How to Fix Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes

Posted On February 14, 2019

How to Fix Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes


Are Your Online Consumers Abandoning Their Shopping Carts?

Improving the Online Shopping Experience

Online selling can open up huge new markets for many businesses. But there are plenty of things to consider when designing an e-commerce site. It’s not as simple as throwing up some shopping cart software and plopping products into a database. Take a look at some common e-commerce design mistakes and how to fix them.

There are tons of mistakes that online retailers make every day, all of them avoidable with a little careful planning. And even if you’re already committing some of these common e-commerce design mistakes, you can fix most of them easily enough. Avoiding them will greatly improve the experience of your customers.

Below are 16 of the most common e-commerce design mistakes, as well as advice on how to avoid or fix them. Take the advice under consideration before embarking on a new e-commerce project or when thinking over your current e-commerce site, and make efforts to follow the recommendations outlined here.

16 Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes


Espresso Digital Blog - Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes - No SSL Certificate


1. Not Having an SSL Certificate

One of the first things you need to do is to instill trust in your e-commerce site, business, products and services. And one of the most common e-commerce design mistakes is not taking trustworthiness into consideration from the beginning. That includes having the little secure padlock symbol in your browser address bar.

There are many reasons why even a small business e-commerce site should consider a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Certificate. The main reason here is trust. You are asking people to share something very sensitive with you, their credit card info! To make that easier for them you must convince them that your e-commerce site is trustworthy.

What To Do About It

SSL certificates are available from a variety of sources. In 2019 many web hosting companies such as WPEngine and Kinsta, or domain registrars like GoDaddy offer free SSL certificates. If your hosting provider offers that service we recommend it you use it. Make sure they will install and configure it as well; that part can be tricky.

And while we don’t necessarily recommend this approach you can get your own SSL certificate through issuing organizations like DigiCert, RapidSSL, GeoTrust, and GlobalSign. Remember, if you buy your own SSL certificate you may need to install and configure it yourself. You have been warned. And be careful about low-cost offers; we would not trust a $0.99 SSL certificate!


Espresso Digital Blog - Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes - Not Including Store Policies


2. Not Including Store Policies

Before a customer buys from you, they’ll likely want to know what your shipping policies, return policies, and other store rules are. And there’s no reason not to post this information in a FAQ or somewhere else on your e-commerce site. Making your store policies clear upfront can save a lot of headaches later on from customers who are unhappy with an order they placed.

What To Do About It

Use a FAQ or store policies section on your site to spell out exactly what your rules are for different kinds of customer interaction. It’s something that can save you tons of problems down the road. And in 2019 it is essential to update your privacy policy to meet GDPR requirements.


Espresso Digital Blog - Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes - Hiding Contact Information


3. Hiding Contact Information

One of the most common e-commerce design mistakes is hiding your contact info! Consumers want to know that they’re dealing with a real company when they hand over their credit card information. They want to know that if they have a problem they’ll be able to talk to a real person and get the help they need.

If your site doesn’t provide any contact information, or hides it so the consumer can’t find it easily, they’re less likely to trust your site, and therefore less likely to do business with you.

What To Do About It

Put your contact information in an easy-to-find place on every page of your website. The most obvious places to put your contact information are either in your header, the top of your sidebar, or in your footer. Provide multiple means of contacting your business if possible. A contact form, email address, phone number, and mailing address all add to the level of customer trust.

Remember that the more expensive or technical the product you’re selling, the more likely a consumer is going to want more contact information. In that case you may want to look into adding live chat functionality to your e-commerce site.


Espresso Digital Blog - Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes - Poor Customer Service Options


4. Poor Customer Service Options

Another of the most common e-commerce design mistakes is not providing customer service options! This is similar to the hiding contact information bit above. Especially for first-time shoppers on your site it instills trust if you clearly list contact info and your return policy.

You need to make it easy for customers to get in touch with you if they have a problem or question. Make it clear what the best way to contact you is if they have a technical question, a sales question, or they want to return an item. Offering a request form for customers to fill out will instill more confidence than just an email address.

What To Do About It

Clearly state your return policy; we recommend putting it in the header of every page. Use a ticketing system for customer service inquiries, especially if you don’t have a phone number available. Make sure that you post a FAQ that covers common questions customers might have, like what your return policy is or what to do if they need to order parts or replacement items. Even better if you use a chatbot to engage new and returning site visitors.


Espresso Digital Blog - Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes - Not Focusing on Products


5. Not Focusing on Products

The goal of any e-commerce site is to sell products. At least that is what your goal should be. If your e-commerce site puts more focus on bells and whistles or the design itself, it is not achieving that primary goal. Make sure your site displays your products first, and everything else second.

What To Do About It

Think about how products are displayed in brick and mortar stores. While an in-store or window display may show a lot more than just the products for sale, they all contribute to showcasing the products in their most flattering light. Do the same with your website. Make sure that every design element present is doing something to showcase your products in their best possible light.


