The Complete Ecommerce Startup Guide: Designing Your Website

Your website design is one of the very first things people see when they come to your store. Whether they find you through a search engine or type your URL in directly, visitors will be quick to bounce if your design looks outdated or unprofessional—even if they know you have what they’re looking for.

Table of Contents:
The Complete Ecommerce Startup Guide

  1. An Introduction to Ecommerce
  2. Defining Your Niche, Strategy, and Goals
  3. Picking an Ecommerce Platform
  4. Setting Up Your Store
  5. Designing Your Website
  6. All About Ecommerce SEO
  7. Offering Amazing Customer Service
  8. Time to Launch!
  9. Ecommerce Marketing Methods
  10. Common Mistakes to Avoid
  11. Long-Term Ecommerce Website Maintenance
  12. Further Reading & Additional Resources

Having a professional, attractive, and user-friendly website design is important. The way your website looks tells a story about your brand. It gives new shoppers an immediate first impression of who you are, what you stand for, and what sets you apart from others. This is why it’s so crucial to make your site look good, even if you’re a brand new seller.

Options for Designing Your Website

You have three options when it comes to the design of your website:

  • Built-in themes
  • Templates or “skins”
  • Custom designs

Most ecommerce platforms come with one or more built-in “themes” that you can apply to your storefront. The one downside of these themes is that they’re typically fairly basic, focusing on functionality rather than looks. You may even recognize a few of them from other ecommerce sites. So it’s up to you to decide if going with a “stock” theme works for you.

If you want something different but don’t want to invest in a completely custom design, purchasing a template or website “skin” from another site may be your best option. Although it can sometimes be difficult to apply a custom template to a hosted ecommerce store, there are a multitude of websites that have both free and paid themes for a variety of platforms.

If you’re using WordPress for your ecommerce store, keep in mind that you will need to find a WordPress theme that works with your chosen plugin. Typical blog themes won’t have the styling needed to make your product pages, cart, and so on look the way they should.

Finally, if you can’t find a template you like, and want to truly stand out, you may want to invest in a custom design for your store. Look for a company that has experience designing for ecommerce, and ask to see their portfolio or a few of the online stores for which they’ve created custom designs.

How Long Does the Design Process Take?

If you’re using a stock theme or have purchased a template, you can typically apply it and get back to work the same day. If you decide to modify your template, or have a company create a custom website design for you, you’ll probably have to wait a few weeks before the design is completed, tested, and completely implemented.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t keep working on your site while the design is in process. You can usually continue adding products, setting up pages, and writing copy during this time. In most cases, the only thing the design will impact are the way your pages, shopping cart, and products look. A few adjustments may need to be made after the design is implemented—for example, you may need to write some new copy for the homepage, or add some missing details to product pages—but these will mostly be minor.

Although you may be concerned about the design process holding up your website launch, take comfort in knowing that you’re going to have a beautiful, unique website that stands apart from the rest of the Internet. In the end, it’s worth waiting for great design, and your customers will appreciate it just as much as you do!

What Elements Should My Website Design Have?

Look for the following in a new website design, or ask a company offering website designs if they can accommodate these requests:

Responsive Design: Will the website design display correctly on all screen sizes (mobile, tablet, and desktop/laptop) without zooming? Will the design automatically adjust to display properly on screens of all sizes? Will it be mobile-friendly?

Banner & Header Design: Will the site support promotional banners on the homepage, or other large images on category or landing pages? Can these be designed for me?

CMS Integration: Is the final website design going to be integrated with your CMS or store platform so that you can change elements easily? Will updating small elements of the website design require advanced knowledge of HTML, CSS, or another programming language? Can the design files be easily accessed via the CMS admin?

Menus: How will the navigation look and work? Will it be drop-down, or displayed elsewhere on the homepage? Will there be a single menu, or multiple? Will all of the site’s pages be linked via the menu?

Copywriting: Will the design allow room for SEO-friendly copywriting? Can this copywriting be done for me? How much copy will each page (homepage, category, product, etc.) allow? Will it be visible, or pushed down below the fold?

Optimized for Search: How will the website theme be optimized for search engines? Will images have alt tags? How quickly will the website load once the theme is implemented?

Now that you have a better idea of what elements your website design you should have, let’s move on to ecommerce SEO. We’ve already mentioned SEO a few times so far in this guide, but this chapter will give you a more in-depth look at it, and the important role it plays for ecommerce stores.


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