It's that time of year when people start thinking about what they are going to do differently or change in the new year. So what should ecommerce businesses resolve to do, in terms of improving their website's design and content, in 2015? A number of online business owners, Web designers and digital marketers share what they think are the top seven design and content resolutions every ecommerce business should think about -- or resolve to do -- this coming year.
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1. Conduct a content audit of your website. "Look over your existing content assets to see what's no longer current or doesn't fit with your agenda for the coming year, and create a spreadsheet where you can mark each page to keep, revise or delete," advises Kathryn Hawkins, principal and content marketing strategist, Eucalypt Media, a content marketing agency. "This will help you refine your site navigation and improve the user experience, and can give you inspiration for repurposing existing content that's not currently getting much attention."
Similarly, "go through your entire website and make sure there are no dead [or broken] links," adds Steve Silberberg, owner, Fitpacking Weight Loss Backpacking Adventure Vacations. "Dead links not only drive impatient visitors away (and they're all impatient), they also lower your Google page rank."
2. Conduct a design audit of your site -- and explore ways to make it more attractive to visitors. "Choosing the right typefaces, colors and degree of white space has a big impact on site interaction," says Neill Harmer, lead designer at LightCMS, a NetSuite company. "These elements reflect a site's credibility, usability and mood. So it's important to tailor them to a given audience," he explains. "While the use of different fonts enables you to showcase creativity, too many varied fonts can have a discordantly jarring effect.
Furthermore, it's important that pages not be cluttered with too many images or too much text, so that visitors can clearly see what's on offer and not get distracted and exit the page out of frustration. So try to streamline pages -- keep them clean and simple.
3. Make sure your site is mobile friendly. "Without a mobile version of your site, you will lose valuable customers who may only view your site on a mobile device," explains Kindra Svendsen, digital marketing/content specialist, Speak Creative, a digital agency. "Without a responsive [or mobile-friendly] design, they will find [your site] hard to navigate and [will] likely bounce back to [Google] results" and go to another, mobile-friendly site. Moreover, she says, "Google has begun placing icons next to mobile sites in the search results, which will further drive traffic away from your site if it's not included."
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4. Add fresh content to your website (instead of your Facebook page), especially user-generated reviews and images. "The one tip I am giving every one of my clients, ecommerce and non-ecommerce, is to bring their content back to their own websites," says Jill Caren, the owner of 2 Dogs Design, a full-service digital design and marketing agency. "Over the years, I have seen an increase in my clients putting their content, and some of it is really great content, on [their] social media outlets, but not on their own websites. They are spending less time on building newsletter lists and blog readership. In the long run this will hurt them."
"Display consumer reviews on your product pages and integrate consumer-generated photos, videos and social posts on your Web, mobile and even in-store experiences," says Matt Krebsbach, director, Global Public & Analyst Relations, Bazaarvoice, a provider of social marketing solutions. "Not only does this provide vital information that helps customers to make better purchase decisions, but it delights your customers with engaging social experiences that drive awareness and influence sales everywhere they may be contemplating a purchase," he says.
Moreover, "research from Bazaarvoice has shown that adding visual content from social networks onto product pages provides a 25 to 40 percent increase in engagement and a 3 to 9 percent conversion lift -- above the impact achieved by displaying ratings and reviews on the page, which remain one of the most influential sources of information consumers use before making a purchase."
[ Related: 6 Ways to Add Social Media to Your Web Design ]
5. Improve your product descriptions. "When it comes to getting found on Google, your products may have a ton of competition," explains Donald Osburn, founder, Plexus HQ. "The more detailed you make your product description, the more phrases you will be found for." And using stock or manufacturer descriptions "is a major SEO mistake that ecommerce sites are notorious for."
That said, "focus on [eliminating] complex, jargon-heavy product information so that pages are easier to digest for users," says Rafael Rivera, assistant marketing manager, PrintRunner.com, which provides online printing services. "Instead of telling users what the product is, tell them the benefits. Apple does well in this department."
And don't be afraid to use video content. "It's all about user experience these days," he points out. "And the faster users understand what you have to offer, the faster you're likely to get your conversion rates up."
6. Use professional-quality photos -- but make sure they don't slow down load time. "High quality product pictures and images are essential for ecommerce retailers, but many owners will just make do with [poor quality] photos," explains Nima Noori, founder & CEO, TorontoVaporizer, an online retailer of vaporizers and vaporizer accessories. "Seeing as photos are one of the key selling factors for online businesses, keeping product photos fresh and new is just as important as updating your actual product portfolio. So, for example, this New Year we are going to be focusing less on old style photo booth product photos and [using] more enticing lifestyle-oriented photos to capture the fun and modern vibe of the products we sell."
"To make images render more efficiently, ensure they are compressed, consolidated, correctly sized and formatted, and optimized so that images below the fold are deferred," advises Tammy Everts, Web performance evangelist, Radware, which provides networking for data centers with solutions for application delivery, security and virtualization.
7. Make sure you have analytics in place -- so you know which pages are attracting views (and which are not). "Make sure every page of your website has a tracking code for Google Analytics or whichever analytics platform you're using," says Kari Rippetoe, director of content and marketing services, Marketing Mojo, a full-service online marketing and demand generation agency. "The more you know about your visitors [and what they are viewing], the better equipped you'll be for improving both their customer experience on your site and your bottom line."