Many of your average everyday keyboard warriors may think of their Internet browsing as a rather aimless process. Creative web design experts know better. E-Commerce site traffic is meant to flow in a very specific direction: down the sales funnel.
However, this doesn't happen on its own. You have to design your e-commerce site in an intuitive way so that visitors will have clearly defined pathways to move toward a conversion for your business.
These pathways, or the intended direction of your site traffic, is referred to as user flow. It's the way visitors navigate on your website, the path they take from page to page, and ideally ending up at the checkout.
So how do you make an effectively directed user flow? Metaphorically speaking, it's not too different than constructing your lunch.
E-Commerce Design Tips: Make a Sandwich
You might think about an average website and building a similar structure that's emulating what you've seen. Starting with structure, however, is often a mistake. You want your e-commerce site to stand out from the pack, and that means designing according to your business objectives.
The correct method of web interface design is to build around your conversion points, however many they may be, and your traffic sources. Thus you end up reverse engineering your website to resonate with your target market's needs and origins.
In other words, you're making a user flow sandwich, so let's start with the allegorical bread.
A Slice of Conversions
Start at the bottom of your sales funnel. You need to really think about what you want your site's visitors to do. Obviously, you want them to shop, but what else? Ask yourself a as many questions about how you want users to interact with your site as possible. Here are a few to get you started:
Do you want your site visitors to:
- Share content?
- Make multiple purchases?
- Create user-generated content?
- Leave feedback?
These are just a few options. You need to really think about the different ways your site can meet the needs of your target market, and how their objectives will align with yours. Then design your conversion points with these objectives in mind.
So always build your conversion points first, and design them with your customer's needs in mind. The destination is the most important part of an e-commerce site's user flow.
After all, you can't have a sandwich with the top slice of bread only. They don't even make open-faced sandwiches that way.
A Slice of Traffic Sources
So that brings us to the top half of our metaphor. You've got to consider where your traffic is originating from, if you expect to properly direct it to a mutually beneficial destination.
For example, are they on your site from a link on a social media outlet, looking for helpful or informative content?
Arrange a page flow for them that would use content to steer them toward an opt-in for your newsletter. These should be packed with the useful content they came for anyway, and you get their valuable contact information as an added bonus.
Alternatively, this might be a return customer that's already subscribed to your newsletter. You'll need a different path for them to direct them to a special offer, sale, or product page.
Depending on where the traffic is coming from, your user flows will be vastly different. Traffic sources can tell you a ton about visitor intentions, and the more you know about what they want, the better equipped you'll be to match their desires with your product offerings.
Meat, Cheese, and Creative Web Design
Now that you've got the bookends of user flow, it's time to connect the dots. Depending on the starting and ending point for each user, there are a number of steps they can go through to get to your conversion points.
In general, fewer steps are better. It can be difficult enough to get the initial click-through—it's not wise to gamble on a winding path.
An average user flow might go something like this:
- Your e-commerce site appears in Google results.
- The user clicks through and ends up on your home page.
- They decide to browse your product pages.
- They find a product they like and proceed to checkout.
In this case, your first step would have been building an easy and intuitive checkout process. One that was attractive, but more importantly functional. That means few steps, not much information (aside from shipping and credit card data) required, and only a couple of clicks to actually buy the product.
Another example could look like this:
- You tweet out a blog post on Twitter, and your user clicks through.
- The blog post advertises a product the user is interested in and they head to the product page.
- After due consideration of your offering, they head to checkout
To lubricate this exact path, you might want to tweet a coupon code out with the blog post, and have a slot for the code on your checkout page as well. This will encourage your visitors to go from point to point with little hesitation.
One final example:
- You distribute a piece of content on Facebook and a user clicks through.
- The link takes them to a landing page advertising site membership and newsletter registration.
- The user opts in.
All of these examples are valid paths from source to conversion and each of the steps between is determined by the aligned objectives of the user and your business.
The Shortest Path Between Two Points
You need to make a direct connection between customer needs and your conversions when determining the pages within your user flows.The quickest path to your aligning these disparate set of objectives is to inform your landing pages with market research.
Hopefully, if you're at the point of website design or redesign, then you've done your fair share of market research already. If not, you need to ask yourself two questions:
- What are the needs of my target market?
- How do my products meet those needs?
Once you've gathered the answers, you must design landing pages that accurately reflect this information. You must also design product pages in such a way that appeals to people with those needs, without forgetting to include high-quality product images.
Finally, to test out the efficacy and efficiency of your user flows, you need to gather visitor feedback. You can do this by any or all of the following methods:
- Conduct surveys.
- Request feedback via personal email correspondence.
- Administer usability tests.
- Engage visitors in conversations on social media platforms.
However you choose to gather feedback, take criticism with grace, and implement effective changes with the results you get.
Once again, the most important part of designing user flows for your e-commerce site is to identify a visitor's intentions with your own business objectives, and determine the shortest distance between those two points with exhaustive market research.
To find out more about driving traffic to your site, click here.