How to Build an Ecommerce Website That Sells

E-commerce has changed the way we do business on a global scale. And building an eCommerce website that sells has become more important than ever.

Before the Internet and the advent of eCommerce, you had a limited amount of time to sell to a small community of people. These customers would travel to you to experience your brand and, hopefully, purchase an item before leaving.

But things have changed…

Here’s the deal:

Today, these same customers, plus potentially billions of other customers worldwide, know your online storefront is open 24 hours, seven days a week and with a simple search and a credit card, they can buy what they need from your business.

As a business owner, this potential market of opportunity is exhilarating! In the U.K. alone, online sales increased by over 20% and are expected to reach 30% by the end of 2017 according to the Office for National Statistics. This report also found that approximately 87% of U.K. consumers have purchased at least one product online in the last 12 months.

How Are You Cashing in Online?

So, how is your e-commerce strategy?

The best case is you have an amazing website that your competitors try to emulate to gain some of the market share you have amassed thanks to your online sales. The worst case is, you don’t currently sell online and aren’t sure where to begin.

Wherever you are in your eCommerce journey, we can help! It all comes down to how you design your website: the more attractive and easier your website is to use, the more virtual sales you will close.

Since many business owners don’t have experience in web design, this task can seem overwhelming.  It doesn’t have to be! We have gathered the information you need to create a well-designed site, and we’ll help you learn from e-commerce giants who make it look easy.

Meet: The U.K. ECommerce Elite

According to Retail Week, the top 10 e-commerce retailers in the UK are:

Ranking Retailer Online Revenue (£bn)
1 Amazon 4.4
2 Tesco 2.9
3 Argos 1.9
4 John Lewis 1.5
5 Next 1.3
6 Asda 1.2
Sainsbury’s 1.2
Shop Direct 1.2
9 Ocado 1.1
10 Dixons Carphone 1.0

If you live in the UK, you shouldn’t be surprised to see the names in the list above. Based on these numbers, there’s a good chance you’ve purchased something from at least one of these businesses online.

It turns out, you’re in good company: last year alone over 43 million Brits shopped online spending on average 3,652 euros. By the end of this year, e-commerce in the UK is expected to reach 174 billion euros. Business owners see this kind of potential and want to cash in on this expansive market by creating an e-commerce website for their business.

E-commerce is an excellent way to make money online, but it is important to design your site thoughtfully to increase your chances of success.

These top-selling sites have one thing in common: they have all succeeded in creating an online presence that appeals to their target audience. In other words, they have a good web design.

What Makes a Good Ecommerce Store?

We like to think that a good e-commerce store starts with good web design. A good website design is in the eye of the beholder, in this case, your customer. These top ten companies didn’t just fall into e-commerce success by chance; their website has been designed to attract, engage, and enable their customers in each stage of the buying process.

And, they manage to avoid 15 of the top website design mistakes.

They best e-commerce sites do three things: they give you a way to “wow” your buyer time after time, they sell who you are and why you matter, and they make it easy for your customers to buy what you’re selling.

The Wow Factor

We have all heard of that “wow factor” that gives customers something they won’t experience anywhere else. You want your customers to feel that way each time they visit your site. Ideally, your stunning images and outstanding content takes their breath away. Realistically, you want them to spend more than the average 15 seconds a person spends on a website because you offer something unique and valuable that is worth their time.

John Lewis does this well:

This summer advertisement on their homepage evokes the feeling of warmth, comfort, and beauty; the idyllic summer vibe everyone wants to create in their home this time of year especially when family and friends are visiting.

John Lewis has mastered the art of using images and strategic marketing messages to sell more than a loveseat and a couple of decorative pillows; they are selling an image and encouraging others to buy into it and make it their own.

You too can design your website to sell your products and services this way. By using deliberate marketing messages and attractive visuals, you can find out what your “wow” factor is to gain attention and dollars online.

