Strategy Centre

The IRP Design Process

22 April 2015
16 November 2015

Introduction to Thinking About Design

Design can often be a misunderstood area of ecommerce websites. Good design is really about increasing sales, effectively by increasing the Conversion Rate on your website.

This general principle of increasing Conversion Rate in design and copy is achieved by ‘identifying with the customer’ and ‘removing blocks to sale’.

The concept of 'Design' comes down in IRP Commerce terms to anything that increases sales based on messaging and asthetics - with efficiency as the key looking effort for the maximum return.

This is complicated by the fact that we all have opinions in design and the customer has to be happy.

We have created the functionality to look at 'Conversion Rate' and 'Bounce Rate' two litmus tests for design.

A major mistake that companies often make is that they feel that design is an opportunity to ‘talk to the customer’, when they primarily need to first ‘listen to the customer’ — and tell them what they already want to hear to help them to purchase.

The customer generally wants to trust the site they are considering buying from and to know that the core issues are covered — and so key messages need to be obvious and repeated so that customers are in no doubt about fundamental value propositions such as social proof (e.g. Trustpilot), Delivery, Returns and Authenticity. These key messages need to be specific for each major country as the core value propositions are slightly different for each country.

How Many SME Companies Approach Design from the Wrong Starting Point

Without a good understanding of the goal of design and written copy to ‘identify with the customer’ and to ‘remove blocks to sale’, an SME can sometimes view design as a blank template with which to ‘talk’ rather than ‘listen’ to the customer.

Generally in online design, key ideas are created by the ‘opinion formers’ in a market. For example, a leading brand or shop’s imagery will be prevalent in much of their promoted marketing material. In the UK for example, websites such as John Lewis or Nike might be held up as something to emulate. However, large sites such as these can afford to be abstract, heavily branded, and to be subtle with value propositions. This is because they have built up their brand and simply do not have to explain who they are.

You will often find SMEs using the websites of larger companies as a template for their own website. However, unlike a large brand, an SME receives a lot less direct traffic and often receives traffic based off very non-committed channels such as PPC. Therefore a customer often has no relationship with, or knowledge of, the company prior to landing on the SME’s site. And so the value proposition needs to be spelled out very quickly and clearly for the customer.

It is rarely a good idea to copy or take inspiration from large company websites such as John Lewis, other than perhaps to notice that such sites are ‘visually appealing’ and so endeavour to make your own website ‘visually appealing’.

Pratical Key Points About IRP Design

Conversion rate is the keystone of a profitable business — and design is a fundamental component of conversion.

Design is not a surface matter about colour choice and what appears to “look good”. Understanding the principles of design can prove to be vital for the success of your ecommerce business.

The IRP is designed for maximum usability; visual aesthetic design can be a major factor in conversion rate and improving the CPA% of your business.

We outline some important principles of design in our IRP Design Guidelines article; here is a summary of the main points:

  1. Design messaging must be clear and fast
    There is no time to be subtle. All sales are time sensitive therefore you must put forward your value proposition quickly and clearly.
  2. Design to remove all objections — answer questions before they are asked
    You need to convey quickly and accurately key information about shipping, pricing, security, returns and so forth. The visitor must be able to find your value proposition easily on any page.
  3. Faster is always better
    Fast page loads are better than slow; this is an undisputed fact in ecommerce. Therefore you must optimise all files for speed.
  4. The customer is interested in themselves — you need to be interested in them
    Online customers can come from very diverse places geographically. Tailor your site to suit each country.
  5. Decisions are made quickly
    People make decisions very quickly when purchasing online. Unlike a retail store, visitors will take seconds to decide whether to stay or go. You need to fight for sales.

In short, all elements of design need to be geared towards selling.

The IRP Design Process

The IRP design process involves three parties:

  • The Design Team
  • The Deployment Team
  • The Client

When you have provided all the required information described below, the Design Team will review your ideas, advise you, then create the optimal desktop and mobile website template to fit your brand and market and to promote sales.

As part of the deployment process, any discussion should be shared using a tool such as Asana.

The following sections describe the information that you need to give us — you should upload all files to an appropriate folder in a shared location such as Google Drive.

Note: the design process cannot begin until you have supplied all of the items described in this document.

1. Complete the Design Brief

While all markets are different, it is important that you, the client, read and understand the general principles of design as you are then more likely to understand what the goal of design is.

You will use the Design Brief file (located in a shared location such as Google Drive). The Design Brief gives us a better understanding of your current company status, any problems you may be experiencing, any ideas you may have and your aspirations for joining the IRP in regards to design.