Espresso Digital Blog - Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes - No Detailed Product Information


6. No Detailed Product Information

When you’re shopping in a brick-and-mortar store, you have the advantage of being able to pick up an item, feel it, look at it from every angle, and read any information on the packaging or labels. Shopping online removes that interaction. E-commerce sites need to do the best they can to improve upon the in-store shopping experience.

How often have you gone to an online store and found their descriptions to be lacking and incomplete? And if a customer is left wondering about the specifics of a product, they’re more likely to go look for the information elsewhere. And unless your e-commerce site’s prices are significantly lower than your competitors’ your potential consumers will most likely just buy from the other site.

What To Do About It

Provide as much product information as you can. Be sure to include sizes, materials, weight, dimensions, and any other helpful and relevant information depending on the product.

For example, for an online clothing store, you might include the fabric type, sizes and colors available, a size chart (usually linked from multiple products), the weight or thickness of the item, the cut and fit of the item, care instructions, and comments about the brand or designer. Using descriptive words rather than simply technical terms can have a greater impact on the consumer.


Espresso Digital Blog - Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes - Long Checkout Process


7. A Long or Confusing Checkout Process

This is one of the most common e-commerce design you can make. You have to make it as easy as possible for your customers to hand over their credit card information and complete their order. The more steps you put between them placing an item in their cart and actually paying for it, the more opportunities you give them to leave your site without completing their purchase.

The ideal checkout process includes a single page for consumers to check their order and enter their billing and shipping information, and a confirmation page before they submit their order. Anything else is an obstacle to completing the checkout process.

What To Do About It

Follow the ideal model as closely as you can. If you have to include other pages, try to make them as quick and easy to fill out as possible. Combine pages if you can, and use two-column layouts for certain sections, such as putting billing and shipping information next to each other, to make pages appear shorter.


Espresso Digital Blog - Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes - Requiring Account


8. Requiring an Account to Order

This common e-commerce mistake ties in directly to the previous item. If you require a customer to sign up for an account before they can place an order, you are placing another obstacle in their path. So what is more important to you: getting the order or capturing customer information? Remember that the second option may mean losing some customers.

What To Do About It

There’s an easy fix for this. Instead of requiring a consumer to sign up for an account before they order, offer them the option at the end of their ordering process. Provide the option to save their account information to make placing future orders easier or to track the status of their current order. Many customers will opt to save their information, and you won’t be driving away customers before they’ve completed their order.


Espresso Digital Blog - Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes - Inadequate Site Search


9. Inadequate Site Search

If a customer knows exactly what they’re looking for, many will opt to use a search engine instead of sifting through categories and filters. To make this process as user-friendly as possible you need to ensure that the search feature on your e-commerce site works well, and has filters for letting customers refine their search results.

How often have you searched for a product on a large e-commerce site and been returned with hundreds of applicable results? While the variety of options can be nice, if half of those results are nothing like what you’re looking for, it’s more an inconvenience than anything else. Including a way for customers to filter their search results by category or feature eliminates this problem.

What To Do About It

Make sure the e-commerce software you’re using has a good built-in search engine, or look for plugins to extend that functionality. Ideally, an e-commerce search engine should let users search by keyword and then refine results based on the categories your site includes. Let users sort their search results based on standard criteria (most popular, highest or lowest price, newest item, etc.) as well as eliminating items that don’t fit within a certain category.


Espresso Digital Blog - Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes - Bad Product Images


10. Bad Product Images

Another of the most common e-commerce design mistakes is a tiny or low quality product image! How can consumers see what they are buying? Since consumers can’t physically handle the products you’re selling before placing an order on your e-commerce website, you need to do as much as you can to recreate and improve upon that experience. Tiny product images don’t effectively do this.

What To Do About It

First of all, unless you have a good camera and know how to use it you should consider the services of a professional photographer. To improve your e-commerce user experience you MUST provide large images right on the product page or allow users to click on an image to zoom in. You want users to be able to view the image as large as is practical on any device. This means an image that enlarges to 1920×1200 pixels or more is a good size to start.


Espresso Digital Blog - Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes - Only One Product Image


11. Only One Product Image

Once again, your consumers will want to see what they are buying! Unless your product is delivered digitally (and even sometimes if it is), you’ll want to provide multiple images from different angles. An image in each color, of the front, back, and sides, and even detailed shots of specific features can all go a long way toward making a consumer more likely to buy from you.

What To Do About It

This one’s simple: include more images. Four or five images of each product are ideal, offering enough views to allow a consumer to feel comfortable that they know exactly what they’re getting.


Espresso Digital Blog - Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes - Poor Shopping Cart Design


12. A Poor Shopping Cart Design

This is probably the most harmful of our common e-commerce design mistakes! Your shopping cart is an incredibly important part of your e-commerce website. It needs to allow users to add multiple products, to revise the quantities or other options about those products, and it needs to remain transparent at the same time. Not exactly the easiest thing to do, right?

