WordPress has come a long way from its days as a dedicated blogging platform. It can now be used to create a number of different sites, including ecommerce sites. However, creating a user-friendly ecommerce site with WordPress isn’t as simple as installing a shopping cart plugin and a theme compatible with that plugin.
There are a number of additional steps you can take and plugins you can install to extend the functionality of your ecommerce site well enough to make it easier for customers to use. Let’s go over 10 different ways you can accomplish this task.
1. Use reputable ecommerce platforms
The single most important thing you can do to make your ecommerce site user friendly is use a reputable ecommerce platform built for WordPress. We recommend WooCommerce.
WooCommerce is a free shopping cart plugin that enables you to turn your WordPress site into a fully-fledged ecommerce store complete with product pages, a shopping cart and a checkout system.
WooCommerce is the most popular ecommerce platform available for WordPress due to its simplistic and open-source nature. It has a beautiful frontend design and an easy-to-navigate backend interface, making it a great option for both individual store owners and developers who need to set up a shop for a client and pass the responsibility of running the shop over to them.
WooCommerce being an open-source platform is an attractive feature for developers as it allows them tweak, modify, integrate and build off of a well-developed base, which saves them time and money.
It streamlines the development process by giving developers a head start, allowing them to focus on tweaking WooCommerce to suit their clients’ individual needs rather than worrying about having to build ecommerce platforms from scratch.
WooCommerce is great, but it’s only a plugin. You still have your store’s entire design to worry about, and you should be worried about it. A poorly-designed ecommerce site can lead to a number of different consequences, among them being a site that loads slowly, a site that appears broken or a site that’s difficult to navigate.
One of the most effective ways to avoid these issues is to use a WordPress theme designed for WooCommerce. These are themes developed with ecommerce in mind, but their developers have gone a few steps ahead and developed them with WooCommerce in mind, offering seamless integrations with the plugin.
We’ve developed several themes in this way to make building WooCommerce sites as simple as can be for individual store owners and developers alike. Here are a few examples:
This is one of our dedicated WooCommerce themes. It’s a multi-purpose theme that comes with three different homepage layouts. It’s entirely optimized for ecommerce and even comes with product filtering options.
The Visual Composer page builder and Slider Revolution slider builder plugins come bundled with the theme, saving you $53 right off the bat while also making it simple to design unique homepages and product pages without needing to know how to code.
The demo homepage design is a great demonstration of what an ecommerce design should look like. It uses dramatic imagery and a minimalist design to draw the customer’s attention to the shop’s products without distracting them in any way.
Zeon is another one of our dedicated WooCommerce themes that features a clean design, which makes it simple for customers to navigate your shop. It comes with plenty of advanced features you can use to optimize your shop to your liking.
It also comes with custom content, such as posts and widgets, built-in shortcodes, social media integration, advanced filters for products, a section for special offers, and more.
Hudson is another theme we’ve built specifically for WooCommerce. It has a minimalist design that’s clean and simple, so simple your customers will love how easy it is to navigate.
It comes with nearly all of the same features the previous two themes come with, including product management features and custom posts in addition to custom sliders you can use to promote your latest products and special offers.
Here are a few multi-purpose themes we offer that can be integrated with WooCommerce:
3. Optimize site speed
Site speed is an issue every site owner should be concerned about, but store owners should especially take notice of how well their sites are performing. Ecommerce sites tend to take longer to load than typical sites due to how much is going on each page.
A slow site is one of the worst user-friendly mistakes you can make as a customer likely won’t stick around if he can’t access your site quickly and efficiently. This goes double for new customers who aren’t familiar with your brand.
Use a quality host and upgrade accordingly
Shared hosting plans are attractive to new site owners due to their economical costs, but cost shouldn’t be the only thing you’re concerned about, especially when it comes to hosting ecommerce sites. The quality of the hosting plan you choose should also be considered.
That being said, you should also upgrade your hosting plan or move your site to a host whose servers are capable of handling it once your sales are steady and your site gets hit with heaps of traffic on a daily basis.
To make things short, start with a quality shared hosting service provider. Once your site starts to get hit with regular traffic on a daily basis, move onto your shared hosting provider’s VPS/managed WordPress hosting plan or upgrade to a host that offers these services.
Use a CDN
A CDN, or content delivery network, gives you access to proxy servers all around the world. All of your site’s visitors use a single server to access your site without a CDN enabled.
When you use a CDN, your visitors are distributed among several global proxy servers rather than one single server. This improves your site’s speed and makes it harder for attackers to take it offline through DDoS attacks.
