If any one should be able to put together a successful e-commerce business, it is a company whose business involves high-end technology. This makes a site such as that of UK computer retailer dabs.com of particular interest.
The opening page is promising: its busy look draws the visitor in without leaving them confused and succeeds in conveying a certain sense of excitement about what is on offer.
Although this is a rather subjective area, and thus hard to quantify, it is important to remember that the success or otherwise of the home page of a site often determines whether a visitor proceeds any further. It is well-worth experimenting with different formats to find the most effective.
One reason why the opening page of dabs.com is successful is because of the way it provides alternative ways of navigating through the site.
There is quick access to a search engine for finding products, as well as a link to product listings. Complementing these horizontal cuts of the database, there are also vertical views - what the site calls shop-in-shops - devoted to particular leading brands.
Also highly useful is the quick link to the status of current and past orders. One of the main negative aspects of e-commerce is the lack of contact that buyers can experience during the process. For this reason, it is crucially important to provide them with as much feedback as possible, as well as ready access to their online records.
This is one reason why dabs.com is preferable to that of rival Simply Computers. The site itself is efficient enough, although the opening page is far less enticing than that of dabs.com. There is a search engine and ready access to product categories, but nothing comparable to the shop-in-shops.
This lack of access to order status is a big omission, and rather leaves customers in limbo, unsure what is happening with their purchase. Its lack highlights an important element of e-commerce sites - the post-sales hand-holding that ensures customers can return to track their orders, and as a result will feel inclined to place new ones, too.
This was first published in October 2000