Strategy & Best Practices

Nail Your Marketplace Design

By Vera Barile / August 22, 2022

Marketplace Design Blog

Ever walked into a clothing store and the layout seemed chaotic? Overcrowded merchandise, no two displays were alike, and the path to the cash register was shadowed with confusing signage, obstructed walkways, and poor lighting? Sounds like a retail nightmare. Well, the same can be true of online app stores. Ensuring your online marketplace is up to snuff all starts with respecting proper design principles. In fact, a recent Forbes article revealed that users could form an impression of your website in as little as 50 milliseconds. Your buyers will determine whether they browse or leave your store in that short window. In a digital world where time is of the essence, consider these tips to set your store up for success.

3 steps for a successful design process

Whether you’ve decided to undertake the task of designing your marketplace or have hired help, it’s important to have a clear vision of what you want your store to resemble. Try researching top app marketplaces and observe how they’ve set up their pages, the role their branding plays, and how information is communicated. Take note of the layouts that encourage discovery and the ones that make you want to exit the site.

Here are three key steps to ensure your creative process results in a marketplace users want to interact with.

  1. Think like a software developer—Focus on the features you want to launch with, not your long-term goals. As such, keep a strict focus on pages such as your homepage, app detail page, and search experience. Consider using tools such as Sketch or Figma to design the structure and key features of your pages.

  2. Create a prototype based on the sketch—Create a high-fidelity prototype with a responsive design. Aim to make this prototype or wireframe as close to reality as you can. Consider hover animations and user flows to demonstrate how a real user would interact with the store via this working simulation. The prototype will help you get specific feedback from internal stakeholders and avoid approval delays. Use this feedback period to gain alignment on key features and user flows before you move on to the next step where backtracking would require a lot more effort.

  3. Create a functionally working version—Once approved, link your front-and-back-end efforts to bring your e-commerce experience to life. From here, consider how users interact with your store and iterate based on their interactions. Make data-driven decisions by tracking these interactions.

Tune into our video, Software marketplace go to market success: Nail your Marketplace Design to see real-world examples of marketplaces in action. These marketplaces reflect proper design principles and you’ll hear other tips from app store expert Andrea Amaro, CEO of Marketplace by Design. You’ll find a walkthrough of key marketplace pages at minute 6:40 in the video.

Ecosystem maturity and the power of knowing your users

While the steps mentioned above are effective, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Another key component to consider is ecosystem maturity. A marketplace with 10 apps will likely be less robust than one with 100 apps in terms of its feature set and layout. If you are pioneering your ecosystem strategy and using a marketplace to help bolster it, start with a simple showcase to gain traction. Then, you can get users to the store and showcase a complete buying experience, without your store feeling empty. You may also consider showcasing apps or partners that are in the midst of being onboarded as ‘Coming Soon’ to demonstrate growth and build excitement.

As you build out your pages and app profiles, it’s important to have consistency in the kinds of information being populated. Make sure you have the same types of information across products so categories and sections aren’t left empty on other pages. If not, you run the risk of having your marketplace look abandoned and your ecosystem being perceived as lacking maturity. Learn more about this in our recent post, Creating Product Profile Consistency on Your Marketplace.

Check out how Andrea Amaro explains the concept of ecosystem maturity by tuning in to our video at minute 9:35.

Staying true to the maturity of your ecosystem isn’t all there is to consider. You must also be mindful of your users’ interaction patterns. Make marketing decisions based on user types and how they interact with your marketplace.

There are two types of online buyers, generally speaking:

  1. Decisive users—Across large app stores like Salesforce’s App Exchange or the Apple iTunes store, decisive users represent 60 to 70 percent of the user base. They rely heavily on text search as they already have an idea of what they are looking for and take an average of 3 to 6 seconds to either drop from the store or download an app. Note that for a smaller app store, decisive users represent only about 10 percent of the user base and nearly 0 percent for new app marketplaces.

  2. Explorers—Conversely, Explorers are happy to browse and read below the page fold, paying special attention to descriptions. They typically stick around for anywhere between 20 seconds to a few minutes depending on the content available.

Building confidence with proper design practices

No matter your ecosystem size, proper marketplace design is imperative in getting a vote of confidence from your store’s visitors. Users need to trust that you’ve done your due diligence in vetting the apps you are showcasing. To help build that confidence, ensure your storefront’s look and feel suggest high standards of quality.

