Web Design 101: How Shopko.com Used Simple Design Practices to Rise Above the Pack

Shopko – a 50 year old general merchandise retailer – admits that when it came to eCommerce, they were late to the game. After launching “the little site that could” to get them through the holiday season of 2009, Shopko realized they needed to make some major upgrades to their site design if they wanted to keep up with their competition.

Shopko teamed up with Usability Sciences for in-depth study on user-experience.  During the 2012 IRWD Conference, Todd Luckey, Senior User Experience Specialist at Usability Sciences and Mike Sidders, Vice President of E-Commerce at Shopko Stores Operating Co. spoke about their findings. We took away these best practices in site design.

Tip #1 – Start Your Research Early

Before spending a lot of time on building a site design, do as much research and pre-planning as you can. It’s much harder to go back and change something once you have already invested time in building it. So don’t be afraid to draw out your ideas with a pencil and paper before spending time developing and programming.

Tip #2 – Understand Your Users and Incorporate User-Centered Design

Whether you’re working on revamping a website or starting from scratch,  it is important to jump in the seat of the user right away. Use your analytics, perform surveys, test prototypes – do whatever you can to gain insight into the user’s prospective.

How else can you get inside the user’s head?

  • Utilize Free Research – Look at other sites that have bigger budgets. How are they doing things? What things can you take away from using their sites?
  • Perform Incentive-Based Surveys – People respond to incentives, so offer them.  Just make sure you are working with an “unbiased and open-ended approach” and utilizing both repeat consumers and new consumers.
  • Use a Different Perspective –Check your site on a variety of browsers and mobile devices. You want to see how your site looks to all browsers and users.

Tip #3 Make Sure that Customers Can Access Critical Information – No Matter Where They Enter the Site

People enter sites though a variety of ways, so make sure that all crucial information is available from any page in the site.  Accomplish this by keeping critical information in the navigation and top right hand menu bar.

Then test it for user-friendliness. Ask a user to locate something on your site. Watching them on their search will offer major insight into how users are navigating through your site. What is obvious to you and your team may not be so obvious to an average user.

#4 Avoid Confusion and Be Clear With Your Audience

Make your call to action big, blunt and clear. Don’t use links for all calls to action. Instead use bright buttons and always put the call to action above the fold.

When addressing your audience in other matters, always make sure it is obvious what they should do or have done. For example, give the users proof that they have completed the purchasing process by offering them a clear “thank you for completing” page.

#5 Make It Easy to Engage Socially

We shouldn’t have to tell you that if you aren’t utilizing social engagement on your site, you could be missing out on some big business. But we will.

Shopko found that Facebook has a major influence on the mind of a buyer, especially when it came to books, music, videos games and electronics. Their research found that when dealing with products in these categories in the price range of $25-$500:

  • 42% bought something based on a “Like” from another person
  • 33% viewed a product that one of their friends “Liked”
  • And only 25% didn’t do anything at all

So make sure that you have social buttons on your pages and products.

#6 Incorporate User Reviews

People trust user reviews more than any other product information or insight. Make sure you are utilizing user reviews on your site.

More importantly if you are using user reviews, make sure that each product has at least three reviews. Zero reviews are the equivalent of bad reviews.

#7 Think About Mobile

Mobile phones and tablets handle media in very different ways. Often large images and graphics don’t work or look bad, and some functions, such as hover, don’t work at all. So you must consider how your site looks on all mobile devices when working through a design process.

Consider how to make your site more tablet and mobile friendly by:

  • Using your analytics to see how many people are using your site from mobile devices.
  • Using online emulators to see how the site looks on different devices.
  • Designing your site with the smallest screen size in mind. Add additional design elements as you build up.

#8 Understand SEO

Don’t sacrifice SEO for design. Yes, a web page filled with images may look great, but images won’t help your rankings on search engines. When designing a website, always think about adding the proper amount of content. Without it, the beautiful design of your page will be wasted since users won’t be able to find it through search.

“SEO is as much art as it is science.”  Make sure at least one person on your design team knows how to properly implement search engine optimization in your site’s design.

By working with Usability Science, Shopko was able to implement these practices and increase their conversion rates by 30%. How much can you increase your conversion rates by utilizing these simple practices?

About the author

Raubi Marie Perilli

Raubi Marie Perilli is the founder of Simply Stated Media. She regularly writes about freelancing, writing, and marketing on her blog and around the internet. Learn more by following her on Twitter or signing up for her free training, How to Get Your Freelance Business Off the Ground Without Wasting Time.