If your shared hosting server is affecting your site’s performance and you’re not using a CDN, you may want to give one a try before upgrading. Check out our guide to determine if you need a CDN as well as how to decide which one to go with.
Images play a critical role in the success of an ecommerce site, but using too many uncompressed, high-quality images can do a number on your site’s load time.
Using a quality host, a suitable server type and a CDN helps a lot, but being meticulous in the way you prepare images before you upload to them to your site is a habit you can get into to reduce the amount of stress images place on your server.
Staying below a file size of 100 KB per image is a great rule to stick to. Open your site’s WooCommerce settings, navigate to the Products tab, and open the Display section. Scroll down to the Product Images section.
These are set when you install a new WooCommerce theme. The Single Product Image dimensions give you a fairly good idea of what resolution you should stick to when editing images in Photoshop or GIMP. Use them to compress your image before you export it. Do so as much as you can without creating a noticeable loss in quality in the exported image.
Furthermore, use the WP Smush plugin to compress the image even further as you upload it to your site. This plugin reduces, or “smushes,” the file size of an image without reducing its quality. You can also use it to compress images in bulk if you have a lot of older images that need to be compressed.
Just be sure you deactivate this plugin when you’re not using it. This is another habit you should get into. Deactivating plugins you don’t use 24/7 may help improve your site’s performance.
4. Make your site mobile-friendly
It’s 2016 or later if you’re reading this post in the future. Having a mobile-friendly site is no longer a choice. It’s a requirement. More than half of Google searches are now occurring on mobile devices, meaning it’s highly possible your customers are viewing your store on a mobile device more often than not.
Make sure you’re using a WooCommerce theme that has a responsive design. All of our themes meet this requirement, so there’s no need to worry.
5. Offer multiple payment gateways
Payment gateways are great for small ecommerce stores. It allows them to accept payments from customers without having to store and encrypt their customers’ payment details. PayPal and other popular payment gateways come with WooCommerce, but check out our guide on WordPress ecommerce payment plugins if you’d like to see what your other options are.
6. Showcase your best-selling products on the homepage
Browsing through a shop’s best-selling or top-rated products is a simple way for customers to shop for products they know other customers are interested in or love, which takes the guesswork out of shopping.
WooCommerce comes with plenty of shortcodes you can use to display your best-selling or top-rated products on posts and pages. Here are a few:
array( 'per_page' => '12', 'columns' => '4' ) [best_selling_products per_page="12"]
array( 'per_page' => '12', 'columns' => '4', 'orderby' => 'title', 'order' => 'asc' ) [top_rated_products per_page="12"]
array( 'per_page' => '12', 'columns' => '4', 'orderby' => 'title' ) [related_products per_page="12"]
7. Use WooCommerce extensions
WooCommerce extensions extend the functionality of the WooCommerce plugin. For example, if you want to give your customers shipping quotes, install these extensions:
You can also allow your customers to customize your products with the Product Add-Ons extension. Check out the WooCommerce Extensions section of WooThemes’ website to view all 360+ available extensions.
8. Make it easy for customers to share your products
There are times when customers find products they love so much, they can’t wait to show what they found with their friends or followers. Placing social media share buttons on your product pages makes it easy for customers to share your products, which also makes it easy for you to attract new customers.
Use the WooCommerce Social Media Share Buttons plugin by Toastie Studio to accomplish this easily.
9. Allow customers to create wishlists
There will be times when customers find products in your store they either can’t afford or don’t need at the moment. Allowing them to add these products to their very own wishlists is a simple way to ensure they come back to purchase products they were interested in but couldn’t purchase at the time.
There are a number of different ways you can do this in WooCommerce, but some of the easiest ways include using these plugins:
10. Give customers opportunities to ask questions on product pages
One final way you can make your WooCommerce shop user-friendly is by adding a section on each product page where customers can ask questions about the product at hand. Again, there are a number of different ways you can do this, but here are a couple of suggestions:
There are a number of different components that go into building an ecommerce that’s optimized for user experience, as you can see. It starts with using a reputable shopping cart plugin and continues from there.
We always recommend WooCommerce, as previously stated. Not only is it easy to use, its popularity ensures you’ll never run out of ways to extend to its functionality as developers are always releasing new themes and plugins for this mother of a plugin.
It also has more support than any other shopping cart plugin available for WordPress, so you’ll always be able to find help when you get stuck.
What have you done to make your ecommerce site user friendly? Share your thoughts in the comments below.