The Design Brief will form the basis of the design process and will also determine whether you require graphic design work for your marketing materials.

Although not essential, a meeting can be arranged if further discussion or more in-depth requirements are needed.

We recommend that you read the general ecommerce and IRP articles in the IRP Strategy Centre before you fill in the Design Brief.

2. Provide your company logos and brand guidelines (if applicable)

We require your company logo in vector format* or high resolution in order to start the design process.

* Vector graphics, which usually have the extension .eps or .ai (sometimes .pdf), are comprised of points and paths and are scalable without losing any image quality. When you scale a vector image, the edges of the object always remain smooth and clean. Your logo must be produced in a vector-based program (usually Adobe Illustrator) — you should have received this file format for your logo when your graphic designer created it. Note: saving a Photoshop file as an .eps file does not produce a vector file! JPGs, GIFs and BMP images are raster images, which are made up of a grid of pixels. When you scale up/zoom into these raster images they will become blurry or pixelated.

If you have variant logos, please specify the primary logo to use on the website.

You also need to let us know what your corporate colours are, either as RGB or as a six-digit hex code. You can state these in the last section of the Design Brief.

If you have brand guidelines, please provide these for us to follow.

Save your logo files to the shared location such as Google Drive.

3. Complete the Value Proposition Banners spreadsheet

The IRP allows for drilldown to specific countries and languages and we recommend that you take advantage of these functions as much as possible in order to tailor your content and messaging to every user group and market in which you believe you are competitive.

You will require specific messaging for your UK customers, who are different to your Irish customers, who again are different from your European and North American customers.

Make sure that you complete the Value Proposition Banners MS Excel spreadsheet (located in a shared location such as Google Drive), using the IRP Banner Guide for reference. You can also see where banners are located live on the IRP training site,

4. Provide your custom content pages

Custom content and copy are vital to the success of your IRP. The main goal here is to optimise and customise the content pages of your website for your visitors.

Use these pages to back up trust for your customers, especially those who land on your website with no knowledge of who you are. Despite the names of these pages, they are actually selling pages where you can repeat the same core value propositions at the top. A potential customer is only viewing these pages to check out who you are — can they trust you to give them what they want?

Custom content pages include:

  • Contact Us
  • About Us
  • Delivery and Returns
  • Terms & Conditions
  • Privacy & Cookie Policy
  • Any other relevant information

Images of your store, staff, events, products or any other relevant images are useful to create a bigger impact on your custom content pages.

These images should be good quality and high resolution (i.e. not pixelated). Make sure that you save these files to the shared location such as Google Drive.

You can see examples of custom content pages on the IRP training site, You will be able to use a template for each of these (located in a shared location such as Google Drive). If you have other pages you want to include, add them to this folder.

5. Provide your go live marketing banners (if applicable)

If you require graphic design work for marketing banners on your website, the Design Team can create these for Go Live. You can fill in the Marketing Brief MS Word document (located in a shared location such as Google Drive)

You will need to provide good quality, high resolution images and related messaging.

If you require any graphic design work after your site goes live, your contract will state how this will be managed.

Make sure that you save these files to the shared location such as Google Drive. If you have lots of images, create sub folders within the folder.

Other Items

Navigation links

The top navigation bar lists your categories or departments. You can choose to activate a hover drop-down menu and you will need to list the products that should be included in this menu.

You should work with the Deployment Team when creating your categories and departments as they are an important part of your website configuration.

Email set up

The Design Team will create a header and footer for your email marketing to get you started.

Should you require any future email marketing, this can be discussed with the Deployment Team.

Post Go Live

If you require any graphic design work after your site goes live, your contract will state how this will be managed.


You will use the following documents (located in a shared location such as Google Drive):

  • Design Brief
  • Value Proposition Banners spreadsheet
  • IRP Banner Guide
  • Custom Content Page templates
  • Marketing Brief

IRP Help and Support

If you need any help or support, or have any questions about the IRP, check out the:

  • IRP Knowledge Base
    You’ll find overviews, step-by-step instructions, video tutorials and FAQs about every section in IRP Admin. For specific help on design, see the section under Interface & Design in the left navigation menu.
  • IRP Strategy Centre
    The IRP Strategy Centre contains constructive, relevant and expert content covering multiple aspects of ecommerce and the IRP.


Download the Design Brief and the Value Proposition Banners spreadsheet:

Additional Reading


Anonymous - This frames an otherwise chaotic process. It is unusual at the SME level for companies to understand that Design serves only one function online and that is Conversion Rate.
25 Apr 2015 10:08
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