The Top 10 Mistakes of Online Store Website Design

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The design of your website is one of the most fundamental aspects of your online store. You must consider what your customers will find appealing even though it may not necessarily match your tastes.

In addition to the aesthetics, there are many structural guidelines that should be followed as well. As I look at online stores across the web, I still find that many people are making fundamental mistakes with their websites. Below are a few of the most common.

Busy Backgrounds or Flashing Text

There’s nothing more annoying that a busy, gaudy background. Even if what you are selling is ridiculously garish, you should always use a plain, even toned background.

Nothing says cheap or used car salesman more than flashing text either. Whenever I see flashing text, I generally hit the back button right away.


I keep my speakers on at all times when I’m web surfing because I’m usually listening to music. There’s nothing more annoying than a website that forces you to listen to a sales pitch or a speech recording.

What’s even worse, sometimes you can’t find the click box to turn it off and you end up frantically trying to close the tab or window or navigate away from the site.

Multiple Levels of Nested Categories

For large stores such as Amazon, this can’t be avoided, but if you have fewer than 500 items, there’s no reason that you need to have 3 or 4 levels of hierarchy to organize your items. The best stores use a clean intuitive navigation toolbar which contain as little hierarchy as possible.

Also, avoid using javascript where your navigation menus scroll across the screen. I find that javascript pop up menus with more than 2 levels of hierarchy start to become clunky and unusable.

Overly Complicated Checkout Process

If there’s anything that should be made as simple as possible on your online store, it should be the checkout process. Avoid having your customers go through a multitude of pages to actually buy the item.

Every step of the way, you will shed customers, so its important to allow the customers to check out as fast as possible. Avoid trying to obtain any information other than the essentials.

I once was shopping at an online store where I had to navigate through 7 pages just to checkout. Each step of the way, I was deluged with extra items and options to add to my order along with survey questions as well.

In the end, I felt so overwhelmed and impatient that I decided to buy it somewhere else.

Mixing and Matching Different Fonts and Font Sizes

Your website should be consistent and elegant. Whenever you mix and match different fonts and font sizes,the result almost always ends up as a cluttered, unprofessional looking mess. Don’t go overboard with the large fonts either.

If you want to place emphasis on certain items or points, use bold or italics instead.

Selling Random Unorganized Items

You should always choose a central theme for your store and stick with it. Avoid selling items in your store that have nothing to do with each other. It always puzzles me when I see random items being sold in a store.

For example, one time I was looking in a store that sold bed linens, towels and hockey pucks?!?! When I see random items displayed in a store, I immediately think of a garage sale which cheapens the shopping experience.

Egregious Grammatical Errors

Everyone makes mistakes but you should always have someone proofread your website and product descriptions. Even a few spelling mistakes here and there is enough to make your site look unprofessional and unattractive.

Missing Pictures

I’m always turned off by missing pictures or broken links on a website. To me, a missing picture means that the website or online store is incomplete, and probably not well maintained. It also tells me that the store owner probably threw up the site or product description in a hurry.

Seeing a missing picture also makes me question the overall integrity and security of the store. Take the time to browse your own website to make sure everything is working!

Slow Loading Sites

If I’m on a T1 line and the page still takes 10 seconds to load, there is definitely something wrong. Try not to use overly large photos on your website or run CPU intensive scripts or database lookups.

Also consider that some fraction of your customer base is probably still on dial up as well.

Animated GIFs

You might think that the animated pictures on your website are cute and innovative, but in reality, they both distract and annoy customers. Keep the emphasis of your online store on the products themselves.

Hard to Find Contact Page

Before I buy anything, I always look for the contact us page to make sure that I have a way to contact a human being should anything go wrong with the transaction. In general, if I can’t find the “Contact Us” page right away, I usually will leave the store.

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