a real company when they hand over their credit card information. Consumers want to know that if they have a problem, they’ll be able to talk to a real person and get the help they need. If your site doesn’t provide any contact information or hides it so the consumer can’t find it quickly, they’re less likely to trust your site, and therefore less likely to do business with you.

What to Do About It

Put your contact information in an easy-to-find place on every page of your website. The most obvious places to put your contact information are in your header, the top of your sidebar, or in your footer. Provide multiple means of contact, if possible. A contact form, email address, phone number, and mailing address all add to the level of customer trust. Remember, too, that the more expensive or technical the product you’re selling, the more likely a consumer is going to want more contact information.

3. A Frustrating Checkout Process

A lengthy or complicated checkout process is one of the most damaging mistakes an e-commerce site can make. You have to make it as easy as possible for your customers to hand over their credit card information and complete their order. The more steps you put between them placing an item in their cart and paying for it, the more opportunities you give them to leave your site without completing their purchase.

The ideal checkout process includes a single page for consumers to check their order and enter their billing and shipping information and a confirmation page before they submit their request. Anything more than that is only an obstacle to completing the checkout process.

What to Do About It

Follow the ideal model as carefully as you can. If you have to include other pages, try to make them as quick and easy to fill out as possible. Combine pages if you can, and use two-column layouts for individual sections (like putting billing and shipping information next to each other) to make pages appear shorter.

4. Requiring an Account to Order

This ties in directly to the previous item. If you require a customer to sign up for an account before they can place an order, it’s another obstacle you’ve put in their path. Which is more important to you: getting the order or capturing customer information? Remember that the second option may mean losing some customers.

What to Do About It

There’s an easy fix for this. Instead of requiring a customer to sign up for an account before they order, offer them the option at the end of their ordering process. Allow them to save their account information to make placing future orders easier or to track the status of their current order. Many customers will opt to keep their data, and you won’t be driving away customers before they’ve completed their order.

5. An Inadequate Site Search Engine

If a customer knows what they’re looking for, many will opt to use a search engine instead of sifting through categories and filters. You need to make sure that the search feature on your site works well, and preferably has filters for letting customers refine their results.

How often have you searched for a product on a large e-commerce site and been returned with hundreds of relevant results? While the variety of options can be helpful, if half of those results are nothing like what you’re looking for, it’s more an inconvenience than anything else. Including a way for customers to filter their search results by category or feature eliminates this problem.

What to Do About It

Make sure the e-commerce software you’re using has an excellent built-in search engine, or look for plugins to extend its functionality. Ideally, an e-commerce search engine should let users search by keyword and then refine results based on the categories your site includes. Let users sort their search results based on standard criteria (most popular, highest or lowest price, or newest item) as well as eliminating products that don’t fit within a specific category.

6. Poor Customer Service Options

This is similar to the hiding contact information bit above. You need to make it easy for customers to get in touch with you if they have a problem or question. Make it clear what the best way to contact you is if they have a technical issue, a sales question, or they want to return an item. Offering a help request form for customers to fill out can instill more confidence than just an email address.

What to Do About It

Use a ticketing system for customer service inquiries, especially if you don’t have a phone number available. Make sure that you post a FAQ that covers common questions customers might have, like what your return policy is or what to do if they need to order parts or replacement items.

7. Tiny Product Images

Since consumers can’t physically handle the products you’re selling before placing an order on your website, you need to do as much as you can to recreate and improve upon that experience. Small product images don’t effectively do this.

What to Do About It

Either provide large images right on the product page or allow users to click on an image to zoom in. You want users to be able to view the image as big as is practical on an average monitor, meaning an image that enlarges to 1920×1200 pixels is a good start. Be sure to optimize your product images for smaller screen sizes and maximum page load speed.

8. Only One Product Image

Unless your product is delivered digitally (and even sometimes if it is), you’ll want to provide multiple images from different angles. Show your product in each available color, from the front, back, and sides and even detailed shots of specific features can all go a long way toward making a consumer more likely to buy from you.

What to Do About It

This one’s simple: include more images. Four or five pictures of each product are ideal, offering enough views to allow a consumer to feel comfortable that they know what they’re buying.

9. A Poor Shopping Cart Design

Your shopping cart is an incredibly important part of your e-commerce website. It needs to allow users to add multiple products, to revise the quantities or other options about those products, and it needs to remain transparent at the same time. Not exactly the easiest thing to do, right?

What to Do About It

Make sure your cart lets a user add an item and then return to the last page they were on. Even better: allow them to add an item to their cart without ever leaving the page they’re on (by using a mini cart). Let your customers edit the quantities of items in their cart or remove an item from their cart. And let them preview what shipping charges will be before they start the checkout process.

10. Lack of Payment Options

There are plenty of sites out there that only allow users to pay with Visa or MasterCard, or to only pay with a PayPal account. There’s no reason for this anymore. What about the person who has an AmEx and doesn’t have or want a PayPal account? What about the person who doesn’t have a credit card and wants to pay straight from their bank account? You need to provide as many payment solutions as it is practical to optimize the number of orders you get.

