Online Store Design

Learning Objectives

  • Describe how web retailers use design features to craft an online store

Layout, traffic flow and environment are an important part of the online shopping experience, and a web retailer must leverage those features of a site in order to maximize conversions.

An appealing landing page

This is like the front of the store. A good page doesn’t sell the shopper anything just yet—she’s in the “transition zone” where she’s still orienting herself. There’s no ‘add to cart’ here . . . but maybe a 25% off sign to tease her to click more.

front page of the apple website. there is a large picture of the iphone x and only a label of "iphone x, say hello to the future". the page is very minimalistic

Apple’s home page is a nice example. It has a clean look, a single product highlighted using some crisp, eye-catching colors. A tag line at the top is enough of a draw to make the shopper click more, and she does so by using a very simple top navigation menu. This is a good “entryway” for the shopper, a nice “transition zone” that orients the shopper to the upcoming experience and helps her understand what she’s going to find with the next click.

Enticing product pages

Now that you’ve “entered the store” and gotten a feel for the environment, it’s time to get a look at the store layout.

women's section of nordstrom's online store. there are many different categories such as shoes or accessories.

The top menu will show you what the store contains, and its layout will make the product easy to find . . . or not. Nordstrom does an excellent job of electronically “laying out” its ecommerce store for you. Here, we’ve clicked on products for women. This is anything from clothing to accessories, and you can see all those categories in one glance. A menu to the left points out new arrivals and trends like a sales person might.

It’s important to note here that the brick-and-mortar visual merchandising rule of “provide good choices but not too many” doesn’t necessarily apply to ecommerce platforms. Shoppers go online to shop when they’re looking for more choices, knowing that they can narrow them down to find just the right thing. Part of the online experience is trying to find the right pink tee shirt while narrowing the selection down from every pink tee shirt available in the world.

Now that we’ve seen all the aisles and gotten the store’s “lay of the land,” let’s go down an aisle and interact with the product:

backpack section on nordstrom's online store with pictures of the options all in a row

Here we’ve decided to shop backpacks. Right now, we have all 465 items in front of us, like a great big shelf of backpacks. But we can narrow that down using the side menu to the left – breaking it down by size, material, price, color and more. Pretty soon, we’ll have a clear picture of just one or two backpacks to review.

Can we “touch” the backpack and learn more about it?

more detailed look at a red gucci backpack with a description and more pictures of the bag from a variety of angles on the left hand side

By clicking on the photo, we can take a much closer look at the backpack, getting several different views of it in the pictures to the left. Paging down a little further, you get size, weight and other details. Further down, we can read customer reviews to understand how others enjoyed and used the product.

details about the bag below the main image of the backpack

These click-through features provide us with that in-aisle experience, where we look at, study and handle the product before we make the purchase. Here on the ecommerce platform we have to do that virtually, but the experience is mimicked well, making the shopper’s experience a memorable one.

What about other sales opportunities that go along with this Gucci bag? Can we bundle it with other items to show how it goes with the whole outfit? Nordstrom has thought of that, too, featuring this set of photos halfway down the page:

collage of clothing items titled ”Summer Sweet” that create an outfit with the backpack. each item has their price below the photo or is labeled “sold out”.

What happens when you mouse over one of the items that interests you? This:

the collage of the outfit items are on the left. When you mouse over the wallet, you see a closer look at the wallet that goes with the outfit and its price and color options on the right side of the screen.

Bundled displays, this time electronically, are aiming for increased sales conversions.

When you’re purchasing an item on Amazon, you might notice a list of items on display when you add it to your cart. Those items are titled “Customers also bought.” This is the website’s way of attempting a complementary grouping. Imagine if you bought a dozen eggs on Amazon, and then you saw a picture of bacon and, written above it, “Customers also bought . . .” Sometimes the Amazon suggestions don’t make as much sense as eggs and bacon, but it’s working on an algorithm written to share the shopping habits of people just like you.

Visual display techniques can definitely be leveraged when crafting a retail website, and they lead to higher sales conversions . . . which mean more profits for the retailer.

Practice Questions