Creating an effective homepage can be a difficult task. If you have hundreds or thousands of products in dozens of categories, it can be difficult to put together a homepage that effectively showcases your products without being too overwhelming. The temptation is often to just throw everything that you have on the homepage, leading to a complex mess that scares customers away.
To help provide advice on the latest e-commerce homepage design best practices, we reached out to over a dozen experts in the e-commerce space who shared their best tips on how to create an effective homepage.
Director of UX at Stella & Dot
Follow @alejandra_z_m on Twitter
Stakeholders always want a shiny new design, but often don’t understand why or what the problems of your homepage actually are.
1) Know what your problems are first
Figure out why your stakeholders want to change the website – Create goals and clear hypothesis for the page before designing. It’s important to all agree on what the success metrics will be. Do a full inquiry about what is wrong with your site. Find out conversion, bounce rate and get qualitative feedback from customers. Look at different audience segments to find out what the problems are ( e.g. maybe it’s just mobile).
2) Keep in mind your past learnings
Everyone’s first inclination is to rip everything out, but often you are actually doing some things right. Prior A/B tests, interviews, and analytics are ways to see what parts of your page are performing.
3) Have both qualitative and quantitive feedback
Get qualitative feedback prior to the redesign, and before your A/B Test. Often an A/B test will not reach significance, and it is only through qualitative feedback that you find out why. Doing this prior to testing potentially saves you a round of testing.
4) Test multiple variations
Often your stakeholders want to only test the new version versus the old. The problem is that you won’t know how to interpret the test results. Was it the design? Was it the content? Test old content in the new design, and new content in the old design. Testing sections of the page in stages is also another way to understand why a design wins or loses.
5) Have a game plan and alignment on next steps
We all would love 100% win rates, but have a plan for what happens if the results are not what you expected. The stakeholders may want to launch the new design anyway because of all the work and effort. Instead, try to focus on how you can iterate on the design or be comfortable with the fact that the old design is performing better. In your test summaries state the implications of going forward with a losing design from a conversion perspective to get buy-in.
Senior Experience Architect at LYONSCG
Follow @designforusers on Twitter
The homepage is often the first impression customers have of your site, so it’s important to communicate your brand’s message loud and clear. What are some strategies for a successful ecommerce homepage?
1) Keep it simple
Online retailers have traditionally used the homepage as a place to communicate everything about the company and its products. However, studies have shown that the more competing messages on the page, the more your end user must process, and the more cognitive load experienced. The end result is that *all* messages are diluted, the customer does not have a strong direction of what to do next.
Providing a strong, unified message representing your brand, and using it to guide your users can help them get started in the shopping process quickly. A/B testing can help to guide which messages improve conversion the most.
2) Make things findable
Ever been to a homepage with no global navigation, and no obvious way to find what you’re looking for? Studies have shown that when users don’t find what they’re looking for, they quickly leave.
At a bare minimum, global navigation should be provided on the home page (and every page) as a way for users to find products. But it’s also very important to feature the most sought-after products there. Don’t expect your customers to be detectives!
Once upon a time, online retailers had separate websites for mobile and desktop devices. Increasingly, we’re seeing a shift to responsive ecommerce sites, where one codebase is used, and content lays out a bit differently to accommodate a variety of viewports.
There are multiple benefits to this approach, including improved search ranking, seamless content updates across devices, and a consistent customer experience. But in addition, A/B testing is much easier to do with a unified codebase.
VP, Design/Development at Brand Value Accelerator
Follow @ikennyrosenberg on Twitter
1) State a clear value proposition
Visitors need to understand instantly what differentiates your brand from competitors in the marketplace. Why should the consumer choose to buy from you: Are your prices lower? Do you have faster shipping? Do you have a better quality of products?
From the moment your consumer reaches your site, you need to instantly make an impact. A great example of a blatantly clear value proposition is Indochino. The first banner that the customer views says, “Modern made to measure suits crafted from the finest wools, just in time for fall,” and then a “Shop Now” CTA that is paired with, “Save 50% on select fall suits.” So, not only is their customer aware that they have quality tailor-made suits, but they also know they can get a good price for it. It instantly attracts the Indochino customer and draws him one step closer to a conversion.
2) Use captivating images that link directly into product collections
Why drive traffic to collection pages? It’s important not to isolate the customer into one specific product – give them the opportunity to explore multiple products and freely browse your collections without hitting the back button. Whether they are arriving to your collection pages through hero images, tiles or another image type, you are making their user experience that much more pleasant.
A great example of this is with MVMT watches. Once you arrive to the site, you can easily click through to your preferred product category.