Broken links, missing or low-resolution images, and frustrating navigation are a sure way to deter users. Design elements aside, the content of the store also needs consistency in the way fields are populated, the tone used when writing descriptions, and the types of information featured. Missing information makes for an unkempt-looking marketplace and could deter partners from participating in your ecosystem. This leads users to believe you have a low standard for quality and will yield low confidence in your store’s offerings. Having a solid approval process will eliminate potential content gaps and ensure your marketplace is well maintained.

Head over to our video at 14:25 to hear more from Andrea Amaro about what to consider when designing your marketplace.

Though the don’ts may seem clear when looking at a poorly designed marketplace, you may be asking yourself just what makes for a properly designed one. The first step is to ensure that you are respecting all your company’s brand guidelines. Having a simplified navigation menu is critical to engage buyers. Other best practices include using breadcrumbs on pages other than the homepage, having clear filters, dedicated app pages with clear descriptions, and using clear CTAs on all pages.

While keeping in mind that the majority of your users are likely Explorers, ensure that the information available is informative and easy to understand without making users feel overwhelmed. Encourage partners to supply high-quality visuals as well. This is important because people tend to remember only about 20 percent of the content they read versus about 80 percent of what they see.

You must also consider the different devices users may use to access your store. Responsive design is a sure way to make for a consistent user experience without sacrificing key information. Anyone and everyone should be able to access the marketplace so adhere to accessibility standards and pay close attention to things like color contrast, text size, and alternative text for visuals.

Respecting the dos and don’ts of marketplace design will help users to complete a desired action in a way that feels natural. Proper user interface and user experience design will help get buyers to your store while building confidence in your brand.

Once you’ve achieved a caliber of design that’s market ready, you’ll want to ensure users can actually find your marketplace to begin with. What good is a store if no one knows about it?

Maximizing discoverability to ensure a successful GTM strategy

Once the design process and design considerations have been thought through, it’s time to focus on maximizing discoverability. In the digital space, there are ways to boost human and machine discoverability.

Human discoverability

  1. Text search—Only about three percent of users rely on text-based search when navigating web-based app stores which is a stark contrast to an overwhelming majority of users relying on it for mobile app stores such as the Google Play store. Given web-based app stores have fewer than 100 apps, it’s often preferred to browse by category.

  2. Browsing by category—This provides a way for users to get closer to what they are looking for while still allowing them to do their own browsing. Consider categorizing by function such as billing or invoicing. A best practice is having about 8 to 10 categories populated with 10 to 50 apps in each category. Also note that a single app can live in multiple categories.

  3. Collections—Collections serve as a powerful discovery tool and allow users to browse and sort based on criteria other than the categories you’ve defined. Collections such as Popular, Newest, and Featured can all be curated by you and your team on a rotation basis to help users discover apps. Collections also help break up the uniformity of the marketplace and draw users down the rest of the page.

  4. Filters—Filters are another great way to help users discover solutions to meet their needs. Consider filtering by industry, and product line for example.

For more details on how to make your marketplace more discoverable, listen to these tips from Andrea Amaro. Start at 24:15 of our video on Software marketplace go to market success: Nail your Marketplace Design.

Machine discoverability

Machine discoverability refers to search engine optimization (SEO). Try and weave keywords into categories and app descriptions to rank higher in search results. Titles, site headings, and meta descriptions are also opportunities to feature keywords and optimize content for improved search rankings. Check out our recent blog post, “3 SEO Tips for Your B2B Marketplace: How to Drive Traffic Directly to Your Storefront,” to learn more about optimizing your marketplace’s SEO performance.

Another SEO tactic is pairing your marketplace with a blog to improve your chances of users discovering your store via search engines. If your team is busy running the store, consider enlisting the help of partners to supply long-form content about their integrations and apps.

Your marketplace is an extension of your business. Your design should have as much attention to detail as your website and core products do. Simplicity will be your best friend in designing your marketplace while iterating will keep it evolving as your business grows too. Remember, first impressions are everything.

Get full access to all the tips and best practices for designing a best-in-class marketplace in this 38-minute video from our series Software Marketplace GTM Success. Start watching now!