February 24, 2011, 12:27 PM

The role of color, fonts, photos and layout in driving e-retail sales

The role of color, fonts, photos and layout in driving e-retail sales

Lead Photo

Effective web site design has been one key to home improvement retailer Lowe’s Cos. Inc.’s status as a Top 100 retailer in the Internet Retailer Top 500. And much of that success has come from its adept use of visual design basics like as type fonts and color, Sari Levine , creative and user experience director at Lowe’s, told attendees in a session at Internet Retailer’s Web Design & Usability conference last week.

For example, in the past 18 months Lowe’s has increased its use of fonts as a way to tie together key areas of a page and its use of photos with text to clarify category page content, Levine said.  Applying good design principles also has created a better home page at Lowes.com ,  which must serve at the gateway for several types of shoppers, she added.

Colors, typography and the deliberate use of white space draw visitors’ eye to different areas of the page, she said. Each type of home page hero shot—large photographs that anchor the home page display—appeal to different kinds of shoppers when surrounded by particular colors. One font may  target a shopper focused on a product hunt while another might be more appealing to someone seeking inspiration or ideas.

Visual design on e-commerce sites is sometimes viewed as a purely aesthetic matter, but it has another important job, according to session co-presenter Josh Levine, founder and chief creative and experience officer at web design firm Alexander Interactive.  Used effectively, basic design elements can help visitors navigate a page and call out a product’s best features; used poorly, they can distract visitors and detract from sales.  “If you are not using some of these design school tools, you are probably missing out on some sales,” he said.

He discussed the tension between a site’s merchandisers, who typically want to fill available space on a page with product images and promotions, and the site’s designers who often argue against that approach. "Embrace white space and kill clutter ,” he said, adding that overloading a page confuses viewer. Levine also shared how the right photography can reinforce text messaging to direct the eye. During the session, a slide from an eye-tracking study showed that the photo of a baby’s face next to a block of copy on a web page drew most page viewers’ eyes, while a side view of the baby appearing to look at the copy block drew more eyes to the text.

The Lowe’s executive added that most of the same design principles can be applied to creating effective mobile sites, with one caveat applying even more strongly to mobile than to e-commerce sites. When designing for mobile, she said, “Get rid of all non-essential information, or you will lose sales.”



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