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November 5, 2008

Do you need to tweak your ecommerce website?

As an owner of your own ecommerce website, how do you know when is it right time to revamp and tweak things? How do you find things are not working the way it supposed to?

Website owners are aware of the time and stress involved to go through the entire process of building a website that works for their business. The feeling of relief when the site goes ‘live’ is immense. The result being that entrepreneurs are so darn glad when the job is finally over, that they just don’t want to even think about changes or God forbid a new website design anytime in future! Unfortunately, in this age of rapid technological changes and virtual access to just about anything the customer wants, ignoring your website would be a disaster.

Just as there are indications before a natural disaster strikes similarly there are indications that your website might be headed towards disaster, if you do not upgrade it when required.

Be alert to the following signals that indicate when your ecommerce site needs to be tweaked, upgraded or redesigned to continue serving your business in the best possible manner:

1) Difficulties with various browser platforms:

Your e-commerce website is the heart and soul of your online business. Imagine if it looks disfigured on different browsers (IE, Fox, Netscape, etc). Such cross browser issues might not surface immediately, but when the browser’s upgrade their own software, the results can be quite damaging for your website. Problems could be as minor as graphic design defects to major issues like functional problems, shopping cart problems, problems with online payment etc. Such problems will virtually push your visitors away from your site to a faster, quicker and sleeker competitor out there, who can make life easier for the average online shopper.

Point to remember: Always ask the web designer to test your website on various platforms and to personally test this to ensure the website coding is compatible on all the major web browsers.

2) Business Model has changed or diversified:

No business owner can afford to work with a static and stagnant business model, if they plan to grow and succeed. Innovation, research and development are part and parcel of every business, ensuring products/services stays in line with the current needs and requirements are in alignment with your industry, competitor and clients. Changes could be minor ones in the product/services or major ones like offering brand new products or services, or broadcasting changes when your firm expands and enters diverse industry verticals.

Point to remember:  It becomes very imperative to reconsider the changes to your business and make sure the same is reflected factually, accurately, lucidly in a timely manner in the structure, design and strategy behind your website.

3) The site looks dull and old:

Online visitors are bombarded with creative visual stimulants and images with latest technological aids from all the sides. If your website in comparison looks like it was made in 1990s, the race is over before it began. Your website is definitely outdated if it’s chunky, has slow loading graphics, and has an old table layout and frame, if the various table design panels loads separately and irritatingly slowly, if there are very few eye catching graphics, flash, animations to attract and retain attention throughout the site or if it’s too overloaded with text. An e-commerce site cannot survive, if it’s so behind the times. Besides creating a poor impression that you don’t care enough about your business it also shows your complete lack of awareness when it comes to technological innovations.

Point to remember: Never lose touch with technological changes occurring in your particular industry. Check out the competitor’s site, other relevant industry sites, ask customers their preferences, and encourage them to complain (if necessary) about problems faced while shopping online on your site. This will give you precious nuggets of intelligence to keep your site modern, user friendly and credible.

4) Your site is annoying your customer:

Yes, website can annoy online visitors. According to a recent online survey the following were major pet peeves of online visitors:

Ø  93% of consumer said POP-UP ADS extremely annoyed them


Ø  83% noted LOG-IN / REGISTRATION PROMPTS (to access content).

The result was: 75% of customers said they’d never return, 74% of customers said they would unsubscribe from the company’s messages, 71% said they viewed the company in a negative way and 55% said they bad mouthed the firm to friends or associates. (That’s dangerous!)

Other extreme irritations include:

Ø  Dead links (86%)

Ø  Confusing navigation (84%)

Ø  Slow-loading pages (83%)

Ø  Ineffective site-search tools (80%)

Ø  Moving text (59%)

Ø  Poor color, fonts and format (55%)

Point to remember: It is good to make use of various online marketing tools and technology available at your disposal. But don’t go overboard and clutter your site with unnecessary features to such an extent that it annoys your customer and makes them view your ecommerce site negatively. Keep the site as clean, simple and as user friendly as possible. The goal is to make them shop and not run away.

5) Textual Content on your site is a turn off:

Have you ever sat down and read the content (site text) aloud? Try it. Does it make you cringe? Do you sound phony? Are your claims too tall, to be believable? If you yourself feel the content sounds insincere and information is not up to date/ wrong/misguided, imagine the plight of your online visitors.

Point to remember: Seek professional content writer’s help, if you are not good at business communication and especially online content writing. Although it might cost initially, it is truly worth every penny you spend.

6) You are not proud of your site:

If you find yourself feeling apologetic when referring your ecommerce site or handing out your business card, then it’s obviously time to tweak your site. Your website should be a source of pride for you and your employees. If you find yourself apologizing for outdated information, broken images, poor design, difficult navigation or anything else on your site, then you need to redesign the site without delay. Your website offers your clients and prospects an easy access to information on your business and it is very important to have a site that is top in shape and looks impressive and makes your client believe that your business is in good shape.

Point to remember: View your online website as an investment that needs regular inputs in terms of resources, time, energy and funding to help it grow strong and turn into a profit centre for your business.

7) The Navigation Has Become Confusing

As websites grow, so does the visual hierarchy of links. Your site may have started with only a few web pages and now you realize you have so many links that it’s hard for visitors to navigate through all your content. An overgrown or scattered link structure is a good reason to redesign your existing site. Below are some solutions to interface design:

  • Drop Down Menus
  • Collapsible Navigation
  • Dynamic Flash Menus
  • Good Hierarchy Layout
  • Site Map

Point to remember: Redesigning your site “just for looks” is definitely not the best move. There could be existing elements that are working with your current website that you may wish to consider incorporating into the new design. Thinking about your visitors and search engine friendly web pages is also crucial. You should analyze your web statistics to find out which pages are most popular, helpful to visitors, and required so that you can include them into your website redesign.

8) Last but not the least, poor customer service:

Ecommerce sites are tricky since there are still many barriers and prejudices plaguing the mind of the customers when they go online to shop. The only way to remove this and help them give the assurance they need to take that plunge and ordering online, is offering them superb customer service. Since they cannot, see, touch, feel the product or service before buying, it is all the more important to make your firm as humanized as possible. If your ecommerce site fails to address issues sent on inquiry form or contact us form, if customer do not receive confirmation with shipment details, if your customer feels cheated/fooled/scammed after buying from your site, then your business will not be successful for long. As an ecommerce site owner, ensure to go step ahead of the normal website to provide instantaneous support and help to your customers. If it’s possible to offer live help service, it would be great. If not, display your customer care contact information very prominently on all pages and encourage your customers to call on your toll free numbers to sort their problems. Read and re-read FAQ section to make sure you have covered all the doubts and fears faced during online shopping, no matter how ridiculous or stupid it might sound to you.

Point to remember: Reassure your customer and never make them feel they were a fool to buy from your site. The feeling of being ripped/cheated/scammed online, will lead to severe loss of reputation, trust and ultimately erode your survival.

About The Author:

Mark Walsh is the marketing manager at Analytix Solutions ( Analytix team consists of IT experts and Internet Marketing

professionals who help small business owners take their business online through website designing, ecommerce site designing and search engine optimization services.