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8 web design tips for high-converting ecommerce sites

Building an effective ecommerce website can take time and effort. Not only does the site have to look good and feel on-brand, but it also needs to drive users to take action—and buy. 

Last updated

23 Jan 2023

Great ecommerce web design makes the shopping experience as quick, easy, and frictionless as possible, turning website visitors into paying customers. This chapter dives into eight ecommerce design tips for online shops to help you see more conversions in no time.

Increase ecommerce conversions with Hotjar

Hotjar's product experience insights help you make the necessary changes to your website's design to boost conversions and improve UX.

8 tips to improve ecommerce web design

Good ecommerce web design enhances the user experience (UX), reduces bounce rates, and boosts your online store’s revenue and reputation by delighting customers every time they interact with your website.

Put these tried-and-tested best practices into action to set yourself up for ecommerce success. 

1. Keep users in mind at every stage of their journey

You can't understand your customers until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. If you want to design a great ecommerce site, you have to understand how visitors interact with and experience your website and products across multiple touchpoints—from product pages and images to contact forms and the checkout page.

When you think like your customer, you can anticipate what they want from your ecommerce store—and then design your website to meet their needs. What kind of interface will be easiest for them to navigate? What information are they looking for on product pages? How can you simplify the checkout process? 

When you understand the customer journey, you can understand your users and identify the pain points they encounter, which leads to

  • Increased customer satisfaction

  • Reduced bounce rate

  • A better overall customer experience

Pro tip: use Hotjar's Observe tools to see exactly where user needs aren’t being met. 

Heatmaps show you whether you have positioned key information, CTAs, and contact forms so visitors can find them at the right point in their customer journey. If not, you can modify your layout for a better experience. 

Recordings show you exactly how customers navigate your site. Understand which areas they gravitate to, which they avoid, and where they get blocked or drop off.

An example of a Hotjar Recording

2. Focus on user-friendly navigation

Navigation—an umbrella term for UI elements that guide users to specific information on your website—can make a world of difference between a just-browsing visitor and a paying customer. This can include ecommerce web design elements like header navigation menus, product category pages, filters, on-site search, and footers.

For ecommerce websites, good navigation is crucial since it addresses one of the main reasons for shopping cart abandonment: inconvenience. The harder it is for users to find what they need on your website, the less satisfied they’ll be with your brand. A 2020 NRF report found that nearly every consumer (97%) has backed out of purchases due to inconvenience.

User-friendly site navigation tackles this by enabling visitors to easily and quickly find what they need. Great navigability lets customers interact, browse, and check out on any interface—including mobile devices—comfortably and without distractions.

Considerations for user-friendly navigation

Users expect your ecommerce site to look like the ones they've navigated before

Place main navigation menus at the top or left corner of your web page, where users expect to find them.

Include a search bar so users can find what they’re looking for anywhere on your site 

An auto-complete feature or relevant filters add to the quality of the customer experience.

Use ‘breadcrumbs’ to track user journeys, so they can easily retrace their steps 

Breadcrumbs allow users to return to several product categories and subcategories—and can serve as an expansion of their search. 

3. Remember SEO best practices

Search engine optimization (SEO) helps ecommerce websites rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). A strong ecommerce SEO strategy will create more exposure for your online store and a wider reach for your products.

Key SEO advantages for ecommerce websites include:

  • Improving your website’s design and content so it’s more relevant to users

  • Comparing your site performance with other websites to keep a competitive edge

  • Improving your SEO rankings

  • Showing you where to focus your website optimization efforts to achieve your KPIs

  • Boosting revenue and conversion rates

Common ecommerce SEO actions

Run an SEO audit

Apply on-page SEO audits using specialized tools to check your website for technical issues that could affect search engine performance—like missing <title> tags or broken redirections—and highlight key, high-performing pages.

Use relevant keywords

Include the words or phrases users might search for to find you and your website's content. This will drastically improve your chances of popping up in their search results.

Optimize product descriptions

Search engines look at your product descriptions to determine how relevant the product is to prospective users. Write thorough, easy-to-read, scannable, and accurate descriptions to help your rankings and communicate clearly to your future customers.

