I’m very well aware of the fact that every website is different and that not everybody needs the same things, but there are some basics that you need to cover in order to end up with a fully professional, high-class website.
Handling a website is not an easy endeavor. There are a lot of things you need to take care of in order to have a smooth and well-functioning web page. If you make money through this website, or if you are attempting to do so, then you will need to put in that extra effort. Contrary to popular belief, your work doesn’t end once you have created the website since it needs constant maintenance and a healthy dose of updates from time to time, so you can keep up the pace with fresh solutions and avoid lagging behind current trends too much.
Regardless of your choice of website building platform, if you want to really adjust it in a way that it really does everything you need smoothly and with precision, you have to put in a little time and money. Now, I’m very well aware of the fact that every website is different and that not everybody needs the same things, but there are some basics that you need to cover in order to end up with a fully professional, high-class website. The case-based tweaking comes later but this doesn’t mean that it is any less important; it just means that you can’t really focus on the details when you don’t even have the foundation laid out.
I’m going to give a few insights that you should pay attention to during the set up and design process, so you can achieve a high level of professionalism and utility which will help you earn more through your e-commerce website.
There are a lot of platforms that deal with e-commerce and I’m going to suggest a few that are the most popular:
- Magento – It is free, reliable and it offers a lot of options; these are the things that make it stand out. It has a flaw though, since it is very hard to learn and it can be a bother to maintain and manage.
- Shopify – Unlike Magento, Shopify is easy to use, it offers hosting and 24/7 support but is not free and it can be a burden on your budget.
- WordPress – While WP was not intended for this purpose intentionally, thanks to the fact that it is open source, it has evolved into a valid e-commerce solution.
Choosing the right platform depends on the user and it is the thing you need to decide on. You can read more about the best shopping cart solutions here and go for the one that you think fits your needs best. Just keep yourself informed and you will make the right decision in choosing the right shopping cart for wordpress applications.
The Utility of Design
Some people tend to lose focus and they start envisioning artistic masterpieces, but they forget to think about the utility of the page they are building. A smart move is to do a bit of research. For example, check out some websites owned by people who are in the same line of work or if you are doing a redesign of your old website, try to pinpoint and analyze its flaws. My suggestion is to ask some of the people who regularly visited the old version. Basically, use a bit of market research and attempt to create a user oriented environment. If your visitors find your website hard to manage and difficult to navigate through, you will experience a greater abandonment rate and this is something that you want to avoid, right?
In order to stress this point, I’m going to familiarize you with some statistics that show how quickly internet users give up on websites and how quickly they decide if a specific website can provide them with the content or the service they are looking for. Out of all webpage views, 17% of them end in 4 seconds or less while 49% of the number of words read is under 111. These numbers show that the attention span of an average internet user is fairly low but, in order to drive the point all the way through, I’m going to give you one additional piece of information – the attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds. (Source: StatisticBrain.com)
This should be enough to make you realize how important it is to make the entire design of your website work to the benefit of your customers and through this, work to your benefit. These days, there are a lot of web design companies that provide customers with user centered websites in order to deal with this issue. In some cases, they use information based on market research in order to achieve this. The thing that I find interesting is the use of personas during the creation of your user-centered design. Personas are archetypes of your average customers (in some cases several personas may be used), which are good tools for identifying the needs, skills and preferences of your customers, so that the entire concept can be adapted to fit them best. The more details you add during the creation of these personas the better, since the whole thing will be better when it is done – the designers will have more material to work with.
The Visual Side of Things
Website design is there to provide a frame for your content and your service (if you are providing one) first and then to look good. Your theme is something you need to decide on, since this is more of a personal preference, but you need to make sure that it doesn’t “overshadow” the content. You need to prioritize during the visual design period you need to decide on a solution that works in favor of your content, while providing the right type of atmosphere for your visitors. A lot of times, less is more and you should always keep this in mind.
A lot of people tend to go for free templates (in cases when WordPress is used) or they go for popular, premium templates which is OK, but visual design has another purpose most people overlook. Users tend to forget website names – what they searched for in order to get to it or really any relevant information in textual form related to the website of interest and most of them don’t have the habit of bookmarking. Having a unique and recognizable visual style will help them remember you and this is something every website should aspire to.
