Ecommerce website design: The ultimate guide for 2021

13 minutes to read • Last updated 10 June 2021 • Published 22 March 2021 • Responsive web design, Web development

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    Once upon a time, ecommerce was considered a novelty and written off as a fad. Conventional retail giants scoffed at the prospect of online-only sellers superseding their stranglehold on the marketplace, believing that consumers would return to the high street with tails between their legs. How is that working out for you, Sir Philip Green?

    It is estimated that, by the end of 2021, eCommerce will be responsible for a whopping 17.5% of all worldwide sales transactions. In the UK, a nation that has long embraced the online revolution, the number is even higher. For a business that trades in goods or services, superior ecommerce web design is critical.

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    What is ecommerce website design and why do you need it?

    Here’s a pub quiz question for the online age – what was the first ever item purchased over the internet, and which website handled the transaction?

    The answer to this question was a CD copy of the Sting album Ten Summoner’s Tales, and the disc was sold by NetMarket – a website that started trading online in 1994 and is still in operation today. NetMarket could only be accessed through a specialist browser at the time due to security concerns, but the scene was set for a brave new retail world. 

    In 2021, ecommerce is more popular than ever. Quite understandably, the global Coronavirus pandemic has played a major role in this. Even emerging nations that previously showed limited interest in online shopping have embraced ecommerce through necessity

    This popularity means that competition in the realm of ecommerce is fiercer than ever, though. Online consumers are spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting where to spend their hard-earned money. This makes superior ecommerce website design a must.

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    As the title suggests, ecommerce website design is all about making the user experience positive for online shoppers. Consumers want to find the goods or services that interest them, then pay and checkout for them, as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

    High-quality ecommerce website design makes this possible. Substandard design, however, will drive consumers away – often into the waiting arms of your competitors. This, in a nutshell, is why you need to embrace ecommerce website design. If you don’t, you will lose business to a rival that does.

    Examples of great ecommerce website design

    There are four primary types of ecommerce website models. These are:

    Type of ecommerce websiteWhat does this mean?
    Business-to-Business (B2B)An ecommerce website for a business that sells software or services to other companies
    Business-to-Consumer (B2C)An ecommerce website for businesses that sell tangible items, products or services straight to consumers
    Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C)An ecommerce website that allows consumers to trade directly with each other
    Consumer-to-Business (C2B)An ecommerce website where an individual will sell a product or – more often – service to a business
    Types of ecommerce website

    To further your understanding of these different types of ecommerce websites, let’s review some of the most popular and successful examples that fall into each category. Study the ecommerce website design of each of these brands and sellers. They provide a template that your online presence should follow.

    B2B – ACME

    As a purveyor of packaging products for wholesalers, ACME is focussed on servicing the needs of businesses. It would be a false economy to purchase goods from this seller if you just sell old clothes on eBay every few months. All the same, the minimalist approach of ACME’s site is admirable. It guides visitors through the services and sales funnel with a minimum of fuss, ensuring that a busy business leader will not grow weary and look elsewhere.

    B2C – Amazon

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    There is no escaping the fact that is Jeff Bezos’ world, and us mere mortals are just living in it. Amazon is a global behemoth and undeniably the biggest B2C website in the world. This is in no small part thanks to the ease and simplicity of negotiating the products available for purchase on the site. Think about what you want, type it into the search box, hand over your credit card information, wait for your purchase to land on your doormat. It doesn’t get any simpler.

    C2C – eBay

    Once again, we’re using a pretty obvious example here. You’d be hard pushed to find anybody unfamiliar with eBay. There’s a reason for that, though – Pierre Omidyar struck gold with the ecommerce website design of this online auction portal. eBid was founded in the same year, but inferior design ensures that it is considerably less well known. Etsy has done a better job of carving out a unique place in the ecommerce sphere, thanks in no small part to great ecommerce website design. 

