Anatomy of an Effective Ecommerce Website


Anatomy of an Effective Ecommerce Website

The anatomy of an e-commerce website can be complex and quite an undertaking for a small business. Here are some key considerations as you start to build your e-commerce site to ensure a positive and user-friendly buying experience.

An e-commerce website is a powerful marketing and sales tool that gives your customers a way to buy directly from your business. Because you’re selling direct, your business has complete control over the customer’s experience. And yet, while selling online can be a big benefit to building customer relationships and maintaining your brand image, building and maintaining an e-commerce website can be a big job for a small business.

Effective E-commerce websites require functionality and capabilities that other sites do not.

The anatomy of an effective e-commerce website includes characteristics that go above and beyond the needs of a traditional site. When you’re building a website to sell goods or services online, include these key site features to create a seamless customer experience that generates revenue for your business.


Today, nearly 60-percent of all web searches happen on a smartphone and, as a result, what’s now known as m-commerce or mobile commerce –purchases made on a mobile device –are swiftly on the rise. This means that if your e-commerce site isn’t built to work properly on a mobile phone, you’re making it difficult for your customers to make a purchase. And, since Google now places priority search ranking on mobile-friendly sites, your customers are going to find it difficult to find your e-commerce website in the first place. Make sure your site is built in a mobile-friendly, responsive design template or coded to respond to mobile size requirements and functionality.

Easy, Intuitive Navigation

The easier you can make it for your customers to find and buy the products they’re looking for on your website, the more likely you are to generate a sale. For example, the fewer clicks between where a customer enters your site and the purchase point the better. Create intuitive navigation by developing a site map before you start building. Sketch out the structure of your site to understand how your customers will find their way from the homepage to a product page or from a blog post to a ‘buy now button. This avoids customer frustration and makes it easy for them to find what they’re looking to buy.

Transparent Shipping Information

You may successfully get your customer to a purchase point on your site, but if shipping terms aren’t clear or you surprise your customer with a big shipping charge just before they hit the purchase button, there’s a good chance you’ll lose the sale. High shipping costs are one of the biggest causes of shopping cart abandonment with some companies reporting more than 44% of their site’s abandoned shopping carts being the result of an unexpected shipping charge. Be transparent about shipping information from the start to reduce abandoned carts on your site and increase sales conversions.

Reader-friendly, Optimized Product Descriptions

Your product descriptions need to serve two purposes. Every description should be reader-friendly. Aim for a thorough description that’s easy to read and that gives enough information from which to make an informed purchasing decision. Avoid overwhelming customers with too much information or using highly technical language or jargon that’s going to confuse or frustrate your audience.

A product description is also an important part of your site’s SEO strategy. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a means of intentionally crafting language using keywords to encourage Google and other search engines to place your site in front of potential buyers. Without a strong SEO strategy, customers likely won’t find your website in their search and you’ll lose out on that sale. Especially if you’re relying on e-commerce sales as your primary sales vehicle, optimized product descriptions are an important characteristic for your website.

High-Quality Photography

Web users expect quality imagery when they enter any website. Thanks to social media and the focus it’s placed on image-driven content, customers now equate stunning photography with high-quality products. Especially when you’re selling online, the photography you use to show off your product has to be as good if not better than the competition. People want to see every aspect of the product before they buy, so high-quality videography is also an important visual communication tool. High-quality photography is a must for any e-commerce site and well worth the investment.

The elements that make an e-commerce website effective as a sales tool are complex. Having support as you build your site, like the support of a SCORE mentor, will go a long way in ensuring that it best supports your direct sales efforts so your business can grow. A SCORE mentor can help you develop your overall e-commerce strategy and connect you to a reputable e-commerce website development firm that will bring your site to life. Contact a SCORE mentor today.

Yusef Muhammad
Southwest Regional Vice President, SCORE

Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped more than 11 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 10,000 volunteer business mentors in over 250 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth, and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE at Funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA