February 17, 2012, 4:16 PM

IRWD 2012: Conference closes with a web design reality show

E-retailers hear from experts about ways to improve their sites in an interactive session.

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A participatory mood prevailed this week during the live site critique session that wrapped up the Internet Retailer Web Design and Usability Conference 2012. Scores of e-retailers turned for advice to Nate Ende, vice president of e-commerce at Trinity Insight LLC, an e-commerce consulting firm, and Danielle Leitch, executive vice president of MoreVisibility, an interactive marketing firm.

Tips to improve navigation and to make sites more attractive garnered most of the attention. On one site, Leitch pointed to the color scheme of gray navigation buttons against a blue background along the top of the page, which she found unappealing. “It’s a little busy in my opinion,” Leitch said.

The e-retailer might also consider switching the locations of the search box and the shopping cart link, Ende suggested. Consumers are used to seeing a shopping cart link along the upper right edge of a page instead of in the middle of the header. “The shopping cart is a little disjointed,” Ende said.

Another e-retailer, which offers direct mail services, was praised for its use of original articles about direct mail, but was advised to make them a little easier to read. “I like that you’re trying to create original content throughout the site to help consumers,” Ende said. “It’s a good strategy from a search engine optimization view.” But, the articles were difficult to read since the text was gray and not black, Leitch said.

Leitch and Ende cautioned another retailer against cramming every potentially relevant term into the meta title tag that search engines use to determine what’s on a web page and its relevance to search queries. “There is too much there,” Leitch said. “Every page should be targeted to one or two core phrases, including home pages.”

Yet more tips came in. Using a frosty outdoor image to advertise a winter sale to consumers in warmer climates could shut out many of them from shopping the site, Leitch said. One solution might be to use geographic targeting to display a different image for warmer regions, Ende said.

One e-retailer seeking feedback on a horizontal navigation bar was advised to pare down the number of categories so the navigation bar would fit on one line and not two. “I want to see how things can be organized a little better,” Ende said.

One business-to-business site was advised to display prices on its site. Currently, shoppers have to log into their accounts to see prices. “When people don’t see pricing,” Ende said, “they think you’re hiding something.”

 

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