Credibility and Website Design

Have you ever stumbled upon a site and questioned its authenticity? People are much more likely to buy from a website with proven credibility than one that feels fake and looks unprofessional.

Here our top e-commerce tips on developing a website that is credible:

Prove You Exist in the Real World

Anyone can design a website and make outrageous claims; you need to prove you exist by giving a place and face to your organisation. You can do this by listing your address and phone number or by featuring a store locater like ASDA does to help their customers find their stores.

Another great way to show there is an organisation behind your brand, without rebranding your company, is to show them the people behind the scenes. Both Dixons Carphone and Shop Direct does this by featuring their Executive team on their website:

You don’t have to be a big business to develop something similar for your website either. Even small steps like uploading photos and bios to your site can establish credibility with your target market.

Prove People Like You

Think about a recent transaction you made online; did you read any reviews of the product before you decided to buy? If you scheduled a service online; did you check out the person’s credentials or read any customer testimonials before booking your appointment?

Online reviews and customer testimonials are the best way to gain credibility as a reputable business online. In fact, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

Here is an example of a Kindle review on Amazon:

Giving your customers the ability to review your products and services on your website will help your credibility, and increase your sales.

Prove You Are a Professional They Can Trust

Wouldn’t it be great if customers trusted you simply because you asked them to? We all know that’s not the case; trust isn’t instructed or purchased, it’s earned.

As an eCommerce professional, you can earn your customer’s trust online by showing them recent news stories and third party endorsements of your brand.

Whether it is announcing a new partnership or landing a big deal—tell your customers about it on your website! These events lend you credibility and can help increase your online conversions.

For example, UK-based IT company TPP was recently featured in the news for landing a contract with the Emirates Group to deploy SystmOne software to their healthcare clinics. A news story about the contract and this picture are featured on their website:

If SystmOne is good enough for a major airline, it might convince someone it’s good enough for their business as well.

Their Web Design Makes It Easy to Buy

You may have the coolest website out there, but if it’s difficult to navigate and even harder to make a purchase, it’s a waste of cyberspace.

Avoid these common mistakes when designing your e-commerce website or online store:

1. The checkout process is too complicated, or too short

When a customer gets lost in too many steps during the checkout process, you risk them abandoning their cart completely. They may run if you ask them too soon for their payment information as well—you must take that into consideration when designing your website.

2. Hidden shipping costs

Your eCommerce site is up, a customer loves what you sell, and just before they hit “confirm purchase” they abandon the sale. Why? Because you weren’t upfront with them about shipping costs losing their trust and the sale all at once.

You didn’t intend to deceive the customer, but you also didn’t want the price of shipping to cost you the sale. You don’t have to publicise your shipping costs as you would your latest promotion, but it should include at least the estimated shipping cost in the shopping cart while your customer shops.

Another way to avoid the concern over shipping costs is to add a “click and collect” option which allows people to purchase online and pick items up in the store.

For example:

If you just can’t wait for your Mary Poppins Adult Fancy Dress Costume to be shipped to you for an upcoming costume party, you can click the “Collect in store” or “Collect Plus” option on popular retailer George’s website and pick it up that day.

3. Not Addressing Security Concerns

Take every precaution you can to protect your sales data to keep your customer’s accounts secure, and then tell them about it in your privacy policy. Make this policy readily available to them on your site; when it’s buried in your site, they will think it’s not important to you. Also, incorporate a design element that lets them know their information is safe with you.

John Lewis does this well by featuring a “Continue securely” as their checkout button prompt, and it lists the VeriSign secured logo with a link to their privacy policy right next to it:

A well-designed e-commerce website will attract attention, get your customers excited about your brand, and make it easy for them to invest in what you’re selling.

The best way to design a website is to learn from those who do it best, so check out the top ten e-commerce retailers listed above by visiting their websites. By incorporating some of their design elements and understanding the expectations of your customers, you can begin to envision what a successful e-commerce site will look like for your brand.

