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A Merchantís Guide to Website Design and Usability
6 August 2009 - Mumbai, India

Did you know that 1/3rd of visitors abandon their searches because the web page takes more than 5 seconds to open? Did you know that a website’s design and ease of navigation plays a large role in retaining the interest of the visitor? Did you know that every design decision you make effects your conversion rates?          

If the answer to any of the above questions was ‘No’, then here is a comprehensive checklist you can consult while designing your online store (website). If your website is up and running, you can use this checklist to evaluate your website's effectiveness.

The 3 key elements for a good website are – design, navigation and responsiveness.     

Website Design              
The design you select for your eStore is extremely important, as your eStore (website) is both your online sales engine and brand ambassador. In online trade, you do not have any face-to-face interaction with your customers. To ensure repeat business, your website has to make a great impression on your potential customer.

Website Navigation      

Good navigation is fundamental. If visitors to your online store cannot locate their desired product easily, they will get frustrated and head straight for your competitor’s website. You need to ensure that your website navigation is noticeable and accessible.

Website Responsiveness           

Surveys indicated that 1/3rd of users abandon their searches because the website or page takes more than 5 seconds to open. So, it is important to have a fast loading website.               

Here is a list of questions you need to ask before selecting a design and service provider:
  • If you have a brick ‘n’ store, is the selected design a continuation of your store’s brand identity? Does your logo stand out or does it blend into the website design?

    By ensuring, your eStore design reflects your offline brand colors, logos etc, you can translate the goodwill you have earned offline, online i.e. you can gain your customer’s trust more easily.
  • Will your website’s design appeal to your customers aesthetically? Do the colors and graphics used enhance your website?

    Having a great design is not enough! This design should create the right ambience and should appeal to your target audience. For example: A bright punk pink Yoga website will make people reluctant to sign up. It needs to have a peaceful ambience that reflects the service offered.
  • Does the website clearly indicate its purpose? Will the visitor know the purpose of the website without in-depth reading?

    You eStore homepage should contain a short summary (not more than 100 words) of the services and products you offer. If the customer cannot locate what he is looking for easily, he will move on to a competitor’s website.
  • Are the fonts used easily readable? Will visitors who are not techno-savvy i.e. cannot adjust their browser settings read your content easily?

    Not everyone has 20/20 vision. Not all online users are technically proficient i.e. they can surf and shop with easy but they may not know how to adjust the PC settings. So, make sure the font size and color that you use have maximum readability.
  • Have you structured your navigation keys for easy accessibility i.e. are your navigation keys clearly labeled to ensure that visitors navigate through your website easily?

    Your navigation menu must be simple and straightforward, so, even a young child can use it easily. If it too complex and the customer cannot locate the product or service he is looking for easily, he will move on to a competitor’s website. Therefore, it is vital to have a simple and clearly labeled navigation system. You should also include secondary navigation tools such as a sitemap to help visitors navigate through your website.
  • Will a flash website help attract a larger audience? Have you ensured that all the graphics are optimized to increase download speed? If you are using images or flash as your navigation mode, have you added a text alternative?

    Flash a great way to attract the attention of visitors. However, there are drawbacks – it makes your page load slower and many visitors have computers that do not support images or flash mode. To ensure that you do not lose sales because of loading failure or a slow loading page, you need to optimize al graphic and provide a text alternative for those customers whose PC’s do not support flash.
  • Is there a clear call to action on every page?

    Always include a ‘Buy Now’ button next to each product and/or on every page to make it convenient for customers to pay. If the customer has to search for a ‘Buy Now’ button he might frustrated and move to another website.
  • How long does your website take to load? Will the page load quickly? Is your system provider meeting your requirements? Is the speed of your system costing you sales? Is it time to upgrade your program or more to a better provider?

    1/3rd of visitors abandon their searches because the web page takes more than 5 seconds to open. To ensure that your system’s speed is not costing you sales check to make sure that your web-hosting provider provides you with decent speed. If not it might be time to upgrade your program or switch to a better provider.
Please Note: This checklist should be used as a guide and not be seen as a list of must do on every site.

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