8 Tips for Website Design to Nail Customer Engagement

8 Tips for Website Design to Nail Customer Engagement

Last Updated: November 1, 2019

When designing an e-commerce website, the customer-first rule of traditional commerce is as paramount than ever. It’s one of the over-arching tips for website design that will engage new customers, convert their interest into sales, and ensure they come back again.

The world may be in the throes of digital commerce and communication revolution, but businesses, marketers and web designers who overlook the human factor, do so at their peril.

Design—whether physical or virtual—is the bond in a seamless marriage of function and form. In e-commerce, the best designs do not draw attention to themselves or otherwise get in the way of the imperative to convert website visits into sales. And this is because of the human dimension in online customer engagement.

The following tips for website design will emphasise the importance of creating an online experience; one that is helpful to the user; does not hinder the pathway between point of entry and point of sale; and allows the products and services to shine as brightly for casual and first-time visitors as they do for loyal customers.


In short, design is not about appearance. It is about the entire experience for a customer who opens your website and enters your commerce business. These 8 Tips for Website Design will help you to enhance this experience.


Web Design TipFurther Information
Engage the Heart as well as the Head.More info >
Target the Shrinking Attention SpanMore info >
Think VisualMore info >
Fluid, Flowing Browsing, with no Dead EndsMore info >
Cover All Aspects of Your BrandMore info >
Tell a StoryMore info >
Avoid Clutter & Information OverloadMore info >
Learn lessons from brick-and-mortar retailMore info >
ConclusionMore info >


1. Engage the Heart as well as the Head

Emotions influence all of our decisions and actions, and sometimes they directly determine them. Neuroscientist, Prof Antonio Damasio, in his book Decartes’ Error, demonstrates how when people make decisions, emotions from previous and related experiences affix certain values to the various options they consider in the present.

Damasio undertook studies of people with damaged connections between the rational and emotional areas of their brains. Respondents could rationally process information about choices, but were unable to make decisions as they lacked any sense of how they felt about the options.

To truly understand consumer purchasing behaviour, we must acknowledge human emotions and their influence on decision-making.

2. Target the Shrinking Attention Span

Related to engagement of the heart, and what makes the study of this whole area one of the key tips for website design, is the reality that the human attention span is steadily shrinking. Emotional engagement is a much swifter path to engagement. This can’t be ignored in a field where, if you fail to engage quickly, not only will you lose customers quickly—but also there’s a good chance you will lose them forever.

Ensure that your website can instantly, punchily and engagingly inform any visitor what it is, and what it can do, or what problem it can solve. People are always looking for something, and if someone has been directed to your site, either by a search engine or an associate or friend. Does your site tell or convey to a visitor what it is, what it does, and how it can help them?

3. Think Visual

In traditional publishing or retailing it was traditionally said that one good picture told a thousand words. This, of course, is debatable. For instance, researchers Laura Peracchio and Joan Meyers-Levy find that “consistency of the picture and ad copy helps people to make positive inference”.

However, the potent emotional impact that’s possible through the employment of a well-chosen image, cannot be died.

It’s important also that you focus as much on the type of image as its quality. One of the key tips for web design in e-commerce is to ensure that your high-resolution images are original, with human models using your products, to ensure that viewers can see what your product will look like in context.

Stock images can be a high-quality illustrator of textual content, but stock images alone will not bridge the gap between your online store and the customer’s decision-making process.

4. Fluid, Flowing Browsing, with no Dead Ends

Keep every element of your site linked to every other. What you‘re looking for is subtle assisted navigation from homepage to the shopping cart, via the specific product that the customer is looking for, and links to related products and incentives to shop.

This will help the customer stay on your site long enough to make a purchase, and incentivise them to return, seeking more. Consistency of every visual element, and of tone, is another crucial factor here.

5. Cover All Aspects of Your Brand

Themes from web platforms such as WordPress and e-commerce options such as Shopify are great starting points for a business on a tight budget. But it would be impossible for these pre-packaged design themes to cover everything that individual business require to grow effectively online.

When you reach the edge of the envelope in terms of what your site can achieve, it is time to consider hiring a professional web design agency. A designer will be able to think outside the ‘theme’ box, and customise your site to work with and for your business.

6. Tell a Story

Storytelling is a proven factor in successful online business, and so to bear this in mind has become one of the most important tips for website design. Writer Sid Bharath on the CrazyEgg blog recounts an initiative by Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn to auction $129 worth of trinkets and oddments online. Instead of using typical product descriptions, Walker and Glenn invited writers to create stories for each item. The job-lot was sold for a total in excess of $3,600, including a 50c salt cellar that sold for $49.

Humans engage on a profound level with story-telling. Stories about someone taking a certain course, or using a particular thing, stoke our empathy and we become part of the story.

7. Avoid Clutter & Information Overload

One of the most common web design mistakes arises from the attempt to use a homepage to showcase everything your brand has to offer, including products, company information, special offers and more.

For this reason, paring it back is one of the crucial tips for web design. All this information has a place on the website, but in a way that’s geared to the needs of your target market, and is accessible via an easy to understand navigation process.

You have to instigate an attraction and form an emotional bond with new customers within seconds. You don’t do that by snowing customers with a glut of information that looks as if it will be time-consuming to navigate through.

8. Learn lessons from brick-and-mortar retail

Last but by no means least among our tips for website design is to look to the bricks and mortar of traditional retailing. Research has shown how customers in a typical store can respond negatively to everything from sharp edges of metal shelves, to certain textures; from clutter, to the heights of displays; from colour, to placement of certain product categories.

One useful case study for e-commerce designers is that of Apple’s brick-and-mortar retail stores. In June 2011, The Wall Street Journal found that in a single quarter of that year, more people visited Apple’s stores than the 60m who visited Walt Disney Co’s four largest theme parks in all of 2010.

The contemporary Apple retail strategy dates back to the turn of the century, when Steve Jobs hired the then president of Gap Inc., Millard Drexler. Drexler pushed for the building of a prototype store in a warehouse, masterminding a store layout that showcased Apple products not by category, but by how they could be used.

Apple stores, according to the Journal are uncluttered and staffed by customer support personnel and technical experts who have been instructed to the nth degree on how to engage with customers.

The article quotes an Apple employee training manual (“Your job is to understand all of your customers’ needs—some of which they may not even realise they have.”), pointing out that the company’s retail personnel receive no sales commissions, and have no sales quotas.

Apple’s retail store success at a tough time for retail generally speaks for itself. In 2009, when retail sales declined by 2.4 per cent, Apple’s sales rose by 7 per cent. And in 2010, when the overall retail industry grew by 4.5 per cent, Apple’s retail sales (excluding online) jumped by 70 per cent to $11.7bn, approximately 15 per cent of the company’s overall revenue.


It’s useful to think about effective e-commerce as the digital equivalent of a successful traditional bricks-and-mortar retail business. Who has ever shopped in a store purely on the basis of its design? What retailer in their right minds would build a premises purely to impress passersby with the beauty of its design and layout. Design and layout is a means to an end. From the business point of view, the really important stuff is on the shelves, and the key activity is what happens at the checkout.

Similarly, the best designed e-commerce websites are about so much more than cosmetic appearance. It’s probable that customers do not consciously think about the designs of the sites where they do their online shopping.

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