    C2B – Fiverr

    If you’re a regular reader of our blogs, you’ll notice that we mention Fiverr with some regularity. While we’ll always recommend using an agency for needs relating to your online presence ( is always happy to communicate #justsaying), Fiverr is a great example of how individuals can promote and sell their skills to businesses. The superior design of this site is why it has overtaken the likes of Upwork and Guru as the go-to marketplace for freelancers and businesses alike.  

    Of course, we’re not saying that you should lift the design of these sites wholesale, simply applying a fresh lick of paint and applying your logo. Such shameless plaigarism will harm your SEO strategy, as well as failing to inspire sufficient awe and trust in consumers. Just study these sites, understanding what they do well and how you can bring these learnings into your ecommerce website design.

    Can anybody launch an ecommerce website?

    On paper, there is nothing to stop anybody from launching a new ecommerce website. As long as you are not selling restricted goods, such as alcohol or anything that could be considered a weapon (including kitchen knives), you won’t need the trading licenses associated with brick-and-mortar shopfronts. 

    See also →  What is a development roadmap?

    However, effective and successful ecommerce website design is not as simple as building an attractive website, selling goods to consumers and counting your profits. You’ll need the following:

    secure SSL safety certificate to protect the financial information of consumers
    An up-to-date privacy policy
    Clear and watertight terms and conditions related to a sale
    Any disclaimers that may apply to your products or services
    Essential elements of an ecommerce website

    So, what does all this boring legal chatter have to do with ecommerce website design? In a word, everything

    Ecommerce may be increasingly common, but vast swathes of the population are still dubious about providing their personal data to an unfamiliar website. By making these factors prominent and easy to access on your website, you’ll set the minds of your potential consumers at rest. 

    It’s simple, really. If you’re wondering if you need to incorporate something into your ecommerce website design, take a look at the sites of three of your closest competitors. If they all have these components, they are indispensable. Skipping out on them, or making them hard for users to find, will likely cost your website business.

    See also →  What is a Minimum Viable Product? And how to create an MVP

    How much does ecommerce website design cost? 

    There is no standard price tag attached to designing a website, whether for ecommerce or otherwise. An ecommerce site will typically cost more though, as there are more features and variables to take under consideration – including payment processing software and security features. The final outlay depends on how complex your ecommerce website design needs are. As a guideline, expect to pay the following.

    Type of costAverage cost
    Hiring an agency for general design and construction of your websiteAnywhere from £2,000 to £10,000, depending on the complexity of the brief
    Annual hosting and maintenance fees for the website and domain (including emails)Variable – shop around for the best deal
    Marketing and advertising to drive business to the websiteUp to £1,000 per day if you hire an external marketing consultant, plus fees involved with advertising and pay-per-click SEO promotion
    Photography of productsFree if done in-house, but potentially up to around £500 in total for professional services
    Copywriting product descriptions and surrounding text to encourage salesFree if done in-house, but potentially up to around £500 in total for professional services
    ecommerce web design price comparison

    For a more detailed quote on building your ecommerce website, and insight into how can help your online venture see a substantial return on investment, get in touch with us today.   

    Best practices for ecommerce website design

    So, having established that ecommerce website design is important, you must understand how to construct the perfect site for such needs. To do so, follow these five golden rules.

    How to design a good ecommerce website

    1. Be mobile-friendly

      Do not assume that your customers will be browsing your site from a desktop computer

    2. Keep things simple and user-friendly

      An appealing design is fundamental to a positive user experience

    3. Strike the perfect balance of images and text

      Ensure your eye-popping visuals are matched by sufficiently detailed product descriptions

    4. Be available for questions and queries

      Before consumers commit to a purchase, they may have questions

    5. Have a simple and unfussy sales filter

      No consumer wants to be left scratching their head, wondering what the next step in the sales journey should be

    1. Be mobile-friendly

    First thing’s first – do not assume that your customers will be browsing your site from a desktop computer. Mobile phones account for 65% of ecommerce website traffic, but conversions do not match these visitor numbers. 

