24 April 2024, 22:43
By Daniel Ruffle Mar 27, 2014

The importance of great web design

A good website design can be as crucial to a business’ success as its store layout, product or salespeople, says Metakinetic’s Daniel Ruffle …

The value of good salesmanship is easily recognised in the furniture industry. More often than not, your customers will need a little help to select the perfect-shaped sofa for their newly-decorated living room, or the right type of wood to complement the decor of their bedroom.

I’d happily bet money on excellent customer service being your number one priority in store. Your teams will all be expertly trained to greet your customers in a professional manner, to know how to direct them towards the items they are after, and will be well equipped with the right information to answer any query they might get asked.

So how does this relate to great ecommerce web design? Well, in the same way that your in-store representatives are required to take your customers on a journey to find their dream dresser, your website also needs to be carefully designed to provide users with the optimum level of service online.

“You’ve already achieved the hardest part by getting a customer to visit your site out of hundreds of others. Don’t let a bad layout or terrible navigation turn them away”

E-commerce has grown increasingly sophisticated over the past year, and your website visitors are starting to expect a higher level of online service than they may have done previously. Furniture customers usually begin their buying process with a period of in-depth product research, making your website the first port of call. It is vital that your website makes a good impression if you want to encourage your visitors to either make a purchase online, or visit your bricks-and-mortar store.

First impressions make a lasting impression

It’s true that first impressions count, and never more so than when a customer visits your website for the first time. Your site needs to demonstrate the credibility of your business in the same way that your sales assistants need to reflect the integrity of your business in-store.

A well-designed website will immediately build trust between your business and your customers as well as reinforcing your brand reputation. Every business has a unique selling point (USP), and the design of your website can be a brilliant way to complement this and make your brand truly memorable. Likewise, if you have a reputation for impressive furniture design then your website should reflect this in its own striking design.

Your home page is usually the busiest page. Displaying your best products and any offers you may be running is important, but it’s vital that these are shown in a clear and ordered way to keep the page enticing. Treat your home page like your showroom – cramming it with multiple offers and discounts, or 20 different new lines all fighting for a visitor’s attention, will be information overload.

If you have several different offers on, then why not use a carousel to display each offer in turn without crowding the page? The movement will also attract a visitor’s attention and make the offer a focus point on the page.

Don’t let poor user experience turn your visitors away

We’ve all visited a poorly-designed website at one point or another, and the experience for the user can be increasingly frustrating. You’ve already achieved the hardest part by getting a customer to visit your site out of hundreds of others. Don’t let a bad layout or terrible navigation turn them away.

Keep your main navigation bar as simple as possible to make it easy for a user to find the general category they are after, such as sofas, tables, or wardrobes. Secondary navigation can then be used to drill down to more specific product categories like oak tables, or leather sofas.

The best web design will allow users to explore the site in an intuitive way, directing initial visitors towards the main navigation, then onto the relevant product category, before offering up a clear and well-displayed product gallery.

"Treat your home page like your showroom – cramming it with multiple offers and discounts, or 20 different new lines all fighting for a visitor’s attention, will be information overload"

A lack of consistency can also contribute to a poor user experience. Ensure that your main calls to action are clearly identifiable and are positioned in places a customer can easily find them. For example, the basket icon is most regularly located in the top right-hand corner of a site, and the buy button holds most influence when it is placed directly to the right of a product image.

Whilst you may want to implement a cutting-edge design to stand out from your competitors, it’s important to keep the most basic design features in the usual places to avoid frustrating your customers.

Good design will keep your customers on site for longer

A well-designed website will always perform better. If a page is built correctly not only will it look better, but it will also load quicker, and load speeds can have a huge impact on bounce rates. The average time it takes for a page to load currently stands at 2.7 seconds, and visitors will rarely wait longer than three seconds to view a page that hasn’t fully loaded.

It can be even trickier to keep load speeds down when your pages contain a large amount of high resolution images, so they need to be well designed. Redesigning your pages will not only make your furniture look more appealing, but it will improve the actual functionality of your site. What’s more, the longer a user stays active on your site the more click-throughs are likely to occur, and the higher the chance of finding the exact piece of furniture they were after.

Perfect your product pages

Product page design can be a little overlooked. In some cases visitors can journey through a great home page and menu to be greeted with a crammed product page, heavy with text and accompanied by poor quality images. Furniture customers are likely to be far more stimulated by visual features than by paragraphs of text, so make sure your product pictures are a high resolution and take up the majority of the page.

If you’re worried about cutting out the finer details, the inclusion of a zoom feature can show a customer the intricacies of an item like a carved bookcase far better than a mass of text.

Your customers will need plenty of inspiration to visualise your furniture in their own home, and your site design should supply this. A poor site design that makes the items look terrible online will only encourage customers to think the products would look just as bad in their house.

Keep the layout of these pages clear and concise to make the content easier to understand. Think about the minimum that is required on the page rather than aiming to fit in as many extras as possible. In most cases, the images will be the main focus so try to include at least three very good images, a short amount of text detailing the material, size and style, the price, customer reviews and social sharing links.

Get creative

Whilst good design does need to adhere to certain rules, you shouldn’t feel limited to creating a bland website. As long as your web designer has a clear understanding of the foundations of good e-commerce design, most design concepts can be adjusted to meet these criteria, meaning you can have a website that is unique as well as effective.

Daniel Ruffle is the head of digital design at Metakinetic, an award-winning full-service ecommerce agency based in Wokingham, Berkshire. Metakinetic’s team of 20 specialists provides e-commerce solutions, digital marketing and creative design services to a wide range of online retailers. This article was featured in Furniture News' March issue.

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