By Vishal P. Rao
Designing an E-commerce Web site is not as simple as having
a "pretty" site that is a pleasure to visit. While it is
important to have an attractive site, as much thought must
be given to functionality as to appearance.
Many Web designers seem to focus more on appearance than
functionality, and while an attractive site is helpful,
visitors that become frustrated by the inability of a site
to function well, will leave almost immediately, never to
Just as important in designing an e-commerce-style Web site,
is a somewhat basic knowledge of Web site design, with some
simple design skills included. While a thorough knowledge of
design and functionality is not important, designing an
e-commerce site does have some requirements, or else you'll
always find yourself going back relentlessly and changing
the features and functionality in a vain effort to stay
abreast of your site visitor's needs.
E-commerce sites need to focus on some main areas of
functionality in order to ensure maximum sales:
1. Load time, page size, and navigability. Slowly loading
pages, overly large or small pages, and difficult navigation
will only frustrate visitors. Visitors should never have to
"wait" for a page to load, should never have to scroll back
and forth in order to read a page, nor should they have to
"search" relentlessly for the information they want in order
to purchase. Clean, simple lines, with fast loading, well
laid out pages, make the most sales.
Here's a great service to check your Web site load time:
This one actually pings your Web site from different
locations worldwide and returns the average load time for
your site, instead of simply returning a theoretical value
based on the size of your Web page.
2. Less use of graphics. While graphics are pleasant and
intriguing, they don't necessarily achieve more sales. The
opposite may be true if too many graphics are used. A page
that is graphics heavy loads more slowly and the graphics
themselves may take the visitors' minds off the main purpose
of the site, i. e. "sales". If graphics are used at all,
they should be optimized for Web placement, and reduced to
the smallest size possible for viewing. Most graphics can
easily be reduced by approximately twenty percent without
affecting the quality of the graphics.
Here's a neat tool for optimizing your Web site graphics if
you are not very familiar with graphics software:
3. The use of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). CSS effectively
eliminates the need of entering repetitive tags like FONT,
reducing your page size significantly. Such tags can consume
up to 5-7% of your page size. Imagine how much bandwidth
you'll save if your Web site has more than 100 pages!
4. Breaking the site up into smaller tables as opposed to
enclosing the entire body of a site in one large table. This
technique enables the page to load in progression rather
than make your visitor stare at a blank screen until the
page is fully loaded. This is an often overlooked aspect.
5. Use of sitemaps. Sitemaps not only increase rankings and
placement within the Search Engines, they effectively give
visitors a "guide" by which to view the site, and eliminate
confusion on larger sites, such as e-commerce sites. A site
map is what its name implies, a road map for your visitors
to follow while they are on your site. It's also a road map
for the Search Engines, so a site map serves two very
important purposes on an e-commerce site.
6. Content that is keyword rich and well-written will aid in
placement within the Search Engines, and keep visitors on a
site long enough to purchase. Horribly written sites drive
visitors away, while the lack of keywords negatively affects
placement and rankings. The writing on any site is the FIRST
IMPRESSION potential customers have of you and your products
or services, so paying strict attention to the content
usually engenders additional sales.
7. Keyword rich title tags will increase traffic overall,
and more traffic, of course, means more sales. Title tags
help with placement and rankings. Appropriate keywords
should also be used for linking internal pages, as this also
helps with rankings. Since e-commerce sites are for the most
part, larger than personal pages, or other types of sites,
the internal linking does lead to more effective initial
indexing by the Search Engines also. Care should also be
given to the "alt" tags that surround all pictures of
products, as non-optimized "alt" tags can lead to poor
rankings and placement.
8. E-commerce databases and purchasing procedures that are
user friendly. Nothing is more frustrating to future buyers
than databases or purchase procedures, that are difficult to
use, or that keep going down throughout the process of
purchase. A database and purchase procedure, should be easy
to use, yet reliable enough to prevent lost sales, or lost
monies from sales.
9. A security feature that ensures visitors that personal
information is "safe and secure" within the confines of the
Web site and that reassures them that their personal
information will not be shared nor sold. This is a major
concern of online visitors, as the Web is such an
"anonymous" type of medium, so any "assurances" as to safety
and security will benefit sales.
10. A thank-you page that is presented immediately upon
ordering. This ensures "return purchases" as being courteous
and polite is always in style and does leave an overall good
impression on visitors!
All in all, an e-commerce Web site is significantly
different than a personal Home page, or pages of a
non-profit organization. The focus of the design and
navigation, as well as all other aspects need to focus on
the primary purpose of the site, and that of course, is the
Vishal P. Rao is the editor of http://www.home-based-business-opportunities.com - A website
dedicated to opportunities, ideas and resources for starting
a home based business. He is also the owner of the http://www.work-at-home-forum.com - an online community of
folks who work at home.