Beyond the Goliaths: Our Top Ten Favourite E-Commerce Sites in the U.K.

It’s smart to check out the big guys like John Lewis and George to learn best practices and dream of your own empire one day.

But for right now, it’s time to wake up.

Yes, that degree of success is possible, but you first need to focus on closing online sales to create the revenue you need to join the ranks of e-commerce royalty in the U.K.

So, what should you do?

Find your online retail tribe! These are businesses just like yours that are using smart e-commerce strategies to sell online. There is no better way to set up your online storefront than by checking out how others have succeeded and failed, doing the same.

We have gathered what we believe are the top ten small business e-commerce sites worth visiting. These businesses are cashing in on the e-commerce market which in the U.K. has topped 60 billion, nearly 15% more than 2015. Brits are saying goodbye to long queues and masses of people in traditional brick and mortar stores and are instead enjoying the luxury of shopping online to fulfill their needs. Let’s make sure you’re there!

If you are looking to create your own ecommerce site or online store, talk to us. We know that there are countless ecommerce options out there that make big promises such as Shopify, or WooCommerce but we are here to help navigate the process and get those customer credit cards out for your purchases.

Also, check out this post, if you’re looking to compare Woocommerce vs Shopify.

Here are the top ten websites to check out before designing yours:

Boutique 1861

Boutique 1861 has mastered creating not only a website but a brand experience from the moment you visit their homepage. The name “Boutique 1861” implies a romantic, classic shopping experience which is exactly what you encounter on their website. This online retailer of women’s formal wear has created a boutique feel online by presenting a soothing color palate matched with elegant text and beautiful imagery:

Boutique 1861 is a Montreal-based start-up whose website delivers a vintage vibe using art and images to sell elegant formal wear. As any good boutique would, they offer free online consultation services to help visitors create the perfect look. This digital assistant is a real person, not an automated marketing feature, that works with customers to answer questions about items, to help find the best fit. Once the order is placed, it is delicately wrapped in elegant packing creating that boutique experience each time a customer receives an order on their doorstep.

The challenge for any online clothing retailer like Boutique 1861 is to convince customers to take a chance. Purchasing clothing online is difficult since first-time customers are unsure whether their size expectations and yours are a match, and they would like to avoid returns at all costs. As a retailer, you want to both meet their expectations, and limit the amount of returns, and to do that you must create a personalized experience with each sale.

This means first grasping their attention with a well-designed site filled with attractive images that detail each item you sell and providing the online stylist support each customer expects to answer questions. Do this, and you will create an unforgettable buying experience that will earn the trust and continued future business of your customers.


ASOS is your one-stop-shop for men and women to discover fashion-forward finds. With over 60,000 ASOS brand and brand-named pieces, this U.K.-based company uses simple web design to make it easy for anyone to find their next best look.

This e-commerce site is perfect for people who know what they want, and don’t want to waste their time clicking around to get it. The beauty is in its simplicity:

If you are a woman with little time to spare, a menu like this one is ideal. Once you click on a category, you can filter out the selections by type, range, colour, size, brand and the like to help you quickly find the exact item you want.

ASOS online success is because of its brilliantly designed website that uses a simple design that moves customers quickly through the buying process. They present items using a white background and basic font that allows each piece to pop off the page. Unlike the online boutique experience discussed earlier, this is a more utilitarian approach selling products rather than an image, and for ASOS, it works. Their customer wants a simple up-front, no frills buying experience and they deliver.

ASOS is not only outstandingly fashion-forward but the core values of the company center around Corporate Responsibility Governance. Along with sustainable sourcing, and animal welfare, the company is also dedicated to the proper treatment of those who work within its supply chain. This is an online shopping service that is not only current, but also built to last.

Key Takeaway from ASOS

ASOS knows what their customers expect: an easy online buying experience with a variety of fashionable choices at a reasonable cost. Do you know what your customers expect?