What To Do About It

Make sure your cart lets a user add an item and then return to the last page they were on. Even more user-friendly is allowing them to add an item to their cart without ever leaving the page they’re on by using a mini cart. Let your consumers edit the quantities of items in their cart or remove an item from their cart. And let them preview what shipping charges will be before they start the checkout process.


Espresso Digital Blog - Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes - Lack of Payment Options


13. Lack of Payment Options

It’s your money, so shouldn’t you be able to choose how you want to pay? There are many e-commerce sites out there that only allow users to pay with a credit card, or to only pay with a PayPal account. There’s no reason for this anymore. There are many trustworthy payment options such as Stripe and Square that integrate with e-commerce sites.

If you want to maximize your e-commerce sales you have to provide as many payment options as possible. Some of your consumers may not have a credit card, or a PayPal account. And don’t forget that some older consumers may not want to pay online. If that is your target audience you should consider payment by check or on delivery options.

What To Do About It

Use a payment service that lets customers pay with each major credit card, and preferably also with an electronic check. Adding a Stripe, Square, PayPal or Apple Pay checkout option increases the choices your customers have, making them more likely to purchase from you.

Different consumers have different preferences when it comes to making online payments, and catering to as many as possible automatically expands your customer base.


Espresso Digital Blog - Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes - No Related Products


14. No Related Products

You’ve probably noticed when you go to a brick and mortar store that they group similar products together, or otherwise make it easy for you to find products that are related to you. They’ll put a battery display in the electronics section, or include cell phone cases near the cell phones. The same can be done on your e-commerce website, and can increase add-on sales for you business.

What To Do About It

Use an e-commerce platform that lets you include related products on product description pages. A platform that will let you manually choose related products, such as WooCommerce, also gives you a big advantage, since you may see relations that a software program does not. Think about coordinating clothing pieces to create an outfit, or adding care products to your furniture items.


Espresso Digital Blog - Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes - Confusing Site Navigation


15. Confusing Navigation

Another of the common e-commerce design mistakes we see is confusing navigation. There’s nothing more annoying than trying to find a product on a site with confusing navigation. Even worse is an e-commerce site that does not use categories or otherwise separate their merchandise to make it easier to find a specific type of product. The same goes for e-commerce sites that have categories with no products in them or with only one or two items. What’s the point here?

What To Do About It

Before you develop your e-commerce site think through your categories and navigation elements carefully and consider how you will add products to your catalog. Make sure that every category has at least a few (5-6) products in it, or else group smaller categories together. You can also include them in larger, similar categories). Make it easy for customers to look through different categories, get to their shopping cart, and otherwise move around your site.


Espresso Digital Blog - Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes - No Shipping Rates


16. No Shipping Rates

There is simply no good reason not to include accurate shipping rates on your site. When shopping online, your consumers want to be able to complete their order all at one time, without having to look elsewhere for information, or having to wait until you can provide it. Therefore you must include your rates on your site, unless you offer free shipping for ALL your products.

What To Do About It

UPS, FedEx, and the USPS all provide shipping calculators on their website, And there are plugins or widgets available for almost every major shopping cart systems to calculate shipping charges on your e-commerce site. Use one. If you can’t do this for whatever reason, then list a flat shipping rate that covers whatever it is you need to ship.

For particularly heavy or large items, or items requiring special handling, you can always include a freight surcharge in the price. But make sure to indicate what the additional charge covers, and why you charge it.


Espresso Digital Blog - Fixing Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes


Fixing Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes

Now that you have our list of the most common e-commerce design mistakes you can start fixing them. Take our list, and compare that to your e-commerce site or online store. Did you make any of these mistakes? Now you know how to fix them; we provided you with the basic info you need.

In some cases the fix may require some additional help. If your product images are lacking quality and focus you should engage the services of a professional photographer. Skimpy or incomplete product descriptions may require the services of a content strategist or copywriter. Is the design of your e-commerce site is not user-friendly or otherwise outdated? In that case you need to talk to a professional web designer. They can also help you with any shopping cart and related functionality issues.

If you are not sure what all you can do to make shopping an awesome experience for your consumers here are a few posts from our  blog that will help:



BONUS TIP: Think about the e-commerce shopping experience you expect from online stores you frequent. Then simply provide the same experience on your own e-commerce site. It really works! We are here to help.


Did You Find and Fix Any of These Common E-Commerce Design Mistakes?

So, did you eliminate any of these common e-commerce mistakes and obstacles on your own e-commerce site? Which ones were the most critical, and how did you fix them? Please feel free to let us know so our audience can benefit as well, and grab our feed so you don’t miss our next post! And feel free to share our post with your audience!

Thank you! We appreciate your help to end bad business websites, one pixel at a time!

By Editor
Espresso Digital Blog

Written by Editor

We are a group of people in Tokyo and Sendai, Japan. Individually we are designers, strategists, creative technologists, and consultants. As a team we are focused on WordPress, E-Commerce, UX / UI Design, Search Engine Optimization, Website Optimization and Digital Marketing, and we love writing about these topics.

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