3) Simplify your navigation, add a search bar
Help visitors find what they’re looking for with the least amount of friction. Consider adding a search bar and giving your audience a minimalistic approach. It’s what you put in the navigation that is going to make a difference. Numerous brands will want to put many things in the navigation thinking more options are better. The opposite is correct. The more options, the harder it is for your shopper.
President-COO at Miva, Inc.
Follow @rickmiva on Twitter
First impressions are crucial to a brand. In ecommerce, your first impression is often the homepage. The design choices you make could determine if visitors continue shopping or leave your site entirely.
Knowing the important role of the homepage is key to creating a thriving online store.
1) Get visitors off your homepage
This may seem to contradict the sentence above, but it’s true. You want visitors to make purchases, and unless you’re only selling one product, those purchases won’t be made on the homepage
Your homepage needs to offer clear navigation and a great flow to keep the user intrigued enough to discover more.
2) Don’t overwhelm the user
We’ve all heard arguments of whether or not you should keep all of your site’s important content above the fold. Regardless of where you stand, the fact remains that the greatest visibility of a page is the topmost portion of it.
That should give you all the more reason to not pack every pixel with links, messaging, and promos. The less you throw at the user, the easier it will be for them to make a decision on what to do next.
Simplify your navigation and messaging to limit the decision-making to broader categories, and leave the complex filtering to your subcategory pages.
3) Know your audience
Before making design decisions, dive into your analytics and learn more about your customers.
What browsers or devices are they using? What search terms did they use to find you? What products or categories are most popular? Knowing this information will help you display the most relevant content on your homepage.
4) Be memorable
What makes your store a better place to buy than Amazon, Walmart, or a competitor? If a customer makes a purchase, what’s going to encourage them to make another one?
The homepage is a great place to display your competitive advantage, personality, or something really cool and unique about your business. Leave a lasting impression and give your homepage some soul!
The homepage is a powerful gateway to your business, and can be a major difference maker to your online sales if leveraged properly.
Beauty & Fashion eCommerce Director at MariCorella.com
Follow @marinekko on Twitter
When it comes to homepages, the best advice is to keep it simple in order to avoid overwhelming the customer.
- The upper left part of the page will get the most views, so use that space for key messages such as special offers. Place your navigational categories on top with the most prominent categories on the left.
- Make sure that search is displayed prominently at the top of the page.
- Put your strongest content stories on top so that they get the most views.
- Avoid having too much content on the page, as content further down the page will have diminishing returns.
- Keep text large and to a minimum in a contrasting color from the background so that it’s easy to read. Call to action buttons in particular should “pop” while making it clear to the customer where exactly they will be taken to if they click them.
- Email signup should be prominent, either towards the top or in a pop-up, and only shown to customers who aren’t already signed up.
- Information content, such as About Us or Shipping Information, should be kept at the bottom of the page.
Of course, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach that can be applied to all homepages. A/B test colors, content placement, offers and themes to determine the best experience for your online customer. Here’s a list of ecommerce A/B testing case studies.
Lead Web/UX Designer at Bonanza
Follow @robospence on Twitter
Here at Bonanza, we recently launched a complete overhaul of our ecommerce homepage design (Yay!). We discovered and successfully implemented the following best practices that you should find helpful for their own homepage redesign projects.
1) Know your audience
Even a beautifully designed homepage will fail if it’s not useful for the people visiting it. Research who’s coming to your site, what they’re looking for, and why they choose you over competitors. Use this insight to determine what goes on the page, and measure how it performs.
2) Tell a story
Your homepage is a chance to create an impression about your company — not just what you sell, but who you are and why people should shop with you. While people browse, help them learn more about what makes your brand distinctive.
If you show lots products, balance these with reviews, testimonials, curated collections, and content unique to your brand. Use navigation to highlight what you offer that’s different from competitors.
3) Don’t include everything
It’s tempting to fit everything on the homepage, but keep in mind that too much can be overwhelming. It competes with the most important content and reduces its effectiveness.
Starting with a mobile design can help prioritize what’s really important. If you have a lot of required content, “chunking” things into groups of 5–7 can make the page easier to scan. Here are some mobile A/B testing tips to help design mobile-optimized experiences.
4) Plan for the page after launch
Getting the homepage live is just the first step. After it’s up, its important to keep the page updated with fresh content to keep people’s interest.
Create spaces where content can be updated easily. Use a content calendar and design pattern libraries to ensure new content can be developed regularly and created quickly. If possible, use automated content modules (for things like new or recommended items) to reduce the need for manual updates.