Pro tip: once you’ve identified your key, high-value pages, use them as an opportunity to check in with your users. Add a quick Feedback widget or non-invasive Survey popup to understand how your users experience the most important checkpoints in their journey throughout your website.

Hotjar’s Feedback widget in action

4. Create effective product pages

Product pages are what make your ecommerce website different from other websites—websites not intended for selling. Aside from your homepage, product pages are one of the most essential elements of your ecommerce web design. Whether you’re selling sneakers or marketing software, if your listings don’t hit the mark, your conversions will never go up. 

A good ecommerce product page design is streamlined and easy to understand, giving visitors a broad overview of your products while allowing for specificity and comparisons. Build your product page effectively, and your traffic and conversions will skyrocket.

For an ecommerce store, product page web design essentials include:

  • Product specifics, including title, price, features, and customization options

  • Detailed product descriptions that include keywords, align with your brand, and appeal to your target audience’s language

  • High-quality product images, showing your product from all relevant angles or highlighting its most important features

  • Buy and save for later buttons, placed above the website fold, and using striking color to make them stand out from the rest of the page

  • Social proof, including customer reviews, testimonials, user-generated content (UGC) from social media, and ratings

  • Related products (upsells and cross-sells), to further engage and delight your visitors with items that can complement their selection

From there, you can update and optimize your product page with extra features—like countdown timers, video or AR demos, check-in-store options, and back-in-stock alerts.

Pro tip: use heatmaps to understand how potential customers interact with your product pages.

Heatmaps help you understand data quickly and visually and put your numbers and charts into context.

For example, the quantitative (traditional) data on the left of this image is the same as the data on the right, but heatmap analytics show you how customers are moving around and what they're clicking on the page instead of only telling you that clicks are happening across different elements.

An example of quantitative data translated into heatmap format

5. Make checkout simple and seamless

Your ecommerce website’s success depends on one critical aspect: converting users into paying customers. A simple, straightforward, pain-free checkout process is the best way to do that. 

A recent study showed that a whopping 70% of users abandon their shopping carts on ecommerce stores. In many cases, the reasons for cart abandonment come down to a lengthy or complicated checkout process that requires customers to fill out lengthy forms, create an account, or click through several steps before seeing key information like shipping, taxes, and fees.

That alone should be reason enough for optimizing your checkout process and making it more user-friendly. Here are a few ecommerce website design tips for your checkout:

  • Reduce the number of steps or pages in your checkout flow. Having to create an account on your site can turn would-be customers away faster than you can say “cart abandonment.”

  • Have your customers fill out as little information as possible. Only request what is necessary for a purchase to push through.

  • Include progress indicators to show customers how far they have to go. This lets them know how close they are to that delightful free shipping reward.

  • Automatically fill in customer information where possible. Use autofill for predictable information like a shipping address. 

  • Make it easy for customers to change or edit their orders. Let them see a product preview in their cart with a description so they can review what they’re buying.

  • Display shipping, taxes, and fees at an early stage. If they get all the way to 'Pay now' and see a total much higher than anticipated, it comes across as dishonest and leads to cart abandonment.

Note: for more tips and ideas, read the full Shopping Cart Design chapter of this guide.

Pro tip: use product experience (PX) insights tools like Hotjar to see where drop-offs happen on key pages—like your checkout page. 

Hotjar Recordings show you how users interact with your pages across a full session. Use filters to view recordings of visitors who’ve dropped off from the checkout page to see exactly what’s stopping your visitors from converting, and to understand what went wrong. 

For example, you may find that customers are exiting the checkout process late in the game—which indicates that while they want to make a purchase, they’re getting blocked or frustrated along the way, or changing their mind due to some new information.

Or maybe you discover some users are getting frustrated clicking on a form field that doesn’t work, so a quick bug fix could solve the issue. Others could be impatient with multiple form fields or pages, so adding an autofill feature will help.

Ecommerce session recordings grant you behind-the-scenes access to the full customer journey, giving you valuable insights to improve the user experience (UX) and convert more visitors into happy customers.

Recordings are playbacks of users scrolling, moving, u-turning, and rage clicking on your site

6. Keep pricing, shipping, and returns transparent 

Pricing, shipping, and returns are three of the most important factors in building trust with your customers. 

