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7 Website Redesign Challenges for Merchants

Posted on 2.03.2014

Redesigning an e-commerce website is a huge project that must be handled very strategically, as any unwelcomed change to the user experience could result in a loss of revenue and customers.

This means that merchants and their design teams should dive into their analytics and conduct multiple tests before jumping into a project of this caliber. Despite how much planning is put into the project, however, there will likely be a few bumps in the road before the site is ready for launch. Read below to learn more about some of the most common website design challenges that merchants and their design teams face when redesigning their virtual storefronts:


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1. Designing for Mobile

It is essential for businesses to have a mobile presence nowadays, which means that any e-commerce site going through a redesign should keep the small screen top of mind. In fact, Max Childs, marketing director for Amplience, notes that multichannel accessibility should be considered at the very beginning of a redesign project.

“Today's users access websites from numerous devices – laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc. — and each point of access must deliver a high level experience,” said Childs. “From the retailer's point of view, this means accounting for the objectives of the user on different devices, as well as more functional needs such as page resizing, navigation adjustments, dropping certain elements in response to available real-estate, etc.”

Currently, the most popular choice for mobile is responsive design, as it provides flexibility for different screen sizes and typically requires less maintenance. It is also worth noting that responsive design is Google’s recommended strategy.

2. Retooling Product Pages

Product pages are the virtual salesman of an e-commerce site, which means that they must not only feature all of the information a consumer needs to make a purchasing decision, but also feature it in an easy-to-discover fashion.

In order to improve upon a site’s existing product pages with a redesign, merchants and design teams should conduct tests and take a good look at analytics to discover which features are virtual studs and which are duds. For example, analytics could reveal that consumers are more likely to purchase when a product page features videos, which would make it a good idea to include videos on every product page during the redesign. Conversely, testing might show that customers respond better to red call-to-action buttons than blue, which is another element that the design team must consider.

Remember, however, that along with optimizing product pages based on analytics and testing data, merchants should also keep a variety of other product page best practices top of mind, such as including user reviews, providing product details, featuring large and high-resolution images for all angles of a product (or 360-degree views), displaying delivery and return information and offering stock information for each product.

3. Improving Navigation

Navigation can make or break an e-commerce website, as shoppers who can’t easily find what they are looking for on an e-commerce site are quick to leave and find what they are looking for somewhere else. In fact, navigation has a huge impact on an online store’s overall usability.

When The World of Lea Black e-commerce site went through a redesign, for example, improving the discoverability of products was a focus of the project.

“The original design of The World of Lea Black was not aimed at delivering a great user experience. The site was difficult to navigate, not responsive, and it was often too hard and time-consuming for consumers to find and purchase Lea's products,” said Sarah Rayer, president of S.Rayer Associates. “This goes against the grain of what today’s customers want – the ability to find and purchase the products they seek, quickly and easily.”

To create a better user experience, Rayer leveraged e-commerce platform Ecwid for The World of Lea Black’s redesign. According to Rayer, Ecwid improved the site’s performance because the platform is light-weight, which makes navigation simple for end-users. 

That said, merchants with robust inventories should consider leveraging a site search platform like SLI Systems or SearchSpring to make their products easier for shoppers to find. SLI Systems, for instance, features merchandising controls and a learning-based search technology that optimizes search results to display the most relevant products at the top of the page. Conversely, SearchSping’s Intellisuggest technology monitors every site visitors’ behavior to provide the most relevant product results to individual shoppers in real time.

4. Increasing Engagement

Aside from increasing conversions, e-commerce redesigns can address other issues, like poor engagement metrics. That challenge, however, is the overwhelming amount of technology and trends available on the Web that merchant s can leverage to increase engagement. This is why merchants need to focus on what type of technology would be best for their site.

Loyalty or gamification platforms, for instance, can help brands increase engagement metrics and build a more loyal customer base. This is because both types of solutions reward and incentivize customers for interacting with or purchasing from brands. On the other hand, virtual fitting platforms like Fits.me or Styku can help merchants increase site engagement and conversions, while also lowering return rates. This is because these platforms boost consumer confidence by helping shoppers pick the ideal clothing size for their body type.

That said, adding extra features like gamification programs or virtual fitting rooms can slow down a website’s performance, which is yet another challenge design teams face during a redesign.

5. Staying Up-to-Speed

Speed is a challenge for every website on the ’Net, as slow sites are proven to turn away visitors. For retailers, this not only means a loss of traffic, but also a loss of revenue. In fact, Mehdi Doudi, CEO of Catchpoint Systems suggests design teams focus on making a site faster from the very beginning of the redesign process.

“The challenge in a major ecommerce website redesign is making a smarter, prettier site, faster. Designing a nice visual, personalized shopping experience will fill carts, but the resources, bandwidth, and third-party apps required will slow the site and push impatient shoppers away from purchasing,” said Mehdi. “Slow sites cost online retailers over a billion in abandoned carts last year alone. Fortunately, if performance is integrated with design from the beginning of the development process, you can redesign the smarter, faster experience on Web and mobile that keeps customers buying from you.”

In order to keep sites loading quickly, design and development teams should analyze third party technology that has the potential to slow sites down. Moreover, teams should focus on keeping site design simple by only including necessary content on pages and formatting images correctly so pages aren’t weighed down. In addition, designers can leverage tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights to learn the reasons why the old site is loading slowly and what issues need to be resolved.

6. Optimizing the Checkout

The checkout is the most critical page of an e-commerce site. This part of the site should not only be intuitive for customers to use, but it should also only require customers to fill out the necessary information, which is a reason why guest checkout and one-step checkout have become popular in the e-commerce industry.

With guest checkout, customers are allowed to complete their purchase without becoming an official member of the site. Although this may prevent merchants from collecting some of the customer’s data, it can encourage occasional shoppers to complete their purchases. Conversely, one-step checkout makes the transaction process appear much more manageable than a multi-step checkout from a consumer’s perspective. Even though one-step checkout typically still requires customers to fill out the same amount of information as a multi-step checkout, condensing the input fields into one page can make the process seem faster.

Lastly, it is important for merchants to include trust symbols on the checkout page so that consumers don’t back out of their purchase at the last second. Trust symbols from security companies like VeriSign and TrustE increase consumer confidence and can be the difference between a purchase and an abandoned cart.

7. Measuring Success

Once a redesigned website is launched, the next challenge is measuring its performance. While every redesign is likely to receive some negative reviews from loyal customers who visited the previous site frequently, merchants need to closely monitor analytics to make sure that the new site doesn’t have any bugs.

Moreover, merchants can consider implementing a feedback solution, such as Usabilla or iPerceptions, to get customer feedback on the new site design. After all, the optimization process must continue even after the new site’s official launch.

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