Your eCommerce homepage plays a crucial role in communicating your message to potential customers and nudging them to take the next action.
If shoppers land on your homepage and get the wrong impression, it’s likely they’ll bounce.
And with the average eCommerce bounce rate between 20-45%, it’s clear that many homepages could do with an upgrade.
But knowing where to start isn’t always easy, especially if you’re not a web designer by trade.
That’s why we’ve put together these best practices – to help you wow your customers from the get-go.
Follow these principles, and you’ll be well on your way to impressing shoppers, slashing your bounce rate, and generating more sales.
Plus, at the end, you’ll get a free swipe file containing 10 incredible ecommerce homepages to inspire your next design.
Ready to go? Great! Let’s start with the most fundamental principles in homepage design…
What Should an eCommerce Homepage Include?
Often, simply knowing where to start with homepage design for ecommerce sites is the biggest stumbling block for most merchants. Staring at a barebones homepage wireframe can induce anxiety in just about anyone.
So here’s the trick: don’t start with your design. Instead, start with your business objective.
Seriously, the best homepages aren’t the ones with the most complex design or stunning visuals. The best homepages are those that fulfill their business purpose.
So, before you design anything, ask yourself questions like:
- What information do I need my visitors to read?
- Where do I want my visitors to click?
- Which design elements increase the chances somebody will buy from me?
Of course, different brands will have different buyers’ journeys, so it’s essential to map your customer’s journey and design a homepage that supports it.
Once you know your homepage priorities (e.g., drive traffic to new collection), it’s easier to layout your homepage’s visual hierarchy.
What is Visual Hierarchy on an eCommerce Homepage?
Visual hierarchy is a fancy way of saying that you need to arrange elements to show their order of importance – with the most important stuff first and the least important stuff last.
If you take nothing else away from this article, remember: visual hierarchy is fundamental to good homepage design. It’s far more critical than color selection (which actually matters very little so long as you pick contrasting colors).
Let’s unpack visual hierarchy by looking at two water delivery companies’ websites. First up, we have Paradise drinking water. Paradise has got a homepage with a sub-optimal visual hierarchy:
As you can see, there’s no visible call to action above the fold. It’s hard to to figure out what Paradise’s value proposition is, and users are probably unsure of the next steps to place an order. In all, the most important stuff isn’t emphasized well.
Now, contrast that homepage with this one from Sparkletts:
Here we can see that Sparkletts designs its homepage around its website’s goals – to drive conversions and sales.
There’s a visible value proposition and multiple highly-contrasted CTAs, making it easy for visitors to take action.
Notice how the visual hierarchy they’ve chosen relegates less critical information to further down the page. For example, unlike Paradise, they don’t present a wall of text ‘about us’ story to customers near the top of the page. Instead, they relegate that information to the bottom of the page where the visual real estate is less valuable.
The goal of most eCommerce homepages is to drive visitors to click and take the next step. Sparkletts homepage is designed to take visitors by the hand and make it easy for them to become customers.
Ok, hopefully that’s cleared thing up a bit. With the concept of visual hierarchy under our belt, let’s delve into ten eCommerce homepage best practices that’ll help you actually apply it to your own homepage.
Conversion Optimization: 10 Principles for an Impressive eCommerce Homepage
You don’t need a degree in design to build a high-converting eCommerce homepage. Follow these principles, and you’ll be well on your way to more conversions and sales.
1. Pass on Design Elements That Add no Value
Jazz king Miles Davis once said, “It’s not about the notes you play, it’s about the notes you don’t play,” and when it comes to homepage design, his words are just as relevant.
Seriously, designing an over-the-top homepage can be tempting, but a study from Google showed that “visually complex” websites are consistently rated as less beautiful than their simpler counterparts.
For example, check out this hectic homepage from electronics retailer TigerDirect:
As a visitor, there’s so much going on here that you can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed, right?
There are at least seven different calls to action above the fold, which pulls your attention in all directions. There’s a mish-mash of complex color combinations too.
Plus, in real-time, the image slider whips across every 5 seconds to display even more deals and offers
Ok, now Contrast Tiger Direct’s busy homepage to Google’s minimalist, soothing homepage:
Google has removed every design element that’s not contributing to the user’s experience – stripping back extra offers and unnecessary information to create a sleek and intuitive homepage.
They’ve opted for fewer color variations and added plenty of white space to give visitors a chance to digest each section with ease.
In short, a busy homepage increases the cognitive load required for users to process what’s going on. A more straightforward design creates less friction and boosts the odds that a visitor will take further action.
2. Stick Your Unique Value Proposition Above The Fold
A good value proposition clarifies what you’re about and gives customers a reason to shop with you (over your competitors).
