Section 1 — Why Online?
After reflecting on my 10 years of consulting with small businesses to assist them with their Internet needs, I began to see a pattern emerge. Many of small business owners are not tech savvy at all. This can potentially result in a crippling fear of all things internet related, not to mention the loss of revenue.
Some “old school” business owners either don’t bother with E-commerce, or their online presence is minimal. I have also worked with owners who are of the “I will do it myself” mentality. Other business owners have had negative experiences with developers in the past, which can result in future discouragement and opportunity lost.Regardless of these management choices, the end result is always the same… Zero to minimal E-commerce revenue.
It does NOT have to be that way. Everyone should reap the benefits of online business.
Section 2 — The User Experience
Remember: YOU know your business and product. New users do not. The cornerstone of every successful online store/website lies within user experience. This element alone could be the deciding factor of how successful your online business will be. Choosing the right content and how you display it determines part of the user experience.
When designing your online platform, you must divorce yourself from all subjectivity. Since it is not always possible to disregard your own natural bias, getting feedback is imperative. I have found that colleagues provide the most valuable feedback. Family or friends tend to be less objective. It’s still valuable, but less than ideal.
When looking at your page, bear in mind that the attention span of the average user is just a few seconds. Failure to engage them within that time runs the risk of them abandoning your site.
Where appropriate, opt for imagery in lieu of text. Try your best to have aesthetically pleasing, crisp, colorful images.
It isn’t possible for your E-commerce users to physically interact with the object you’re selling firsthand. Instead, your images should provide your users with the next best thing: to ignite their wish to interact with the product you’re selling.
Since budget is a big issue when it comes to building a website, people tend to do just enough “to have something up and running”. This is simply a lost opportunity.
I have noticed a lot of people simply snap pictures with their camera phone, and use the results to sell their products. I cannot stress how wrong that is! If you do not care about how your products look online, the customer won’t care to buy them. Use a professional camera and lighting if you can do so yourself. If not, hire a professional that won’t break your bank.If you can’t find a good photographer within your budget, offer some of your product or services in return. Most people are willing to work something out.
Invest some money in creating content. Remember, you can always reuse professional images in other marketing tools, from presentation decks, to flyers, to catalogs.
When it comes to your verbal copy make sure it is coherent, well-written, and concise.Come up with creative one liners to capture the essence of your business. Make sure you reflect core values of your brand in a simple matter, which will also help you with search engine optimization later on.
A website should always have easy accessibility to crucial information. Some key elements to keep throughout the development process:
● Ease of navigation
● Responsiveness of the website ( is it easily adaptable to different screen sizes? )
● Clear message on every page
● No abandoned/empty links
● Call to action availability
● Minimum amount of clicks from landing page to checkout
● Load time for every page should be as fast as possible, edit your content if needed
These basic elements are only the tip of the iceberg, but it is a solid framework to follow. There are many more elements that could be implemented and checked against, but these elements will help shape your product into what you had envisioned.
Easy and simple navigation will allow your user quickly shift from page to page without getting lost, do not rely heavily on the browser’s back button.
When building the website make sure that it is built on a solid responsive framework. When speaking with your developers, make sure you make that message very clear. Additionally, be sure to convey that the site must be tested on different devices before the deployment. A large volume of your website visits will come from either a phone or a tablet. Do not neglect those users.
Just like a physical store shouldn’t have empty shelves, your site should not have dead links or empty pages. It is a waste of space and breaks down the dynamic of your website, not to mention it looks terrible, so be weary of this, throughout and make sure to click through every page before deployment.
As I mentioned earlier, each page should contain a clear call to action. Regardless of whether it prompts you to an email form, a phone number, a product page, a buy button, it’s important to engage your visitor.
Time is the most important factor. Therefore, if you can get your customer from the landing page to the checkout as fast as possible and your customer is happy with this effortless process, you can suspect that the client will become a returning customer and a walking ad for your business.At the end of the day, you want to sell them something or provide a service. Make sure it is easy to do so.
Section 3 — Thinking about Content
So, you finally have decided to take the next step. Whether you have been in business for years or just opened up, the process of duplicating your business in the online world is strikingly similar to how you set up your place of business (without the real estate costs).For example, treat your home page as your window display, ensuring that it states clearly what your business sells or service it provides. A clear message and beautifully edited photos will engage a user and will prompt them to explore further.
Most small businesses make the fatal mistake of dumping content on the user without clearly defining what it all means to them. Do not overcrowd the home page. Make it clear and simple. Treat every secondary page (such as about, gallery, store, etc..) as either the aisles of your store, or sections of the store. Each section carries its own significance.
Your checkout process will provide an opportunity for an upsell, similar to the display of small, low priced items near your register.
Every page must contain a “call to action” meaning, forcing the user to take action of some sort.
Section 4 — Conclusion
It may be a lot to take in, but hopefully you will find the right designer and developer that can guide you along the way.
These days, there are tons of resources that will expedite the process and make it cost effective. Also will look professionally done and provide support. Companies like Shopify and Squarespace are creating beautiful DYI type websites that provide a solid framework for your online venture.
For advanced and intricate websites, you will need to find a reputable designer and developer.
It is better to pay a little bit more and get someone who is knowledgeable and is able to deliver a final result that will make you happy and proud to present to your clientele.
At the end of the day, invest as much of your heart, your time and your money, as you would want to to see returned to you. It is a great ROI for yourself!
Providing a well-designed platform will not only solidify your standing as a reputable business, it will make it a pleasant experience for your customers, as well.