Tag: web design

Why We Love WordPress

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We love working with WordPress

Content management system – User friendly – Open source

We love WordPress because it is a user friendly, open source software that can be used to make all sorts of websites.

Millions of people are using WordPress each day which makes it a dynamic and developing software, publicly available, without ever losing the original source code. We can also extend the WordPress platform with plugins and themes.

We are confident that most of our clients can use WordPress after a couple of hours of training. We offer training packages to our clients and you can see our training services here.

Plugins and themes

WordPress has many free plugins that extend your site to become an eCommerce shop, a blog, a database, a membership site, a health service site, a booking and ticketing site, name it, you can make it in WordPress. Its flexibility that is its number one appeal.

SEO

WordPress is great for SEO too. Google analyses data from each site to create page rankings as do other search engines. WordPress accommodates the parameters of good SEO on each page of a website so you can boost your rankings and be found on the net faster than your competitors.

Tutorials

In addition to all the above reasons why we love WordPress is that there are plenty of tutorial videos out there on the web and forums to help with those tricky elements of design.

Save money

We have some expert coders here at We Push Buttons so we can dream up some pretty stylish designs with moving parts and tricky styling. But we also love WordPress because you don’t have to be an expert or pay for amazing plugins to customise your site. This means our clients can learn and understand how to manage their sites in house, saving them money and giving them more control over it.

Social media

Your WordPress blog can be synced with an email marketing campaign or to all your social media feeds. Essentially WordPress is  the best Content Management System produced so far and because it has a large community of developers, it continues to improve.

WordPress sites are:

  • Fast loading
  • Responsive on all devices
  • Integrate with social media
  • SEO friendly
  • Constantly updated with good coding standards
  • Easy to navigate
  • Generate site maps to search engines so they are easily readable
  • Easy image optimisation for SEO purposes
  • Easy to customise
  • Support all forms of media such as images, audio and video files
  • Secure

What is a Content Management System (CMS)?

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A CMS is basically a software system that facilitates administration, authoring and collaborative content creation for web users who are not experienced with web programming languages. The three most popular CMS are WordPress, Drupal and Joomla are easy to use and are often favoured by small businesses, individual bloggers and not-for-profit organisations.

We have written an article on Why we love WordPress.

The benefits of a Content Management System

A robust CMS enables users to manage documents online, administer changes to web content with little or no training, and create multiple author outputs. Most platforms have a range of presentation templates, which will vary depending on whether you want to build an eCommerce site or start a personal blog. The CMS controls your collection of web materials including documents, images and other media, and stores your content and metadata on a database.

CMS: the good

WordPress, Drupal and Joomla offer:

  • templates that allow the user to insert their own content for an individual look
  • easy to edit content – most platforms separate content from visual presentation in the administration panel. This makes manipulating content easy for non-technical users
  • traffic control – user groups allow administrators to control registered users’ interaction. Anonymous users can be restricted or denied access, thereby circumventing issues with Spammers
  • regular software updates and the ability to add plug-ins to extend functionality
  • multi-lingual tools to increase your audience share
  • content syndication through the generation of RSS feeds and email updates to users
  • low cost and low maintenance: WordPress, Drupal and Joomla can be used for free, and the ease of use often means it is often unnecessary to employ a full-time software developer to manage your site
  • CMS platforms are excellent for search engine optimisation (SEO). Social media plugins, fresh content and RSS feeds can increase the number of subscribers on your site

CMS: the bad

  • implementation for larger scale projects can be costly and may require further hardware installations
  • URLs on CMS can be unstable which could see them blocked by search engines

CMS: the downright ugly!

Before we go any further, both of the items above list are avoidable. It is worth talking to a software specialist and spending some of the money you’ve saved elsewhere to avoid these ugly ducks!

We Push Buttons

Here at We Push Buttons our favourite CMS is WordPress. We build all our clients’ sites in this platform and provide WordPress training so they can manage their own sites.

Why You Need a Professional Photographer

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Three good reasons a professional photographer will add value to your website:

A professional photographer will help you stand out in the digital space and make a statement about your company vision and values. Strong, original images that add to your business story are the best option for your website.

