This guest post is brought to you by Spork Marketing, a dedicated auto parts and accessories marketing company for online parts and accessories retailers.
While there’s a lot more that goes into eCommerce parts website success than design, there are some general design concepts that most effective sites share. Here are 13 key elements that we feel the best auto parts eCommerce sites have in common.
1) F-Shaped Navigation
Users tend to follow an “F” pattern when they look at webpages, scanning along the top of the page and then down the left site. For this reason, navigation tends to work best when there’s a horizontal menu bar and left-hand side menu.
2) Search Box Top Right or Center
Internet users have gotten used to the search box being in the top right corner on pages. Using this placement or making it front and center makes it easy for people to search on your site after they can’t find their parts through navigation.
3) Contact Info Top Right
Much like the search box, users have been trained to look to the top right corner of a website for “help”, whether that “help” is a search box or a phone number. Therefore, we recommend placing your phone number, customer service email address, and/or “Contact Us” link up top in your header, slid all the way over to the right.
4) A Simple Homepage
Less is more when it comes to eCommerce homepages, especially in auto parts when every decision is driven by fitment. If you present the user with a simple search form and a little bit of information, they’re far more likely to start the purchase process (e.g., finding a part that fits their vehicle by clicking on a category or entering year, make and model) than they are to get overwhelmed with details.
There’s an expression many designers like to use called “paralysis by analysis” – when you give people lots of choices, they often take no action out of fear of making the wrong choice. When you give people simple choices, they act.
5) Brand the Golden Triangle
The upper left hand corner of your website is the area where many users focus their eye on page load. Therefore, it’s a great place to put your brand name and your key message (like your slogan). That way, they’ll know what website they’re on and they’ll understand what you offer.
6) Don’t Ignore Typography
There’s a LOT that goes into creating a website that looks great, and choosing the font is one of the most important aspects of design. Many website owners get extraordinarily focused on colors and layout, ignoring the fact that the font stack is boring, or hard to read, or just ugly.
7) Make It Responsive
A “responsive” website design is one that responds to the user’s screen size and rearranges things to be as usable as possible. Sometimes responsive design is called “mobile-friendly” design, although this is technically something different.
In any case, responsive design is easier now than ever, but it’s still a challenge for OE parts eCommerce retailers due to the proprietary platforms they must enlist to sell parts online. Fortunately, OE parts eCommerce platform providers are modernizing.
8) Make It Blaze
High performance, fast-loading websites earn more money than slow ones. It’s a fact that’s been proven time and time again. Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool offers some constructive ideas for improving site performance, and your web developer can probably speed things up for you if you make it a point of emphasis.
9) Trust Symbols
Logos or emblems associated with trusted entities – like the “Good Housekeeping” seal of approval, credit card logos, Better Business Bureau logos, etc. engender trust, and trust leads to increased conversion rates.
While some symbols are more effective than others, any trust symbols you can add to your site to address concerns your customers may have about security, the quality of your products, etc. are generally very helpful.
10) Breadcrumb Navigation
One of the best ways to help your customers find parts is to place ‘breadcrumbs’ on your site, showing users what category they’ve navigated to, as well as the parent(s) of that category. This is most helpful when you’re looking at a site that has many layers of categories.
11) Imagery That Guides the Eye
Graphics, pictures, texts should work together to point the user to where you want them to go. Use lines to create paths, directional movement, colors that attract the eye to point to important information or a spot you want them to go.
12) An Obvious Call to Action on Each Page
Having a clear and single purpose for each page is one of the fundamental rules of effective design. Focusing more on a single action makes it more likely that someone is going to take that action — i.e. clicking a link or button.
13) Consistent Look and Feel
It seems obvious, but it’s essential that every page of your site has a consistent appearance. It’s also important for all your advertising and social media branding to be consistent with your website’s look and feel.
While this list of 13 things shouldn’t be taken as “gospel,” most usability experts recommend all of the above as starting points for website design. We’ve certainly seen these rules benefit our clients as well.