How to Transform a Blah E-Commerce Site into a Banging Sales Showcase
This month's makeover subject is Beth Blanc, a designer of handcrafted Heirloom Artisan Jewelry. Beth describes her work as "ever changing and always evolving ... jewelry that is full of color and texture and suited to the fashion-forward modern woman." Her work has been described by her clients as "edgy, yet classic." Beth's work has been published in Bead Trends Magazine and was also selected to be a Featured Artist in the "Designer Highlight" section in February 2010.
Here are my recommendations for Beth: As I've suggested for other crafts sites, I want Beth to consider a more flexible and professional platform--one that will allow her to truly showcase her creations with sweep, style, and drama. She can do so affordably using Word Press with a jewelry- or other gift shop-themed template, or she can go with an established, all-in-one ecommerce solution.
Let's take a deeper look at this homepage and why it can't do the selling job Beth most certainly wants it to do.
Just too much going on in the first screen--and not enough that focuses on the products and the shopping experience. Here we have an image carousel of products, a little intro about the company, a "Join my Loyalty Program" ad, a special "Buy 5, Get Earrings Free" promo that gets completely lost, a gift certificate image with a "contact me for details," a commercial for someone else's store, and a social media icon strip. Whew.
The first screen should promote your product, a taste of your story, and the shopping experience to come--nothing more. You also want to have your shopping cart represented, even if there's nothing in there yet. It cues your visitor to the point that this is an online store where you can buy stuff.
The second screen doesn't build on the first. You want a seamless experience that draws the prospect in deeper. This screen contains Beth's story--and it's a good story that belongs on its own page, just not here. There's also mention of a layaway program and a Facebook "like" box that feels just dumped in. Facebook boxes, loyalty programs, etc., belong in secondary positions-- left or right columns. They don't belong in the prime-selling, center-column real estate of your homepage. They are stoppers and a distraction that will cost you sales and ultimately customer goodwill.
The final homepage screen contains a variety of buttons that do nothing to whet the visitor's desire to browse more. The final screen contains an ad for the webhosting company, a Twitter "follow me" button, a visitor counter, and a list of upcoming events from 2012. (This is 2013.) Lose all of this and replace with something richer and more meaningful to your visitor.
|Beyond the homepage, I always have a problem with free or super-low cost webhosting sites. The large majority of these sites offer unattractive, inflexible, and often times a "selling hostile" homepage and product page designs. Beth's site isn't awful, but discriminating women--as she's characterized her market--have a lot of choices when it comes to online jewelry shopping.
That's why I usually recommend getting serious about your shop. Set up a site either with WordPress.com or a complete, one-stop shop like BigCommerce.com. BigCommerce.com costs $24.95 a month with no transaction fees--and there are many more, including CoreCommerce.com and Volusion.com. What I like about one-stop shops is that they can do a lot of the "heavy lifting" for you, and they often have design and tech assistance available to help you when you need it.
For Beth, I like Spotify. I found this commercial template on Themeforest.net built specifically for the Spotify platform. (When freelance designers start offering their own designs for a particular platform, you know the platform is a popular choice.)
This $50 theme designed for Spotify.com is a wonderful example of how to rock a long-form homepage in a fun and effective way.
Your New Site--A Long-Form Homepage Doesn't Have to Mean Too Long
With a clean, open design and framework, Beth not only looks open for business, she looks like she also knows her bsiness--and that means you've created and environment of trust and credibility.
||I created a simple mock-up of what Beth's site might look like based on the Callisto theme shown here. Compare Beth's current layout to the new one I built, with a little cutting and pasting over the Callisto template. It looks clean, professional, and inviting. The primary navigation is more logical based on how people like to have their shopping experience organized.
Sometimes I create a mock-up throwing pink "post-it" notes all over the desired template as I did here. Other times, I prefer to create a mock-up or wireframe from scratch. (A wireframe is a blueprint that shows where the various elements of a website would go.) You can play around with your own wireframe design by setting up a free account at Mockflow.com. It's very easy to use and a lot of fun. It's a great way to release your imagination. (Even if you're using someone else's basic layout, you can still make it very much your own!
Don't Skimp on Great Photography
Please, please, please--visuals will easily make or break your ability to showcase and sell your wonderful crafts. Don't skimp on great photography; decide in advance what sizes you'll use for main images, product page images, and thumbnails--and then stick to them! Consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, but it helps to power effective selling sites.)
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