Because of its power to influence shopper behavior, your value proposition needs to be immediately apparent to visitors who land on your homepage.
It’s best practice to place it ‘above the fold,’ which just means that visitors don’t need to scroll down to see it. (Fun fact: the phrase ‘above the fold’ originates from newspapers – they design their front page for newsstands where they’re regularly displayed folded in half!)
Here’s a great example of a clear, well-positioned value proposition from oral-care brand Quip:
Remember, the closer to the top of your homepage something is, the more impressions it gets. So, it’s essential to place only the most critical homepage elements above the fold.
3. Make Your Call-to-Action Pop
Few home page design elements are as essential as your call to action.
Your call to action represents the next step you want visitors to take after landing on your website.
The best phrasing of CTAs varies depending on which industry you’re in and what conversion you’re trying to achieve.
However, no matter what your CTA looks like, you want it to feature prominently on your homepage. Placing it below the fold is a massive no-no.
What’s more, there’s good evidence to suggest that to maximize conversions, your Call-to-action should be in the form of a button (as opposed to a link).
For example, look at this homepage from bidet retailer, Tushy:
There’s a couple of things we can learn from Tushy’s CTA:
- Make it big and place it above the fold
- Contrast the color against the background
- Surround the CTA with plenty of white space
- Remove any competing graphics nearby.
Putting your CTAs above the fold like this makes it easy for customers to click throughout of curiosity.
Designing your homepage CTA with these guidelines in mind will ensure your CTA gets noticed and clicked.
4. Put Your Best Products Forward
As we talked about in our eCommerce merchandising guide, many shoppers arrive on your homepage to browse through products.
These potential customers might not be looking to buy anything in particular but want to see what’s on offer.
By recommending your most popular products on your homepage, you stand the greatest chance of intriguing such customers – especially if you have high-quality product photography.
When designing your homepage, imagine that it’s a virtual dating profile – meaning you want to use the best possible photos while emphasizing the positive characteristics of your brand (only you want users to click, not swipe right!)
For example, check out how Allbirds places three of their best-selling shoes directly below the fold. As a visitor, if you’ve never seen a pair of Allbirds shoes before, these are a great place to start.
Scrolling down the page further, you’ll see that Allbirds includes several product categories (‘running,’ men’s, apparel, etc.).
Mixing both individual best-selling products with interesting categories on your homepage transforms it into a browser’s Paradise. By making it easy for visitors to explore your products, you’ll make it easier for them to make a purchase decision too.
5. Add Thumbnails to Category Pages
When it comes to categories, words aren’t as helpful as images to help shoppers quickly visualize what you sell. Plus, the right photos can tempt visitors to explore more.
For example, suppose you’re in the market for new swimming gear. Imagine landing on this site:
While the product categories are displayed in the left-hand menu, there are very few visual cues about where to click.
Notice how Instead of displaying one image for the ‘new products’ category, this website lists the individual products within that category.
Now compare this with this swimwear retailer’s homepage:
See how an image represents each category (women’s, men’s, kids, etc.)? This makes it far easier (and more enticing) for visitors who arrive on your homepage to find what they’re looking for, as opposed to a text list down the left hand side.
6. Use a Logical Navigational Structure
No shopper has the goal of simply arriving on your homepage. Instead, your homepage is a stepping stone between where they’re coming from and where they want to go.
That’s why having clear and logical navigation is essential to help visitors achieve their goals.
One design trend we’ve seen lately is to hide the navigation bar. Although this can give your homepage a minimalist feel, Baymard found that hiding the navigation bar harms the user experience and content discoverability. So it’s best to have it on show.
Next, you want to design your navigation in a way that’s simple and clear. The best way to do this is to start with broad categories – think ‘Men’s and ‘Women’s – and then narrow it down by sub-categories (apparel, footwear, etc.)
For example, despite having a large number of products on their site, Gymshark follows a straightforward navigational structure which makes it easy to find what you’re looking for:
7. Create a Prominent Search Bar
In addition to killer navigation, a search bar can assist customers in locating precisely what they’re looking for.
Obviously, if you’ve got a small product line, a search bar isn’t necessary. However, if you sell lots of products, it’s a good idea to make space for it in your homepage’s design.
The top right corner is probably the most common (and most familiar) place to position your search bar. For example, here’s how Athleta does it:
It’s also essential to note that your search bar needs to actually work. The number of stores that have semi-functioning search bars is astonishing – so invest in an app or developer that’ll help you get the job done.
After all, we know that shoppers who use your site search are 3x more likely to see a purchase through.
