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Ecommerce is business on the Internet. The buying, selling and basic partnerships all function similar to their offline counterparts. The traditional customer interface is the storefront or shop. When a customer walks into a store, there are two main elements: the store and the salesperson. The store sets the environment, giving the customer a sense of trust and comfort, the salesperson makes the sale and gets the person to purchase the product or service.

In Ecommerce, the website is both storefront AND salesperson.

The main difference in website design vs. store design is that you are designing the website to be your salesperson or sales team. A good website design will create a high conversion rate, turning your visitors into customers. In the end, that’s the goal of business—to convert potential sales into profit.

Website design is important for any Internet project, but website design is especially important for ecommerce websites because they need to be attractive, convey a sense of trust and usability and present the right information in the right way to turn the shopper into a buyer.

So what are the basics of Ecommerce Website Design?

Usability- This is a broad term for website design that encompasses site navigation and the overall shopping process. A menu bar and site map that make getting around the website easy is essential. If a visitor has issues trying to navigate the site they are far less likely to make a purchase. During the actual purchase, offering multiple payment options and prominently displaying security assurance will ensure that a purchase begun will be a purchase completed.

Communication- When someone buys a product from a website they don’t have the same assurance of completing the transaction with a person at a cash register. Just clicking on a button and moving on with no acknowledgement is not enough. Communication after the purchase, through email notification and/or auto responses that confirm the transaction are essential. It is also becoming increasingly important that sites be accessible through social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook.

Security- Website design must include encryption and other security features. If a consumer does not believe and understand that your webiste design is safe thre is no way they will purchase anything, plain and simple.

SEO- Search Engine Operation. If people can’t find you they can’t buy anything from you. Imagine not having a sign out in front of a store or not being included in the phone directory. Not having solid, aggressive SEO is like opening up a shop and not putting up a sign or telling anyone you are there. Keyword articles and original content along with link exchanges are the basics.

Browser Friendly- Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox—and so many others. There are a lot of different browsers that your customers may use. You need to make sure that your site displays well in all of them. And, perhaps more importantly, your website design needs to enable ease of purchase in any browser format. Website design that makes your ecommerce browser friendly is essential to creating a positive buyer experience and return customers.

These are just the basics of web design—there is a wealth of information out there. I recommend reading as much as you can about ecommerce website design before contacting a firm to design your site so you have the background that will help you know what to ask for and how to ask for it.