Posted by James Cronin, VP of Engineering, NetSuite
Fashions change every year and designers can't expect to satisfy fashion-conscious consumers with a rehash of last year's creations. Web design is also rapidly changing and online retailers who don't update their web stores regularly will have a hard time attracting and keeping customers. Without a regular site redesign, your site risks looking old-fashioned, awkward or, worst case, impoverished.
When you do spend the time and money to renovate your ecommerce site, be sure to consider these four important design mandates.
Responsive Design. The old way of supporting mobile visitors was to create special sites just for them. Unfortunately, those sites were often bare bones, poorly designed and lacked the functionality of the desktop version. They didn't always get updated when the main site did. With so many devices on the market today, most web designers are moving to responsive, or adaptive, design. Responsive design allows a web master to create rules for how content should be displayed for different screen sizes. That ensures the content and product information is always consistent and an update to the main site is an update for all.
Shareable Content. Designers must accept the fact that website content isn't going to stay only on the site. It's going to be shared on social media, texted, tweeted, emailed and passed from person to person. If you don't identify your content correctly, product images and information may not match, or not be visible. Make sure important content is tagged, machine readable, and can be reassembled correctly on other formats.
Up-to-Date Technology. Like the need to correctly tag elements, keeping the technical infrastructure up to date is key. Have thorough sitemaps, XML product feeds and Google Base product feeds, and make sure you're up-to-date with all of the most recent search engine versions. Many site managers find it easier to stay current by moving to a cloud-based ecommerce platform that automatically delivers updates without requiring anything from the site manager.
Hierarchical vs. Faceted Navigation. Only a few years ago, the most common way to structure information on a site was in a hierarchical tree. Shoppers would browse categories and sub-categories to find what they wanted. The problem with that is that not everyone puts everything in the same categories. Should an electric tea kettle be categorised as kitchen cookware? Travel gear? An electric appliance? Or maybe a college dormitory accessory? Consumers waste too much time browsing categories looking for the right product. Conversely, faceted navigation allows one object to have multiple descriptors or facets, and can be cross listed in multiple categories. Ultimately, it's much easier for consumers to browse and find products of interest.