CEO at SpyGuy Security
Follow @allenthird on Twitter
Here are 2 tips on ecommerce homepage design:
1) Add a video that describes who you are
Adding an explainer video to our homepage was extremely helpful in building trust for our brand. Watching me explain what Spy Guy Security does made customers feel more comfortable doing business with us.
We get phone calls all the time from customers who see me in my homepage video and decided to trust us with their business instead of going with a competitor. More than half the customers that visit our homepage click the play button.
2) Put a phone number at the top of your website
There’s a popular trend today with ecommerce stores – they hide their phone numbers. They don’t want to be tied up in phone calls, so they hide the phone number to free up resources. From what I’ve learned, customers HATE this.
We put our phone number in plain sight so customers know that we’re easy to get a hold of and willing to talk to them.
Data Lead at DT
Follow @mrpeterluu on Twitter
1) Keep it general
Feature category level content rather than specific products on the homepage. Homepages are navigational entry points there to help users browse through to their intended product and/or content. At this point, individual products will only be relevant for a very small number of visitors.
2) Keep it fresh
Return visitors notice change and will engage with new, relevant content. Change up the news headlines, imagery and campaigns on a weekly basis if possible. Search engines love fresh content too.
3) Keep it simple
Too much choice distracts and disrupts. Remove the carousel, calculators, pop ups, marquees, auto play videos.
Director of Web Content at In The Swim
Follow @lisahendron on Twitter
Customer bases are shifting more and more to the mobile world. It’s much easier to sit on your (huge) iPhone 6 plus and shop for your next little black dress, then it is to wait until you get to your desktop. Ecommerce websites need to cater to this new audience or they will ignore a large demographic and lose revenue.
Here are some tips we have learned through our endeavors in mobile design.
- Navigation needs to be easy to understand at a glance.
- Users love to use the search bar, don’t hide it!
- Predictive search box results are extremely helpful.
- Keep your calls to action tasteful, but ever present.
- Your phone links you to a community, make your social media links noticeable.
- Design for a finger tap, not a stylus or mouse.
- Don’t be afraid to design BIG! You don’t want people squinting and trying to zoom inappropriately.
- Fewer clicks equal happier shoppers!
- Take advantage of the swipe, tap and pinch to show more information.
- And finally, don’t shy aware from a responsive site, it has amazing abilities if implemented correctly!
- Read more about optimizing your mobile store here.
Founder & Creative Director at EvenVision
Follow @g_perks on Twitter
There are two approaches to building a great ecommerce homepage, each based on the products or services being offered. On one hand, simple homepages have been shown to drive the highest conversion rates. If you have one product or a small number of offerings, then simplicity is your best bet.
On the other hand, you may not be a good fit for a minimalist approach if you’re selling a large or diverse inventory of products. Customers need more information to understand a large line of offerings, and they need clear signposts directing them quickly and efficiently to what’s best for them.
You can see great examples of each approach in Amazon.com and Uber.com. Amazon has a huge diversity of offerings, whereas Uber is focused very tightly on three or four closely related offerings. A homepage like Uber’s will convert better for you if you can simplify your offering. If your offerings are more like Amazon — broad, numerous and not all closely-related — then you’re forced to do a lot more with your homepage. In this case, make sure you clearly understand each of the customer types and give each one very clear signposts on the homepage which direct them to the branch or category they want.
People are impatient. If profound simplicity is an option, go with it. If not, you at least need profound clarity. Do the hard work yourself of understanding your complex offerings, organizing and naming them in your customer’s vocabulary. If your complex homepage isn’t instantly intuitive, people won’t take time to understand it – they will leave.
Director of Communications at JotForm
Follow @thebig3c on Twitter
One simple thing ecommerce stores ignore is how powerful it is to include pictures of real people on the homepage.
When you’re asking for someone’s money through the internet, it’s always important to build a sense of trust, and pictures help build that trust. For that same reason, make the “About Us” page easy to see from the homepage. People are more likely to transact with someone they feel they know. Hiding the “About Us” link below the fold is ill advised for this very reason.
I’ve worked for a few different ecommerce companies now, and each time we overhauled our About pages we saw an uptick in sales. Google Analytics showed us it was always high trafficked, so we needed to make A/B testing it a priority. The homepage should make it easy to find that on the top bar.
CEO at Black N Bianco
Follow @blacknbianco on Twitter
A well-designed ecommerce homepage is essential for a customer to feel comfortable purchasing from your store. Learning a few basic tricks to keep your customers engaged and informed will help improve your conversions.
