Angela Baker December 11th, 2019

The Importance of Visual Context in Web Design for E-commerce Website

Whether you outsource your web design skills to third-party brands or actively work on your personal business website, creating a visual context within your layout and design elements is of utmost importance.

According to Tech Jury, 73% of companies actively invest resources into refining their web design to differentiate their brand and reach a wider audience as a result. 

In the e-commerce industry, the visual context you present your visitors with is essential when it comes to persuading them that your platform has all the products and services they will ever need. However, a lot of factors and visual elements go into what makes the visual context tick. It is about visual design quality as much as it is about User Experience (UX), helping you determine which elements and information to present your visitors with at which point during their customer’s journey. 

A different study performed by Hosting Tribunal showcased that 90% of users continue their e-commerce shopping experiences because of adequate UX with 94% of first impressions about a website being design-related. With that said, let’s dive into the basics of the visual context in web design, which elements make up its core, as well as some of the most important reasons to consider changing your approach in e-commerce website design going forward.

Visual Context Defined

Let’s start off by introducing the concept of the visual context and how it plays into e-commerce web design. The visual context can be defined as the environment in which certain content is presented. It is not a product or service by itself, rather, it helps a viewer create a sense of value in regards to their target item. Interestingly, according to Finances Online, 38% of users stated that they would not visit a website again if its content doesn’t load properly or if it features too much content without reason, while 46% of them claimed to leave websites because they couldn’t tell what the company does or can do for them.

For example, if an e-commerce website focuses on book sales akin to Book Depository, the visual context, in this case, is created by visuals which correlate with reading, literature, book quotes, etc. The visual context is created by visual content and the two cannot exist without one another. While the visual context won’t affect your SEO or search engine ranking, it will affect the experience each individual user has once they come across your website’s landing page, making it a pivotal part of your UX design.

Brian Ronnie, Head of Content Department at TopEssayWriting spoke on the matter briefly: “When it comes to creating the visual context on your website, you want to make sure that your content creators understand the purpose, products, and services of your business as best as possible. This will allow them to create higher quality marketing content, promotional materials, written posts and other elements which will add up to the final visual context impression of incoming visitors.”

Essential Visual Elements to Consider

Before we discuss why the visual context is important and should find its way into your web design approach going forward, let’s cover several essential elements which create the aforementioned context. A combination of these (and other) visual elements in your e-commerce website’s presentation will allow you to create a more appealing, inviting and user-friendly storefront for your brand.

White Space

It’s worth noting that white space is as important as any other visual element in your website’s layout. In layman’s terms, white space quite literally translates to the blank space in-between each visual element currently on your website. 

A good example of this can be found in a typical blog post, it’s spaced out paragraphs and visuals which are separated from the text by a few dozen pixels and create a harmonic whole as a result. Don’t be afraid of white space while creating your visual context hierarchy and the e-commerce website you design will become that much more legible and intuitive for it.

Color Palette

The color palette you choose to implement in your website should never be wide and without rhyme or reason. Instead, choose your colors based on two pre-existing elements: your branding and the industry you operate in. 

The combined color gradient of these two groups will allow you to create a limited, focused and representative combination of colors, adding to the professional and controlled nature of your website’s presentation.

Typography

Even though web design doesn’t facilitate a lot of freedom of choice when it comes to fonts (due to the browser and device limitations), you can still play with typography to a certain extent. Create a hierarchy of titles, subheadings, content, header, footer and other positions in your layout which will naturally contain words and phrases. 

Different font sizes, bolds, and italics can be an effective tool in your visual context, creating a greater focus around important page elements such as calls to action, product description, etc. Combined with writing platforms such as ClassyEssay and Evernote, typography should be one of your focus web design points given its informative nature.

Visuals (Multimedia/Visualized Data)

Lastly, the most important aspect of creating the visual context in e-commerce web design lies in the visuals. Visual content and its placement can communicate your brand’s intent, services, and credibility, unlike any other design element. As such, your content creators and web designers should focus on creating a wide arrangement of content types from static visuals to infographics and videos and implement them into the content strategy going forward. 