Ask your customers what they want to see and experience on your website. Boutique 1861 and ASOS both sell clothing yet are two very different buying experiences because of their target market. Understanding the needs of their respective target markets has helped both businesses craft a website that helps support and promote their brand, and makes them money.

If you want to create a customer-friendly website experience or improve upon an existing one, it’s as simple as asking your customers about their online buying expectations. These simple conversations can have a big impact on your bottom line.


For customers looking to stay ahead of trends, BooHoo’s fashion brand offers flavours to keep everyone’s style sense sharp.

BooHoo is an online shopping website that offers clothing for both men, women, and kids and is a unique combination of the e-commerce approach of both Boutique 1861 and ASOS. Boo Hoo’s website uses the same simple web design as ASOS that offers clean, sharp images of clothing and filter options, but it also uses art and imagery to sell much like Boutique 1861 did to convince its visitors to buy.

This combination of using a simple design to sell and marketing to inspire works for BooHoo who claims to be “a global fashion leader of its generation.”

“Combining cutting-edge design with an affordable price tag, we’ve been pushing boundaries for the past eight years to bring you all the latest looks for less.”

Boo Hoo’s mission statement above is reflected in their web design that is continuously changing to meet the needs of its customers. To encourage trendsetters to check their site regularly they add up to 100 new items a day and one new collection a week to keep pace with the ever-changing world of fashion. This commitment to remaining current creates a loyal fanbase and brand ambassadors that even the best marketing tactics can’t replicate.

Boo Hoo’s commitment to fashion extends far beyond their savvy, fashion-forward business model; they also support their customers through online resources like its BooHoo fashion blog and their commitment to high-quality fashion photography that is sure to inspire.

Key Takeaway from Boo Hoo

You should always keep your website current. Even if your product line rarely changes, you should update your site with new pictures, news items, videos and landing page videos, blog posts, or other interesting pieces of online content to give your customers a reason to visit your website on a regular basis.

Luluemon Athletica

Lululemon is a Canadian company founded in Vancouver, British Columbia specializing in high-end athletic wear for both men and women. This is another example of an online retailor whose clean, simple site is easy to navigate and features finely crafted images to convince customers to buy. Their current homepage features “elite ambassador” Kerri Walsh Jennings, four-time Olympic gold medalist, who was hired to promote their brand through advertisements like these and other marketing initiatives.

As for the rest of their site, it follows similar e-commerce principles discussed previously about keeping it simple and using compelling photographs to sell clothing. This is extremely important for high-end retailers like Lululemon since the average cost per item is around $100; while some may easily justify a higher price tag for things like formal wear, it can be a harder sell for workout clothes.

Since this is an obstacle for their site to overcome, I tested out their online chat service to see how they handle inquiries regarding their products. I filled out a form regarding my question and within minutes a customer service representative named Julianne asked how they could help. I loved a jacket and asked about sizing, colour options, and their return policy. She wasn’t able to help me find the specific jacket in my size but was attentive and willing to help. Just knowing that someone was listening made me feel that I could come back and purchase from here again.

That was a great customer service experience, and I didn’t even buy anything! Since I had a such a positive interaction, I am, however, more likely to consider buying from Lululemon in the future.

Key Takeaway from Lululemon

When you have a higher-end product to sell online, provide assurance through thoughtful marketing initiatives and customer support tools. Brand ambassadors like Kerri Walsh Jennings can help lend credibility to your brand and capture the attention of your customers online. Customer support tools can help close a virtual sale too, it just might not happen right away, but it gives you the personal interaction with customers you wouldn’t have otherwise and can help promote your brand.


marQ is a relatively new Canadian start-up based out of Toronto, Ontario that specializes in gender-neutral children’s fashion. This one-of-a-kind start-up is owned by TV personality Melissa Grelo, best known for her role as a co-host of CTV’s The Social, and her friend Shayna Haddon, owner of Haddon Strategy, a marketing and consulting firm.

