E-commerce stores are rarely a thing of beauty and for good reason: user experience is far more important than cutting edge design when it comes to these kinds of sites. Online stores must be functional, accessible and user-friendly for everyone that visits them, which counts out wacky, experimental designs and layouts.
This doesn’t mean that e-commerce sites have to be boring though far from it! The best ones marry simplicity with a certain level of invention and plenty of style. With so many sites following the same, boring e-commerce template we’ve all seen a thousand times before, making minor changes to your site can make a huge difference, helping you stand out from the competition.
Below, we take a close look at 20 of the most cutting edge e-commerce stores from around the world. Some of them belong to global brands with huge budgets and the latest technology at their fingertips. Others, however, belong to smaller companies who have had to think outside the box to achieve cutting edge design.
ASOS (As Seen On Screen) is the UK’s largest online-only clothing store, receiving 5.2 million unique visitors each month. This monumental level of success would not have been possible without a superb e-commerce store. Users can easily choose from the 19,500 products on offer by checking boxes for colour, price range, brand, sleeve length, jeans fit, jacket style and much more. Each product can be zoomed in on and viewed in a catwalk video.
Inkd isn’t your ordinary online store. It sells logos and graphic design packages for business cards, brochures, letterheads, flyers and many other kinds of promotional material. Inkd is all about cutting edge, unique design, and its website is no different. Chunky tabs make navigation easy and each product comes with numerous, high-res product views.
Founded in 1892, Abercrombie & Fitch is a clothing brand with a serious pedigree and patrons including John F Kennedy, Katharine Hepburn and John Steinbeck. Its e-commerce store stays true to its classy roots, with a dark colour scheme and large, high res images of its products which can be viewed at the touch of a button. The store is super-fast and loads very quickly.
Apple is at the forefront of cutting edge design in everything it does, including its e-commerce store. Finding exactly what you’re looking for is really easy with the most popular products laid out in front of you against a brilliant white background. Click on a product you’re interested in and you’re presented with detailed specifications organised in a really user-friendly way. The purchasing experience is almost as pleasurable as visiting a real Apple Store.
Sony occupies the other end of the spectrum to Apple, with a site themed around the colour black. The three-dimensional tabs at the bottom of the page move when hovered over, revealing all kinds of electrical goodies. The site even looks great when it’s loading, thanks to a line of vibrantly coloured dots.
House Industries offers a vast range of fonts to buy in its ecommerce store, but users can find the perfect ones for them easily, thanks to Style, Collection and Name categories. As you might expect, font design throughout the site is second-to-none. Viewing fonts is a pleasure and you can even see them in use.
7. Free People
Clothing shop, Free People, combines large, dreamy images on its homepage with videos that load instantly. Flick through their catalogues online before choosing your items and refine your search by price, colour and size. You can even change the way that pages display by clicking on buttons at the top and access a mobile version of the site through your phone.
Japanese casual clothing giant, Uniqlo, has gone all-out with its ecommerce store, offering users a classic Product Search capability alongside a cutting edge Styling Search function. Use the Styling Search to flick through looks from different collections, modelled by various gorgeous hipster-types. Rest your mouse on an image to be presented with thumbnails and links to the products on show.
At first glance, LaLicious looks like nothing more than a standard online store, but it features many subtle touches which elevate it way above other bog-standard sites. Product views are exquisitely done. Click on the delicious-sounding Sugar Souffle Scrubs, for example, and you’ll see a range of pots containing substances of different scents. Hover over each one and the pot flips on its side, revealing the colour and texture of its contents.
ShoeGuru has one of the best minimalist e-commerce stores around. Its homepage is terrific. It features a large, high-res image of a shoe – nothing more, nothing less. This image soon gives way to photos of different people, each representing a different type of shoe- high top, athletic, casual etc. The store itself is simple, but fun to use with an easily accessible sizing chart.
Size? is another super-cool footwear store, specialising in rare and unusual colorways of famous sneaker brands. There’s a lot going on its homepage, with enough interesting information to keep any sneaker-head occupied. The store itself is minimal and functional. Users can search for shoes in a variety of ways, including by the colour of highlighting and details.
12. Naked and Angry
Naked and Angry’s ecommerce store couldn’t be simpler. The front page features clear images of each of its 27 products, split into obvious sections, for users to peruse. Other companies could learn a lot from this minimal design. Too much information can detract from the products on offer and confuse visitors.
In theory, a shop selling nothing more than socks should be really boring, but French company, Archiduchesse, has managed to be stylish and attractive with its ecommerce store. The different socks on offer are arranged in order of colour, creating a palette, moving from bright pinks at the top, down to dark-reds and maroons at the bottom. This site really is a thing of beauty, but something most companies could achieve.
Like most Swedish companies, BRIO knows a thing or two when it comes to really classy product and graphic design. Like its toys, BRIO’s site is classic, minimal and well made. Products in the store itself are clearly pictured and really well described. A pop-up window shows various views of each item.
Selling everything from iPhone covers to laptop sleeves and guitar cases, Incase are one of the most iconic luggage brands in the world. Besides great product shots, which show Incase’s goods in all their glory, the site features several expertly directed videos promoting and explaining the company and its most popular lines. This gives users a great feel of the brand and what it stands for.
16. Dripping in Fat
The best thing about Dripping in Fat’s e-commerce store is its homepage. T-shirts on a line have been made to look at though they are literally melting away. Moving the mouse from side to side, users can pan through the company’s product offering, focusing in on anything they like just by clicking on the ‘+’ sign next to each item.
Organic Supermarket features a superb welcome video on its ecommerce site. It shows the inside of the shop and happy customers buying their groceries, giving visitors an insight into what the company’s all about. Browns and greens dominate the site’s colour scheme, matching the organic produce on sale and the shop is really easy to use.
Ecommerce sites do not come any cuter than RedVelvetart. The handwritten fonts which can be found all over the site really are outstanding, as are the hand-drawn navigation buttons. In fact, the whole site screams individuality and fun. Products hovered over in the shop are surrounded by coloured stitching, a great way to engage users.
‘White space’ is one of the most important and commonly overlooked elements of web design. Without ‘white space’, layouts appear ugly and customers are quickly confused. Toobydoo has used ‘white space’, expertly in its ecommerce site- making images and blocks of text easy to read and every page quick to scan. Users can shop ‘By Look’, to see exactly what each item of clothing looks like on another child.
Masters of selvedge denim, APC, have managed to combine simplicity with style to create a site which looks great and highly original, but does not sacrifice user experience. Like Toobydoo, this straightforward site features ‘white space’‚ in all the right places. Products are displayed clearly and can be zoomed in on and moved around by left-clicking with the mouse.
Which one is your favorite? Don’t forget to share it with us.