11 Non-Negotiables For Every Ecommerce Website

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Ever wondered what makes a good website GREAT?

And more specifically ever wonder what makes an e-commerce site SHINE?

Here is a list of 11 critical elements that will help transform the most casual browser into a serious shopper (and sale!) for you.

Online shoppers are task-oriented. They often don’t read text, looking instead for visual cues to lead them through their task.

That means you need to present a crystal clear path from landing page to products to shopping cart to checkout.

The difference between bad navigation and good navigation is conversion.

If you make it hard for users to find your products, get to their shopping carts and checkout, you’ll lose them.
Simple as that.

So, then, what is good navigation?

There isn’t a single style or template because every merchant is different, but the simple answer is this: good navigation never leaves a user asking: Where am I? And how do I get where I want to go?

That means your main navigation should present your most important categories and pages and you should use drop-downs or submenus that allow users to drill down.

Flag the Important Pages: For example, Human has a simple header with top categories, account access and link to the cart. Clean and easy to understand with no questions asked.

Organize your products into Product Categories: No matter how many products you have, your product categories need to simplify the journey for the shopper on your site. A good example is Kohl’s. Kohl’s has a huge inventory but they simplify navigation with at drop down that offers clearly labeled divisions within categories. The user can therefore easily navigates to a sub-category or any very specific location.


• Ensure a search option on every page: Make sure that your search function is everywhere: in the headers and on every page so that no matter where, your interested shopper can also easily search their desired item.

How easy are your product pages to decipher? Can users find the important features, technical specifications, reviews and pricing of each product easily? Do you provide enough information for them to make a purchase decision easily?

Crutchfield sells pretty complicated products, but gives product information simply, breaking up the information so as to not overwhelm the shopper. They use tabs to break up the information into various levels of detail:

Overview: contains the main features and selling points.
Reviews: are up next so people can see what other shoppers think.
Details: includes a list of what’s in the box and more detailed feature information.
Accessories: is an upsell page to remind buyers of items they might want or need to go with the product.
Q&A: lets users see questions from other users and the answers.
Articles & Video: presents any manufacturer information or industry reviews.

Take a look at the following example from Crutchfield:


The tabs are easy to navigate and give users access to all the facts without endless scrolling or information overwhelm.

More and more people are shopping on their mobile devices from phones to tablets to watches. Your site needs to respond and adapt to each device, whether it’s a pocket device or a giant desktop monitor.

Responsive design is quickly becoming the standard for ecommerce thanks in part to Google. The search engine giant considers your site’s mobile friendliness in their rankings. Sites that comply rank higher. Those that don’t get lost.

Skinny Ties is a great example of a responsive site. It’s touch-friendly and the look and feel remains consistent from phone to tablet to desktop.

Premade themes are out-of-the box mobile friendly and they’re easy for most merchants to set up and launch. But if you’re working with a designer, make sure they can provide a responsive store. If they can’t, hire a new designer.

Otherwise, you’ll lose customers to more mobile-friendly competitors.

A better option might be choosing a platform like ShopOnMain that takes the work and worry out of all of that.

The Internet is visual. Your product photography should feed that experience. Make your product images really pop off the page – whether it’s the product page, the homepage, or a suggested products sidebar.

On the product page, give users as many angles as you can. Let them zoom and see a 360-degree view of the products.

New Balance does a great job of using product images on item pages and throughout their site. They use overlays and super-sharp images to draw the eye and motivate a purchase.


Huge images that fill the entire homepage are all the rage right now. Those eye-catching graphics that fill the screen not only draw the eye to the merchant’s most important messages, they create an immersive brand experience.

Lens merchant Moment’s homepage demonstrates one of their popular products in action on an iPhone. It’s a beautiful image, which you would expect from a lens merchant. It’s a brand-immersive experience that also demonstrates their photographic expertise.


Amazon’s homepage uses a series of large, rotating banners at the top of their landing pages. The banners may or may not show products. They often use the space to alert users to sales or special offers.

But most importantly, these images immediately present a site visitor with a crystal clear call to action, whether it’s a product or promotion.

Privacy is important to online shoppers. Not only do they want to know that their financial data is secure, they want to know what you’ll do with their email address and other information. Place a link in your site’s footer that takes readers to a clear, easy-to-read privacy policy so your shoppers know exactly how you will and – will not – use their personal information.

Make registration an option. Allow shoppers to check out as guests, but give the option to register and outline the benefits of doing so:

• Enter their billing and payment information only once.
• Quicker checkout.
• Access to special promotions.

Outline your specific benefits with bold statements and images, and give a clear call to action to register during checkout.

Give users a clear shipping and delivery policy. Tell them how long it takes to process, pack and ship their order and give clear shipping table that shows delivery windows for all the services you offer.

Shopping online should be as easy – or easier – than checking out at a brick-and-mortar store.
You should offer as many payment options as you can, including PayPal. While it might be slightly inconvenient for you, it makes things easier for shoppers.

Users should be able to complete their purchase in fewer than two pages. Better still if you can combine all the steps into one page or offer a feature like Amazon’s 1-click for registered users.

Every page a customer lands on during the checkout process is an opportunity for shopping cart abandonment.
Keep it simple, short and secure.

You have 3 seconds to deliver your page or you’ll lose about 40% of your traffic. If your gorgeous design is slowing down your site, you’re shooting yourself in the foot – because nearly half your audience will never see it!

Use compression tools, content delivery networks, plug-ins and a solid platform like (NAME) to deliver your content. If you host your own site, make it clear to designers, writers and developers that speed is critical.

Here are a few super-charging tips:

Test your homepage load time ALL the time. As sites grow in size, they tend to develop bloat. Make sure you know how fast your site is loading. Pingdom has a free test or you can use Google’s tool.
Compress everything. There are dozens of free services that allow you to compress large image files, video and sound. Compressed files will greatly improve your upload times.
Get a decent hosting company. If you aren’t on a platform like ShopOnMain, you need to make sure your hosting company can handle your traffic. Keep an eye on your usage and boost bandwidth and file storage when you need it.

Google’s ecommerce tracking tells you the thing you most want to know about your most profitable customers: where they come from. Once you know that, you can tweak campaigns to ensure the best results.

It’s fairly easy for the Google-savvy, but here are a few things you should remember when you enter the world of ecommerce tracking:

Goals: You can tag newsletter signups, page views, conversions or just about anything as a goal. It’s a way to keep a spotlight on the things that are most important in your business.
Connect to Adwords: If you’re using adwords, make sure you connect it to your analytics account. Take the time to set it up correctly so paid search traffic isn’t reported as organic or vice-versa.
Campaigns: Track emails, Facebook, banner ads and any URL you want to understand how your marketing campaigns are working.
Safety Net Profiles: Google lets you set up multiple profiles and this comes in really handy if one of your goals or filters is set up wrong. Set up safety net profiles that collect only raw data in the background in case something goes awry.
Filter Out Internal Traffic: People in your organization are tracked through analytics just like everyone else. Filter out internal traffic for a true insight into how customers and new visitors behave, not your employees.
Webmaster Tools: New reports from Google let you see far more than the keyword clicks you’re used to. Now you can see which keywords have the most impressions, click through rates, your rank for keywords and clickthroughs for landing pages.

You want shoppers to stay on your site, to engage, to buy and to share the good news about your brand?

Build a world-class site with the eleven non-negotiables. Or you can make things easy for yourself and simply talk to us here at (NAME) where we are dedicated to creating ‘off the chart’ experiences both for you the retailer and the shoppers who come to your site.

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