Today I want to talk about what I believe is the most important instrument that any Online Fashion brand has for brand positioning – its homepage. Even though there are many studies done about home page design and best practices, but there is still lot of confusion about the topic. It’s because most of these articles talk about Home Page UI & Usability in isolation with the business. For example – what if you’re a start-up brand and I tell you that you need to have an intelligent product search displayed prominently at the top of your homepage. But is search really important when the size of your inventory is too small? Why waste your precious real estate on search when you don’t have sufficient inventory. Instead, why not focus to enrich the browsing experience instead.
JWAnderson doesn’t shows its product search very prominently on their home page
Let’s dive right in and talk about common homepage mistakes that many Fashion Retailers do while designing their website’s home page and also some new ideas that can inspire you to come-up with a better e-commerce user experience for your website.
1) You don’t have enough white space on your home page
When you go to a luxury hotel, physical store of a luxury clothing brand, Luxury Spa, etc, there is a reason why you see empty spaces everywhere, including designs, architecture, interior, print etc. Emptiness is seen as mark of cleanliness, ‘positive’ scarcity, high quality, high value and class. There is some thing about white space that alters consumer perceptions about a brand and its value in an e-commerce context. It increases the perceived value of the brand.
This emptiness is called white space. White space (which doesn’t always mean white color but empty space) is the on-screen areas that does not contain text, graphics, or other visual elements. It is a key component of design & website usability and seen to be related to luxury.
The same notion continues in the e-commerce. However, some retailers arm twist their designers into inserting banners, navigation and text in their home page layout just for sake of filling empty spaces.
One of the important objective to keep in mind while designing home page of your e-commerce website is to ensure enough white space on your website. This is one rule that changes the dynamics of web design for Fashion E-commerce websites. And posts a challenge in front of designers and fashion business owners to strike the right balance between usability and perceived value.
2) There is nothing remarkably different about your home page
Your home page is one of the most important tools you have for brand positioning, especially if you’re an e-commerce company. It is where you make an impression and this impression should be ‘remarkably’ different from your competitors. Again, the reason why I am saying remarkably different is that your homepage should make your business look different in a way that it should be worth talking about. It should be immediately visible to a new visitor – what makes you so unique?
3) You’re pitching your products on your home page
Many retailers tend to show an entire product listing with prices and discounts on their home page. This is convenient for returning customers; however, it’s less favorable for a new customers, who don’t even know you so well. I am not sure if this is the right approach. Wouldn’t it be nicer to let them experience the brand before getting down to pitching products. If you have ever noticed many of successful online retailers don’t show their product prices on their home page. The whole idea is that they encourage them to experience their brand and and win their mind-share before pitching them their products. In other words, they use home page to warm-up their visitors for shopping before taking them to category and product pages.
4) You’re not using Splash Screen
OK, this is not exactly a mistake but definitely a missed opportunity. Splash screen (or splash page) is a front page of a website that doesn’t really provide actual content, but offers your customers some kind of visuals that builds anticipation and excitement about the brand.
There was a time when we were told that Splash pages are evil and rightly so – the internet was slow and splash pages were made of heavy flash files. But even today, when we have much faster Internet everywhere and lighter substitute to Flash in the form of JQuery, for some reason many retailers don’t show Splash pages. Why? You think they will not watch or they will bounce off the website? Or perhaps, may be you’re worried about ‘Jeffrey Zeldman’ Three Click Rule. Well, I doubt if this rule applies so much to Fashion e-commerce websites anyway. Selling fashion requires building anticipation, excitement and enveloping the visitor into a specific mood in order to make the customer take an action. A potential customer wouldn’t mind, watching a 5-10 second video before being taken to the home page. In fact, splash screens are a great place to give them options to get a more personalized home page.
Three Click Rule: It suggests that a user of a website should be able to find any information with no more than three mouse clicks. It is based on the belief that users of a site will become frustrated and often leave if they cannot find the information within the three clicks. Although there is little analytical evidence that this is the case, it is a commonly held belief amongst designers that the three click rule is part of a good system of navigation.
Video Splash Screen of Victoriabeckham.com
J.W.Anderson shows this splash image attached with the home page itself
5) You’re not encouraging users to know your brand’s story
When people buy from you, they want to know about the background and story behind your brand. But they may not bother clicking on the tiny about us link in the footer. Off course, you can not tell your entire story on the home page; but home page can get people excited to know about the story of your brand by giving them a sneak peak.
