How To Create Your Best Ecommerce Store Design – Part 1

By Debbie Levitt, CEO of As Was

Whether you are designing your Vendio ecommerce store yourself or hiring a design company to create something for you, there are steps you should take to get the most out of your design.

Step 1: Who Are You?

Before anybody designs anything, brainstorm your brand. This means your company image, mood, and personality. Write up a list of words that relate to the tone you want to set with your business.

If you sell a lot of items for babies or kids, you might write words like fun, bright, vivid, simple, cheery, and cartoony. If you sell a lot of electronics or accessories, you might write words like modern (or futuristic), geeky, inviting, edgy, and maybe colors you like… black, greys, blues, and any strong accent color. You can start to imagine how a good designer will put something together that matches these very different moods, and how much lists like this can help!

Step 2: What Style of Design Do You Want?

There are many approaches to design. Many people want to give you a cookie-cutter look, and drop some stock photos at the top. I’ve been in website design for 16 years, and my professional opinion is that that is not a design. That’s a layout with some stock photos at the top, and anybody could do that. If you like that style, it’s easy to spend very little to get it, so make sure you’re not overpaying for something most high school kids could put together for you in 15 minutes!

Are you looking at other sites for inspiration? Check if they pass what I call “The Thumb Test.” Cover up the website’s logo. OK, NOW whose site is this? Could it be anybody’s because it’s such a commonly-used look? Or do you really remember it and know who it is because they have done something unique?

If you are dreaming of something really customized and done from scratch, make sure you are looking at designers’ portfolios. I’ve seen hundreds of portfolios over the years, and most of the time, I feel like the design is very good at doing one thing over and over in a variety of colors. If what you want matches the portfolio, that company could be right for you. If the style you want is not something you see in the portfolio, don’t assume that designer can do it, and just hire them. Only the most of creative of artists are able to break out and really do “anything.” Trust me on this one… I’ve hired and fired many “artists” over the years! So talk to the potential designer about styles you like to make sure you’re choosing the right person.

How many columns should you have? Right now, the answer is zero or one. Think about your own website use. How long do you spend inside the side column of a website? How much of that do you read? How often do you click on those… compared to the time you spend dropping words into searches? In general, information and choices in columns tend to be ignored. Never put anything too important in there! Make sure your designer builds your categories in somewhere so that Google has some links to follow. But think about what type of layout is going to make the most sense to your shopper.

Step 3: Less Isn’t More, but Moderation Is Best

Some people think the best websites have the most white space. Lots of nothing. When is the last time you looked at a website that had lots of white space, and said, “Wow!” Probably not lately or often. To me, design, personality, and usability are the new white space. It’s more important for a website to be easy to use and really reflect your brand than to have “white space.”

Some people think that the best website is one with a lot of colors, and a lot going on in the header. Well, go back to step 1. Who are you? What’s your message to visitors? If you are thinking about your site having a fun explosion of cartoon animals and lots of colors, could that just go on the home page rather than being the header that’s on every page?

More colors don’t necessarily make something better. More widgets and doo-dads don’t necessarily make something better. If it doesn’t enhance people’s experience, help you stand out from competition, and make your site insanely easy to use, then don’t put it on there. If it’s a distraction and sends people away, don’t put it there.

I like to put it like this. If a woman keeps putting on makeup, and keep putting on jewelry, eventually, she will be wearing too much makeup and too much jewelry. This is an example of moderation. A little sparkle can be great. A good website doesn’t have multiple elements all shouting, “Hey! Look at me!” So as you drop colors, shapes, doo-dads, widgets, and messages on your site, decide what should shout, “Hey, look at me,” and what can be played down a bit. A good website has balance.

In part II, we’ll look at the next tips for having designing your Vendio Store.  Stay tuned!

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