What difference does a well designed website make?

Well hello there, Catherine Langman here, and welcome back to another episode of the Productpreneur Success podcast. 

And today on the show, we’re gonna talk about website design – specifically, what difference does it actually make when it comes to the design of your site?-

Whether you’re new to eCommerce and needing to set up your first website, or you’ve been running for a while and might be considering making some changes or improvements, it’s worth stopping to think about what difference it potentially makes when it comes to your site design. 

A common question I see all the time is “What is the best Shopify (or WordPress) theme?” 

Or variations on that – best shopify theme for speed, best theme for fashion, best theme for conversions.

Another common question I get asked a lot is – “should I pay a website designer or do it myself?”

And another scenario I see ALL the time, which is not necessarily a question I get asked but it’s a VERY common situation:

And that’s ‘I want to grow my sales so I need more traffic’. 

Yet when I dig a little deeper, I discover that the website is running on a free Shopify theme, or the website is poorly designed, and the conversion rate is pretty dismal. 

I think in this last situation it can be pretty common for businesses to build their first website and tick that job off their to-do list and move on, thinking it’s done and they don’t need to pay it any more attention.

In reality, the design and functionality of your website is absolutely critical. 

Just think about it. Maybe compare it to a brick and mortar retail store. If you had a beautiful looking shop in a great location, the windows nicely styled and a space that was really inviting for customers to come in, you’re likely to do a lot better than having a dingy, dark space in an out-of-the-way location with ugly window displays and a generally uninviting look to it. 

Your website is your shop front and it’s impossible to do well in business if it’s not designed to be inviting to your ideal customers, or have the functionality to operate in the way that it needs to to facilitate your customers buying and receiving what they want.

So – let’s dive into these questions and discuss why the design of your website is so important if you want to succeed in eCommerce. 

When it comes to eCommerce, the design of your website plays a major role. A great design can increase your conversion rate, create an awesome experience for customers, and  increase your sales revenue over time. A bad design can confuse, turn off or frustrate your customers and sales will suffer.

A bad design might be: 

  • Confusing navigation
  • Crappy quality or boring images
  • Not enough information for customers to understand what you sell or if it’s the right thing for their needs
  • Doesn’t communicate the value of the product to customers (not monetary value, but what benefits or outcomes customers expect to experience and enjoy)
  • Really slow to load (seriously – no one has the patience to hang around for a slow loading site these days)
  • Impossible to navigate on a mobile 
  • A clunky checkout experience making it difficult to complete a transaction
  • Too many interruptions, like a live chat window plus a popup optin form plus a spin-the-wheel discount offer plus an exit intent offer plus goodness knows what else. Pushy, much?

Or many other things. 

Other instances of poor web design might be situational to the product or brand.

Is it a product that’s typically hard to choose in an online environment compared to in-store? Like skincare or makeup or swimwear or sunglasses or shoes for instance. Usually customers find it easier to test or try these sorts of things on before they make a purchase decision, so your web design needs to overcome these complications. 

On the flip side, maybe you’re a retail store that sells lots of the same or similar brands to your competitors. Or you have your own brand of products that’s quite similar to another brand. 

In those cases, you just cannot have a website that looks the same as those competitors. You need to find ways to stand out, to differentiate from those competitors, so that your customers can weigh up their purchase decision in a way that is NOT based on the cheapest price.

A good design for a website is:

  • IMMEDIATELY clear to visitors – what you sell, who it’s for, and how to get it. CLARITY here is of utmost importance.
  • That means – Easy to navigate
  • Fast to load
  • Works just as well on mobile as on desktop – including navigating to the products they want in your store as well as the checkout process.
  • The value of your products clearly communicated to customers – visually and in writing, and delivered in an easy-to-understand manner.

A great website design needs to be tailored to your brand and the type of products you sell.

This definitely means, not just changing the colours and images of a theme straight out of the box. 

In reality, it means really thinking about your product and customer fit. 

What do they need to know, understand and believe in order to want to buy your products? You can’t just assume that customers will all come to your website already knowing that they want to buy from you. You need to take them on that buyer journey from ignorance to purchase decision. 