Melissa and Shayna founded marQ to give parents an option beyond the standard blue-for-boys and pink-for-girls choices found in department stores. Melissa says that it was after she had her daughter Marquesa, she saw a need for gender-neutral clothing and hoped to give parents a choice: “It became clear that by creating gender-neutral, stereotype-free clothing options, kids could just be kids without the baggage of gender roles so young in life.”

The marQ website reflects their gender-neutral ideology with grey, white, and black tones in both the items for sale and how the site is designed. It feels modern and trendy, presenting a look that jives with their mission, yet at the same time it has a very playful essence to it. These smiling wee-ones in gender-neutral clothes who have no idea they are in clothes their brother or sister could also wear later, they just know they look fabulous.

This is a website to keep your eye on if you too are a boutique-style business just setting up your virtual storefront. This website is designed well and could be very successful in the future if they provide a greater variety of clothes than what is currently available, but we can be forgiving since this startup is so new.

Key Takeaway from marQ

Your web design must reflect your mission to close online sales. It’s both that simple, and hard. For example, if I visited marQ’s website for the first time after hearing about their mission only to find a picture of a girl in a pink dress, I would be confused. “How is that stereo-type free clothing?” is what I would ask myself as I searched for the back button on my screen.

Remember, as a business you are selling yourself just as much as whatever product or service you offer for sale. Before designing your website, review your business plan and key marketing messages to ensure your messaging is the most effective and your brand is communicated effectively. This information will inform the choices you make when presenting yourself online including which colors you use, the font size and type, and most importantly, the content used to persuade visitors to buy.


Oh, Amazon. How I love thee.

Yes, fear not all you Amazon Prime enthusiasts, Amazon makes our top ten list. Amazon is the go-to online shop people turn to when shopping online, mostly because they carry almost every shopping category known to man, and their website is super easy to use.

For people like me that can’t stand paying high costs for shipping, Amazon Prime is a no-brainer. For a reasonable cost, you receive a ridiculous amount of benefits:

Amazon is so amazing for a lot of reasons depending on who you ask, but it all comes down to this: they provide excellent customer service. Personally, any time I have ordered textbooks from the website, they arrive in a matter of days. The longest I have ever had to wait was about a week. You can also easily view the status of your order any time by viewing your Amazon account. Arguably, Amazon is an online shopping site that offers an experience that would be difficult for anyone not to enjoy.

Key Takeaway from Amazon

When designing your e-commerce website, always look for ways to make it a more pleasant experience for your customer. Think of their expectations when purchasing items from your website, and then work to move beyond those expectations to create an unforgettable experience. For example, once an item is placed, you can provide tracking information similar to how Amazon, or you might want to think about creating a similar “Prime” experience to offer benefits to those that buy into your brand.


If you love fashion, you are going to love this website.

Justfab is an online shopping experience that specializes in everything from shoes to clothing to bags—basically a fashionista’s dream website. The Justfab VIP membership program offers an online boutique experience where stylists help craft your look virtually by “stocking” your online closet with items that match your style. Here’s how it works:

If you are a trendsetter with money to spend, this service is ideal. Justfab can help fill your closet with the latest fashions at an affordable price with the help of their stylists that provide recommendations.

This is an easy, convenient way to shop. If you decide to take a month off, you have to notify them that you plan to take a month off, otherwise you will be billed the monthly fee. If you excel at online ordering, managing this shopping subscription should be easy to manage. For those of us who aren’t as adept to remembering deadlines, this could be a deal breaker. Justfab also partners with Fabkids and Fabletics. Both are also e-commerce stores with similar principles but dedicated to children’s wear and athletic wear.

Key Takeaway from Justfab

If your business is based on subscription services, this website is a good one to emulate. Sites like Justfab can help you craft online questionnaires to ask your customers, infographics like the one above to help you create one to explain what you offer, and these sites can give you guidance on how to structure your payment plans.

