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eCommerce Website Design: 14 Best Practices

User experience describes what users feel, see, or think as they interact with an e-commerce website.

Good fonts, color palettes, or neatly-organized menu items don’t singly dictate the UX. Users base their judgment on the overall performance across areas they care about, such as safety, cost, speed, and ease of use.

An eCommerce store may have a secure homepage with hero shots and celebrity endorsements. But if the load time is 10 seconds, it’s a deal breaker for most customers. Studies show that page abandonment rises steeply after 3 seconds because people get tired of waiting.

Subpar online experiences translate to missed sales. No one wants to shop at a rickety store with cluttered shelves, rude staff, and dirty floors.

While delivering a flawless experience is paramount, many e-commerce stores commit the same mistakes and ignore sensible UX best practices. That’s why failure rates are as high as 80% among online businesses.

Today, we’re sharing eCommerce design best practices for business owners wishing to offer an unmatched store experience. And it might be also useful to find out how to outsource website development from a team of professionals.

What role does UX play in eCommerce website design?

A marriage between good design and UX can spell the following benefits:

  • Increased customer retention: 89% of customers would transact with a business again following a positive experience (Salesforce Research);
  • Higher average order value (AOV): 65% of US consumers are willing to pay more if they know that they’re going to get good service (Emplifi);
  • Increased profitability: 60% of customer-centric businesses are more profitable than companies that are not (Deloitte and Touche);
  • Loyal advocates: 94% of customers who leave very good customer service (CX) ratings are more likely to recommend the company (Qualtrics XM Institute);
  • Improved credibility: 75% of users cement their judgments about the website’s credibility from its design (WebFX);
  • Increased trust: 90% of users cited poor design as the primary reason for not trusting a website (Mighty Fine Design Co);
  • Long-term survivability: 70% of online businesses that fail do so because their website was not easy to use (Uxeria).

14 eCommerce UX design best practices to start implementing today!

“Good design thinking solves problems.”

So, the goal of implementing the best practices for e-commerce design should be in a quest to overcome issues that typically plague e-commerce sites.

The issues include:

  • Low conversion rates: Buyers fail to convert because of a bad first impression, poor mobile experience, distracting pages, and unappealing product images.
  • High cart abandonment: People abandon shopping carts because of security concerns, complicated checkouts, forced account creation, surprise costs, and poor website performance.
  • Low customer retention: Past shoppers may fail to seek a repeat purchase due to an unsatisfactory experience on the first purchase, lack of convenience, and poor delivery options.
  • Distrust: Shoppers may be less inclined to trust an e-commerce business if it has a poor first impression, lacks social proof, or has incomplete information on its About us, Contact, Returns, Terms and Conditions pages.

The following best practices for e-commerce website design will better position e-commerce websites to overcome crippling challenges that contribute to a nearly 80% failure rate in the industry:

1. Reduce unnecessary clicks

While the three-click rule for navigation has since been debunked, reducing the interaction cost should remain a top priority. Interaction cost refers to the total expenditure of physical and mental effort expended by the user to perform certain actions within a website.

Rather than tying designers to an arbitrary rule of thumb, calculate the cost of each interaction. For instance, ask how much it costs for users to add items to the checkout cart and complete the purchase. Is the action expensive?

How can you reduce the interaction cost, and which clicks can be eliminated without compromising the user experience or creating unforeseen problems?

Consider the following best practices for eCommerce web design to reduce the interaction cost:

  • Provide highly-descriptive link labels that tell users what the page is about and how it’s relevant to their goal;
  • Implement breadcrumbs that serve as a trail of where the user is currently located on the website and how they can get back to the top-level page;
  • Avoid intricate drop-down menus laid out vertically, but consider implementing a mega menu, which is a large-scale drop-down menu that showcases many internal links both horizontally and vertically in a single glance;
  • Weight the benefits of having few click workflows versus more clicks in favor of faster load times;
  • It’s entirely okay for actions to take more than three clicks, as they involve different levels of complexity and fulfillment times.

2. Provide intuitive navigation and a strong search tool

The website’s navigation refers to the components that assist users to find their way around a website.

Three primary categories represent the navigation types on a website:

  • Structural navigation – Provides a clear visual hierarchy on how pages are laid out;
  • Associative – Deals with linking pages with similar content together;
  • Utility – Groups pages that provide certain features to users.

Which eCommerce website design guidelines should you follow when designing the navigation?

With e-commerce sites, it’s important to have strong structural navigation by incorporating the primary and sub-navigation bar. It greatly improves the UX for sites with many items on sale.

Two of the most optimum arrangements for the main and sub menus are the inverted-L and horizontal.

Nike implements a horizontal arrangement for the primary and sub-navigation bar:

The sub-navigation becomes visible after hovering on the main menu items.

Amazon lays out the main navigation menu horizontally. Clicking on “All” reveals the sub-navigation menu, laid out vertically to create an inverted L with the main menu.

