What makes a good ecommerce website?

What makes a good ecommerce website?

26th May 2016

Designing and developing for the web is constantly an ever changing world. From keeping up with the latest tools and software to making sure that you’re up to date with the most recent web trends, no matter what the design solution, the underlying principal that dictates all web design, is the user. From how they use your design to what device they’ll use it from can all depend on whether your brand will be successful or not. So it’s understandable that there’s a whole psychology and an ever changing psyche when users are concerned and that’s convention.

As users we all appreciate a likeness, a relation to our own situation, whether consciously or not, we follow certain procedures in all parts of our daily routines. This could be the route we decide to take to work in the morning or the products we choose on our weekly shops, generally we are creatures of habit and like to know what we’re getting. A general formula of familiar conventions that makes our user experience fluid and flawless. And although this touches many forms of design, it’s more so evident in the things we buy, which brings us to our best of the web subject this week, what makes a good ecommerce website?

It’s easy as creatives to get distracted by how we can mainly make something look and work well, but what about how our experience will make the user feel? After all, a bad website can have just a much influence as a good one and can ruin your brand’s reputation if not nurtured. Therefore, we’ve highlighted below, the areas we feel are a must in any ecommerce design to ensure you’re sending out the right message.

The core values

We’re starting with a standard formula of three ingredients:


This might seem like a simple component but we have to remember that when we are trying to depart our customers of their hard earned cash, we need to make them feel as secure and confident as possible, which seems like a given, but can be overlooked as it’s not as up front and centre as some things on a site.

Site certificate
An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) plainly put is the technology that your site pays for that controls and secures the way a web server speaks to a browser and the link between. Having a secure SSL is a standard and secure way of keeping your site safe, especially when your customers money is concerned, that gives your consumers a buying confidence. There are differing levels of certificates out there which all offer certain levels of security. If a site has a certificate, you’ll usually find these in the URL bar at the beginning of the address. Of course different browsers show their certificates in differing ways:


Google Chrome

Customer care
Again another given you would think, but we see so many sites where the help and customer service links are pushed to the footer. You have to think about the psychology of your design decisions, if you’ve put all the help and customer care in the footer, what does that say to your consumer? Are you trying to hide it as you don’t want complaints? It’s better to be up front and centre with your ’24hr helplines’ and ‘ ‘live chat,’ your consumers will only thank you for it. As by having something that isn’t visible on your site, will be noticed way more than if it is.


An age old design value, keep it simple. Consumers are used to certain conventions when buying online, they are ready to search and buy when they enter your site. If you confuse that process with whizzy animations or hidden standard info, this can deter your customer’s buying patterns, their patience lost and ultimately their sale.

Easy to find ‘Add to cart’
The cart acts as a reminder to your customer to where they are in their purchase. Having a hover drop down here, where they can quickly recap on their sale so far will only encourage your consumer. Even the placement of this will bring you one step closer to a seal of approval, so keep it together with the usual links, Search box, Add to cart, view basket and login to ensure you secure your customers.


Confirmation emails
In a world that now confirms your appointments and deliveries by both email and SMS, it’s no surprise that giving your customer reassurance of their sale via a simple email is a given in any ecommerce design today; and it can be alarming on how many sites still don’t validate the sale. So get validating!

Customer journey
We have to remember that a journey ultimately goes both ways and to reduce the rate of cart abandonment, we need to ensure that both directions are flawless. This continues the validation that customers crave, how they want to check details to ensure they have noted it down correctly. If you make the backward journey awkward or frustrating, then you risk a customer abandoning their cart. ‘Compare the Meerkat‘ do this well, although not a direct ecommerce site, they use collapsable boxes and sectioned off information to make it more bitesize, less intimidating and easily editable for the user, to go back and forth between their info and amend to their heart’s content. The same should be used for ecommerce sites.



When consumers are parting with their money, a must for any ecommerce site is to be completely see through, whether this is the design of the site and the links available, or in the feedback they get from their customers, it’s very important for a brand to have nothing to hide.

Social Media
More than ever before, social media is playing a huge part in creating social consumers, by using cleverly crafted keyword searches and placed ads, can drive new traffic to your brand’s site. So it again seems to be a given to be ‘down with the kids’ and have your social media advertising and accounts set up and monitored constantly for your ecommerce to be successful.

You may think that complaints would be a negative for any brand, however by hiding these elements creates a negative profile about your brand to your customers, that you are trying to hide something. They don’t need to be up front and centre on the site, but having them easily accessible will make your consumers see that you are being open. This also leads on to ‘reviews’ and ‘comments.’ In a world that freely gives people the open mic to give their opinions which equally also plays a big part in our buying decision as we more and more read comments before we buy; it’s easy to understand that this is another must for the world of ecommerce. Tripadvisor for instance, not selling a product exactly, but selling you experiences from other people. We no longer trust our heavily paid celebrities to give us an honest and transparent opinion, as they’re getting paid to practically, which makes everyday people’s reviews and comments all the more impactful. Make them easily accessible.

Store Finder
Having a store locator on your site validates your existence. It sounds silly, but consumers generally want validation that you have history as a company and nothing says that better than how they can physically access you easily. It also gives encouragement to our sensitive buyers who need some reassurance of where you are and may not like to online shop directly, but research what they want to buy online and then go to the shop itself. Looking after both audiences will score points.

Stock Levels
Keeping your product numbers up to date can help consumers manage their purchases better in priority buying. It can also help sale wise, if you know you only have one product left for two more months and then it’s discontinued, by being transparent, may get customers to panic buy which can only be a good thing. However make sure these are honest claims, nothing annoys a consumer more than going to a site a week later and finding the product suddenly back in stock after a discontinuation. Being truthful about stock levels and displaying them dynamically can really help your ecommerce site.


Ecommerce is a huge industry that we could go on forever with tips and tricks, but hopefully we’ve wet your appetite enough to research and investigate further. To conclude, we have attached the studio’s favourite ecommerce below, enjoy.

1.ModCloth – Clean and clever hidden nav

Blog-Post-ModclothWe love how ModCloth have created a really clean, simple site that showcases its products well. The colour palette is limited and the fonts well selected, making it an easy experience. We especially like the hover nav over ‘Join/Sign in’ section, although hidden, the hover moves quick enough to reveal the ‘shopping bag.’

2. Oak Street Book Makers – Conventional and great related products

Blog-Post-oakstreetFollowing the ecommerce convention, this site is smooth sailing, everything in its place. We especially like the ‘related product’ section, how it’s still part of the site but has a presence of its own too. Another important part of ecommerce which impresses the user, the related product section, where the site has taken the time to notice what you like and pair it off with another selection, great for cross sell.

3. Greats.com – Clever photography angles and product selector

Blog-Post-greatsStaying conventional is key to ecommerce, but sometimes stepping outside the box a little can really elevate the design. Strong typography and hero image paves the way for quite a unique ecommerce experience at greats.com. With little thumbnail silhouettes of their shoe range that not only show you the shape of their shoes, but also offer up descriptions to their unique names. The photography angles are also a revelation, showing the above and profile shots, being completely transparent like this will encourage a user to buy.

4. J.Hornig coffee – Bright user experience and lots of white space

Blog-Post-HornigThe colour is a big part of this site and it’s quite refreshing that we start out with some white space to breathe and take in the different levels of information and subtle animations on the homepage. As you select, the page turns to the colour shade of that product, which works well to indicate exactly where you are on the site. The colour doesn’t overtake the site design, it still sections itself off from the ‘related product’ panel below, complimenting rather than overpowering. But it’s the vast amount of space on this site that intrigues, clean and easy to view, exactly the atmosphere we want for our consumers.