ESPRIT‘s About Us Section in their home page
6) You’re not showing them focused call to actions to buy
Back to the basics. It’s not only just about showing nice visuals and fairytale stories. Eventually you want them to buy, right? That’s why you need to have to have a sales flow that gets people into taking an action. There should be a sales funnel on your website created by your Links, Navigation, Banners and buttons that you show to visitors, which starts from the home page.
There should be a visual sales hierarchy that’s even though not visible to a visitor but it works on the sub-conscious levels and pushing them into a shopping cycle, for example:
this is how you feel when you wear our products > this is who we are > this is how our products look like > go buy these specific products
- Don’t just show them all models and pretty faces on the home page. Show them your products in action with the help of look book and product close-up shots.
- Remember, quality of product visuals is more important than the quantity of visuals on the home page
- Use specific call to action text in links and buttons. For example, avoid generic text such as – ‘Shop Now’, ‘Buy Now’ etc. What is it you want them to buy? Be specific – ‘Shop Dresses’, ‘Buy Tops’ etc.
7) You’re trying to squeeze everything into the top of your homepage
Some retailers are simply scared of scrolling. It’s not that they don’t like scrolling but they think people will get tired if they make them scroll too much. As a result, they try to squeeze everything into the top section of the home page or they put all the information into internal pages where visitors may not notice. The truth is that people like scrolling more than clicking. OK, people may be used to hate it in the mid-nineties, not any more. In the past few years, our browsing behavior has evolved dramatically. Pinterest is the biggest example to support my argument, we keep scrolling infinitely until we see product images relevant to our search. Scrolling provides even better usability than slicing up the text to several separate screens or pages. You don’t have to squeeze everything into the top of your homepage or above the fold. Believe me, people will scroll to any length you want them to, as long as you can show them value in it.
Fold is a Myth: Higher conversion rate has nothing to do with whether the button is above the fold, and everything to do with whether the button is below the right amount of good copy. The issue isn’t whether the call to action is visible when your prospect first arrives. The issue is whether your call to action is visible at the point where your prospect has become convinced to take action. So above the fold, below the fold. All that doesn’t matter. People will take an action when they are ready for it.
8) You’re not using business tag lines
Business tag line is small text, just around your logo. It’s an instrument for a laser targeted brand positioning. A good tag line can create immediate connection between brand and its customers. It’s optional for established retailers who have already positioned their brand, but when you’re a start-up, using a business tag line can help you communicate your core products and business values to your target customers.
Here are few examples of business tag lines:
- Netaporter.com – The world’s premier online luxury fashion destination
- ASOS.com – Discuss Fashion Online
Everlane.com shows its business tag line in a dedicated section on their home page
9) You’re not offering personalized shopping experience
If you’re a start-up brand that ships internationally, you should look to localize the shopping experience on your online store and give them an impression to that you can be trusted to ship to their country on time.
- Reassurance: Identify user’s country from their IP address and show a notification in the top header, like ‘Shipping to Australia’, like MrPorter.com does.
- Default Currency & Language selection: Along with it, see if you can change the language and currency of the entire store to currency of the user’s country (if you ship to it).
10) You’re not showing your Unique Selling Propositions
Show in clear words – what’s different about your business and why should customers buy from you. Unique Selling Proposition is your instrument to counter the mental barriers of your customers while buying from your store and give him/her the extra push to compete the purchase. However, don’t waste your home page real estate by showing them vague USPs. Easy Returns, Free Shipping, Price Guarantee, Risk Free Shopping. Be specific, such as: Free Shipping on orders above $100, 100% Organic Products, 60 Days Return Policy etc.
11) You’re not updating your Carousel Banners soon enough
Many retailers don’t pay the required attention to their Carousel Banners. It’s one of the first few elements that a new customers notice on your website and thus it’s important to put your best foot forward and let your most relevant offer catch the attention of your visitors.
- First Slide should always show your newest collection
- Ensure Quick load time. Optimize the size of carousel images so that they may load quickly at once
- Keep your slide frequency slow
- Let users control the carousel slideshow. You can either provide pause/play buttons, or keep the image rotations manual instead of automatic
- Show offers that consistently perform well for you throughout the year
- Your slide navigation control options must be prominent
- Offers on the slides must be relevant to your entire target audience
- Don’t show them too many slides
12) You’re not giving the required attention to your own label
Are you selling Multi-brands, along with your own proprietary label? Then it’s important that you don’t let your own brand get lost in the ‘featured brands’ or ‘designers’ section on your home page. Although, this does makes it easy for visitors to find their favorite brands quickly and you as a retailer gets passive trust benefit from the featured brand for their own retail brand; but it also gives customer a sense of what the store owner puts first – their own brand or the brand they sell.
