Why Your E-Commerce Site Needs a Style Guide

Published: Jul 04, 2018

One of the first things a shopper observes (whether they realize it or not) is the overall appearance of your site. A professional looking, well organized e-commerce site puts users at ease. They will get the impression some thought, and consideration was put into its presentation. This, in turn, helps them feel more secure shopping your online store.

e-commerce style

And, it’s why your e-commerce site needs a style guide.

What Is a Style Guide?

Perhaps it’s easiest to think of a style guide as the Bible governing the overall look of your website. Whether rendered in print or in HTML format accessible only by those with ADMIN privileges, your style guide outlines the aesthetic qualities each page on the site should reflect.

In other words, the purpose of the style guide is to ensure a consistent look for your site. It dictates what colors should be used and where. It establishes the point sizes for headlines and body copy, as well as the fonts to be used. It also dictates the justification of text and institutes the sizing and placement of photography.

Why You Need It

Let’s say you’ve built a site for selling ebooks using an enterprise e-commerce platform like those offered by a company like Shopify. Because your site is based upon a template, you might think all of the design decisions are locked and all you need to do is plug in your content and go. This can be true, if you’d like it to be.

However, there is also room for customization within those templates. Among other things, you can choose your own color schemes, font styles and image sizes. Once you’ve made these choices you can add them to your style guide. You can then allow people to post content to the site—pointing them to the guide to ensure their work matches the look you established.

Additional Benefits

A good style guide does more than just outline basic color, font, and logo usage. It also dictates the appearance and application of all of the other elements of the site.

What if each member of your design team were given free rein to employ buttons, form inputs, navigation systems, headings and body text according to their individual whims? Without dictums in place, your site could very easily wind up taking on the look of a poorly considered quilt.

At face value, this might not seem like such a big deal, but multiply the inevitable inconsistencies across 100 pages and you’ll be looking at a rather significant expense to straighten things out. It’s far better to have standards in place from the beginning and insist upon adherence to them.

Plus, it makes adding new pages to the site much easier to accomplish and in far less time.

Also interesting: Why are Maps in Websites Useful.

Psychological Ramifications

Keep in mind (please pardon the pun), shoppers tend to be wary of poorly designed sites. While design inconsistencies might not be immediately apparent to the untrained eye, they do weigh upon a user’s subconscious. Something about your site will feel off to them. They might not be able to put their fingers on it, but they’ll be bothered just the same.

Creativity Is Still Possible

Even when you work within the constraints of a style guide, there is room for expression and variety. You can still have a distinctive look and feel for the various sections of a site. After all, certain pages will naturally have differences in order to accommodate their purposes. Your home page will look different from your landing pages, which in turn will look different from product pages—but they should also have unifying threads.

And, this too: why your own store is better than Amazon.