Web Design for Ecommerce
Your website is your tool for showing the online community an image of your Drop Ship retail business. Whether or not your business succeeds depends heavily on your website. If your website design is user-friendly, more visitors will purchase your products or subscribe to your newsletter. This will ensure that you are not wasting the time and money you spent attracting visitors to your website. It does not pay to drive large amounts of traffic to your website and have 99% of them leave due to poor content and navigation.
When designing your website, it is important that you switch from your own profit-oriented perspective to the prospective customers’ perspective. First place yourself in your customers’ shoes. After which, you should take some time to sit down and plan how your website should look like.
Below I will describe the factors that contribute to a successful sales-optimized website for a Drop Ship business.
1) The critical components of your homepage.
– Your title tag. It should describe your website effectively and concisely. For search engine optimization purposes, it is necessary to include your main keywords in your title, without it being unnecessarily long. For example, a good title would be ‘Renaissance Oil Paintings ½ Abstract Oil Paintings’.
– Your headline. Being one of the first few elements of your homepage that captures the attention of the visitor, it should clearly and concisely state what benefit your website can offer to the visitor. For example, your headline can tell your visitors how to earn extra income, how to lead a healthier lifestyle or how to save them time or money. In short, it should offer a solution to their problems, or address their needs. The headline should be placed strategically right at the top center of the page. You can also use the italics or bold functions to draw attention to your headline.
Internet surfers are not known for their patience. That is why it is crucial to capture their attention during the first few seconds of their stay at your website. Your headline plays the most important role, as it is usually the first thing that visitors see. Research has shown that you have about ten seconds to fully capture the attention of the visitors and compel them to read on, before they leave your site.
– Your content body. In your main body of your homepage, you have to describe in further detail the benefits your website or your products can offer to your visitors. Note that you provide the benefits, and not the features of the products you are selling. This is the basis of effective marketing: you tell the customers what is in it for them. You must also give strong directions to action in your content body and tell them the steps they need to take in order to benefit most from your website. For example, you can include links like ‘Click here now to discover why our oil paintings are among the best in Europe’, or ‘Sign up for our free newsletter now to get the latest tips and guides on good gardening practices.’ Note that you have to be concise in your content body so that you can include the most attractive benefits near the top of the homepage, without the visitor having to scroll down.
– Your opt-in offer. Ask for your visitors’ names and email addresses in your opt-in offer box. Email marketing is central to the success of your Drop Ship business. First-time visitors who leave your website without buying anything have a chance of signing up for your free newsletter. This allows you to keep in contact with them and send them promotions in future, and your effort and money in attracting them to your website would not be wasted. This feature should be placed somewhere near the top left or top right of your homepage because of its importance.
2) Professional look/atmosphere. Your website must not be full of graphics, banners or flashing advertisements. These only serve to distract your visitors from your main product offers. You should avoid flash animation as well. When formatting your text, use only a single type of font like Times New Roman, and two different colors at most. Page backgrounds should preferably be white or plain, and not be patterned or fanciful.
Another important factor to keep in mind is to minimize the time that your webpage takes to load. Since visitors are normally very impatient, they are likely to leave if a page is slow to load, hence the need to exclude large graphics or animation which slow down your loading speed.
3) Good content. Most online retailers sell products in a niche they have expertise in or which they are passionate about. For visitors to be convinced of your authority in the niche, you need to establish yourself as an expert in that area by providing useful, reliable content. Customers tend to trust retailers with strong background knowledge as they can recommend the best products for the customers’ needs, or answer any queries well. Fly-by-night businesses, on the other hand, are just out to make money, and normally do not have the necessary expertise to earn the trust of customers. It is thus critical that you make a consistent effort to update your website regularly with the latest tips, resources or articles to serve your visitors well. At least even if visitors do not buy from your website on their first visit, they would continuously return to your website for useful information. After a period of time, when you have earned their trust, they would feel more compelled to buy your products. This form of marketing, which develops an online community, is a very cost-effective method as it costs next to nothing to supply the necessary information.
If you would like to create a forum on your website, you can use this free forum software at http://www.phpbb.com. It is very easy to set up and only requires you to create a database with your web host, with some customization.
Of course, you can also go for the option of writing your own content on your website. When writing your content, remember to include your keywords evenly throughout the content for search engine optimization purposes.
4) Good navigation. This is another strong determinant of the success of your website. For a website to look ‘professional’, it has to be well organized into categories, and the pages must be linked to each other and to the homepage. Your navigation bars must be placed consistently at the same area on every page of your website. Navigation bars are most commonly placed on the left hand side of the page or at the top of the page. If you have numerous different categories on your navigation, it makes sense to place them on the left of the page. However, if you have only about five to seven options, you can place your navigation bars at the top of the page.
Use text links for your webpages on your navigation bars instead of graphic links. One factor that search engines like Google use to determine the relevance of your webpages is by the inclusion of keywords in the text links to that page.
It is also crucial that you name your navigation accurately and descriptively. Visitors would instantly know which link to click on to find what they want. If your website is cluttered with many obscure links, visitors would feel lost and leave your site immediately.
Organize your content well so that your visitors can navigate your site easily. They should be able to find what they want with the least number of clicks possible. Research has shown that for any extra click that visitors have to take to reach their goal, the number of visitors leaving your site can reach as high as 50%!
When deciding what to include in your navigation bar, first place yourself in your customers’ shoes. Think about what they would be most interested in when they visit your site, and place these links near the top of the page. Other links, which are secondary in importance for the visitor should be placed nearer the bottom of the page.
5) The standard pages. Like every other online business, your Drop Ship business website should also include some important pages that serve the customer.
– Testimonials. This page is considered as a ‘must-have’ for many online businesses. When you display the testimonials of other customers on your website, your credibility is established. Testimonials are like votes or ratings for your business that shows the real value of what you offer. The better the comments from customers, the better your website would appear to prospective customers. You can choose to place a separate testimonials page, or you can select a few of the best testimonials and place them on your homepage.
– Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). After you have described your benefits in detail, visitors would still have several queries about your products. It is thus useful to create an FAQ page to write down the answers to what your customers are most likely to ask. When visitors have questions, they can simply visit your FAQ page, instead of sending you their queries by email. This saves you a lot of trouble for answering individual emails. Remember that most customers are not willing to make purchases when their doubts are still unanswered.
– Contact Us. Having this page boosts your reliability as a business. Remember to include your email address, mailing address and telephone numbers on this page.
– About Us. Describe what your team and your business aims to do.
HTML editors like Macromedia Dreamweaver are useful for those unfamiliar with HTML. Dreamweaver can be found at: http://www.macromedia.com/dreamweaver.
In conclusion, whether or not your website generates sales determines heavily on the design and navigation ease. You should definitely spend more time planning on your
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