Offering different content types will allow your visitors to get a better sense of your quality as an online storefront and give them options when it comes to choosing which content to digest at any given moment. Coupled with the above-mentioned visual context elements, visual content such as images, charts, demonstration videos, and promotional ads will paint a cohesive picture (no pun intended) of your brand and elevate you from the competition.

Why Visual Context Matters in Web Design for E-Commerce Websites

1. Cohesive User Experience Design

How you treat your website, content and site maintenance are what will define your UX in the e-commerce industry. Creating a cohesive journey from your landing page to the checkout button is what a focused, meaningful visual context will be able to provide for your website. As such, it’s important to develop content, promotional landing page banners, popups and any other form of content on your website with a goal in mind. 

Brand storytelling and content personalization should also be on your mind when producing new content for your e-commerce website regardless of its sales-centric nature. Every piece of media, writing or call to action present on your website should be created in context with different sales goals. Whether these goals are defined through KPIs, SMART goal-setting or mind-mapping, referring to them in your content production will keep your website on-brand.

2. First Impressions through Visual Context

It can be argued that the landing page of any website is the make-or-break element to keep an eye out for when designing the site’s visual layout. As we’ve mentioned previously, users are prone to leaving websites outright if their landing pages, visual context and business purpose are unclear from the get-go. That being said, you should pay close attention to the visual hierarchy of your design elements on the landing page to create a positive first impression with any incoming visitor going forward. 

Don’t rely on auto-play content, pop-up calls to action, chatbot pop-ups and other automated elements on the landing page itself. Instead, let the page breathe while presenting your visitor with a welcome in the form of a greeting, the latest deals to check out and clear site navigation to boot. Etsy is a good example of an e-commerce platform which offers the visual context for its products, presents the reader with the latest trending products, popular deals, and navigation options for further exploration. Adopt a similar approach in your design thinking and your engagement rates will become significantly higher as a result of the redefined visual context.

3. Informative Content Facilitation

The visual context present on your website should facilitate user interaction and encourages subsequent purchases of your products. It’s important then that you produce visual content which directly corresponds with that intention rather than to simply make your website more visually appealing. For example, a clothing-centric e-commerce website should feature trending apparel, popular pieces, and products on discount in its visual content, especially on the landing page itself. 

If an e-commerce website features visuals which serve nothing more than to fill a blank space (such as sidebars which are often relegated to white space), a user might leave the site in search of more engaging options. Native ads should be the marketing strategy of choice for creating a consistent visual context for an e-commerce website regardless of its focus industry. Pushing jewelry and accessories to users currently browsing through cooking utensils is a sure-fire way of driving them away from a potential purchase, for example. Use every pixel of your website’s layout to point the user toward deals and to encourage them to browse and purchase items which interest them.

4. Every Niche is a Different Story

It’s important to note that every niche in the e-commerce industry is a different story when it comes to creating the visual context. While platforms such as Amazon and Ali Express might feature “anything and everything” on their storefronts, they too adopt a certain web design style which suits their “jack-of-all-trades” approach. If your website is focused on a specific niche such as hiking equipment, cosmetics or something else entirely, you can use that fact to your advantage in content production going forward. 

You can adapt a brand storytelling approach to creating content for your landing page, product descriptions and blog posts which will keep the interest and focus of your visitors strictly on the industry itself. Likewise, any user quotes or testimonials you use can be complemented with visuals of satisfied customers, creating a wholesome visual context for visitors to engage and identify with. There is no right or wrong way to approach the creation of the visual context which works for every e-commerce website out there – be a storyteller and let visitors discover what your brand’s story is as they browse through its pages.

5. Brand Identification & User Retention

Lastly, when all is said and done, the visual context present on your e-commerce website should facilitate brand identification and user retention for the foreseeable future. Any visitor to your website remotely interested in the industry you operate in should be able to identify with your business, its approach to customer servicing and the products and deals you feature. 

This will ensure that one-time customers come back for more purchases down the line, spread word of mouth about your website to their social circles and effectively become brand advocates for your e-commerce platform. All of this, however, should be preceded with a meaningful visual context presentation and an unobstructed browsing experience which doesn’t rely on frequent pop-ups, interruptions or visuals which lead the eye away from what matters the most – the products themselves.