Quality of Content
The newest changes that Google made to its search engine algorithms (as well as any Google update) stress the originality and the quality of content. How does this affect website owners? Well, it’s simple – if the information on your website is not relevant (according to Google) you will be pushed down on the list of relevant results for your targeted keywords and this directly implies that the chance of getting a natural search clicks is somewhere around, well, zero. If you have gone over to the second page of search results, you practically don’t exist.
If you want do successful business, you will need to work on your content. Regardless of what you may be selling, it is always a good thing to have a blog for a multitude of reasons. Google tends to punish aggressive link building these days, like linking the landing page of an e-commerce website in a blog post (or article if you will) regardless of the fact that the subject matter of the post is related to the niche the e-commerce website deals with. Google is attempting to give their users more relevant results and that is an honorable cause, but it has made SEO a tad more complicated. That’s why most SEO specialists will tell you that you have to have a blog on your website, since it will make link building much easier – at least that’s what the ones that are any good will tell you. When you have a blog incorporated within your website, you can put up content which you can link in any other guest blogging article and get the effect you wanted without Google hustling you about it. Sure, this means that you have to spring a bit of extra cash to fill your blog with content, but it is far better to do things right than to suffer the consequences, which can be quite harsh.
Good hosting is something that is crucial if you want to earn money through your website. You are offering something serious and your site needs to be available all the time. A crashed website is something that has a negative effect on your reputation and this can cause a lot of problems with money transfers. You need to get the trust of your customers and availability is one of the greater issues. People don’t just whip out their credit cards for any website. Even in situations when a website crash is something that can’t be avoided, you need to be able to relay on your hosting support, which is responsible for getting it back on its feet, so choose your provider wisely.
A lot of things that make a quality website are directly connected to hosting. Things like website response time, stability, the amount of traffic your website can take, the amount of content you can put up, security – virtually everything is related to hosting. These days there are a tone of options and depending on the size of your website, the amount of content (textual or multimedia) and the amount of traffic you expect, you can decide what to pick. For e-commerce purposes, I would recommend getting dedicated hosting or cloud hosting, since these options are the most reliable ones. They are the most costly ones as well, but you risk losing much more when you go for cheaper hosting solutions.
Plug-ins to Optimize Your Website
A lot of times, people tend to disregard the potential of good plug-ins, especially the premium ones. The fact is that you can upgrade the performance of your website on many levels by using plug-ins. They can increase the speed at which things load up, some can organize everything for you and some can get you rid of spam. There are even specialized plug-ins, intended for different types of websites. They can make running an online business a lot easier since you automate a lot of things.
Plug-ins are there to deal with functionality issues that you may be experiencing and are much quicker to set up than to code the entire thing from scratch. When picking out plug-ins, try to get those that will help your customers get things done and find what they need and not those that would look “cool”. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as too many plug-ins, but we have already disused over-stuffing.
The First Impression
If you are really going for that serious, professional feel, you need to dedicate a bit more attention to the entire project. You can’t just run into things and hope for the best. It takes planning and research and I hope these general pointers will get you moving towards the right direction. I recommend doing additional research, if you find something unclear. Take your time to find out what works for you and what doesn’t. Professional help at this point is not a thing you should avoid, especially if this is your first website. This is a complicated thing and the worst thing you can do is take it lightly. Website reworks cost a whole lot more than building one from scratch and it is a lot harder, too. The reason it costs more is because it takes more time and effort to pinpoint somebody else’s mistakes and rectify them (not to mention how annoying it is), so for your sake and the sake of your customers, try to get it right on the first try. The first time you open your virtual doors for business, you need to have everything in order since all the marketing efforts will be the strongest then and therefore you will get the highest amount of traffic. If you disappoint your first customers, the word will spread over social networks like wildfire and this will not bode well for you in the future, even if you manage to rectify these oversights.
Phew, that was a lot to take in, wasn’t it? Well, I hope I managed to help you on your way to creating the perfect e-commerce website for your business. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in comments below and will try to answer them or put up an article about it if the subject is interesting enough. Cheers.
Further Reading …