For example, our client Wendy from UpOnTheRooftop.com.au – when she was in the process of launching her business, she knew she needed help with building her website. She was brand new to online business and had a lot to learn, but learning how to build a website from scratch was one thing she knew she didn’t want to do.

So she hired a website designer who had created several websites on the Shopify platform before.

Wendy had assumed that hiring someone with that experience meant that the designer would be able to offer advice about things like:

  • What content should go on the home page and product pages 
  • The design and layout of those pages
  • How the menu and navigation should be structured
  • What sort of imagery should be used
  • How to optimise the site for search engines
  • And other things that help an eCommerce website to convert well, like what applications you need and how much to charge for shipping and so on and so forth.

Unfortunately for Wendy, who knew NOTHING about any of this stuff, neither did the web designer.

She ended up spending her money on a website that was clunky and hard for visitors to know what the products were or whether they were what they wanted, and as a result the site just did not convert well at all.

In working with us, we were able to go through the process of understanding who her customers are, what problems they’re trying to solve, the information they need in order to understand whether Wendy’s products are right for them, and to structure all that information using images and words in a way that’s really easy for customers to understand.

Now, she’s got a great looking website that, importantly, converts really well – above the benchmark average of 2% – and her sales have grown well over 400% in the last 12 months.

Incidentally, Wendy’s website is built on the Turbo theme which currently has a 30% off discount on offer for Black Friday. I’ll link to it on the shownotes for this podcast, at catherinelangman.com/episode-45

The second thing about a great website design means:

Making it really easy for customers to navigate through if you have a large inventory, AND making it easy for you, the business owner, to maintain things from the back end.

Gosh, so many times we’ve seen people set things up in the back end of their site such that they are literally spending hours and hours and hours uploading products to their store and trying to categories them correctly in their menu. 

One example here is Colour and Spice .com.au – who makes really gorgeous, personalised gifts. 

Their product range is absolutely enormous, but had grown over the years into a situation where the menu was way too big and the menu categories were not named in a way that was reflective of the way customers were searching for things.

Same with the design and layout of the content on the website. It just was not intuitive at all.

And in the back end, things were setup in such a way that it was literally taking up SO much of their time to update things or make changes, which is just a seriously inefficient way to work and a real waste of time that’s better spent elsewhere.

So we completely redesigned their menu, simplifying the categories so they were intuitive to the way customers were searching and occasions they were buying for. 

We also redesigned the layout of the site so it’s much easier to understand what they sell, who it’s for, and how to get it. 

Whether you already know what you want, or whether you need to learn a bit more first, the content is now designed to help both types of customer.

In the last month since the updated site went live, the conversion rate increased 58%, and revenue increased 85%.

The third thing about good web design, which possible I should have mentioned first, is that it creates the “right” first impression for visitors and potential customers.

Despite the fact that we’ve all been taught since we were young to ‘never judge a book by the cover’, we all still do it. Or judge a wine by the label design perhaps!

First impressions count. We don’t get second chances at this.

The visual design of your site is important because it impacts how your audience perceives your brand. If it looks unappealing or outdated, your audience will immediately have a negative impression of your business. 

I had an experience with this as a customer recently – I wasn shopping around for a dehumidifier for our home (it’s an old home and can get a bit damp inside). And I came across an online store based in Sydney that had the product I wanted, but the website design was so old – it was the sort of design and layout that we would use back in the early 2000’s, so REALLY old and not at all functional on mobile. Which immediately turned me off- I just didn’t trust it at all.

But it’s not just about establishing trust though. It’s also about positioning your brand or your online store.

By brand positioning – I mean, how do your customers perceive your brand or store compared to your competitors? 

Do they perceive you as being Premium? Best quality? Cheap? Discount? Great value? 

Or exclusive, high end, designer?

Or safest? Or most effective?

Or maybe your brand positioning is about matching your brand by personality? Like cheeky, or vintage, or minimalist, or boho, and so on.

Usually we want to try and position our brand in terms of value as well as personality.

