Designing Your eCommerce Site: 4 Common Mistakes to Avoid

By Jeff Broth, freelance writer.

Exciting times! You’re getting your eCommerce site up and running and the possibilities seem nearly endless. You might not know exactly how your site is going to perform, but you probably know by now that it's always going to be evolving. As you build and optimize, you’re going to learn a ton about what works and what doesn’t.

While there’s nothing we can do to save you from every misstep, we believe that learning from the mistakes of others is the only way a new business can hope to survive in the cut-throat world of eCommerce. That’s why we’ve put together the top four mistakes we’ve seen over years of reviewing sites. Read these carefully now to avoid catastrophes later.

Mistake 1: Not keeping it simple

There are two important truths that you must always keep in mind when designing your site. The first we all know firsthand – attention spans online are short…very short. The second truth will be familiar to anyone with a sales background – if a potential customer is confused or overwhelmed, then the answer is “no.”

We see new eCommerce sites ignore these concepts all the time, and it is killing their conversions.

You need to fight against the natural tendency as a proud business owner to talk about every little detail that makes your product so awesome. Keep product pages focused on the direct benefits to the customer and make sure your UI is easy to navigate and clean looking. An overcomplicated site isn’t going to win more sales by providing extensive details about every possible feature – it’s going to overwhelm and lose customers that would have bought if it was simple to understand and easy to buy. Consider using Google Surveys to get to know your customers and what they want to see to help keep those conversions coming.

Mistake 2: Not having carefully thought-out funnels

Your website is not a brochure. It’s vitally important to realize that you’re designing your site to maximize sales, not to have users click around for a while and then leave with a bit of new information. No matter how pretty and helpful you make your site, the chances of a user coming back after leaving if they haven’t made a purchase (or at least joined an email list) are very slim. You need to get them on the first visit.

Every design element, every piece of copy and every page should be actively pushing a customer through your funnel.

You will need to create multiple funnels for traffic coming from different sources. If a user comes from a high intent Google ad you can direct them to a product page that focuses on the cut & dry benefits of your offer. If a user comes from social media or other colder sources, you’re going to need to ease into it a bit more. You can create a series of pages that first shows the prospective customer that they have a need, before you start presenting your product as the solution.

A key design element here is to make it somewhat difficult for users to deviate from your funnels. If your page is meant to be the final step in convincing your prospect, then most of the links on that page should direct them to the checkout.

The main thing to remember is that, although it’s necessary to inform your customers about the benefits of your product, you are not running an eCommerce site to educate – you’re here to drive sales. Learn more in detail about sales funnels here.

Mistake 3: Not making your site accessible

This is one that too few site owners think about, but it’s limiting their reach and opening them up to legal problems. Site accessibility refers to your site’s ability to serve users with disabilities ranging from hearing and vision issues to motor and cognitive impairment. Many sites ignore tools like screen readers and keyboard navigation adjustments because they don’t think many of their users need it and they think it will be expensive to keep up with constantly evolving regulations. Only one of these beliefs are true.

The reality is that many internet users need these features to use your site at all. In fact, 61 million adults in the United States live with a disability. Not only does this mean you are losing out on potential sales, but you are also at risk of being sued for having an inaccessible site.ADA and WCAG are the two big regulations that websites legally need to be compliant with. Furthermore, they’re often changing the requirements.

Assuming that you’re going to be constantly changing your site along the way as well, this means that your web development budget can skyrocket just because you’re trying to do the right thing. This is why it’s recommended to use a solution such as accessiBe, a tool that automates accessibility on your site. You’ll be constantly up-to-date with regulations and the needs of your users, for a fraction of the cost of having web developers do each page manually.

Mistake 4: Having gaps in your privacy policy

The last mistake is one that you used to be able to overlook more easily, but is becoming more important as privacy concerns are on the rise. If you’re using tracking on your site (which you should be), you need a privacy policy that spells out how you’re gathering data and what you’re using it for.

As a starting point, many businesses will just copy and tweak the privacy policy used by a close competitor. While that might work in the short term, it really is best to get some legal counsel on this. Businesses are different and privacy rules are constantly changing. With government regulations like Europe’s GDPR and California’s CCPA as well as new privacy updates coming from Apple and Google, this has become a more scrutinized and important page on your site.

In the end, you’re going to make tons of mistakes. If you can avoid these big ones though, you’re well on your way to eCommerce success and, as always, we wish you the very best of luck on your journey.

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