Recently, while browsing a widely-known and highly-respected company’s online store, I was truly shocked at the unpleasant online shopping experience I was having. I sat in front of my computer screen amazed that with the resources that should be available to a company of their size, the site I was on was a pretty poor representation of their brand.
I reached out to someone who worked for the brand. After a few minutes, I discovered they were indeed supposed to launch a new and improved website but they ran into several “unexpected snags” preventing them from moving forward. They also told me they had exceeded their budget of $20,000 for site development a long time ago and were looking at a bill almost three times as much now because of all the issues they were having.
Obviously, given the nature of what I do for a living, I understood their frustration as I have seen this scenario play out many times throughout the years. There are some definite pitfalls in site design and architecture that can be prevented with a little planning and the practical knowledge of professionals who do this kind of work day in and day out.
Based on my experience, here are five of the most common site design and architecture elements that are routinely overlooked in the beginning.
Consider the Source
Seemingly almost every electronic device can access the internet these days from smartphones to 70” curved LED televisions. Shoot, I even saw a refrigerator with a built-in web interface in the door! Last year, more than half of online shoppers used mobile devices to make holiday season purchases. With a multitude of options for accessing the internet today, how do you make sure your site will look good in every format? Do you go responsive or adaptive? Are your product images sized correctly to zoom? Can your site be accessed from all operating systems and browsers? All these are important questions that must be answered from the start.
Shut Up and Take My Money
Part of the reason it is called the worldwide web is the global reach of the internet. Online store owners are routinely surprised at the country of origin for some of their transactions. However, most fail to consider accommodations for international purchases. Currency converters, language translation, and shipping calculators are just a few elements that should be included as part of the site architecture for businesses that want to sell outside the US. If done right, these are surprisingly simple additions to your site that can quite literally open a whole new world of revenue possibilities.
Search and Rescue
If your site features a wide array of product offerings and categories, you’ll want to make it easier for your shoppers to find what they are looking for…and quickly! Intuitive search features and data filters must be configured properly to react to the demands of the hurried online consumer. Equally important, providing an easy way back if they happen to go down the wrong road will keep visitors on your site even longer. With unplanned navigation pathways, when consumers hit a roadblock, they’ll simply exit the site and move on.
Speaking of dangerous roads and slippery slopes…all to often, ecommerce site design is perceived by the aesthetic only, not as the complex interlinked puzzle it can truly be. Many so-called “website designers” only consider how a site looks, not how it SHOULD work. When they get down to the nitty gritty, these important back-end operations often escape the equation. Unfortunately, it’s not until you are ready to launch when the seemingly not-so-obvious becomes glaringly obvious. By that point, reversing course and going back to the start can get very expensive and delay the process weeks or even months.
Not My Job
Let’s say things get worked out and you have a brand-new shiny website. Now what? Many online store owners don’t have a plan for keeping up with the features included in the site design after the launch. Who will be updating content? How will you procure and upload new images? Who will create and implement coupon codes, special offers, and discounts? Who will you call on when something breaks or a plug-in fails? These are only a few of the questions that must be answered as part of your post-launch store management plan, or you can hire a partner to take care of these things for you. Either way, you need to know what you’re going to do before even the first line of code is written for your site design.