Tips for a Clean and Minimal Online Store Design

A couple of tips for a clean online store design with some inspirational examples of minimal e-commerce sites.

Tips for a Clean and Minimal Online Store Design

What better way to showcase your products than by giving them the stage?

This is the concept behind a growing trend in e-commerce web design – going minimal.

In the past many online stores took the opposite approach to design. Sites were often cluttered with information, fonts and colors were overwhelming, and sites were quite simply “over-designed”.

Now, many sites are ditching models, crazy colors and fonts, and fancy photography for the simplistic style of just showcasing their products. It’s a trend that is taking over much of the web (not just e-commerce) with the emergence of responsive design models. More designers are embracing the trend that simpler can be better, while focusing on readability and usability.

The result is a better experience for online shoppers, with cleaner interfaces, text that is easier to read and interfaces that are simpler, faster and more user-friendly. This trend is about more than just design, it creates a better overall experience.

Think about the success of Apple and its online store. Simple and direct can equal sales. Here, we take a look at the trend, companies that are doing it well and tips for making it work for you.

The Trend

More and more companies are ditching lots of color, models and movement on their websites in favor of more minimal design schemes.

Background patterns are more subtle — or have been ditched completely in favor of a simple black or white background — typography is simple and direct and photography of products is emphasized. But why?

Using a simple design scheme allows a brand to show off its products. There is no guessing what is being sold because everything is clearly defined. This counteracts the movement of the past where brands pushed a certain type of lifestyle or feel over the actual products.

This type of scheme can be less costly. There are no models to pay and with a simple background less pre-design work. A little studio lighting and good photography is all you need to get started.

Focusing less on super-complicated design can give companies more time to focus on the user experience. The top concern for an e-commerce site after all is sales. A site must function well, load quickly and make it easy for customers to find what they want and make a purchase.

E-commerce Design Tips

Aim for dynamic display. Don’t just copy another site. What makes your product unique and special? Play it up in the display.
Your site needs to be readable. Typefaces should be simple and clear. Item numbers, sizes, colors and prices need to be clearly stated and visible. And don’t forget notations for sales or checking out – labeling should be a top priority.

Photography should be direct for product images. Don’t use odd angles or unusual lighting. Shoppers want to see items as clearly as possible. Make sure your photography reflects that. Every photo should be a perfectly accurate representation of the actual item.

Make sure your site is easy to move around and navigate. If it is slow to load or too complicated, shoppers will back away. Include sales and information about your company. Let shoppers know why you are special, unique and deserving of their money.

Every element should be sharp and planned. If an image is subpar or blurry, don’t use it. If a design element works against your product, opt for another technique.

Make shopping easy and fun. The surprise of a site might bring shoppers in but you have to keep them there so if you use a fun gimmick, make subsequent pages easy to navigate and use.

8 Sites Doing it Well

Le Coq Sportif: With a focus on the catalog, you can see a variety of products without having to click a lot. This is great for undecided shoppers and those impulse buyers.

Visual Supply: Super simple format is striking with each product clearly labeled. The red outline around each product as you hover is a nice touch.

Ditto: Glasses made interesting. Because of the simple nature of the product (and site design) it almost feels as if you are comparing items side-by-side.

Neve/Hawk: Simple does not have to be boring. This company uses a great neutral color scheme and simple photography to showcase each item. (They have a pretty dynamic landing page as well.)

Narwhal Co.: The images grab you immediately. They are sharp and colorful. A good, strong image will draw you in every time.

Callaway Golf: Great mood photography sets the tone for each product line, but then products are allowed to stand alone. Images are framed in the same manner from product to product for easy comparison.

MANKINDdog: Great images steal the show. Every product looks spectacular, making the story feel very unique.

Incase: This company does a great job of promotion options without the site feeling cluttered or bulky. Simple photography with buttons that show shoppers what else might be available.


This is a trend that needs to stick around.

Clean design is a great thing. It is even better that companies are really using the concept to showcase what they have to offer.

Putting products against simple backgrounds works well for a number of reasons, but it simply gives the product room to speak for itself and for the consumer to really get a good feel for an item before making a purchase.

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Carrie Cousins

Carrie Cousins has more than 10 years experience in the media industry, including writing for print and online publications, and design and editing. Carrie is also a sports fanatic and spends way too much time planning football and basketball trips and obsessing over stats.

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Comments are closed.
  1. Hello Carrie,
    I agree 100% with you.
    But there’s one little problem you have to think about.
    The client.
    I was asked in he past to design or redesign some online shops.
    I liked to do this until … the first meeting.
    There’e so many clients which don’t understand that it’s not necessary to show all products with all similar product information on ONE page 🙁
    So, it starts not with the designer – it must start with the accounting or sales people. They must have the understanding about those things you wrote in your article.
    And you need clients who understand that using a simple design scheme allows to show off its products.
    I really love simple design but sometimes it’s very hard to convince a client.
    Thanx for your article,

    • Micha:
      You are so very right. We could do a whole new article on client relations and expectations — that can be one of the toughest (and sometimes rewarding) parts of the job!
      Convincing someone that a simple design scheme is best can be tough if that it not what they are used to.
      Thanks for your comments!!

  2. Thank you for the nice post. But what about smartphones design? We have to focus on pictures or we have to provide info and details that load faster?

    This sites look great on desktop and laptops, but only Visual Supply and Neve/Hawk have designed it for smartphones, so I think that 6 other sites aren’t a good example of design actually at the end of 2012.

  3. My favourite Online shopping site is MR PORTER , Mr Porter has a simple homepage and detailed (Information, multiangular and high res. photos, combines and other clothing recommend…) product page, so they successful in… Saksfifthavenue shouldn’t forget.

  4. Nice Article
    A small typo regarding the a brand … we say “Le Coq Sportif” and not “Le Cog Sportif” (Coq means Rooster in french 😉

  5. Congratulate you for this article very useful information for my design company online stores.

  6. Nice article. Excellent tips. In the process of creating an e-commerce site for a client and this will come in handy……