A very common mistake many web designers make when designing a website is that they focus on the design too much. Every website has a set of goals that is specific to that website. And the design of the website should focus solely on achieving these goals! In most cases, that doesn’t include showing off the designers web design skills or the developer’s web programming skills!
For Ecommerce websites one of main goals is conversion – i.e. how many visits are converting into sales. I don’t care if the website is horrible, old school, confusing, outdated, or even if it has bugs – as long as it achieves the business goals! In this case, as long as the web design converts! Who cares if AJAX was used or if you have a Flash 3D innovative element that was nearly impossible to pull off if it has nothing to do with the website’s goals.
Look at Amazon for example – the site’s design is definitely not fancy. Even the checkout process is somewhat cumbersome. That sounds counter intuitive for such a large scale Ecommerce company who has extensive statistical data to help them figure out which practices convert best. Well that’s because Amazon has a business goal that is more important than conversions: increasing the dollar amount on every sale. Once you add a product to your cart, instead of being redirected to the cart and guided towards checkout, you are shown related products, or complementary products, and are drawn to spend more time on the website… and to shop more.
Many real life stores are designed in a way that puts the cashiers not easily accessible from the main shopping area of the store – the idea is that you spend more time in the store (on your way to the cashier) so that eventually you will buy more. Have you noticed how the most common items in a supermarket are always somewhat in the back of the store? When you go buy milk, you have to go through the entire store and back to the cashier, going through aisles and corners full of delicious looking stuff! That’s why you end up always buying more than just that bottle of milk you wanted to get. Not because you actually needed the additional items!
Remember that good design is about achieving your goals.