Designing a website can be an exhilarating experience and i learnt as much when involved in the re-design of an online boutique’s e-store. There are a few things I learnt and wanted to share with you all.It might be useful whenever you decide to launch your own online store.
If you want to have a winning website for fashion e-commerce, you cannot not have these elements in your website. So let’s dive right in.The most important features of a fashion e-commerce website are:
1. Right Web-Hosting Platform
Any e-commerce store needs to be hosted on a robust platform. The hosting platform determines if your website is up and running 365 X 7 X 24 or buckles under immense traffic. As a Fashion professional you may not be all that interested in the technology that supports your online store, but I’ve done some homework for you and condense it here.
But before that, let me mention you have two main options in front of you: you can either build your own website+store, OR you can have it hosted on a common platform and share space with other e-commerce retailers. This latter option is a very popular one for those who do not want to invest in a web development team. Having someone design an exclusive website for you can be time and money intensive. Even scary, because many don’t want to bother with the technical aspects, and prefer to forego it altogether. There are other “e-Malls”, where you are given a space of your own to sell: Modafirma, Craftsvilla, indiainmybag.com etc and super e-marts like Amazon, flipkart, Snapdeal are examples. Here, you just have to upload your product photos and that’s the biggest task you will be doing in your online retailing. The rest is taken care by the hosting people.
On the other hand, for semi-technical fashion entrpreneurs, you can choose to create your own drag-n-drop website and choose whom to host it with. And for that reason, you have:
i)e-store hosting platforms like Shopify, Zepo, Magneto, etc,
ii)Content Management Systems like WordPress, LightCMS, Squarespace
iii)website builders like wix.com, yola.com, and
iv)website hosting providers like Godaddy.com who allow you to integrate a store in your website.
In all these cases, you just pay them a small monthly fee, and voila, you have an online store ready!
If you are a complete techie, or willing to bootstrap and put in the hours to learn coding, then Dreamweaver, InDesign and Photoshop are some software you need to learn.
It’s a good option if you are just starting out and learning the ropes, but if you are not planning to eventually move out into your own website, monthly rentals/commissions can eat out of your profits. And who doesn’t dream of having their own website? So when you do choose to go solo, BIG and NICE, you can host your e-store website on different Content management Systems I have mentioned above. Better yet is to get a web-developer to build it and take care of the hosting, domain name registering etc.
So what do I mean by stylish design? There is no definition to style which is not subjective. But at the least, the website needs to be current. It has to live in these times. You cannot have a website belonging to the 1990’s. Unfortunately many websites are like that, and it would probably work if you are selling trolling motors! But Fashion is a “stylish” business, and your website should say as much.
Right now, One-page websites and large background photographs, image gallery type of websites are trending and popular. But whatever the outer look is, the finer details are more important. So pay attention to the fonts, colour palette, background, transition effect, image and font sizes etc. In the end, it should go well with your brand and satisfy your customers as well. Here are a few examples of my favourite fashion websites (homepage):
Admit it, fashion is a visual business. Visuals are the only way to really express your brand and connect with your audience. Your customers judge you by the book cover. If you have great graphics and photography throughout your website, it is sure to touch a cord with the visitors.
Let’s talk about photography first. A great many business owners think photography is an unnecessary expenditure. It is an expensive outing, but one that is worth it in the long run. So taking high definition candid photography, within a well-planned budget is sure to spell success for your website. Apart from your photographs, there is no other way a customer can gauge your products or your brand. So do NOT cut corners there.
Once you have great photographs, use it creatively throughout your website. For your homepage, in image carousels or grid galleries, withing your product page, make a video presentation of it, in look-books or e-magazines- you get the idea. As more and more people become visual shoppers, I believe that 60% of your website content should be photos and 40% should be text. Because, a picture is worth a thousand words 😉 !
Now talking about graphics. This is a humongous field. Graphics include text overlays, shapes and designs and colour. These come together to bring your Brand to life! Using Graphics to convey your messages can drastically impact whether a customer will click the BUY button or the X (close window) button.
For example, let’s compare the options below:
And so on, so forth. According to your website theme, choose graphics that will stand out on the website and shoot the message across to visitors. Nothing can really go wrong with graphical content, when done creatively.
The more we talk about this, the better. You know that the internet is as new to you as it is to the visitors. Online shopping is just now coming of age and you cannot assume everybody is tech-savvy. That’s why you need to stress on having a smooth user interface. That is, a website that users can interact with using no support and have fun while doing so. A good User interface design also eases navigation around the website and makes shopping on it straightforward.
