Today we would like to talk about something that we're discussing with our clients over and over again: the look and feel of their Webshop. For many years now we're doing eCommerce projects for Startups, Medium-Sized companies and large Enterprises. There are some major differences between these categories of companies, and one of them is that with big companies, we've never had to discuss any Design related aspects. However, especially small companies and Startups are always very keen on getting a great design. But they don't need it (but insist on getting one) and waste a lot of money in the process.

Today we want to explain why we working actively against the stigma that shops must be beautiful and ideally win Beauty Contests and the fiscal reasons of it, as well to enlighten some of the reasons why shops are working and why they are generating revenue in the first place. If you came to this post of us because you're researching how an offer for your client should look like, or if you're a project manager that hired an external company and want to verify the content, you're right here, at least when it  comes to the UI/UX part. Besides that: we're doing good and well-performing shops, that are usable, still good looking (but not fancy unless you really want it, but we will ask all of our clients to read trough this article in the future, because it really takes a lot of time convincing them) - you can hire us to bring your eCommerce shop to the next level. 

A design is not generating you revenue

A very usual misconception of Non-eCommerce-savvy customers is that the design decides whether an payment will be made by a customer or not. However, this is nonsense. Designs are of course somewhat important in terms of User Experience, but if the design does not win a beauty contest, that is perfectly fine. A customer decides to purchase (or not) based on performance, reviews and mostly marketing aspects. In other words, the more time and budget clients spend on the design, the less they have for functions and infrastructure, which is not just more important, the revenue is indifferent if you have, lets say a "50% nice" design, or a "100% nice design". 

The biggest players on the markets do not have award winning designs and you don't need it, either

Take a look at Amazon. Do you think Amazon has a nice design? Take a look at Alibaba. Do you think they have a nice design? You'll probably answer both questions with: well, no, but their site has a unique look and feel and I know where to click and how to purchase. And this should be exactly what you want for your own web shop just as well. The main benefits of Amazon is not that you have the worlds most beautiful UI, but you have probably one of the worlds best User Experiences (UX). If we could weigh the beauty of a design and compare it to the Usefulness, Beauty (= UI) should sit on around 30-60% on the scale at maximum and the UX should be optimized towards 100% - and honestly, the better the UX, the better streamlined will the UI be. 

A simple, user-friendly design can actually be more effective than a flashy, complicated one.

Simplicity is the key here. A simple and user-friendly design can actually be more effective than an elaborate and complicated design. A cluttered and over-complicated design can be confusing for the user and result in not being able to find important information quickly. A simple design, on the other hand, makes it easier for users to quickly find the information they need and successfully use the website. It is important that navigation is intuitive/easy and that key features are easily accessible. A simple design can also help the website load faster and display well on different devices. Overall, it can be said that a simple and user-friendly design is often more effective than an elaborate and complicated design, as it better supports the website's goals and improves the user experience.

Consumer focus on reviews, mouth-to-mouth recommendations and performance

We always do it the same way - if a client wants a new web shop, we identify with them their budget, target audience and requirement, like integrations to their ERP and so on. Of course it is important to have a unique User Interface, but mostly it should be functional. Most clients aren't aware of the differences between Frontend and Backend Development and how expensive the latter can become if not done right. Many times, we figure that clients are expecting a 50/50 ratio: 50% budget for the Frontend, 50% budget for the Backend. We usually aim to change that to 20/80 and every time our clients agree, their shop runs fast. Every time they insist, there must be done compromises on much more important aspects: tests, pipelines, automation, functionality. However, for the customer itself, the latter is much more important: they want nice looking filters, they do not want to wait a long time until the site has loaded, and honestly, they don't care if the button is 2px larger or not.

If you optimize your shop, go for conversion instead of aesthetics

This is really it - you will generate more revenue by optimizing for conversion, compared to optimize for aesthetics. If you spend a percentage of your budget on aesthetics without spending twice the amount on conversion, you're not doing it right or you have been fooled by your agency. Usually, most developers and freelancers are not suggesting to only beautify the design in the first place; especially experienced agencies and developers will very well recommend to optimize conversions as well.

A focus on providing excellent customer service and fulfilling orders quickly can also be more important than design in retaining customers.

Speaking of budget, this is also an important part that we always try to educate our clients about - deliver fast, be professional and reduce the error margin. If a customer purchases with you at 14:30 and receives the order confirmation right after, that's a big win. It gets even better if you ship the order still on the same day - he will remember it much longer if he receives the package 2 days later compared to a very good looking website, that took ages to load and he had to wait 2 weeks for his In-Stock purchase. 

Of course you can have both

Good Frontend Developers will always try to maximize the beauty whilst optimizing the User Experience - at least to a certain amount. That said, if you are already happy with your conversions, are happy with the sites performance, or maybe just want to spend some of your revenue to generate tax writeoffs, you can hire an Agency to further beautify your online shop. We would, based on our experience, however never suggest to optimize the design first. 

What we always suggest, in the very specific order

No matter the size of our clients, the priorities are always the same:

  1. Infrastructure - you need performance more than anything
  2. Functionality for the shopper - if they have a good experience you will have a lot of turnover
  3. Backend functionality - connections to ERP, CRMs, Blogs, external tools, 3rd Party integrations
  4. Conversion optimized - well placed elements give you a much better revenue, thus more budget to invest
  5. User Experience (UX) optimized - if the user has a good experience, he will buy with you again
  6. SEO optimized - you can leverage a certain amount of your revenue due to SEO-related tasks (including all kinds of Marketing)
  7. User Interface - its really the least part you should worry about 

Rules are meant to be broken

Albeit we strongly believe in these strict rules from above, its not always exactly required not to have an beauty-contest winning design for your web shop. Sometimes it makes perfectly sense to get the maximum out of your business. For example, if you want to sell high-value items or if your customer audience is already expecting a very nice shop because all your  competitors obviously have spent thousands of dollars into their designs - at least you must match the level to some extend. Luckily for most industries, this is not the case. Another good reason is if you have a very unique product, that maybe is new and the market doesn't know about it so well - people will trust the web shop and the presentation much more if its really good looking. So, albeit we discourage our clients to spend too much money on the User Interface, sometimes it really makes sense. However, in probably 85% of the cases, it does not. 

...that does not mean it should be ugly.

A web shop design should still be unique, mobile-optimized and align itself with state-of-the-art UI components. We don't want to encourage you to actually spend nothing on the design, as it still is quite important for the eCommerce application to have some extend of professionalism. There are some general points that should be followed like, sizes should not differ too much, colors should be streamlined, paddings and margins should be not too unique across the online shop, and so on. You can actually have both: something that looks better than Amazon + something that does not eat up all your budget without adding any value to the business.

We hope that you're now much more able to estimate whether your offer is good or not, and if you still have questions, we're always open to discuss your projects with you. Feel free to contact us.