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Sun July 7 2013 14:36:28

Design Challenge: What You Can Learn from Designer Approaches

By: Julia Wilkinson

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EcommerceByes revealed the three long-awaited designs and analyses in our ECB Web Design Challenge today. But even if you didn't win the free design, the Challenge makeovers give us all a lot to think about in terms of our own ecommerce web sites.

Be sure to check out the beautiful new designs from Ventura Web Design and Redhead Labs, and the Usability analysis and graphic from Pete McNally at Bentley University. (And make sure to vote, and check out the discussion about the contest on the Forums!).

You will likely have your own insights, but here are the key things that struck me about what the different designers saw needed upgrading and the approaches they took:

- The Importance of a Professional Logo.  Both Ventura Design and Redhead Labs created a new, more professional-looking logo, both with a more stylized, script-like font, and in Ventura's case, a little surfer girl graphic.

Above: Ventura's Design.

As a business, your logo is the visual flashpoint that customers use to connect your products to your business in a visceral way. Even if you can't afford an all-new design, a nice logo is worth investing in.

- Make Good Use of Prime, "Above the Fold" Real Estate.
Both designers tightened up the top part of the site, with less space devoted to a giant logo and welcome text, and moving up the meaty content of featured products.

- The Search and Shopping Cart Features Should Stand Out
and be easy to find. Both designers moved these key elements up and to the right of the site, where customers are used to looking for such online shopping and checkout

Pete McNally took this even further in his Usability analysis, saying these should be at the top of every page on the site as well.

- Tighten Up the Navigation/Main Categories. All of the experts thought there were too many categories listed in the left navigation, leading to a confusing jumble for shoppers, and a shopping cart that didn't stand out.

- Vary the Content with Spaces for Special Offers or Features. Ventura created a "billboard" graphic for a special offer on shipping, and Redhead Labs offered product links under "Our Staff Favorites" with graphics that work as a sliding image carousel, also with a "hover effect" that displays the product name, price, and "View Now" button.

Above: Redhead Labs's Design.

- Integrate Social Media.
Both designers added buttons to social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Redhead Labs also integrated some content from Pam's "Glamoursplash" blog.

All in all, I think the new designs and analyses give us a lot to think about with our own web sites. It would be nice to be able to afford a top-of-the-line web designer, but even businesses on a tight budget can afford to make some of the navigation changes talked about above, and add social media links.

What elements of the makeovers struck you as most important? What might you have done differently? Post a comment here, or talk about it in ECB's new Web Design forum!

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