The purpose of an online store or shopping site, or what is actually an e-commerce website, is to have an online presence to attract visitors and achieve conversion to realise sale/revenue. Unfortunately with the proliferation of a lot of similar ecommerce software websites anyone’s task of setting up the online store has become more competitive as days add up. You should be able to deliver the goods better than others by providing a better user experience, if you wish to grow and profit.
Here are some tips and perspectives that could really help you to create a well-designed, good looking and User-friendly e-commerce site. There are two parts to building this kind of a website.
Front-end is the Graphical User Interface (GUI) aspect of the front page and following pages that are viewed by any user.
The back-end is the software that that runs behind it and applications that enhance the online experience. This is also your infrastructure in cyberspace.
Design and Visual Aspects
You may hire a web designer or just buy a template and customise it to set up an attractive front page with good UI to support the interaction with customers. Even the choice of colours should be in consonant with factors like the products displayed, the brand image, corporate colours, clarity of the page, etc.
To make things interesting the use of animated Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) or flash on the page could be considered, mainly to introduce an element of fun and energy to improve the shopping experience of a visitor, although it may not help in search engine cognisance which is more text oriented. Generally an uncluttered simple design and layout will help. The website may be enhanced using or adding multi-lingual options for the visitor, depending on the market and geographical factors. Check on the browser compatibility of the site. Give the potential customer a choice to sort and choose according to his preference when shopping. An online store needs not much of reading text, but should have just text that would help the visitor understand the product. Wish List and Gift Certificate are two features helping sites in sales conversion during the holiday season; so make sure that these features are included.
So, here are some tips:
- Make the fonts easy to read with good spacing and break text areas with good photographs.
- Avoid types in caps and bold fonts and the text running across the page.
- Use for the front page and important pages, uncluttered alignment and standard size compatible with any browser.
- Avoid blinking animation and text that could be distracting.
- Do not use meaningless or flashy graphics and large files that load slowly.
- Use background colours that help the text and page.
- Design and colours should not overpower the product or service.
- Navigation buttons should be clear, easily understood and easy to use. Use creative text and friendly colours.
- Segment the site and personalise further when needed.
Selecting suitable E-commerce Solution
There are a great many online shopping solutions or e-commerce software available. One can choose from free or open source solutions or from pre-hosted and paid solutions. There are also e-commerce modules that can extend your CMS (Content Management System) to be an e-commerce website.
Some of Free & Open Source solutions include:
- Zen Cart
Some of Paid and Pre-hosted solutions include:
- Foxy Cart
Some of E-Commerce modules include:
- Ubercart (Drupal)
- WP e-commerce (WP)
- Virtue Mart (Joomla)
Other popular Open Source e-commerce software includes:
- Alegro Cart
- Tomato Cart
Remember to choose a fast and reliable server from a hosting Company. Check out for pricing and get a competitive quote. An e-commerce website hosted online must be reliably accessible, without saying. Ensure SSL technology is used by the server and client side. Encryption ensures a safer environment. Visitors to the site share user-name and password and also payment information besides other personal data, so there must be trust and security in interactions and transactions in an e-commerce site.
Mobile devices are gaining in popularity and population, so adapting your e-commerce website or an accessible version to this device must be in consideration, even when building the site. Consumers globally, are increasingly purchasing using their iPhones, iPads and Droids. You can promote your site by developing an application or a game suitable for such mobile devices.
No business transaction is complete without a payment. An e-commerce website is primarily to make profits or earn revenue. A variety of payment merchant vendors available with specialised service to help e-commerce are
- Authorize AIM / SIM
- Protx (VPS Form)
- Print Order Form
- PayPal Standard & IPN
- Nochex (Basic & APC)
- Linkpoint Connect
- HSBC (API)
- PayPal Express Checkout
- PayPal Pro Direct Payment (US)
- WorldPay Junior
A membership based e-commerce site should be having its transaction secured and safeguarded against criminal intent and forms of phishing. Complying with Data Security Standard (DSS) and hosting on a Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant environment is greatly advisable for card based payment models. Another model that can be used is the “Cash on Delivery” system which collects payment from the buyer on delivery of the product that’s ordered online.
Shopping Cart software & Services
Most of the e-commerce solutions offer the shopping cart application already integrated into the package. The shopping cart or basket is critical to the success of the online store. This cart will add the products, total the sale amount and add the taxes in an automated fashion. Yet there are options available. Open source software is also available. Some of the shopping cart companies that offer many services are Merchant America, Microsoft Commerce Manager, Yahoo Merchant Solutions, eBay Stores, Pinnacle Cart, Miva Merchant and ProStores.
Regarding Customer Care Services
Customer care services can be outsourced for your business or can be developed in-house as per your requirements. Many BPO companies offer their services in this area, be it through chat, e-mail or voice over the internet or phone. But a good service is essential to build trust and quality. Developing an in-house Customer Care Service department could be expensive but helps the company greatly. Consider all cost repercussions against reputation and trust. For an online shopping site this is a very crucial function/factor.
Regarding- Shipping Modules / Delivery System / Returns
Here too most e-commerce solutions will have an integrated module available, as this is a crucial feature to complete any business transaction. A good Return policy and methodology will be helpful in the long run. Choose your Delivery Service with care, unless of course if you have the proper and reliable infrastructure yourselves. Mail or Postal service, Delivery Service and Couriers are the usual choice.
Split Test the Website
A split-test (A/B testing) of your website can help decide on the better design that will yield more conversion. For example, an e-commerce website has home page developed for any special offer, free samples, freebies or seasonal benefits like Christmas Sale and split-test to understand the better design option. You can also practice other Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) techniques to further increase your conversion