Launching a successful eVenture involves multiple layers of development and strategy rollout.
If one step to success is to take the simple actions required to make one’s business “findable” via the multitude of Internet gathering places, a companion and more strategic step is to employ internal web design tactics that interlace site structure and content with online marketing campaigns.
In other words, products and services should be as easy to find on a website as the site is to find on the web.
Achieving top SERP (search engine result page) rankings, both organically and in the sponsored ad sector is one measure of such success. Another measure is developing healthy, interactive “followings” at top Social Sites.
Ultimately, however, when a potential customer lands on a webpage, the actions taken thereafter become the “actualized” measure of success.
Questions to ask after deployment of a website and online marketing campaign, depending on the type of business, include:
- How many visitors called the phone number posted at the top of the website pages?
- How many visitors purchased a product from the online catalog?
- How many visitors filled out a lead acquisition form?
- How many visitors signed up for email?
- By how much did profit increase at a brick and mortar location?
Create a Clear Path from the Pitch to the Product to the Sell
Businesses that align website user-experience (UX) design with search engine optimization (SEO), paid online advertising (Banners, PPC and Content) and social media marketing improve chances of seeing a high return on marketing efforts.
When external messaging and landing page content are linked – creating a clear and direct path from the pitch to the product or service to the buy or lead – the chance of website visitor conversions are also likely to increase, sometimes dramatically.
Key to success in the entire process is a basic acceptance and understanding that commerce is market driven. Consumers are the ultra-deciders of product and service needs and trends.
Trends are Controlled by the Buyers, not the Sellers
Rhetorical question: Have you ever visited a shopping site that features a “deal?”
On the most successful eCommerce sites, to capture the broadest possible customer base, multiple user “personas” play a role in determining the website structure and design.
Fairly standard these days on shopping sites are links to:
- Deals, Sales or Clearance in one corner;
- New (and most expensive) merchandise displayed center stage;
- Categories at the top or in one of the sidebars;
- Lists of Brands;
- Information links about shipping, returns, privacy policies, etc;
- Increasingly, a Blog section.
Product or service pages generally include pricing and option choices, reviews, specifications and photos.
Beyond the act of making best use of web technology, each of these areas on an eCommerce site targets unique user “personas,” or rather, different customer behaviors and interests.
When it Comes to Personas for an eCommerce site, the Number Goes Well Beyond the Fab Four
Successful UX design for eCommerce depends on creating complex, relational product substructures at the database level.
The content engineering and product/service names, brands, and classifications that lie at the database level of any eCommerce site can be used to map multiple, inter-related paths to gratify different personas, and thus lead more shoppers to the “buy” or “lead generation” phase of a visit.
For example, a Chevrolet Silverado posted on an automotive lead gen site like PriceQuotes.com can be showcased as a Pickup Truck, a Chevy, a Silverado, an e85, diesel or hybrid vehicle; and a Heavy Duty Truck.
For sites that incorporate user search, like Amazon.com, technology that scans page text to generate search results expands the shopping experience to a highly personal level. Text-based search enables users to create their own paths to products and, ideally, take highly gratified action on the “buy” or “lead gen” page.
In all cases, visitors should be able to navigate easily to other areas of the site, or simply back to a starting point, without getting lost in a maze of session vars or unstructured data.
Generate a Path from Sitemap to Audience to Site Navigation
The substructures can include comprehensive product brand and class taxonomies, and incorporate intelligent, onsite search technology and multiple category layers into a site’s universal navigation and link structure.
For DIY sites, simple programs and tools can be designed to create a deep level of indexing. The better Content Management Systems (CMS) and catalog software products will enable easy indexing internally.
These links, in turn, can be compiled into a public sitemap that updates dynamically when new products or pages are introduced. The public sitemap then becomes the basis for an XML sitemap posted discreetly on the server.
Just as site visitors use visible links on a website to find products and services, search engines use links in the XML sitemap to find sites and index content.
The search engines then generate results from the index to create SERPs that most closely match visitor queries.
By applying persona oriented labelling to product databases, and using the substructures to generate content pages that are in turn routinely indexed by search engines, a web business massively improves its find-ability quotient in the vast world of potential customers.
Websites Designed to Capture Consumers in Multiple “Trend” Arenas are most Likely to Succeed
The persona concept in UX design applies to both traditional, blue-chip style marketing and to lightning trends that spark overnight.
For example, with the blue chip approach, a marketer exploits a product need – home carpeting for example – by geo-targeting middle class or prosperous single family neighborhoods. With the lightning approach, a marketer forecasts a potential trend based on established economic patterns – the relationship of gasoline prices to hybrid or electric vehicle sales, for example.
In both instances, making sure a product is easy to find and “get” on a website is critical to success.
Writing the book well, in other words, is the first requirement.
Keep Site Development Organic
Once the “book” is written and published – the initial work is completed to set up, link and post product / service content on a site – on-site visitor behavior stats can be combined with data driven resources – e.g. the Google Keyword Tool – to identify and monitor real-time consumer trends in one’s product / service area.
These trends can then be used as basis to develop new levels of categorization and page generation for products and services, creating a higher level of assurance that when a trend sparks into lightning, one’s website is ready to welcome the surge of new customers.
Laura Mauney’s professional adventure with User Interface development for eCommerce began in the late 1990s when she worked with the late Rodney L’Ongnion to develop online catalog design and navigation. Since then, Laura has worked solo and contributed to team efforts in the development of successful UX structures for the original RealSize.com online store, OnlyOnSale.com and PriceQuotes.com.