The first tool your homepage must have is a search box. Make your search bar omnipresent and easy to spot. Most customers know what they are looking for and if they can’t find within a few minutes they will bounce off and return back to the search engine. Putting your search bar on the bottom of the page is something you must avoid. Always remember functionality over design.
I made the mistake of putting my search bar on the side of my page due to the design of my homepage. Customers could not find my search bar and were confused at what the space was at the side of my page. My bounce rate was around 49% due to the inability to find what they want. It was a simple fix and my bounce rate significantly dropped to 22% after my search bar was easily viewable.
Another important aspect of the homage page is the navigation bar. Make sure your customers can easily find their way around your website. Having a poorly designed navigation bar can easily kill your business. Customers don’t want to waste time on a site that does not look trustworthy.
If a customer has never heard of your company before don’t be afraid to show them links to your testimonial and reviews on the homepage. Building credibility with your potential customers within the first few minutes will lead you to higher sales. Your ecommerce homepage is the face to your business so remember to make it easily accessible and professional.
Sr Director of eCommerce at VaporFi
Follow @VaporFi on Twitter
I like to think of the homepage like the physical storefront display. It needs to be visually appealing and draw the visitor in to explore the rest of the site.
Aside from visual appeal, the homepage must be designed to easily direct visitors to the products they are interested in. I don’t want them hanging out on the homepage — I want them checking out my products and making purchases. If there’s too much going on, or the path to purchase is not intuitive then the visitor is going to get lost in the shuffle and eventually leave.
As an example, we used to have the standard rollover banners front and center on the homepage. We decided to run an A/B test where swapped them out for 2 static images side by side with links to our 2 main product categories. The results were clear. By the end of our testing period, we had achieved a 12% uptick in revenue per session for homepage visitors. Time on page dropped significantly, but we viewed this as a positive as it meant people were spending less time figuring out where to go and more time shopping. Get people where they want to go (and where you want them to go) quickly and easily, and you will be more successful in your efforts.
Visually appealing, easily understandable, clear organizational structure, and fast loading times are the biggest drivers of homepage success for my team. And always remember, it’s not about what you personally think is better, it’s about what the data tells you is better.
Director of Development at pixelFLYTE
Follow @pixelFLYTE on Twitter
My company, pixelFLYTE, is a full service web design and development firm in Nashville, Tennessee, with extensive experience in ecommerce.
At pixelFLYTE, we’ve learned that one of the biggest pitfalls in homepage design for ecommerce is not providing potential customers with a clear, concise path to your products with minimal clicks. The main navigation should be persistent and be easy to understand, with titles that are brief and to the point. Ideally, the product search bar should also be part of the main navigation and should be well defined with auto-complete functionality.
For the content featured on the homepage, the primary goal should be to remove as much clutter as possible. Do not utilize a large rotating slideshow for featuring products. Research has shown that homepage slideshows are ineffective and rarely engage the customer. Instead, focus on a single featured product with an obvious call-to-action that takes the customer directly to the product. Also, don’t overwhelm the user with too much content beneath the featured product. Don’t try to feature all of your products or a product for each of your categories. Offering too many choices will actually alienate and confuse your potential customers.
The bottom line is the easier you make it for the visitor, the more likely you’re going to increase your sales. By making your navigation as understandable as possible and limiting the clutter on the home page, you’ll achieve the ultimate goal of an ecommerce website: converting visitors to happy customers.
Marketing Manager at StrataShops
Follow @stratashops on Twitter
We went through a complete website redesign in early 2015, and since we’ve tweaked our site and marketing to better capitalize on our new design. Here are some things we’ve learned:
Images Rule: When you sell products online, people like to see but they don’t necessarily like to read. Eye-catching images and clickable photos make consumers want to explore more about the product. Too much text can leave people a bit glassy-eyed, especially if you sell a complicated product. Great looking images of products definitely put some products at the top of our CTR over others. Clear, easy-to-understand, and simple messages are also important to get the most out of your product pages.
SEO Matters: Yes, people love big, splashy images and slick graphics, but a website still needs to rank in organic search terms to do well. Excellent, keyword-friendly copy and content, good header tags, and other optimizations should all be an important part of any eCommerce site. Refresh copy consistently to be more relevant and help improve your search engine optimization.
Reviews Rock: A great way to keep people looking at your products is to include good reviews of those products displayed in an easy-to-understand way. Whether you use star ratings or quotes from favorable reviews, building customer feedback into your website can help add the credibility and authority that customers are looking for before making a purchase.
Do you work on an ecommerce site? We’d love to hear your tips in the comments below!