When building an eCommerce website, you know that the ultimate goal of the site is to get people to make purchases.

You can’t just focus on building an e-commerce site that looks great (although that’s worth doing too) – you have to make sure every element of the web design guides people toward the point of buying something from you.

Fortunately, building an eCommerce website is easier than it’s ever been. You don’t have to hire an expensive designer or learn coding from scratch. If you don’t have much money to spend or time to work with, you can use a eCommerce website builder to create an eCommerce site that’s professional and geared toward achieving your goals.

Whether you build the website yourself or hire someone to do the legwork, there are a few important steps you should take to make sure your eCommerce website will do its job.

HostGator Website Builder

1. Organize Your eCommerce Website Based On How People Shop.

One of the first steps to building an eCommerce website is figuring out what pages and categories to include. You’ll obviously want a home page and pages for each of your different products. But how will you organize all those product pages so that people can find what they’re looking for?

Think about how your potential customers are likely to shop and browse and build out the site architecture that makes the most sense based on that.

For example, if you sell pet food and supplies, you might organize your website based on the type of pet your visitors have (dog, cat, fish, mouse, etc.) with subcategories under each for product types (toys, treats, food, etc.). Anyone visiting the site can pretty quickly figure out how to narrow down their search based on their particular needs.  And by visiting a page that groups a lot of similar products together, they can browse all the dog treats or cat toys available and pick the one they most want.


2. Make Your eCommerce Site Responsive.

According to mobile shopping trends, almost a third of all shopping online now happens on mobile devices. If your eCommerce website doesn’t work well on mobile, you’ll be missing out on a lot of potential sales (and it will hurt your SEO to boot). For most eCommerce websites, the best way to make your website mobile friendly is to make it responsive.

Responsive websites provide the same information and images on each page no matter what device they’re on, but they position them differently in order to make the page fit the screen. An image that shows up next to text on the desktop will show up below it, for instance.

responsive web design

Luckily, responsive websites have become enough of a norm that a good website builder or designer will offer a responsive option as a matter of course.


3. Include a Search Bar.

Many of your visitors will be content to browse the site to find items they like, but some will know exactly what they’re looking for. A search bar gives them a way to get directly to the page they need and is, therefore, one of those features that every eCommerce site should have.


4. Have a Shopping Cart.

Your ideal customer isn’t going to see one item they like and go straight to the purchase process. They’ll spend some time browsing and choosing several items they want.

A shopping cart is another standard feature of eCommerce stores because it allows visitors to save the items they want to purchase while they continue browsing, and then go through the purchasing process once for all of them.

And for visitors that add items to a shopping cart but don’t buy right away, you can follow up with a reminder email to your customers to help nudge them back to the site toward a purchase.


5. Include Wish List Functionality.

Including wish list functionality accomplishes a few different things:

  • It gives people an easy place to point friends and family in the lead up to a gift-giving event – a situation people regularly make purchases for.
  • For people who prefer to do research before they buy a product, it gives them a chance to save the items they like for possible future purchase.
  • For anyone avoiding impulse buys for budgetary reasons, they can mark now the things they want to come back for later.

Giving people a way to use your website to create a list of items they want creates a few opportunities where those items are more likely to become future sales.


6. Include Reviews.

Over half of regular online shoppers say they read reviews almost every time they shop online. Looking at customer reviews has become a regular part of the purchasing process.By including a review feature on your website, you give your customers a way to hear directly from each other – which is more powerful than what you can tell them.

Enabling reviews from third parties shows your customers you’re confident that your products can stand up to customers’ honest feedback. And if the reviews are positive (which they should be if your products are solid), they’ll increase your sales.

As an added benefit, reviews can help you gain valuable feedback about the products you offer and the service experience your customers have. You may be able to pick up some tips that help you improve your eCommerce business results over time.

For example, at HostGator, we feature reviews on a dedicated page on our site:

hostgator reviews

7. Offer a Guest Checkout Option.

When someone takes the step of creating an account on your website, it provides you with awesome long-term opportunities. It means they can use some of the features we’ve talked about here – like creating wish lists and adding reviews –  and that you can provide them with relevant promotional emails and reminder emails after cart abandonment.

But creating an account takes time and for some visitors who aren’t sure they’ll come back, it can feel like an inconvenience to have to take the steps of creating an account. They just want to make their purchase already.Including an easier guest checkout option removes friction from the checkout process so more people are willing to go through the whole process, rather than changing their mind when it looks too time-consuming.

rei guest checkout option

8. Invest in High-Quality Product Photography.

For physical products, a photograph can often tell your visitors valuable information about the product that your words can’t communicate as well. 78% of online shoppers say they want to see images that bring products to life.

You not only need to provide photographs for all of the products you sell, but you should also invest in making sure the images are high quality. Whether you take the photos yourself or invest in a professional product photographer, make sure the images you use look great and show your products in the best light.


9. Make Your Contact Info Easy to Find.

You should do your best to answer all the common questions your customers may have on your website, but even so, you’ll have customers that need to get in touch at some point. When that happens, make it as easy as possible for them to find a way to get in touch about whatever issue they’re having.

Don’t make them dig through the website for a simple email address or phone number. You can’t provide good customer service until your customer has successfully managed to get in touch. And customer service is the best tool you have for repeat business.


10. Perform User Testing.

Building an eCommerce website requires doing a lot of guessing about what people will respond to. Even if you work really hard to put your potential visitors first and try to design the site based on how you think they’ll behave, you won’t get it all right on your own.

Before you launch, do some website usability testing. Bring in some other people who can look at your website with fresh eyes. Have them take the steps on the site you most want your visitors to take – like creating an account, making a purchase, and signing up for the email list. They can provide honest feedback about any difficulties or inconvenience they experienced.

Their feedback will enable you to make any last minute tweaks needed to correct problems you didn’t know how to see yourself.


Design Your eCommerce Website with Quality in Mind

eCommerce businesses live and die on the quality of their websites. Make sure you do your due diligence to build a successful eCommerce site that can do the main job you need it to.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.