Undesign Your Retail Website Published Mon Jul 13 13:00:00 SAST 2015
What is the purpose of your retail landing page? Is it to:
- Download a 5MB PDF food menu?
- Watch a Flash intro before proceeding to your real site?
- Hear auto-playing music?
- Get customers off your site and into your physical store so you can make a sale? (Hint: it's this one.)
- Keep customers on your site to achieve a secondary purpose, like build trust to make a sale?
- Send customers elsewhere to make a sale?
If you run a retail store with decent brand equity, the answer is probably (4): to get people off the web and into your store ASAP — everything else derives from this. In select few cases you may want to keep customers on your site to build trust before attempting a sale.
Retail establishments like restaurants and shops have traditionally suffered from over-designed websites filled with distractions, when the customer really just wants a map with driving directions so they can give you their hard-earned money.
Content before style. Here are the bare necessities:
- Minimal branding to establish identity, e.g. “ACME Inc.”
- Big obvious phone number and email address, above the fold.
- Physical address with map and clear driving directions.
- Obvious pricing. Most phone calls are to ask, “How much is X?”
- Minimal social proof to establish trust like “150,000 happy customers” with a few selected testimonials.
Instead of hiding contact details on a different page, put a phone number prominently on your home page, above the fold.
Don't like answering the phone as a retail owner? Invest in phone support first.
Focus on what you can measure: content and usability. Avoid "pretty" or flashy design.
Baseline usability is about avoiding unnecessary questions like:
- “Is that a button?”
- “Can I click on that?”
- “Why is that there?”
- “Is 6:00 in the evening or the morning?”
Whilst efficiently answering necessary questions like:
- “What does it cost?”
- “When are they open?”
- “Who do I call?”
- “How do I get there?”
- “How do I buy?”
Omit elements which introduce unnecessary questions while answering sales-driven questions.
Required reading on usability is Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug.
Test your assumptions with a simple hallway test:
- Pull a customer off the street for a 60-second usability test. Offer free bacon or coffee.
- Tell them the action you want them to achieve, e.g. “What does an iPhone 5 Screen repair cost?” Encourage them to think aloud.
- Shut up and watch what they do. Give no guidance. Pay particular attention when they get stuck: those are your question marks.
Five hallway tests will identify 90% of all usability problems on your site.
“Users spend most of their time on other sites.” - Jakob's Law of the Internet User Experience
- Use minimal design. Good design is as little design as possible. Remember Windows Vista? Yuck.
- Minimum font-size: 16px.
- Line-spacing: 1.6 (
- Two or fewer fonts: one for headlines and one for copy.
- Good contrast between text and background.
- Limit line length to 12 words per line, or
- Use a different color for visited links.
- Support mobile.
- Balance heavy or busy space with whitespace. Better yet, avoid busy space.
- Keep vital information above the fold. If you need a “scroll down” button, you have failed.
- Have a single clear primary call-to-action like a phone number, “buy” button or link to pricing. Even better, show pricing on the homepage if you can.
- Use rich black for headlines or large blocks of black. Write scannable content. People Don’t Read on the Web.
- Don’t use more than two fonts.
- Don’t reinvent native user interfaces like scrollbars or - mouse pointers.
- Don’t use rotating elements like carousels.
- Don’t hijack scrolling with any kind of “smoothing behaviour.”
- Don’t use non-standard link colors.
- Don’t design for the sake of design.
- Don’t use animations, unless you want to draw attention to that element. If you need to draw attention, your page may be too busy.
- Don’t use pure black for large dark areas.
- Don’t overwhelm the user with a wall of text.
Now go undesign your retail site! Let me know if this helps.