    This suggests that ecommerce sites are not making sales easy for mobile browsers. That’s a missed opportunity. If you’re not going to focus your ecommerce activities through an app, ensure it’s easy to browse goods and check out on a mobile or tablet.  

    2. Keep things simple and user-friendly

    If you have been through the process of web design – whether undertaking the project yourself or bringing in external help – you’ll be familiar with the importance of appearance and functionality. An appealing design is fundamental to a positive user experience. This goes double when we consider ecommerce web design. 

    You are not just asking a consumer to read your content and listen to your expertise. You’re expecting them to hand over their credit card details and spend money with you. That means that you’ll need to undertake a charm offensive, marrying aesthetic splendour that captures the imagination with clear, trustworthy guidance.

    3. Strike the perfect balance of images and text

    Pictures are a big part of appealing to a consumer, but the devil is in the detail. Ensure your eye-popping visuals are matched by sufficiently detailed product descriptions. 

    High calibre microcopy will simultaneously bolster your search engine page ranking as well as encouraging sales. If necessary, hire a freelance copywriter on a short-term contract to pen your product descriptions.

    4. Be available for questions and queries

    Before consumers commit to a purchase, they may have questions. This could include whether an item is in stock, what your shipping policies are, or even a particular query about the product or service.

    You’re much likelier to conclude a sale if you can answer these questions. Ensure that your website has a clear and easy-negotiable contact us page (ideally with a standard form), and even consider investing in chatbot software to answer consumer questions.

    5. Have a simple and unfussy sales filter

    Ecommerce has been manna from heaven for impulsive shoppers. Unlike a brick-and-mortar shopfront, where there is ample time to reconsider a purchase while hunting down relevant goods on a shelf, seeking a changing room to try on clothing and waiting in line to pay, a good ecommerce website allows consumers to complete a purchase in seconds.

    This means that you’ll need to keep the process moving at all times. No consumer wants to be left scratching their head, wondering what the next step in the sales journey should be. Keep access to a cart and checkout available at all times, and minimise the fuss involved with paying for a purchase. The sooner a consumer can complete their business, the likelier they are to convert.


    How to design an ecommerce website?

    Ecommerce website design needs to focus on simplicity and practicality. Users are visiting the site intending to spend money, but will quickly lose interest if you make this difficult for them. This means that your website needs to be clear and user-friendly, inspire trust in your brand and utilise a brief, intuitive sales funnel.

    What is ecommerce website design?

    An ecommerce website is a location on the internet that handles the buying and selling of goods or services. Amazon is arguably the biggest and best (depending on your definition of this word!) example of an ecommerce website. 
    Ecommerce website design is concerned with making this trading as simple and pleasant as possible for the consumer. With so many ecommerce websites in operation right now, your site will need to meet the needs of your consumers. If this is not the case, there are no shortage of competing sites that will. 

    Where to find affordable ecommerce website design?

    Arguably the most cost-effective way to achieve ecommerce web design is using free, open-source software. If you are confident in writing programming code yourself, you will not accrue any fees with this. 
    If you need help, an independent freelancer is typically cheaper than an ecommerce web design agency. You can find such a professional on sites like Fiverr or People Per Hour. Do consider bringing in the services of a professional agency, though. There is a lot that can go wrong with ecommerce website design, and substandard work can carry heavy penalties.

    How to design an ecommerce website for free?

    You can build your ecommerce web store without charge by using a tool like Freewebstore or WooCommerce. Popular website building sites like Wix also regularly offer free trials, so if you work quickly, you may have your site up and running before you accrue any fees. 
    Be aware, though. As with all things in life, you get what you pay for when it comes to ecommerce website design. It is advisable to seek professional help and assistance to avoid complications and ensure a positive user experience.

    If you would like more advice surrounding your ecommerce web design needs, or would like to discuss your project with, do not hesitate to get in touch. Our friendly team of experts are ready and waiting to share our experience with you.

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