8. Add Some Social Proof
Let’s not forget that one of the aims of your homepage is to convince would-be customers that you’re trustworthy.
A dash of social proof on your homepage in the form of a customer testimonial or media feature is a powerful way to showcase your reputation.
From a visual hierarchy perspective, social proof isn’t as important as elements like your value proposition or call-to-action. However, you will find some brands flexing their social proof credentials high up on their homepages.
Take Bailly, for example who position heavy-hitting social proof accolades just beneath the fold:
These kinds of endorsements are fantastic for alleviating customer anxieties and boosting conversions.
However, if you don’t have glowing media reviews, don’t worry. With 70% of people saying they’ll trust a recommendation from someone they don’t even know, simple customer testimonials can be incredibly persuasive too.
9. Make Your Homepage Speedy
A slow-loading home page can annihilate conversions. Seriously, a delay of just 0.1 seconds can slash your conversion rate by 7%.
So, even the most mesmerizing design can be of no use if your customers have to wait. Therefore, optimizing for homepage speed needs to be a priority.
Thankfully, diagnosing speed issues is easy using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
You might discover a bunch of issues ranging from more complex – like an issue with your server performance to simpler things like uncompressed images and slow plug-ins.
If web development isn’t your forte, work with a developer to iron out these issues and deliver the best homepage experience possible.
10. Design for Mobile Devices First
Most entrepreneurs build their websites on a laptop or desktop because it’s easier. Often, that means that the website looks great from a landscape perspective but might not be so great in portrait.
But the thing is, it’s predicted that over 70% of eCommerce sales will happen via mobile in 2021. So, no matter how impressive your homepage is on a laptop, if it isn’t optimized for mobile, you’re in trouble.
As mobile becomes the dominant sales channel, you need to design your homepage, so it looks good on a mobile first and a laptop second.
Top 3 eCommerce Website Mistakes that Hurt Conversions
So, we’ve covered 10 of the best things you can do to improve your ecommerce store and increase conversions.
But before we wrap up, it’s important to talk about what you shouldn’t do when designing ecommerce websites.
Here are the top 3 mistakes that merchants make when designing ecommerce homepages.
Mistake #1) Asking too Much from Visitors
Integrating a call to action in a page is one of the most effective ways to increase any sort of conversion.
A call-to-action gives a subtle direction to visitors to nudge them to the desired outcome. Without a CTA, you’re leaving fate to the wind.
But each page should include just one CTA.
While a CTA can give direction to visitors, multiple CTAs can act more like a maze than anything else as it often leads to decision paralysis.
To avoid that, keep users from getting confused or frustrated by sticking to just one main call-to-action.
Mistake #2) Making Refunds too Difficult to Find
Making your refund policy easy to use and find seems counter-intuitive.
After all, the harder it is to find the refund page, the fewer customers will actually go through with it, right?
Wrong, or at least, mostly wrong.
While it’s true that you may have customers give up on trying to refund, a difficult refund policy will result in far less customers purchase in the first place.
One of the biggest ways you can show confidence in your products and build customer trust si by making refunds quick and easy.
An accessible refund policy acts as a show of confidence for your brand and increases store-wide conversions.
Mistake #3) Not Organizing Information Effectively
We touched on information hierarchy earlier, and it’s a highly important piece of homepage design.
The more important any piece of information is, the higher up on the page it should be.
But it doesn’t just stop there; the more important a piece of homepage information is – the larger it should be too.
Your store’s main promotion or sale?
It shouldn’t be a small accent piece on the page, it should take up plenty of real estate with a header banner or image carousel.
On the other hand, small promotions or less relevant information needs to be placed further down and appear smaller on screen.
That way, the page will naturally guide each user’s eyes from most important elements to the least important.
Ecommerce Website Design: How to Create an Online Store that Boosts Conversions
Your homepage plays a key role in how shoppers perceive your brand, as well as being a key point in the conversion process.
Designing a great homepage doesn’t have to be complicated. Begin with the idea of visual hierarchy and map out your homepage from there to match your goals.
When considering how to structure your homepage, remember specifically to:
- Put your most important stuff at the top
- Remove unnecessary design elements that don’t add value
- Use white space and colors to differentiate sections and show what’s important
- Include your value proposition and CTA above the fold
- Place your best products and collections on your homepage
- Use thumbnails to represent your collections
- Follow a logical navigational structure and add a search bar
- Add some social proof
- Make your homepage fast and design it for mobile-first
By implementing these best practices, you’ll create a homepage that not only looks great but converts like crazy too.
Grab this free collection of 10+ of our favorite ecommerce homepage designs. Save it and use it as inspiration for the next time your homepage needs a refresh.