Nike and Amazon implement vertical sub-navigation menus on the left side of the page with filter options on product category pages.

Additional design best practices include grouping utility pages (shopping cart, language selection, sign-in) together. The most common placement is on the top right side of the screen. The footer section can group and provide links to associative pages.

Another helpful UX choice is the inclusion of a search bar. It needs to suggest products as the user types. The search bar should accommodate typos.

3. Simplify the checkout process

The checkout process describes all the steps required to complete the purchase after adding items to the shopping cart.

The typical checkout process entails: adding items, selecting payment methods, providing shipping info, previewing, payment and confirmation.

Consider the following eCommerce design best practices to minimize cart abandonment and win sales:

  • Support widely used payment methods. Global payment statistics indicate that most shoppers use e-wallets (36%), credit cards (26%), and debit cards (12%).
  • Integrate local payment options, for instance, mobile money is popular in emerging economies where many remain unbanked.
  • Design the checkout process to be mobile-first.
  • Incorporate all the fees in the pricing to mitigate any unnecessary surprises, for instance, quote VAT inclusive prices.
  • Absorb the shipping costs or set a minimum order value that qualifies for free shipping.
  • Showcase trust signals in the checkout pages by including security seals, payment processor badges, testimonials, star ratings, industry associations, BBB accreditation, warranty badges, sales statistics, or return policy statement.
  • Provide a quick link to the checkout page for single purchases and implement a persistent checkout element on the page.

Amazon utilizes a right-side checkout navigational element, which displays items in the cart. It’s visible to desktop users:


On mobile devices, users see a counter indicating the number of items in the shopping basket.

4. Use interactive features (live chat & self-service options)

One particular observation will become easily apparent after visiting the top e-commerce marketplaces.

Many sites don’t merely implement a live chat widget on the product pages.

Now, it’s not to say that implementing live chat can break the user experience. It can only improve it. Chatty web visitors may end up purchasing more, according to the Bold360 Report.

But there are critical demands and challenges to be aware of:

  • Most chats may involve mundane and repetitive requests;
  • Executing live chats in different time zones can be taxing;
  • Every interaction must be stellar, or the company risks a bad review even from a customer that would not ordinarily convert;
  • Up to 81% of users first try to resolve their issues with self-service options before reaching out to a human representative.

Implementing live chat is still important, and many e-commerce sites do it. But they don’t generally make it too easy for customers to access the feature. They prioritize other interactive self-service options first, such as:

  • AI-powered shopping assistants
  • FAQs
  • AI-enabled knowledge bases
  • Help centers
  • Discussion forums

5. Strong branding elements

Beyond the essential branding elements — logo, business name, or color palettes — e-commerce stores should pursue more avenues to create a strong brand.

Customers are increasingly paying attention to the brand’s voice, personality, identity, values, and promise. For instance, focusing on green initiatives, undertaking climate pledges, or offering sustainable products have since become highly marketable.

The impactful design has not lost its touch. Many brands still differentiate themselves with unique, colorful, and eye-catching website designs — beyond what cookie-cutter templates offer.

6. Contact information

Many users will likely head over to the Contact Us page because they have a question they need answering.

But a sizable portion of requests consists of repetitive queries.

Minimize the strain on valuable human resources by proactively offering solutions. Customers will be happy as they will not necessarily worry about getting a reply, or they will stop their purchase process.

Too many “Contact us” pages only provide the email, contact form, or phone number. Transform the Contact Us experience by also including:

  • FAQ
  • Quick answers
  • List of supported payment options
  • Links to the help center
  • Social media links
  • Support methods and estimated wait times.

You can even implement an interactive contact us page basing wayfair.com as an example:

Credits: Wayfair.com – Contact Us Page

7. Make your site mobile-friendly

Over 5.34 billion people worldwide use mobile phones today. Mobile phones will contribute up to 60.66% of website traffic in 2022.

Google similarly demotes website pages with mobile usability problems and even provides free mobile-friendly testing tools.

The website design team must deliver an e-commerce website that passes mobile-friendly tests.

7. Test everything to build the best website

Test different variations of the website design and UX elements to find out what resonates with users and drives the most conversions.

Consider testing the following items:

  • Product image angles and types
  • All popups (social proof, abandonment, product recommendation, free coupons, and seasonal sales)
  • Copy, Descriptions, and Call-To-Action buttons
  • Landing page design
  • Main and sub-navigation layouts
  • Product page designs
  • Testimonials and reviews
  • Hero shots and human photographs

8. Use clear CTAs

The CTA is the action you want the user to take, depending on their location on the website or checkout process.

Many actions on an e-commerce website occur automatically and intuitively, such as the customer browsing through the catalog and clicking on products to view more details.

