February 17, 2012, 4:05 PM

IRWD 2012: There’s little forgiveness for landing page sins

Poor web design can cause consumers to immediately flee e-retail sites.

Lead Photo

E-retailers have one chance to make a good first impression with their landing pages, and they should not waste it by making potentially poor design choices. That was the message delivered by Tim Ash, CEO of SiteTuners, a site optimization firm, and David Gusick, director of e-commerce at Western wear retailer Boot Barn Inc., during the Internet Retailer Web Design and Usability Conference 2012 in Orlando, FL, this week.

E-retailers should avoid putting too many visual distractions on their home pages or other pages that online consumers land on, Ash said. “Visual distractions keep consumers from consuming content on your site,” he said. He pointed out a site that had 25 product images, some of them animated, filling the home page. Yet another, for an apparel retailer, had too many similar-sized images, failing to grab consumers’ interest with a single image.

Closely related is the fallacy of providing too many options on a home page. “These are sites that give you all kinds of options,” Gusick says, but fail to make clear to consumers how they can learn more about the retailer’s products.

But an e-retailer may swing too far in the other direction and make one element, such as an image, so prominent on the page its masks other important elements, such as links to the shopping cart or category pages, Ash said. The goal is to find a balance so one element does not dominate the entire page, he added.

And sometimes e-retailers populate their pages with technological gimmicks but fail to check that the technology does not impede a consumer’s path to purchase, Ash said. On one site, when a consumer clicked an image to zoom in the expanded image covered up important links like the Add To Cart button.

Gusick cautioned that just because one site makes animation work well doesn’t make it right for another e-commerce site. “Avoid it,” he says. “It takes away from your products.”

Yet another flaw is having unclear call-to-action indicators. Tucking a shopping cart button into a corner or not clearly identifying it can cut into results, Gusick says.

E-retailers have come a long way in gaining consumer confidence in shopping online, and many tout their participation in secure shopping services with security seals, but fail to make consumers aware of them, Ash noted. If security seals are of such importance, then move from the bottom of the page and into more prominent locations, he says. “If you have important trust marks, why aren’t they above the fold?” he wondered.

On that note, Gusick suggests avoiding placing content too much in the lower parts of a page. He mentioned one site that took four taps of the page down key to get to the bottom. Don’t submerge what could be useful information, he says.

E-retailers need to give consumers direction on their pages, Ash said, so they should avoid having hero shots rotating too quickly. “It’s like saying, ‘We don’t know what’s important, so you decide,’” he says. Give consumers something to linger on for a moment. “Consumers have the attention span of a lit match,” he added.

Apparel retailer Boot Barn is No. 436 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

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