Nasty Gal

Nasty Gal is an urban chic online shopping website for women’s clothing that will set your inner trendsetter free. Nasty Gal chooses a sleek but simple design that allows users to easily navigate within the many pages.

Like others listed in our top ten, Nasty Gal keeps its website clean and simple. The filter options on the left side of the screen help visitors narrow down their choices, a key feature all e-commerce businesses should emulate so customers can quickly find what they want with minimal effort.

What made Nasty Gal stand out to us was its #GIRLBOSS campaign which gives grants to women working in a variety of design industries including music, fashion, and the arts. The goal of these monetary donations is to help empower women in creative fields. Not only does Nasty Gal stand by its gorgeous products, but it also works to inspire others.

Key Takeaway from Nasty Gal

This is another great example of how the strength of a website lies in its simplicity. Presenting compelling images contrasted against a white background with convenient filtering options will help keep your customers shopping on your website instead of clicking around to find a new one. Another lesson learned from Nasty Gal is how cause marketing, or using marketing to promote awareness or raise money for social purposes, can help businesses both make a difference and create buzz about their brand.

If you would like to do the same, find a cause that resonates with your target market and find a partnership that makes sense and is equally beneficial to both them and your business, and can have an impact on the issue you would like to address.


This website is for all of you that spend hours in the grocery stores looking at makeup.

You don’t have to anymore! ColourPop is an e-commerce website dedicated to all-things cosmetics best known for their long-lasting matte lipsticks so put the Maybelline lipstick down and hop online.

Speaking of hopping, this U.S. based company is animal-friendly, only testing their products on the humans that work there, so rabbits and other furry creatures are not used to see if that shade of pink is just right. The website features a wide selection of colours for all skin types. The customer service for this website is impeccable; whenever I’ve had a question about any of the products the customer service representatives have always replied at top speed.

The best way to describe this website: saccharine. It’s like a candy store for anyone that loves makeup and wants a little of this, and more of that. With reasonable prices, it makes it easy to fill up your virtual cart quickly.

Key Takeaway from ColourPop

This is a company that knows its customers well! The website has a color palette that is pleasing to the eye, the images are sharp, and the prices are reasonable. Also, they do things like this to help you know what to expect:

BH Cosmetics

BH Cosmetics knows cosmetics, and wants to help you know them better too! Their comprehensive e-commerce website makes it easy to shop for whatever cosmetic you need, with various search options to find exact brand names or makeup by type.

This website is largely image-based and uses more content like videos, tutorials, and banner advertisements to sell. For example:

Personally, this isn’t how I prefer to shop. I think banner advertisements like these take up too much space on a website and are distracting. It also limits how many products the customer views once they click the “Shop Now” button. Using this method of marketing also wastes white space as seen around the outer edges of the site. This is valuable space that could be used more efficiently to sell.

That aside for the moment, BH Cosmetics is an up-and-coming player on the cosmetic e-commerce scene. They offer eye-popping colour palettes at extremely reasonable prices, and in a variety of shade.

From a customer service standpoint, I couldn’t be more pleased. My orders always arrive in less than a week, their customer service team is always available and has responded quickly to my inquiries, and they offer online tracking of all purchases.

Key Takeaway from BH Cosmetics

Choose your template wisely. When designing your website, trust your instinct when you review possible templates for your site. Does it use space wisely? Is there too much (or too little) white space on the homepage? Remember, the front page of your website is this is the first impression your virtual customers will have of your business—make it a good one!

Conclusion: How to Build an Ecommerce Website That Sells

Now it’s time to get designing (or improving) your website! We hope you learned something from our top ten list and can use these examples to build an outstanding website that will get you noticed, and most importantly, earn you money.

When you have finished building your website, let’s build something else together: your brand! Check out our post: Building Brand Loyalty: How to Turn Customers Into Lifelong Fans and we’ll teach you how to drive traffic to your new website, and how to convert that interest into sales. Until then, good luck!


reading time: 27 minutes


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