February 20, 2007, 12:00 AM

Keeping site design to a minimum

Sometimes less indeed is more, advise some industry observers, who caution directors of e-commerce and their design experts not to get carried away with new technology. Their message: avoid forcing shoppers into analysis paralysis.

Online video, blogs, community forums, 360-degree imagery, RSS feeds, personalization, Flash applications, mouse-over content-with so many veteran and up-and-coming features to choose from, a retailer e-commerce chief can transform a web site into a cavalcade of shopping fun. Some industry observers, though, warn directors of e-commerce and their site design experts not to get too carried away.

“I’m a big believer in simplicity,” says Craig Smith, founder and managing director of Trinity Insight LLC, an e-commerce consulting and services firm that specializes in interactive site design and site testing and analysis. “You don’t want to cause analysis paralysis, where you give shoppers so many options. Web design should accurately portray your brand and actively tell your value proposition.”

Troy Lawson, chief technology officer at Best Kiteboarding LLC, says the redesign the retailer launched last year wound up being more than a shopper can quickly absorb. Lawson plans on fixing that with a new design this year. “I like Google. They take something so complicated but present it in a way that is so easy to use,” he says. “We still will keep a lot of information and features on our site, but this year’s design is just a little too busy.”

Generally, many e-retailers can’t seem to see the forest for the trees, contends Jason Billingsley, vice president of marketing at Elastic Path Software Inc., an e-commerce platform vendor.

“A forgotten aspect of site design is minimalism-reducing features, reducing functionality,” Billingsley says. “When you look at successful e-commerce designs like Apple’s, you see it’s difficult to get confused. It’s minimalist. And if you can get across one clear message, it’s far more effective than crowding shoppers with more features and functions.”

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