Developing and designing an e-commerce website, regardless of the size and scale of your business, is a journey with plenty of tricky paths to navigate. Get it right and you’ll be giving your business the best chance of success digitally. Get it wrong, though, and you’ll be closing off opportunities, risking annoying potential customers, and simply making business life harder than it needs to be.
Here are three tips worth bearing in mind when it comes to developing an e-commerce website in 2017.
High Availability: Keeping Your Site and Systems Open for Business
Unlike the other two tips that we will move on to discuss, our first tip is not about keeping visitors on your domain. This one is about a user landing on your domain and actually seeing your site in the first place. High availability is quite simply crucial for running a successful e-commerce website. Put simply, if your website is down and a consumer is looking to make a purchase, you could end up losing their traffic and their business to a competitor.
It therefore stands to reason that if you can avoid downtime as much as possible (bearing in mind that 100% availability is something that, in web-speak shouldn’t be referenced, with the “five nines” of 99.999% availability being the highest goal in any system-based SLA), you will be giving yourself the best chance of success when it comes to making your e-commerce site a viable business.
You may already have your own ideas regarding how to make high availability for your site a priority, such as managing bandwidth usage – especially during times of year when traffic is likely to go through the roof compared to quieter times and optimizing performance metrics. For example, do you keep an eye on how many visitors arrive at your site on any given day and subsequently look into the reasons for variations in traffic?
However, best intentions aside, it’s still well worth creating a high availability contingency plan for occasions where things might go wrong and users can’t access your site.
This involves looking at Recovery Time Objective, the amount of time a business can function without any given system being available, and the Recovery Point Objective, which refers to how old the data will be once the system is back up and running. The comprehensive nature of a company’s digital disaster plan can make or break the ongoing health of the business both online and offline.
Load Time – Keeping Visitors on Your Site
Modern consumers are not patient. The notion of walking into a shop and having a browse may still ring true on the high street, but online commerce is all about speed. A recent report found that nearly 50% of website visitors won’t wait longer than three seconds for a site to load before abandoning it and searching again, and this same report found that just a half second difference in page load speed can result in a whopping 10% difference in sales.
So, remember to ensure your landing page isn’t more than 50% media based and keep that homepage as one that hooks in your visitors in terms of engaging content. Your commercial pages, meanwhile, can utilize image compression tools such as JPEG XR to reduce the file sizes that will be loading on your site.
Navigation – Keeping It Simple for Humans and Search Engines
Navigating a website shouldn’t be complicated; after all, it’s all about getting a visitor from point A to point B. However, get the navigation on your e-commerce site wrong, and you’ll be annoying your visitors as well as making life harder for the Google spider.
Most websites use a navigation bar that allows for easy access to categories, but look into other ideas for navigating e-commerce websites, such as the three-click rule. These are not as easy to apply but are worth investing in to get right.
Other contradictory viewpoints also need to be balanced. In terms of the Google spider, building a “shallow” site is always going to be the preference. Contrary to this, visitors to your site want to be able to see the products they want without having to view huge groups of items bulked together. They also want to be able to tailor how many product results are displayed and they may want this to change on a desktop browser or a mobile view.
Remember, We’re All Human
Designing a website for e-commerce is clearly not a job that should be rushed. It should be a process of careful consideration and the investment of both time and money to get it right; a sensitively, intelligently designed site will pay off in the long-term and make the short-term investments worthwhile.
It is also ultimately worth remembering that a little personality and a little humour in e-commerce can go a long way should the worst happen and development and IT systems fail temporarily; for a little light, inspirational reading to that effect, check out how ASOS bounced back from unexpected downtime last year.