But there are points where it’s necessary to have a prominent and highly-visible CTA:

Page Goal CTA button labels
Catalog & product pages Encourage users to add items to the cart.
  • Add to Basket
  • Add to Cart
Cart Page Minimize cart abandonment.
  • Checkout
  • Proceed to Checkout
  • Instant checkout
Billing, shipping, & confirmation pages Encourage users to complete the sale and provide info.
  • Proceed to the next step
  • Deliver to this address
  • Continue
  • Enter billing info

*Place the Call-To-Action buttons above the fold, with right-hand placement recommended. Use a bold color that stands out against a plain background.

10. Don’t force users to register

Many e-commerce websites ask new customers to create an account after clicking on the “Proceed to Checkout” button. It can be a jolting feeling for users constantly bombarded with promotions and ads after signing up on other e-commerce sites.

Account creation is essential, but it’s not necessary. Consider alternative ways of reaching out to them:

  • Ask for an email address or phone number;
  • Provide a printable e-receipt with order details.

While offering guest checkout reduces friction, the business gains more by collecting user accounts. Incentivize users to willingly create accounts by mentioning membership benefits, for instance, exclusive discounts or no promotional messages.

11. Use high-quality product images

This is one of the easiest eCommerce website design best practices to implement. Simply use high-resolution product images.

That said, investing in professional photography is not feasible for every site, for instance, websites in the dropshipping niche. Most of the time, they contend with photos from suppliers or manufacturers.

But there’s a workaround. AI image enhancement tools like Retouchpro.ai can add new information to the image while scaling it to the required size.

Additionally — consider eCommerce database design best practices to ensure that it’s easy to manage the product images and product info. The recommendations include:

  • Choosing an easily scalable database solution based on the estimated size of the product catalog;
  • Opting for easy-to-use options with sufficient users and availability of tech talent;
  • Hosting the database and the website separately to improve security;
  • Knowing the restrictions and limits of each system.

12. Highlight your site’s security

Displaying trust and security seals makes users feel safer. Consider getting certified by a trusted Certificate Authority (CA) such as Truste, Comodo, and Trustico. The entities conduct a professional website assessment and make security & privacy recommendations.

Subscribe to security scanning tools such as McAfee or Norton. The services add an extra layer of protection by monitoring known and emerging security vulnerabilities.

Other seals and trust badges to have include:

  • Accepted Payments (VISA, Mastercard, PayPal, Stipe, etc.)
  • Free Returns badge
  • Guaranteed Safe Checkout badge
  • Satisfaction guaranteed badge
  • Money-back guarantee badge
  • Third-party partnerships and endorsements

13. Include user-generated content

User-generated content (UGC) encompasses any text, photos, or videos published by unpaid users.

Incorporating UGC can add social proof to an eCommerce website design, fostering trust and encouraging more sales.

E-commerce sites can add UGC in various ways:

  • Integrate social posts to the website.
  • Add review blocks to display customer reviews.
  • Incorporate customer questions and answers on product pages.
  • Include videos for the product or related products from content creators but with permission.

14. Embrace personalization

Personalization deals with creating a tailored experience based on the buyer’s preferences, past activity, location, gender, or any other attribute that can make the experience meaningful.

Undertake personalization by:

  • Localizing the website for customers to read it in their preferred language;
  • Localizing the Checkout experience by recommending local payment options;
  • Using past data on purchases or product views to recommend products dynamically;
  • Recommending complimentary products, for instance, keyboards for laptop purchases.

Steps for the Ecommerce website design process

The central focus of UX in website design is creating an enjoyable website experience that keeps clients coming back.

eCommerce sites don’t only need to look great. They must be utterly enjoyable. Coming up with a great user experience and incorporating e-commerce website design best practices should be methodical.

This is a short overview of eCommerce site design stages, but for more information, see the cost to design an app.

1. Research stage

It’s paramount to start with a target audience analysis to understand the user’s functional and emotional needs clearly.

Next, the team should determine the project requirements to find out what it takes to create a satisfying and compelling experience.

Competitor analysis is another essential step in the research stage. It reveals indirect and direct competitors and allows the e-commerce business to find gaps and refine its strategies.

Decomposition allows the project team to break down the scope of work into parts and come up with a preliminary estimate.

2. UX design stage

In this pre-design stage, it’s necessary to create user stories, wireframes, screen flows, storyboards, and product prototypes to flush out the idea.

Usability testing and user feedback can reveal if the target audience likes the design and if it provides a good UX.

3. UI Design stage

The UI design stage focuses on creating a style guide that details all the design choices for the site, including typography, logo, icons, and imagery. It dictates their accepted usage for a consistent design.

The web design stage culminates with creating the final designs and adding content such as product listings and copy.

In conclusion

User experience is more than what the user sees on the page (visual design). It’s all about how they experience and perceive the website in its entirety.

The outlined eCommerce site design best practices can catapult your websites to greater heights — but good advice needs to be implemented.

Whether you need to revamp your e-commerce website for improved performance or need to create an entirely new e-commerce site, we have a capable UX design team.

Our agency provides all the required expertise — project managers, business analysts, designers, and website developers — in one place, with a stress-free and affordable outsourcing experience.

Contact us today for a hands-on consultation.

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