The best eCommerce storefronts tend to be unique to their clientele, their product, and their location. However, if you look you may notice a few things in common. While trends change with time—2012 was all about white backgrounds and grayscale photos while 2013 brought back grunge textures and dark backgrounds—all the best sites find an image that speaks to their brand more clearly than anything else and stick with it. In getting to that point, however, they all move through a few specific elements of the design process. Find out what it is that makes the top sites stand out from the rest of the crowd.

Professional Imagery

Imagery refers to both product photography and the digital design aspects of the storefront, and how these interact with one another. A standard eCommerce site may use a simple mix of the two to balance out a product or page, but all the best sites on Shopify make the two work together to form something greater than the sum of its parts.


Even as resellers, the best eCommerce sites have their own photography done for all their products. This includes people wearing their close, walking around with their handbags or eating their candy. The professional level of the photography is clear, and it adds not only a level of aesthetic pleasure to the shopping process, but also shows that the company values its image and conducts itself professionally from a marketing standpoint. No matter what goes on behind the scenes, your site should make you look like a pro.

The digital design work utilized is carefully placed and built not to detract from the photography, but to compliment it. The best sites generally avoid large, detailed elements, but don’t shy away from color where it’s appropriate. These colors generally match or compliment the company logo.

Whenever you’re selling a physical item, that item should be able to speak for itself; graphic design just tells viewers where they need to look if they want to listen.


You’ve probably noticed that the best online storefronts have fewer and fewer elements as time goes on. As it turns out, people prefer it that way. White space is integral to readability according to, and that’s proven with all the biggest online retailers. The biggest contender for this is Apple, which offers minimalist solutions both in digital design and the design of their products. The simpler things are, the more comfortable your shoppers will be.

Minimalist designs don’t always mean black and white, however. A full-width photograph could be minimalist if handled correctly—for instance, a single line of small, light text across an open space makes the text the focal point of the image, causing the rest to fall away into the background. That’s exactly what you want.


This is the one thing that trumps minimalism when it comes to great design. A website offers customers their first image of your brand identity, according to Awwwards, and that means making sure it fits into your brand aesthetic. If you sell custom-knitted oversized plushies, chances are that a clinical or neo-modern site design won’t be right for you. The best eCommerce sites find a balance between brand identity and the aesthetic of a user interface, offering a shopping experience that’s sure to leave a memory.

The key here is to establish limits to the color palette used on the site, usually dictated by the colors featured in the company logo. The best eCommerce sites let their logos be their guide when it comes to color and design, cutting down the most complex aspects of their brand identity to its simplest, cleanest form. That is exactly what you want to launch when it comes time to go live.

Know Thyself

The key to getting a great online storefront isn’t just getting the best photographers or designers, it’s about understanding your brand. All the best eCommerce sites have a clear understanding of who they’re marking for, how they can reach them, and how that applies to their product. Color is big for 2014, according to the recent winners of the CSS Design Awards, but stark black and white will always be clean and elegant.

A great deal of this comes with time: Most online retailers start off selling dozens of different products chosen piecemeal from catalogues and production lines, which is streamlined over time as some products sell and some don’t, as new technology is unveiled and old technology falls by the wayside. In ten years you won’t be designing cases for the iPhone 6, but you may find that the batch of baseball hats you took into your inventory on a whim opens up a whole new world of retail for you. It’s all about keeping aware of what product people feel your brand represents, and building your site around that image.