What to Do About It

Use a payment service that lets customers pay with each major credit card, and preferably also with an electronic check. Adding Stripe, Square, or PayPal checkout options increases the choices your customers have, making them more likely to purchase from you. Considering different consumers have different preferences when it comes to making online payments, catering to as many as you can means you’ve expanded your customer base.

11. Not Including Related Products

You’ve probably noticed when you go to a brick and mortar store that they group similar products, or otherwise make it easy for you to find products that are related to you. They’ll put a battery display in the electronics section, or include cell phone cases near the cell phones. The same can be done on your website and can increase add-on sales for your business.

What to Do About It

Use an e-commerce platform that lets you include related products on product description pages. A platform that will allow you manually choose associated products can also give you a significant advantage since you may see relations that a software program doesn’t (such as coordinating clothing pieces to create an outfit).

12. Confusing Navigation

There’s nothing worse than trying to find a product on a site with confusing navigation. Even worse is an online store that doesn’t use categories or otherwise separate their merchandise to make it easier to find a specific type of product. The same goes for sites that have categories with no products in them or with only one or two items. Why even bother with a category?

What to Do About It

Think through your categories and navigation elements carefully before you start putting products in your catalog. Make sure that every category has at least a few products in it, or else group smaller categories (or include them in more extensive, similar categories). Make it easy for customers to look through different categories, get to their shopping cart, and otherwise move around your site.

13. Not Including Shipping Rates

There’s no good reason not to include accurate shipping rates on your site. I’ve abandoned purchases on numerous occasions because it said something like, “We’ll email you with an accurate shipping quote for approval before processing your order.” When shopping online, I want to be able to complete my order all at one time, without having to wait around for an email to decide whether the shipping charges are too high. Include your rates on your site, no matter what.

What to Do About It

Most major shipping companies and the USPS offer shipping calculators on their website, and there are plugins or widgets available for most major shopping cart systems to figure shipping charges on your site. Use one. If you can’t use one for some reason, then use a flat shipping rate that’s high enough to cover whatever it is you need to ship. For particularly heavy or large items, you can always include a freight surcharge in the price (just be sure to indicate that’s where the additional cost is going).

14. Not Including Store Policies

Before a customer buys from you, they’ll likely want to know what your shipping policies, return policies, and other store rules are. And there’s no reason not to post this information in an FAQ or somewhere else on your site. Making your store policies clear upfront can save many headaches later on from customers who are unhappy with an order they’ve placed.

What to Do About It

Use an FAQ or store policies section on your site to spell out exactly what your rules are for different kinds of customer interaction. It’s something that can save you tons of problems down the road.

15. Not Putting Focus on the Products

The goal of an e-commerce site is to sell products (or, at least, that’s what the goal should be). If your site puts more focus on bells and whistles or the design itself, it’s not achieving that primary goal. Make sure your site displays your products first and everything else second.

What to Do About It

Think about how brick and mortar stores display products. While an in-store or window display may show a lot more than just the products for sale, they all contribute to showcasing the products in their most flattering light. Do the same with your website. Make sure that every design element present is doing something to showcase your products in their best possible light.

Fixing Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes

Fixing or avoiding these common e-commerce design mistakes is essential if you want to provide the best possible online shopping experience. Just think of how you react in a brick-and-mortar store. If the sales staff ignores you, or if products are pushed on you the moment you enter the store, you are likely to turn around and leave. Attentive staff that answers your questions and addresses your concerns will turn you into a loyal customer.

Therefore, you have to optimize your online store for sales. Make sure your e-commerce site is mobile-first, easy to use and navigate, and that your pages load within three seconds on all devices. Post contact information prominently on your website and offer a smooth checkout process. Make sure product pages link to relevant buyer’s guides to optimize conversions and to answer all consumer questions.

Avoiding or fixing these common e-commerce design mistakes will help you provide the user experience sophisticated and demanding consumers expect in 2020. It helps direct online shoppers to the intended products and resources. Even more important, it will connect them to the real people and stories behind your online store. We are here to help!

Need Help Fixing Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes?

E-commerce stores can be very complicated, especially if you have a lot of different products and categories. Having a substantial online store can make fixing common e-commerce design mistakes a daunting task for many online retailers. Here is an idea for you; why not let our team help you with that?

We are a top e-commerce development company, and experts at carefully crafting custom mobile-first websites and e-commerce solutions to meet (almost) any budget. We can also help you with search engine optimization, and host and maintain your e-commerce store for you. Why not get started by requesting your free estimate?

Our team will listen to your concerns, analyze any problems and obstacles that stand between your audience and your e-commerce website, and how to overcome them. That way, you can focus on running and growing your online business. Does that sound good to you? Then why not contact us now?

Do You Eliminate Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes?

Did you make any of these common e-commerce design mistakes? How did you fix them? Do you have any other e-commerce errors or shortcomings? Please share them with our audience in the comments. Don’t forget to grab our feed so you don’t miss any updates. And help any e-commerce business owners among your friends and associates by sharing this post with them.

Thank you! We appreciate your help to end bad business websites, one pixel at a time!

By Gregor Schmidt
Co-Founder / CXO