When designing your ecom site, consider how you display this information to your visitors, and remember always to be upfront and honest about the price of the products or services you're selling. Make pricing clearly visible so customers don’t have to contact you to ask, and avoid hidden fees at checkout.

This rule also applies to shipping. Always keep shipping costs and locations clear and straightforward, and make sure your customers can see the total price of a product, including shipping, before making a purchase.

In addition to clear pricing and shipping information, make your return policy readily available on your website. Outline your return and refund policies on your checkout page so the customer knows exactly what to expect if they have to return a product. With this policy in place, it provides your site with more credibility and your users with some extra peace of mind.

7. Place compelling CTAs strategically 

Calls to action (CTAs) help convert website visitors into paying customers. They ensure shoppers know what to do—and feel confident doing it.

Effective CTA design is about finding and testing the right combination of size, color, placement, and wording. Standout CTAs share a few common elements, such as:

Visibility

Don’t bury CTAs in text, and use white space around them to help the eye zoom in 

Availability

Route incoming leads in the right direction by including a relevant CTA on each page

Consistency

Use consistent CTAs for the same actions to avoid confusing and frustrating users

Your CTA’s placement can also determine how effective it is at getting users to click. Make sure to place your CTA prominently on the page, above the fold when possible, and make it stand out from the rest of the page's content.

Pro tip: use heatmaps to test if your CTAs are getting the job done or getting lost on the page.

Tools like Hotjar Heatmaps are great for seeing whether users click on your CTA. This allows you to make quick fixes, like moving the button or using a different font, without necessarily needing to redesign the whole page.

A Hotjar Heatmap showing the areas website users engage with most

8. Keep testing and iterating your ecommerce web design

User testing allows you to go deeper to understand how visitors are responding to your online store design and why they’re responding that way. 

By testing your site’s functionality, you’ll uncover website usability pain points or website bugs users encounter on your site—like missing or broken elements, a confusing design, or an ineffective CTA—which will lead to opportunities for you to fix them to improve UX design and increase conversions.

To get the most accurate and actionable results, you have to make decisions about the type of testing that would be appropriate for your site based on your resources (i.e. time and money), target audience, and research objectives.

Traditional user testing—like moderated, in-person tests which observe participants’ actions, body language, and facial expressions in a testing lab or office—can quickly get expensive and time-consuming.

If you want to start testing your website’s usability now, use Hotjar Recordings to see where visitors are rage clicking versus clicking through successfully. Then deploy Hotjar Ask tools like Feedback widgets and Surveys to hear more from users about the issues they’re experiencing.

These types of PX tools let you test at scale on an ongoing basis—especially after adding new features or updates—to spot bugs that disrupt UX and decrease conversions.

#The Hotjar Recordings dashboard synthesizes user recording data so you can see at a glance where you should focus
The Hotjar Recordings dashboard synthesizes user recording data so you can see at a glance where you should focus

A/B testing is also great for checking how real users respond to new page elements like headings, sales copy, and CTAs, helping you understand which changes will bring your customers closer to conversion. Hotjar integrates with A/B testing tools like Optimizely, Omniconvert, and Google Optimize, allowing you to use recordings, heatmaps, surveys, and feedback tools to get deeper, more granular insights from your A/B tests.

For great results, engage in continuously testing your website. If you decide you’re done once you stop having major site issues, you’ll miss opportunities to iteratively improve website performance and make your users’ experience smoother and speedier. The best user testing is continuous and actionable.

Next steps for ecommerce web design

Great ecommerce web design provides a compelling user experience. It ignites a sense of customer delight and prompts visitors to complete their purchases and come back for more. 

Using these ecommerce web design tips, you can ensure that your website is functional, intuitive, reliable, user-friendly, and easy to navigate. These factors are the ingredients to a recipe that leads to higher conversions, repeat purchases, rave reviews, and word-of-mouth recommendations from loyal customers—all of which can make the difference between the growth and decline of an ecommerce business.

Increase ecommerce conversions with Hotjar

Hotjar's product experience insights help you make the necessary changes to your website's design to boost conversions and improve UX.

FAQs about ecommerce web design tips