Last summer a relative was visiting and we decided to go into the local olive oil store. It was an eye opening trip for me and I’m always looking for local businesses in need of a Web site. When I got back to the office, I gave their existing site a look and knew that I could be a big help to them. Below is a screenshot of the top part of their old home page.
One of the first things I typically do with a site is see how it works on a phone. This one didn’t work well at all as there was no navigation. It was about the fifth time I looked over the site that I realized it had a store and you had to click on the credit card icons to get to it. Plus, it just needed a design makeover.
Once we were done, the top of the home page had a new look and it works great on mobile. The very first elements are the phone number and email address. On a phone, a visitor can click the phone number and it will dial the store. Menus have a cleaner look and they translate well to a phone. While not shown on this screenshot, there are also featured products and a box for signing up for their mailing list.
Social media was barely visible on the old site with a somewhat hidden Facebook icon. The new site features prominent icons for Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest as well as recent posts embedded throughout the site.
Some visitors to the site and store will be very knowledgeable about olive oil. While I know it tastes good and has health benefits, I don’t know much more. That’s a perfect reason for the site to have a section labeled Learning Center. On the old site, it wasn’t very inviting and it was easy for me to overlook. Below is an example.
Everything was stuffed on a single page. We broke out each topic into an individual lesson and gave the page a more appealing look. Not shown in the screenshot below is the sidebar promoting other parts of the site or the navigation shown in the earlier shot.
Now visitors can easily see the title of each lesson and click on it to learn more. Now learning about olive oil is more appealing and can help direct visitors to products they can purchase.
One of the most popular types of site on the Web are recipes. The old site had some recipes though they weren’t presented in a way to draw in visitors. Below is a screenshot of the old site.
Just as with the learning center, all recipes were on a single page. We felt it important that each recipe be laid out similarly to the popular recipe sites. The main recipe page simply has links to each of the individual recipes as shown below.
When you click on one of the recipes, it takes you to a detail page. Having all of the distinct pages also gives search engines more content to rank so the site will be found more often. Below you can see how the recipe is laid out and we even included links for purchasing the products needed by the recipe.
What isn’t shown in the screenshot is a slider that links to all other recipes so that visitors can easily navigate through all of them if they like.
Of course the ultimate goal of the site is to provide a way for visitors to purchase products. While the old site had a store, it wasn’t obvious to visitors. Once you got to the store, you were presented with links to some general categories as shown below.
Clicking on a category led to another page with products and more clicks were required to add a product to the shopping cart. This was a very inefficient process and their online sales weren’t living up to their potential. We truly integrated the store into the site as you already saw on the recipe page. Below is the main store page also showing the sidebar.
In addition to the main store page, we also have dedicated pages for each category of products. Some of the products are added directly to the shopping cart, while others have options to select. Below is a product page that allow you to select the gift bag and bow color.
Early in the project I was asked by the owner if I felt this would increase their sales by 10%. I smiled and said I would be very disappointed if we only saw a 10% increase. I’m fully expecting their online sales to double with the new site.
When I read it, I had my own thoughts on the reasons listed so I’ve taken the seven reasons from that post and have provided my answers below. Three other reasons came to mind as I thought about why I feel Unleashed is a great choice and they are included after the initial seven. As we focus solely on WordPress development, the solutions below are all based on WordPress.
1. Professionals can customize beyond templates
Every WordPress site has a theme (template) that determines the design and features of the site. Sure, there are a bunch of free themes available and some of them are OK. We’ve tried a lot of themes and found that there are many of them that are difficult and/or don’t work nearly as well as the demo.
Over time, we’ve developed a small number of themes that we use on most of the sites we build. We know how they work in depth and know that we can deliver a wide range of designs from them. There are also ways to extend our favorite themes to give them even more features and options.
Should you build a site yourself, you might choose a great theme and it’s possible you get a really bad one. When a bad theme is used to build a site, it can be very hard to switch to another theme at a later time.
2. The ROI is worth the initial cost
Let’s say you want a pizza for dinner tonight. It is simple to go to your favorite pizzeria and get a large pizza with a few toppings for $15-20. The alternative would be to make your own crust, either purchase or make sauce, get some cheese and the other toppings. Then add the time involved to take the raw ingredients and make the pizza. In the end, you could have a gourmet pizza or a complete dud and you will have spent a lot more money and time to get there.
Yes, a good Web site is an investment. If you work with a developer and provide the content required, it will save you money. Even if you built it yourself, you’d still need to come up with the content. What is your time worth? Expect that it can take you 3-5 times as many hours (minimum) to build a site as well as a good developer. In the end, will your creation be a masterpiece or a dud?
By using a pro, your site will be working for you sooner and will be designed to meet (or exceed) your goals. This brings a return to you sooner and that return will likely be much greater.
3. You can choose the right developer
No single developer is the right fit for every project and you’ll find many choices when looking for someone to build an awesome WordPress site. Clients sometimes judge only the cost and not what the developer can delivery. The goal is to have a site that best delivers on your goals while delivering a great return on investment.
