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7 Top Web Design Trends – do I need them in my e-shop?

We are now well into 2013 and the “top 10” lists of design trends for this year stop being just wishful thinking. Imagine you want to re-design (or simply design for the first time) your web site. It’s good to check the current trends and stay up to date – at least with those hip elements you find applicable. The same goes for online shops. If you have one of those. You may find yourself browsing through the design trends and wondering: “do I REALLY need that?”

The question you should be asking yourself is: “does this really make my website / e-shop better?”

Let’s take a quick look at some of the most visible trends for today (we have April 2013) and see how they can be applied to an online shop. The opinions below are completely subjective.

1. Responsive Layouts, Mobile First

The verdict is still on which approach is better (Mobile First vs Responsive) and you can find as many avid preachers of one trend as of the other. The general trend, however, is to make a mobile version of your site as usable as the desktop one.

Done well, it makes your shop easily accessible on desktops and mobile devices – i.e. offers similar experience across different platforms.

Responsive Design example

Do I need this?
Yes. Even if you think smartphone users do not visit your online shop (and if you think that… WHY are they not visiting your online shop?). There are going to be more and more smartphone users and you really want to offer them the same experience as those that use desktops. Actually, wait. Not “the same” experience. A good mobile experience.

Mango - mobile website

 

 

2. Minimalistic design

Sometimes confused with “a lot of white space!”, but a minimalistic web shop does not need to float in white. The rule “less is more” applies. Works wonderfully with online clothing shops. (See: http://www.shwrm.com/, http://shop.mango.com)

Do I need this?
You can try out this trend, especially if you target young customers, who keep in touch with what is “on”. Plus, by getting rid of unnecessary features, textures and other prettyfiers, you can focus your customers’ attention on what really matters: your products.

Clear and minimal

 

3. Large photo background

Not such a new trend, but suddenly quite popular: large photo of good quality that somehow illustrates what your business does serves as a background for your e-shop. Will work wonders if you sell only one thing… Or you need to promote one product the most… Or you’re simply a very well-known brand.

Do I need this?
Do you sell just one product? Frankly speaking, it’s quite hard to find a photo that can be general enough to illustrate the whole business. Single photo background is great for a landing page and can work as a product page. Try showing more photos on the first page and arranging them creatively, like Indochino: http://www.indochino.com/

Large photo background example

 

 

4. Fullscreen Typography

That is a lovely trend… If you sell fonts.

Do I need this?
Not necessarily. More often than not, the form will drive customer’s attention from the content. It all depends on what you’re selling. On the other hand, if you feel like adding a nice looking typographic slogan to your welcome page, go ahead. Just make sure the lettering matches the content… And that you actually show what you’re selling.

Designer Art Director Geek - not e-commerce, but surely fullscreen

 

5. Infinite scrolling

Basically, a website that never ends. Sometimes connected with parallax scroll: then everything moves in all directions and chaos ensues.
As you scroll down, more and more items load… Until you run out of items. Unless you want to load them all over again, just to prolong the experience.

Do I need this?
No. Really, you don’t. If someone tries to tell you others use it, just ignore them. It just doesn’t work for e-commerce. Not yet, anyway. Sure, Pinterest uses the feature, so does Facebook and Twitter…

Proof? Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade and vintage items. They tried out the infinite scroll because it was supposed to show more items faster. Unfortunately (for the infinite scroll), the A/B tests proved that the users who had infinite scroll saw fewer items in search results then those who had the regular website. Not only that, they clicked less and bought less. They stopped using search.

Hey, perhaps Etsy did it wrong. Perhaps they’ve changed too many things at once. Perhaps their users were not ready for the infinite scroll… Whatever the case, a lot of work went down the drain and quite a lot of sales did not take place.

No, you really don’t need an infinite scroll that much.

 

6. Creative navigation

A trend to introduce different style of navigation to your e-shop. By “creative” one may mean unusual menu or even navigation with gestures via an inbuilt camera. Often involves dragging and dropping movements implemented to desktop from smartphones.

Do I need this?
Yes and no. If you sell products that would benefit from extraordinary presentation, you can include the process of navigation into the experience. T-shirt stores seem to like to use the most of navigation (example: https://www.drippinginfat.com/). The funny thing is that when I was trying to visit websites that I remembered had such navigation… I found them changed. Like Nike Store for example. They went back to minimalistic design. Guess that’s a good idea.

Dripping in fat - horizontal T-shirt navigation

 

 

7. Fixed navigation

Meaning: a header bar or side navigation that follows you as you scroll down the site. Neat trick.

Do I need this?
Why not? If you are a proud owner of a long website, a header with search function following down your scroll would work perfectly. A list of shopping categories that are always there when you go down the page? Very useful.

Fixed navigation example

 

 

Examples: http://www.hardgraft.com/http://www.reserved.com/en (not an e-shop but close, and nice header menu)

Summing up…

It is good to realize that what works with online portfolios or general web sites, doesn’t necessarily work well in an e-shop. On the other hand, some trends help an e-shop to be more usable and, in effect, gain more customers.When designing or re-designing your online store, you should always keep your customers in mind. Perhaps jumping at the first top trend in web design isn’t the best idea after all… Unless it is, but you need to value the pros and cons of this decision.

Still, there are some handful timeless “trends” you can always try out:

  1. Clear and concise navigation,
  2. Good quality of product photos,
  3. Informative descriptions,
  4. Intuitive shopping cart.

They may sound fairly easy. Yet sometimes, in a beautifully designed e-store, these tiny elements do not click together and may not add to a positive user experience.

Take the beta version of hard graft (previously sporting an example of a fixed side menu). It is a combination of some of the trends: we have a long page, fixed top menu and large photos as background. It screams “design!” but it can cause some problems with usage. I got tired half-way through the page and decided to quit. I actually loved the design in its quiet finery, its exclusive feel. But I couldn’t make the most of it, because the whole experience was not extremely positive.

Always put your customers and their experience first. It will pay off in the end.

 

Ania is interested in all things design, as well as popular literature and film. She writes about the pretty side of credit cards and e-business. She's also responsible for some neat infographics and spends her free time writing short fantasy stories. An avid reader of graphic novels, she tries in vain to finish one herself. Has a credit card and is not afraid of using it online. Owner of a rather wicked sense of humor.

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