White, ethereal, with the right amount of color to catch the eye. Sophisticated and elegant, or quirky and creative.
No, I'm not reporting live from the catwalks but from a Sunday afternoon ecommerce tour.
As an end user, there's something that I can't help but notice: e-shop owners are doing everything in their power to put potential clients’ experience first. It's impossible not to notice how ease of use, increasingly appealing visuals, speed, cleanliness and information accessibility are coming together more and more to provide a flawless experience that makes you feel pampered while shopping from your couch. And no, it doesn't only apply to luxury stores. The competition is fierce out there; a 360 degrees positive experience might make the difference between a sale and a bounce.
E-shop owners are often so engrossed by the backend that they tend to forget about what it's like to be on the other side of the screen. Trends in e-commerce design are a real thing that can't be overlooked. You wouldn’t skip visual merchandising in a physical shop, would you?
Here are the trends, novelties and developments in e-commerce design that you must take into account to be a successful e-retailer in 2015.
E-commerce design: stay on top of aesthetic movements
Look at the picture above; this is a fragment of what a notable magazine has listed as the 25 best e-commerce sites right now. What do most of these websites have in common?
A simple, clean design; pictures and typography are royalty and convey concepts just as well as complex phrasings. The look is often that of a dreamy catalogue, a mix and match of magazine, blog and social media images along with simplified navigation. Not all of these websites have a minimalist look, but they're all conveying the idea of a peaceful navigation experience.
Most of these websites look like you're on your Pinterest or your Instagram feed. Limited text, powerful visuals. The customer experience is made to feel as if it's an extension of the user’s leisure time: just like you scroll through your Instagram feed, you can scroll through and marvel at what's in stock. It's no longer all about how to attract, luring the potential customer in; it's about making them stay using the concept of premium (more and more websites are adopting designs that are reminiscent of those of big, classy brands) and visual storytelling.
Remember, though, that all trends pass; if you choose to copy a style that's currently popular, you might want to keep your eye open for the next aesthetic movement in digital, so that you can adapt and shift with the change.
If you're not investing in professional help, using a simple CMS with a drag and drop system might be a very good alternative.
Be fashionable but be different
Stand out from the crowd. Even though a lot of the well-established e-commerce sites have unifying characteristics that attract and appeal to potential customers, this doesn't mean you can't have a website that both fits in and includes personalization that will make your shop unique in the eyes of the customer.
It may take only a few elements to set you apart from the rest and these can be really simple touches. For example, try a new secondary color or work on how you display hyperlinks.
Be your customer: harmonize information & visual appeal
When was the last time you shopped online? Do you remember what you were looking for? Think carefully about the last positive e-commerce experience you had. Now, take a step back,wear the customer hat, and ask yourself "Does my e-commerce site provide that same experience?" In order to see things from the customer's point of view, simply pretend you're new to the site and viewing it for first time with fresh eyes. Look at essentials - social media icons, the search box, about us page, contact page, etc. Do you think the amount of content might overwhelm the user? Hidden menus (sometimes called hamburger menus) are increasingly popular. Even items that are key for site navigation can get in the way; hidden menus are a great solution for desktop, laptop and mobile alike. Let the focus be on your merchandise and services.
Think big (screen!)
Remember when only a few adventurous designers started planning visuals for mobile responsive screens? Designing for mobile devices is all the rage right now – but those samepioneers have shifted from thinking small to thinking big.
In an article dating from 2013 (yes, 2013!) Forbes predicted that over 87 million smart TVs would be sold that year. Forbes turned out to be right and in 2015 more than 42 million American households owned one and this figure is set to rise globally.
Smart TVs and several game consoles are now fully functioning internet-enabled devices.
Typography is the new black
Don't forget the font. Flexible, large, artsy typography works well in the context of responsive design. As designers explored new possibilities and made typography into some kind of art, the use of photographs to express concepts and to draw attention waned as beauty was sacrificed for the sake of loading speed.
Just take care that your designs fit within the responsive design framework - the text should flow well on screens of all devices.
Photography: speed vs image size
Continuous improvement to responsive design is making it possible to have large, high-quality images that load fast enough to maintain a positive user experience.
Large, appealing images are key in the current e-commerce design fashion. Not only do they give the impression of “premium”, but they can also concretely help e-commerce businesses sell more.
An increasing number of home pages feature very large images, editorial style. The size of photographs on product detail pages is increasing and in some cases they can be over 1,000 pixels wide.
Move it with videos
Video content is no longer limited to a featured YouTube video embedded in the page. On the contrary, videos are now real tools for attracting customers and helping to sell products and content marketing. E-commerce businesses are starting to use video on product detail pages (one interesting example is fashion retailer Asos who display short videos of the garment worn by a model, in a catwalk way), in blogs, on YouTube, and even as background images for homepages.
Material design by Google
Material design is a set of principles, styles and techniques aimed at making the visitor experience not only visually pleasing but as close to a real experiences as possible. This is achieved with the positioning, shape and interaction of the different page elements (tabs, buttons, etc.) and is meant to simulate the way objects behave in the real world. Consequently, a shadow, or an animation, will hardly be random or merely aesthetic. Their purpose is to define the object in space and enhance interactions for the user. It's also a way of ensuring the user will get the same experience across different platforms.
Why is this something you should start investing in? Mainly because of the advantages ofintegrating your shop into your potential customer's life. This is probably the most difficult tip to implement without the help of a designer or of a design department but it's definitely something that's here to stay and will become more popular.
In conclusion, following trends is as necessary for e-commerce as it is for any other field. This doesn't mean that you can't stand out, or that you have to constantly spend a lot of money keeping up with the latest fashions. There are tools, applications and software that can make your e-commerce life easy and flexible. Choose wisely when getting started and, if you need it, get the right help when creating your site.