We pride ourselves on being part of the GoDaddy Pro program as well as being a Google Partner. The online world changes every single day and we focus on educating ourselves on those changes so that we can deliver sites that follow all the latest standards. This also allows us to minimize the time and costs involved.
4. Managing your own content is still possible
At its heart, WordPress is a CMS (content management system). It is designed to allow multiple users to change content to varying degrees. Some clients only want minimal abilities to change a few words or photos. Other clients want full control of a site. Either option is possible and the abilities can even be changed at any time.
This also brings up the famous Spiderman quote “with great power comes great responsibility.” If a client has the ability to edit anything on the site, they also have the ability to accidentally create problems by clicking the wrong thing. We work with clients so they know how to complete the processes most important to them to minimize potential problems.
5. eCommerce functionality is doable
With a WordPress site, eCommerce functionality can be as simple as installing a plug-in. While it is technically quite easy, a good eCommerce site is much more complex. What types of products and/or services are you going to sell? What types of payments are you going to accept? Do you need to ship products? Are they downloadable? These are just some of the questions that need to be answered.
WooCommerce is often mentioned as it is the most popular tool for adding eCommerce to WordPress. That does not mean it is the right answer for your site. We have found other tools that are better choices for our clients. Not only do we recommend these tools for clients, we use them on our own eCommerce sites so we know them inside and out.
6. Your site will be mobile-friendly and responsive
With nearly 2/3 of all Web traffic coming from mobile devices, it is an absolute must that your site works great on mobile devices. Visitors to your site could be on a computer screen that comes in nearly any size. Throw in the variety of tablets and mobile phones and there is just no single size anymore.
When we design a site, it is designed to be responsive. That means it adapts it to the screen of the device on which it is being viewed. Not only does it need to adapt to every screen, it needs to be usable on every screen. Your blog post must still look great on every screen. Visitors should be able to shop in your eCommerce store on every screen. Google created a certification test to make sure developers followed mobile best practices and all of our designers have passed the test.
7. Websites are constantly changing
One of the best parts about building a Web site on WordPress is that the platform itself is being regularly updated. We prefer to work with themes and plugins that are also regularly updated. First and foremost, this helps to keep your site secure. But these changes also support new and improved features.
Not only does the technology itself improve, we also focus on improving our skills and knowing that latest best practices in Web design. While you may choose not to have your site updated regularly, we’ll be ready to update it when you need it.
8. Keep all elements maintained and secure
It is thought that once a Web site is launched that all work is done for a long period of time. That just isn’t the case. It is not uncommon that some element of the site has an update almost every single day. If a client prefers, they can handle all of these updates. A far better value is to select a maintenance plan where all the updates are installed on sites for clients.
This keeps elements updated and keeps the site more secure as well. Additional layers of security are available for clients who want true peace of mind.
9. Your pages can be tested and optimized
If a user builds a site, will they test it on a variety of devices or do they decide it looks great on their own computer so it must be perfect? We want to test pages on computers, tablets and phones so that the user experience is consistently good.
Even when a site looks good on devices, it may not be optimized. Are images the right size in both dimensions and download size? Will the page perform well in search results? Can adjustments be made to make the site load as fast as possible? These are all tasks a pro will perform so that you get the best results from your site.
10. Resource for support after the site launches
When a site is first launched, it is only the beginning. Changes will inevitably be made. New content will be added. Quite possibly new features will be needed. Where is your time best spent? Is it becoming an expert on WordPress or working on your own business? Regardless of whether you are going to update the site or you want a developer to do it, we’re here to help.
We’d be happy to discuss your needs to see if we are the right developer for your project. Visit our Contact Us page or give us a call at 480-595-0065.
Clients come to us for our expertise in WordPress Web design. Some clients want us to handle everything while others want to have the ability to make any changes they desire. Even when we give clients the ability to make those changes, we try to give them advice that will help them to avoid problems.
Our thought is that it is truly their Web site so we have to allow them to make those changes. If the changes cause problems, they’ll rely on us to fix the problems. Fixing those problems will likely cost them more than simply asking us to make changes in the first place.
Recently just such an issue came up. A client contacted us because their shopping cart wasn’t functioning properly. Products weren’t staying in the cart and other products couldn’t be removed from the cart. At first glance, we also noticed that their pages were not being loaded securely. While this could be related to the problem, it was very concerning to us that the e-commerce data wasn’t properly secured.
We can only guess that the client had also noticed that the store wasn’t secured as there was a WordPress plugin installed related to SSL security. It wasn’t something that was installed by us so it was time to investigate this plugin. At the top of the plugin page was the warning below.
Each plugin included in the WordPress repository also includes some basic stats on updates, compatibility and popularity. As shown in the screenshot at right, this particular plugin hadn’t been updated in more than four years. In the WordPress world, that is ancient history!
As soon as this plugin was disabled, the shopping cart started functioning properly. There were still security issues with the site to be resolved, but the initial problem had been resolved. Unfortunately in trying to fix the security issues, the client had created more problems and yet the site still wasn’t secure.
