Six Functional Parts, The Home Page

The home page sets the shopper’s expectations for the rest of the site and lays out the framework. The home page performs the following jobs:

Store Framework

The store framework—or page layoutsets the expectations for the customer for each subsequent page within the website. It usually consists of the top banner of the store, the left navigational bars, the primary content area (middle), and often has a third column on the right side used typically for advertisements. The top banner and left navigational areas are usually consistent throughout the remainder of the store.

To help the customer remain oriented in the site, there are static elements that start on the home page and then remain constant. For example, the company logo and top of the page identification banner help ground the shopper in the store even though page content changes.

Company Information

The company name, logo, and positioning statement are important informational elements. In addition, a toll-free number provides another means to order or to ask questions and should be readily noticeable and available on the home page and all other pages of the store.

A link to a company information area will provide the company name, address, telephone number, parent company, and a key contact name. It may tell a little about the company itself, how long it has been in business, the types of markets it serves, and the range of products it produces. There may be a photo of the main office to establish credibility. This area can reinforce the value proposition and reassure customers that they will get the promised quality, service, or other attribute when they order.

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Sub Category and Product Detail Pages

Because customers can’t pick up virtual merchandise and read labels, the product detail page represents the product or behaves like the product package. It must clearly communicate what the product is and what the customer will receive as a result of its purchase. Anytime a page offers a product for sale, it must provide the following information for each of the products offered:

  • What it is—the description, picture, uses
  • Relevant and complete compatibility, sizing, color, or other information
  • What’s contained in the package—what the customer will receive
  • Other items needed for immediate operation (batteries, cables, assembly, UL specifications)
  • Spare or complementary items (extra batteries, film, or a carrying case)
  • "Care and feeding" of the product (special polish, cleaning instructions)
  • The price and any hidden charges (extra shipping or handling)
  • The manufacturer’s or designer’s name
  • Sample content (for example, sample book pages)

The customer must know clearly what the product is and what it looks like. And for customers who know exactly what they are looking for, accurate descriptions and specific product numbers or models must be included so they may easily recognize the correct product. Our research across more than 25 major elcommerce websites identified incomplete or inadequate information. In many cases, the web stores did not provide complete compatibility information.

Shoppers will not purchase from a site that cannot confirm their choice or be specific about what the product is that they are purchasing.

Product detail pages let customers know what they’re getting and what else they may need or want. In this example, product features—the "speeds and feeds"—are listed. This includes products they may need to purchase in order to use the product. It also features other products the customer may want. Good clothing stores recommend coordinated accessories to give customers ideas to complete ensembles for a variety of social occasions.

Present Good Product Pages

Make it easy for customers to understand and compare products by applying the following recommendations:

  • Clearly state what the product is, how it operates. or describe its style. Include how it might be used, or list occasions for which it might he suitable.
  • Include all available quantities or units (single, multiple) on the same page to simply navigation.
  • Clearly explain alternatives or variations of the product if it conies in different ‘flavors: ‘
  • Ensure that one product description can differentiate it from other products and that the customer has a good understanding of what he is about to purchase
  • Include product photos, and use up-to-date images and graphics. Customers use photos to confirm their selection.
  • Include SKY and product codes, hut dc-emphasize obscure numbers.

Sometimes information provided on comparable products is very similar, and its hard for customers to distinguish differences in features or attributes. Routine reviews of products displayed in the category can let you see what your customers see. It’s your oh to help them know why they want one product over another. If information is unclear to you, it is unclear to your customers.

Content That Adds Value

Provide the right information in the right manner at the right time to your customers by applying the following recommendations:

  • Understand your categories and key customer needs.
  • Provide relevant and usable content on your website.
  • Make content easily accessible.
  • Layer content to accommodate different shopper types.

Shoppers may need a little or a lot of information. Providing deeper layers of information accommodates those people without interfering with other shoppers’ needs.

Create a Smooth Path to Buying

The easier it is for customers to navigate through the site, the more successful the online store. Customers return to sites at which they have an easy time.

a) Customer Insight

Customers made the following representative comments about the challenging navigation of websites:

Kind of shuffled me around in more shopping than I wanted to do:

  • The first thing I’m trying to do is see if they have any major headings that try to point me in the right direction.”
  • Node, it’s still not there. What did I miss? What’s another definition of this?”
  • Since I can’t find it after clicking through, I guess I’ll have to do a search or go to another site because the information is not readily available to me:’ Part of working with a new site is figuring out how to use it’
  • I’m just reading the descriptions because you never know what they put things under.” Predominately, my definition is not necessarily someone else’s definition. Once I understand someone else’s definition, it makes sense, but mine is not theirs. I’m now just looking under some items. It’s not furniture, it’s not accessory, and it’s not technology… I’m looking for another link since that one didn’t give me what I was looking for.”

How Does Your WebStore Stack Up?

Regardless of the size of your online store or your organization, there are questions that you can ask of your site as a potential influencer of site design and customer experience. A website self-evaluation shows opportunities to improve site usability. Comparing your competitorssites against the same criteria and analyzing the results reveals areas of focus to remain at a competitive advantage or to catch up. Read the rest of this entry »