eCommerce stores rely heavily on their website design to attract customers. Just as cluttered, unkempt brick and mortar stores can be a major turn-off for walk-in shoppers, unsightly or generic eCommerce stores can quickly drive potential customers away.
There are two major factors at play with regard to eCommerce design: visual appearance, and functionality. A beautifully designed website isn't useful if it doesn't function intuitively – when shoppers browse the website, they should have little issue transitioning from one page to another. Links should be fully-functioning, and navigation shouldn't confuse shoppers. It's possible to succeed with a sub-par eCommerce store, but you'll severely limit yourself if your website isn't functional and attractive.
In most situations, your website's design impacts the following:
- Credibility – Shoppers purchase from vendors they trust. Beautiful websites convey a sense of credibility, as they show investment in the store. Scam websites are more likely to appear cheap and unkempt because their owners have little reason to invest in quality web design. When your shoppers believe you've invested in your store, they'll be more likely to trust your legitimacy.
- Atmosphere – Just as the layout of a brick and mortar store determines the shopping experience, the design of your website sets the tone for your store. You can convey a certain feeling to your customers as they shop with your web design, and your design choices should reflect the values of your company.
- Bounce Rates – Websites with poor design choices have higher bounce rates than well-designed stores. According to a study by Microsoft, the average shopper takes just ten seconds to determine whether or not they'll spend time on your site, or leave. Well-designed websites leave better first impressions, meaning they establish more customers.
Bounce rates should be your greatest concern when developing your online store. In addition to poor design choices, poor navigation design, lack of mobile compatibility, and slow loading times can lead to many lost customers. Successful online stores:
- Have intuitive navigation.
- Are compatible on mobile devices.
- Have very fast loading times.
There are thousands of templates online which can be used to design an attractive website, but they tend to result in generic-looking stores. Templates are a great option for small businesses on a tight budget, but they aren't the best in every situation. Consider working with a professional web designer to create your store, unless:
- You don't have the funds to hire a web developer.
- You're running an experiment or you're selling an experimental product.
- You have a very close deadline, and the website must be finished as soon as possible.
If you're shooting for perfection, don't consider templates a viable option. It's worth your time and money to invest in a trained web designer, as they have the tools and knowledge to create the store your need to succeed. In addition, your store will stand out from others on the web, making it more memorable to shoppers. Templates also limit your design options in general, giving you very little to work with in many cases.
When hiring a web design team, you have two major options: to hire an in-house design team, or to outsource the job to an agency or freelancer. Each option has its own benefits, but your company may favor one or the other for a number of reasons:
- Outsourced teams and freelancers may have special skills your in-house design team lacks. You may want to specifically hire an individual or team to handle certain aspects of your project, depending on the special skills it requires for completion.
- In-house teams will require special equipment to get their projects finished. Agencies have their own computers and software, so you won't have to invest in the necessary tools they need.
- If you don't need the team for an extended period of time, hiring an agency may be the best option. They can be hired as needed, so you're not keeping them on your payroll for ongoing projects.
- In-house staff are available during the hours you set for them, meaning you can have your requests fulfilled anytime you need. Freelancers and agencies work on their own schedule, which you have to work around.
- In-house teams are much easier to manage than freelancers.
- If you have on-going projects which require the help of web designers on a continually basis, an in-house team may be the better option.
Ultimately, the best choice will depend on your project. It's important not to choose the first designer you come into contact with – shop around until you find the team that best suits your needs. It's vital to work with the right team, so work with those you trust to do the job right.
Web design teams aren't necessary for every project, but they offer a host of benefits templates cannot. Templates are excellent for small budget operations, but once you've got the funds to hire web designers, you'll see major improvements in the performance and success of your store.
Do you use templates for your eCommerce store? Do you work with an in-house team, or an agency? Where did you find your web designer? Let us know in the comments below!