We did find the root cause of the security issues and got them fixed. Now, the e-commerce functions on the site are working as designed and shoppers can enter their payment data with peace of mind on a secure site.
In a previous post, Important Decisions When Developing An E-Commerce Web Site, many aspects of developing an e-commerce site were discussed. A small part of those post covered the acceptance of payments. In this post you’ll learn more about SSL Certificates and their importance for e-commerce sites and even for sites that don’t collect payments.
First, let’s cover PayPal and why it isn’t as important to have an SSL certificate if payments are made through PayPal. In those cases, the actual payment information is entered on PayPal’s Web site (which is secured with an SSL certificate) so it isn’t as important. When you want to directly accept credit cards (without processing them via PayPal), you need an SSL certificate.
What does an SSL certificate do? It validates your identity as a company. Part of the process for getting the certificate validates that are you also a legitimate business. When the certificate is installed on your site, it will encrypt data going to/from the site so that it is nearly impossible for that information to be intercepted or hacked. While I say nearly impossible, the chances are so slim and the computing power needed so high that it just isn’t going to happen. This allows you to safely take payments and customers to feel comfortable providing their payment information.
There are various ways for your Web site visitors to know the site has SSL installed. For many years, a padlock would appear next to the URL at the top of the browser. With newer, stronger SSL certificates, the name of the company will appear and green is used to indicate security. Below are examples from two different browsers viewing a secure site.
Where do I get an SSL certificate? Typically you’ll go to the same place where you have registered your domain name or you have your Web site hosted. Our preferred vendor for our own sites and our clients is GoDaddy. If you go to the Web Security page on their site, you’ll see a few SSL options they offer. For most sites, the “Protect one website” option is the best choice.
Once you have purchased the SSL certificate and have provided the information needed for verification, it needs to be installed on the Web site. This is why it is often best to buy from the same company providing Web hosting. They’ll typically install it for you right away or make the process simple to configure.
While an SSL certificate is required for e-commerce, it is also beneficial for all sites. Remember, it validates your business identity and secures the flow of data in both directions. For this reason, search engines like Google will give secure sites a higher ranking than the same site without security. Basically, the search engines trust you more! Purchasing an SSL certificate could be the “SEO Optimization” your site needs and the small investment could pay off with a traffic boost.
There are many elements that go into a successful e-commerce Web site. Yes, it needs to look great. Sadly there are many sites that are in dire need of a makeover. It also needs to be mobile friendly as more and more visitors are using mobile devices. Plus Google will penalize sites in the search rankings if they aren’t mobile friendly. There are also a lot of logistics involved and it can be important to have someone with experience help you through the maze. Let’s go through some of the important decisions that need to be made.
No matter what you site is selling, it must be displayed in an attractive manner. If we are dealing with physical products, having quality photos of the product is very important. Don’t be like the pizza place that had stock photos of food they don’t offer! Even if you don’t have physical products, you need an attractive graphic to represent the virtual product or service you are offering. Bad photos will scare away many visitors!
Maybe you only have a handful of products or services that can easily be listed on a single page. Other businesses will have hundreds, if not thousands, of products. In those cases it is important to organize everything into categories and/or sub-categories. Make it easy for visitors to navigate to the products of interest. Of course you’ll also want search functionality that can take visitors directly to whatever interests them the most.
For some businesses, the Web site doesn’t sell directly. You want the site to encourage buyers to e-mail, call, fax (does anyone use fax anymore?) or come to your location. There are still decisions to make about phone service, e-mail service and more. If this is how buyers reach you, you have to make sure you have reliable services.
I suppose that there could be someone who never wants to be paid for what they offer. Even a site for a non-profit will want want to be paid. PayPal is a very simple option for many sites. The ability to directly process credit cards is also helpful, though this makes it very important to also have an SSL certificate. You can take checks or wire transfers. Some businesses require buyers to only pay in person.
You need to know your potential customers and payment method(s) that will allow you to get the most sales. It could be there are laws or regulations you must follow. For one client, this meant they could not legally receive payment online, only in person.
Once the cash register is ringing, you need to fulfill the order. If you offer physical products, you need to get them to the buyer. Will you ship it directly? What shipping methods will you offer? Is it something you can drop-ship? Will buyers pick it up?
Virtual products need to be downloaded. How big are the files? Will you host them on your Web server? Will they be stored in the cloud? How do you protect the files from theft? Is there an outside service that can handle fulfillment for you?
Maybe you offer a service that needs to be fulfilled. Given the wide array of services that are possible, the methods for fulfilling that service are just as varied. You’ll want to know the exact process for fulfilling the service before it is offered.
Having someone with experience work through all these decisions and the implementation of them makes the process much easier. It also eliminates mistakes that could be costly or could severely hamper your success. If you want help with developing or improving your e-commerce Web site, allow Web Design Solutions Unleashed to develop a solution that exceeds your needs!
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