The world of e-commerce website design has changed a lot in the last few years. Mobile internet usage is growing rapidly, and analysts expect that it will overtake desktop internet usage by the end of 2015. This rapid growth in the popularity of mobile devices poses several challenges for web designers. Designing an e-commerce website that works equally well on a wide range of screens, and looks good on desktops, tablets and mobiles, is not easy.

The Hallmarks of Good Design

The most progressive e-commerce website designers have embraced a practice known as responsive design. This practice means that a page is designed using CSS and HTML so that it will adapt to a range of screen sizes. Instead of having to design several different pages for each type of device, you create one design that works everywhere.

There are several things that go into an effective e-commerce design. A good design is:

  •  Clean and easy to navigate
  •  Accessible - even to people using screen readers, custom style sheets or other disability aids
  •  Fast-loading
  •  Responsive, for use on a range of devices
  •  Uses visual aids as well as text to increase conversion rates

Some web designers choose to have clean landing pages that promote just one or two products, while others cover their landing pages with a huge selection of products from different categories. Both of these techniques have their benefits. Department stores and stores that sell a huge selection of products tend to opt for the latter method, whereas boutique stores may focus more on branding on their landing pages and choose to avoid cluttering them too heavily.

Common Design Mistakes

One common pitfall with image-heavy e-commerce designs is that the pages can become quite bloated. It is not uncommon for fashion retailers to end up with pages that are in excess of 1MB in size. In an ideal world, your home page should be no more than 40-80KB, so that users on slower connections don't have to wait several seconds for it to load. Remember that many mobile users, especially in the UK, have a data limit of just 500MB per month. If your visitors have to count the number of page views they take to do something for fear of going over their limit, then your page is too big.

Another common mistake with image-heavy sites is poor contrast. If you are putting text or image captions over the top of photographs, make sure that the text is easy to read. Test your site on multiple devices (and even multiple desktop or laptop monitors) to make sure that it looks good on all of them. Don't assume that just because the design is readable on your desktop, it will be readable for everyone.

The key to effective e-commerce website design is to make life as easy as possible for your customers. Confusing or difficult-to-use websites drive customers away. If you show that you respect your customers' time and wallets, then they will be more likely to buy from you.