Let’s suppose you want your customer to fill in a form. You make that request on a product page. You know what will make it delightful for them? If that form will pop-up immediately after they click on a FILL UP FORM button rather than making them wait while it redirects to another page. Similarly, if you have text windows popping up to give product info when they scroll on the product image, having large call-to-action buttons, telling them how to reach a particular page in your website, creating dialogue with a visitor where necessary will help them a great deal. It is your best effort in making your website talk to your customers just like you would if you were physically present there.
The best thing about websites is that you can make it so colourful and classy, sophisticated and simple and make shopping a little more fun.There are no hard and fast rules for user interface design, and usually the more creative owners have the best e-commerce websites around.The more activities you have on your website, the better. That gives your users an incentive to “interact’ with your website and stay on longer. It helps them in their buying decision as well.
Before I lose you, i will stop right here, but I will urge you to read more on User Interface design here. Give your customers an experience of a lifetime!
5.Search Engine Optimized
This pointer would not have been here if today so many brands were not competing online. With the massive number of web stores on the internet today, you have to be a search engine warrior and come out winning in the top most spot on a search engine. If you do not, you will get lost in the pages of History (read: Google).
Luckily, there are certain methods and good practices that will keep you in good stead when it comes to increasing visibilty of your website. In short, search engine optimization stands for best practices to be used when designing your website which will help search engines crawl your website faster and make it easy for them to understand what your website is all about.
Here are some good ideas for what a search engine optimized website should have:
1. Product related keywords (it matches with the words your customers would use when they type into a search engine)
2. Image ALT tags ( tells the search engines what your photos are about, since they can’t decipher photos alone)
3.Complete Header tags and meta description (again, makes no fuss about what your website is about and communicates clearly to your audience when search engines throw up a result)
4. SiteMap (has every page indexed in your website to help crawlers move easily)
5. Links (back and forth, to and from other websites. The more links you have, the more popular you are in search engine’s eyes)
This is a small list. SEO is not so simple. The best place I would suggest for you to learn more (and this is essential, unless you want to hire an SEO agency and not know what the hell they are charging you so much for) is MOZ Blog.
6.Lots of Information
Yes, as silly as it may sound to be suggesting this to you, lots of information is key to convert visitors to customers. Many fashion e-store owners do not know just how much information is enough information for their users.
The trick here is to listen to your customers. What are they frequently calling you up and asking about? Do they want to know about the shipping rates and policy? Are they unsure about the colour of your product? Are they concerned about the size of the dress? This list could be long. So it becomes mandatory for you to spell out each piece of info at every touch point in your website. The goal is is to answer questions your customers may have through every step of their decision making process.
The easiest way to determine what all content you need is to go through the buying cycle yourself. From start to finish, see where you are getting stuck, observe what info you are searching for on the website, look up other competitor’s websites and see how they provide that info and then ask someone to analyze your website and give you feedback. There are some small companies which can do a website audit for you and give you an unbiased view how of your website is affecting your customers. So whatever you may think about your website, do not skip this step!
7.Elements to Build Trust.
Yes, with so many shady websites popping all over the internet, people want to be sure of whom they are doing business with. They want to be sure that you exist, and there are humans behind that website. Here are some ways you can build trust.
i).Many of the owners want to be in the background and are shy of making themselves public on their website. But it is highly recommended that there be a substantial amount of info about the Founders (photos included) be added to the website. It also helps build your brand image.
ii).Have banners showing how long you have been in existence. If you are a boutique which existed 10 years back, then c’mon, it’s time you blow the trumpets. You survived 10 years only because you were giving quality stuff.
iii). Have your contact information loud and clear everywhere on the website. They should know you are operating out of a legitimate place and that you exist.
iv) If you have collected followers on social media, display it through social media buttons. nothing says more than the followers who already trust you.
v) Add Testimonials to your homepage. It may not be very effective, but real testimonials can help other people decide that you are operating efficiently and pleasing other customers.
vi) Add badges from websites like Google Trusted Stores, Authorize.net , accreditation, endorsements from well known bloggers/influencers etc to build trust among your visitors.
As you progress in your online business, you will understand what issues your customers are facing when trusting you and that will help refine your website even more.
So with this I come to the end of my post. Do you have any other way you can make your website stand out? Let’s discuss in the comments below!