Visual Context Mistakes to Avoid

Now that we have a clearer understanding of what makes the visual context so important in the e-commerce sphere, let’s talk about several mistakes worth avoiding. These mistakes are natural counterpoints to what makes the visual context essential for a successful website, making their avoidance highly recommended in the long run. Make sure to amend and/or repair any of the following points in your website’s design if you identify with what is discussed.

No Target Audience

While a strong visual context will allow the bulk of your content to shine and come into the forefront, its poor execution will have the opposite effect. Creating a clear system of product categories with different themes, deals, and visuals to complement the product groups is a great way to get started on your website’s visual context design.

The visual context you create should have a clear target audience in regards to which demographics, territories, and lifestyles you want to attract to your e-commerce platform. Targeting a specific set of customers will allow you to elevate your conversion rates, increase the platform’s revenue and facilitate positive word of mouth to spread throughout the web.

Off-Brand Visuals

Speaking of targeting, off-brand visuals can cost your website its credibility and appeal in a very short time-span. To avoid creating off-brand visuals going forward, you should define a clear style guide for your content creators to follow. 

Using the visual context elements section above will allow you to put your brand elements, color scheme, fonts and other visuals on paper and organize them into a cohesive whole. That way, no off-brand visuals will ever find their way into your e-commerce website’s visual context (without deliberate rebranding or redesign activities).

SEO-Heavy Writing

Written content is a part of the visual context hierarchy you create for your website as much as any other element present on the layout. However, writing should always be written for users first and then optimized for SEO post-production. 

Content written with SEO algorithms and ranking in mind will never have the same appeal or entice users into purchasing your products as much as personalized content and user-centric writing will. In this regard, writing tools such as BeGraded and Hemingway can help you edit and format any written content pre-publishing in order to nail the keyword density, length, and other factors preemptively.

Unresponsive & Slow Website

Depending on the volume, file types and back-end architecture of your website, the visual content you produce can significantly reduce your site’s performance, load times and SEO ranking as a whole. Given the nature of e-commerce websites and their focus on visuals and the visual context, you should optimize your content strategy accordingly. 

Third-party hosting solutions such as Image Shack and YouTube are great alternatives to storing visuals and multimedia on your own server. Likewise, reducing their size and optimizing them for faster web loading will ensure that your e-commerce site will perform at peak efficiency around the clock.

No Social Proof

Lastly, social proof is one of, if not the essential element of successful e-commerce websites. Testimonials, reviews, quotes and professional recommendations in regards to your products and website as a whole are pivotal to your site’s performance. Placing the social proof in a visual context on your landing page or creating a dedicated recommendations page in itself will allow you to build credibility and trust with the audience around the globe. 

Lacking any form of social proof as an e-commerce website will place much of your hard work in web design and content production into the shadow of competitors which placed a higher value in reviews and testimonials of their satisfied users. Combine this written content with complementary visuals in order to enrich and solidify your e-commerce website’s visual context and your conversion rates will gain a positive uptick as a result.

Content Creates Context (Conclusion)

Any web designer or developer can create high-quality visuals for the websites they work on without much effort. However, additional research, design thinking and a keen eye for web layout will allow creative designers to make the visual context out of the information available to them. 

Don’t rush into content production, web design or subsequent layout optimization without planning or clear goals in mind. Take time to define what makes your brand tick, which visual elements represent it the best and why visitors would want to convert into customers in the first place. Once you understand the nuance behind your brand’s purpose, creating a visual context for its website will become that much easier and enjoyable as a result.

Angela Baker

Angela Baker is a self-driven specialist who is currently working as a freelance writer at Studicus and WOW Grade writing services and is trying to improve herself and her blogging career. She is always seeking to discover new ways for personal and professional growth and is convinced that it’s always important to broaden horizons. That's why Angela develops and improves her skills throughout the writing process to help to inspire people. Also, she writes for LiveInspiredMagazine, rounding out her professional writing career.

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