And bare in mind that consumers usually do not equate cheap or low price with quality. Those tend to be mutually exclusive in terms of consumers’ perceptions of a brand. 

Anyway, to  move on.

That first impression a customer gets when they land on your site is what will establish their perception of your brand or your online store. And that split second reaction, which is completely based on an emotional connection, will govern whether they stick around to look for longer, or just click out.

When we worked with Jellystone Designs .com.au we were actually moving their website from WordPress to Shopify. Their old website was quite old and the design was really outdated.

But it also just did not present the brand the way they wanted to be perceived. 

In reality, the brand is a really high quality brand, one of the original inventors of their product category, with the highest safety testing standards, and a track record of being the product innovators creating great products for Mums and Bubs. Yet most of this was just not translating through the design or the user experience on the website.

Now, of course, you get that impression when you visit their site. And since then, their eCommerce business has grown really quickly, in terms of conversion rate, sales revenue, order value and returning customers. 

Colour & Spice and Jellystone Designs websites are also both built on the Turbo theme, which is currently on sale for Black Friday. Just head to this podcast shownotes page at catherinelangman.com/episode-45 for all the details and links.

There are other reasons too, why good web design counts.

Making sure your site ranks well in google searches for instance. 

It’s common to see eCommerce store owners build their first website using the example shown in the theme they’re using, without thought to any of the points I’ve raised so far, let alone whether customers would actually be searching on google for terms they’re using in their menu or on their site, or whether they’re actually putting the site together with any thought at all to optimising it for search engines. 

If I’m talking greek to you right now and you have no idea what search engine optimisation means, you’re not alone, but in reality it just means – setting things up in a way that makes it easy for Google to show your site in search results when customers are searching for what you sell. 

And good design is more than just how it looks.

It is a common misconception that design is solely about the way a thing looks. In reality, good design  thinks first about how it works. The art of design only comes after. 

This is often communicated with the terms “form” and “function.” Function comes first, but form is tightly related and is a major part of the entire package. 

For instance, the function of an iPhone is that it is a phone, that uses apps, plays music and takes pictures. The form of the iPhone is that it is so user friendly that a 2 year old and my 80 year old mother were able to get started using it with little to no instruction. No one would argue that the iPhone is very well designed.

There’s a popular saying: “Good design is invisible,” which simple means that design is experienced. It is more than how it looks – it should work intuitively and without challenging the user to figure out how. 

Good design may be invisible but poor design is not. Anyone will notice an ugly, hard to read website immediately. A well designed website will look and feel great. It will be easy to read, clean, clear, smooth and enjoyable.

And it will convert.

Bottom line is: I would not spend money on paid advertising to send traffic to a poorly designed website that doesn’t convert.

You’ll waste your money.

Instead, work on improving your website design and navigation, so that your customers have a great first impression and experience when they’re on your website, so that your website helps your customers through their buyer journey to make a purchase decision, and so that converts well. 

Then, put your efforts into driving as much traffic to your website as possible.

Hopefully this has given you some guidance and some ideas for your own website, whether you’re in the process of creating your first one, or realising your current one just isn’t as good as it should be.

If you’re on Shopify, or moving to Shopify, I highly recommend getting your hands on the Turbo theme I’ve mentioned already, while it’s on sale at 30% off this week for Black Friday. Just head to our show notes page at catherinelangman.com/episode-45 and I’ll link you up.

And if you’re keen for some help with customising your site design for your brand, please sing out. All our web design projects begin with a deep dive discovery process where we learn all about your business, your unique value proposition and the benefits you offer to your customers, your ideal customer and buyer journey, and then we design a website that will lead your visitors to purchase.

If that’s what you need, head over to http://www.productpreneurmarketing.com to book in a free strategy session.

Otherwise, please make sure you join our free Rockstar Productpreneur community. I’ve got a bunch of free training materials in the group’s Units section, including a training about how to design a high converting home page. 

Just head to this podcast shownotes page, at https://www.catherinelangman.com/episode-45 and you’ll find the link to join our free community.