Features of a Good Online Store

Copyright © 2008 Adam Nowak

Suitable graphic design is one of the key elements of a good online store.

Graphic design should be lucid and refer to the product range of the shop, it is not recommended though to overdo with graphics because the website should load smoothly. It's particularly important that product thumbnails should be separate, well-compressed files. A common mistake made by online shops on their websites is that they create thumbnails from big images by reducing their size in terms of width and height parameters. Such practices slow down considerably the loading speed of websites, which may discourage a potential customer.


Navigation ought to be lucid and intuitive. Every sub site should have visible links to the main sections in the shop. Their location is also of great significance. Customers who have done online shopping before are accustomed to some standard arrangement of links to categories, shopping cart, search engine, log in, etc. I definitely advise against rearranging links in an innovative manner, as this may confuse or misdirect the customers.

Elements which should be present on every site:

The logo of the firm and information about the products offered - the upper-left corner of the site, by clicking on the logo a visitor should go back to the home page of the site.

All product categories - placed in the left sidebar or at the top of the menu. I highly recommend the left sidebar, most popular and intuitively recognized by customers.

1.Shopping Cart. On the top bar, most preferably on the right.

2.Logging in/My Account. On the top bar next to Shopping Cart.

3.Links to Terms of Use, Shipping and Payment Conditions, Returns and Privacy Policy, Safe Shopping Guarantee and How to Order step by step instruction.

4.Search Engine and Advanced Search link.

5.About Us information, Contact.

6.New Products and Current Promotions.

Most important navigation elements

It's advisable to include access path - information for customers about their location on the site (eg: Main site » Category » Subcategory » Product site). Obviously, each access path element should be linked to a respective e-shop segment. Site map can be also helpful.

Each online store needs an advanced search engine. The customer should be able to search easily for products in terms of categories (as well as subcategories), producers, and given price ranges.

The category site should contain products of the same category shown in alphabetical order. Moreover, it should be possible to sort them according to price and name of the product. Every item listed must include product name and a short description, thumbnail image, price and Add to Cart button, unless the product requires the choice of some parameters (e.g. colour or size). After clicking on the name or thumbnail image, the customer will be transferred to the product site. The product site should contain most detailed information on the product offered. It's necessary to include a precise product description and all additional information such as the use and application suggestions, product handling guide and delivery time. The image of the product should be of good quality, so the customer could zoom it in. In the case of some products it is better to provide several photos taken from different perspectives or close-ups of important details. Of course, the price of the product (including all taxes) must be given, so that the customer knows exactly how much to pay. Add to Cart button should be placed in a visible place and clearly marked.

At the bottom of the product site it's recommended to provide suggestions for products in which customers might be potentially interested - goods similar to the product currently being watched or complementing the offer, these could be other products from the same category or goods purchased by buyers of a given product.

Features of a good product description

List of best-selling products in a given category is also very useful. Such a list helps customers to choose the product they need. Moreover, it happens quite frequently that customers buy more than they had intended, because they find something interesting among top-selling products.

Another efficient method for increasing sales is sending emails to customers with the latest information on new products and novelties. However, such information should be sent only to clients who agreed to receive newsletters when setting up their accounts!

Important security features - guarantee of security is a matter of great significance to our customers. That is why a separate site should be created which would inform customers that their personal data is strictly confidential and will be used only for the purpose of the transaction and will not be disclosed to any third party. It's worth describing in detail the personal data protection and security system of the online shop or external companies used while realizing transactions with customers. Once again the confidentiality of personal data, coding of communication between the customer and the server and all other security features (eg transaction insurance, additional protection of credit card payment) must be emphasised. The use of a widely known payment system helps to win the customers' trust.




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