13) You’re not giving a sneak peak into your editorial content
To build a successful brand, you have to produce lot of engaging content everyday and home page is the place where you can give your customers a sneak peak into your editorial content. Last thing you want to do is hide that content in footer links where half of the new visitors may not notice. By showing the best content on your homepage, you can create a specific ‘mood’ which makes them buy from your website and also engage with your brand.
MrPorter’s content section on their home page
14) You’re not offering ways to your site visitors to share their experience and complains
Providing great shopping experience is not a destination but a journey. You need to improve all the time and for that you need to collect data related to your customers shopping experience on your website. It becomes even more important if you’re a start-up. You can do so in the form of: Live chat, Site Feedback and 3rd Party Survey Tools on your home page.
15) You’re compromising on your site aesthetics by showing payment method icons
We keep seeing these payment method icons in the home page footer of many e-commerce websites. These icons have to be used the way they are. This is how they look:
First of all it’s not possible to place these things in the footer without compromising with the site’s aesthetics. Second, do you really think someone will buy from your website because you accept payment via. American Express? May be not. Moreover, it’s more of a basic requirement that your customers expect from you, rather a facility – all websites offer similar payment methods. I am not saying it’s not important and you shouldn’t use them. I just doubt whether home page footer is a right place for that. Perhaps, you can show the payment method icons on the checkout page if you want to.
16) You’re depending on Security Seals to make your website look trust worthy
Conventional wisdom says that using security seals help in improving conversion rate of an online store.
The whole point here is to build trust in customers about your brand. Can they trust your website and hand over their credit card details? Yes, I do believe that these security seals do help. However, if they don’t trust your brand, no trust seal can help you. If they trust the brand and people behind it, they will not look at security seals before making a purchase. So I doubt whether security seals really justify a place in the home page footer.
Perhaps, there are other better ways to build trust, such as:
- Showing picture of business owners with a link to a nice about page with a physical address
- Great Social Media following
- Customer Support Information
- High Quality Visuals that give customers sense of quality
- Link to a Corporate Social Responsibility page
- Press Coverage
17) You’re showing in-consistent visuals on your home page
To be able to wrap your customers in your vision, your visuals need to be consistent. You can’t build a homepage that provides a compelling brand experience if your visuals are inconsistent. All your visuals should sound like they are coming from the same source. This visual consistency on your home page can be achieved with the help of:
- Use of consistent lighting in your product and look book shots
- Use of consistent background for product shots
- Consistent white balance in all your pictures
18) You’re not showing your top press mentions on the Home Page
If your brand has been covered by print magazines, newspapers, blogs etc, it’s OK to show it on your home page. As an emerging brand, you want to be seen as popular. It builds trust and thus it’s worth sparing a space for it on your website’s home page.
19) Your logo is ruining your website’s design
Why luxury brands are usually black, white, or brown, while corporate logos are blue? Did you ever realize the impact of colors and typefaces on our sub-conscious mind, as in the perceived value of the brand. How would you perceive a high-fashion brand with a Sky blue logo. Logos carry sublime color meanings. The importance of logos is a no brainer and yet it’s so easy to get it wrong. Even the greatest home page design can be ruined with a bad logo. Go beyond your own perception about your company’s logo. Ask your customers about – how they perceive it?
20) You’re not inviting visitors to join the community
When talking to many online retailers, we have noticed that word ‘membership’ in Online Retail is losing its meaning. A customer won’t come back to a store just because he/she won’t have to enter his credit card or billing information again. The projected benefit of registration by an Online retailer should go beyond usability and give user an opportunity to be part of the business. This is how ModCloth invites its users to ‘join’ the ‘community’. They show pictures of their community members, including bloggers on their home page.
This is how ModCloths gives its visitors a sneak peak into their community on their home page
In Fashion E-commerce, you get only one chance to make an impression and home page is where it all starts. You can use it for blatant pitching or you can be more thoughtful and use it for laser targeted brand positioning and to win mind share of your customers.
What do you think of Fashion E-commerce homepages? Any favorites? We’d love to hear from you.