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The Importance of Graphic Design in E-Commerce

by Ryan Design Studio

If you do a search on Google for ‘Web Designer’, you get well over millions of results.  Pretty much anyone who has a computer and a bit of knowledge about how the internet works can call themselves a ‘web designer’.  The problem is, being a designer isn’t just about knowing how to code, but having a deep understanding of color, fonts, layout, proportion….and the list goes on.

Design is usually a ‘right brain’ ability, while programming is usually a ‘left brain’ ability.  Great computer programmers typically aren’t very design savvy and vice versa.  A good web design firm will have a mix of both developers and designers on staff.  Typically the design team will come up with the overall look and feel of the site, and then hand it over to the development team to actually build it.  If you have ever seen a web site ‘designed’ by a programmer, you will see exactly what I mean.

Graphic design is quite simply an art form.  The best graphic designers don’t just have a degree in the field, but a ‘feel’ for good design.  They know what colors elicit a certain emotional response, what colors work best together, and how to put together a comprehensive design from hundreds of pieces of information about the client and target audience of the web site.  Having a professional design your E-Commerce site is absolutely essential.

With a brick and mortar store it is easy to give the customer an experience – the decor, lighting,  the music playing in the background, even the scent in the air all contribute to the overall shopping experience.  When done right, a customer has an enjoyable experience, spends more, and comes back more often.  In E-Commerce, you not only have to grab the customer’s attention quickly, but give them the correct visual cues to entice them to shop, and to return again in the future.  The design has to act as your decor, your salesperson and your branding.

Here are a few examples of how a professional can give you an advantage over your competition.


With millions of e-commerce sites on the web, making an impression is key.  You have about 5 seconds to engage a customer when they land on your page, otherwise they are going to leave.  How you grab their attention is to differentiate yourself from the competition with a beautifully designed site that represents your brand. There are tens of thousands of pre-made shopping cart templates out there, but even the least web savvy customer can tell they are generic.

You need to convey who you are and what you sell immediately. Your site’s colors and imagery need to show the customer that you are different and better than all of the other companies selling products like yours.  Lifestyle imagery should make the customer feel the same way they feel by using your product.  The overall design should compliment your product’s packaging and style, use similar fonts and colors, and be consistent throughout the site.  Quite simply, the customer needs to ‘feel’ your brand when they visit your site.


Color is one of the most important aspects of the design.  The color needs to not only represent your brand, but your industry as well.  Using the appropriate color for your demographic is key, or you risk alienating your potential clients.  For example, using a pink theme for a product targeted at men would obviously not be a wise choice, nor would using red for a site selling stress-relief products. Each color elicits an emotional response, and a graphic designer will know exactly which palate to use for the site’s demographic and product line.

How colors act together is also important, and you need to pick a compatible color family to use throughout the site.  If you have site full of earth-tones, don’t suddenly throw in a neon orange banner even if you do think it will get the user’s attention.

Visual Hierarchy

I’m always surprised at what site owners want to draw attention to when we are creating the initial design.  They want to make their promo code banner HUGE and BRIGHT RED so no one will miss it, or make the social media icons huge and in your face.  But if you think about it, why would you want to draw attention to something that will COST you money or worse, lead the customer off-site?  Shouldn’t the user be drawn to the products themselves, and then be given a clear progression to the checkout?  After all, the goal of any e-commerce site is to SELL, so that should always be the path you guide the customer to.

Getting the customer to go where you want can easily be accomplished by establishing a clear visual hierarchy.  The use of colors, bolder fonts and graphics help certain portions of the site ‘pop’ more than others, and that will naturally draw the eye of the customer.  On the home page the main hero image is what should get hte user’s attention first, as that is what you use to provide your site’s identity and draw the user in.  The main navigation bar with your categories should be the next thing they see, as you want to pull them into the site to shop.   Secondary navigation, search, the cart icon and other site functionality should be clearly visible, but not draw away from the products themselves.

Calls to action

Once you get the customer into the site, you need to give them clear calls to action on what to do next.  Usually these are in the form of buttons – add to cart, checkout, submit order, etc.  It is extremely important to make these really stand out from the rest of the site, and that is done with color.  Again, we go back to the color families and choosing a contrasting color that still fits with the family.  Don’t just use red because it stands out, use a color that pops but still gels with the other colors on the site.

What the buttons say are just as important as their color.  You’d be surprised at what a difference between ‘submit order’ and ‘pay now’ has on your conversion rates (hint: submit order is almost always better because you don’t want to remind them how much they are spending).  It is always best to A/B test your calls to action to make sure you are optimizing them for your particular audience.


The use of graphics is always changing in the world of web design.  Right now, the trend is to keep the site fairly clean, but use big, bold imagery for your hero image, product images and just about any other image on the site.  The idea is to let the products speak for themselves, and not clutter up the background with unnecessary ‘stuff’. If you look at sites from 10 years ago, you’ll see that this is a big change, as we used to use heavy background imagery which made the site much more ‘cluttered’ looking.  One of the reasons this has changed is to keep the page load times down for mobile.

Another trend these days is to use large ‘lifestyle’ photos on the home page to show the potential customer real-world uses for the product.  The images usually incorporate short blurbs of bold text that entice the customer to click on the image, giving them the feeling that they too could be enjoying that product.  How those images are designed, what font and colors are used for the text, and what the call to action is are all things that need to be done by a professional.  A poorly designed home page graphic will not only look bad, but could give the customer the wrong impression of your products all together.

Graphics also need to be high-quality, but as low a file size as possible.  You may think that 20mb image you uploaded to your home page looks great, but Google won’t think so, nor will any mobile users stick around to wait for it to load.  The size and quality of your graphics is also something a professional designer should be able to do for you without asking.


Web design trends change as fast as fashion trends do, and it is difficult for someone who isn’t involved in the industry on a daily basis to keep up.  What looks good to the $15/hr high school kid you hired to build your site may instead be a dated design technique that makes your site look amateur and behind the times, neither of which you want to convey to your customers.  A good designer will have a good handle on the current design trends and techniques, allowing your site to appear modern and relevant.

In conclusion, make sure you hire a firm with professional designers on staff or you risk not only looking bad, but sending the completely wrong message to your potential customers.  Hint:  We are professional designers!

Contact us today for a no-pressure quote to redesign your site!


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