Professional photographers take the time to capture images that resonate with your audience. While the expense and time may seem unnecessary compared to choosing stock images online, we have three good reasons why a professional photographer is worth the investment.

1. People appreciate being real

How many times have you visited a website and seen the same group of people walking together in business suits with their clipboards clutched in perfectly manicured hands, or noticed the same woman smiling beneath her headset? Exactly! Stock photos have become ubiquitous and rarely add anything of value to a website.

Basically speaking, stock photos are common, empty images that don’t enhance your website, and your audience might assume your company can’t be bothered with sourcing original content.

Engaging a professional photographer means you can use your team and resources to demonstrate the creative strengths of your company and showcase the products and services you provide. A talented photographer will uncover the ‘wonderful’ in your everyday products, and display them in a way that creates interest and admiration.

2. Why look good when you can look great?

If stock photos aren’t your thing, it can be tempting to do it yourself or hire a keen amateur. Before you let your favourite employee loose with a camera – you know the one; that guy who is always doing the Instagram photo a day challenge – stop and remember that every website tells a story. Photos that are badly constructed, poorly lit and over- or underexposed can be just as damaging to your overall business image as badly chosen stock photos.

A professional photographer will have equipment, editing software, experience and most importantly, a portfolio. The importance of viewing the photographer’s portfolio cannot be underestimated. It is essential because you will be able to gauge how well their approach will fit with your vision. A portfolio will also reveal the expertise and scope of their work.

3. Get the message right

Working with a photographer means you retain creative control of the message your website sends. This means you can set the mood and promote your brand through unique images that complement your content. Keep in mind that the photos you commission will make the first impression on your customers.

Taking the time to find the right photographer who can work to the brief and create an image that reflects your business personality and goals will be worth every marketing dollar you spend, and will also produce a website that attracts the right attention.

What is a Landing Page?

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What is a Landing Page?

If you are using a home page as your landing page, be assured you are losing valuable sales leads. The home page of a website is designed to be general purpose and explain what it is your business does, and why you do it so well. Imagine your home page is the shop front window: the buyer may stop and admire your products, but if you cannot engage the buyer’s interest, they are just as likely to continue walking and window-shopping, and you will never see them again. A landing page, on the other hand, might be considered an open door. It is a standalone page that appears in response to clicking on an advertisement or email link, engages directly with the potential buyer, and captures data to generate sales opportunities.

Why Your Website Needs a Landing Page

A landing page is more than simply a cyber door for through-traffic. A good landing page holds your visitor’s attention and captures information through a lead form. There is no point generating traffic if you are unable to convert interested passers-by into sales opportunities, so your landing page should effectively target the particular the demographic of your campaign, and have an interesting offer or call to action. Simply put, you should never start any online advertising campaign without a landing page in place to capture the leads you generate.

How do I make my Landing Page Work for me?

Before you start your advertising campaign and set up a page to capture traffic, ask yourself what you want potential customers to do when they get to your website. Do you want them to see the latest innovations you have to offer? Do you want them to leave their details for email marketing? Whatever your purpose, having a clear idea of what you want your landing page to achieve means it can be set up to prompt and direct traffic in a way that increases the effectiveness of your online marketing. If you want your landing page to consistently deliver leads, try to keep the following points in mind:

  • Short and simple is best: the internet is a busy place, and most internet users have notoriously short attention spans. Don’t bore people with large blocks of information to read. Forms should ask for minimum information – the less time it takes to fill in, the information, the more chance you have of gaining a lead.
  • Limit distractions: keep your landing page clutter free. You don’t want your leads exiting so hide website navigation and information on landing pages.
  • Value add: make sure the offer you make is compelling and clearly demonstrated to the demographic you have targeted.
  • Be sure to share: You page should have links to social media to enable your audience to share your information.

Here’s a selection of landing pages that serve different purposes:

Receive a free white paper on the condition that you sign up to their newsletter

Landing-Page-Design

Simple sign up for the latest news:

landing-page-example

Large hero image with a simple join now form:

landing-page-example

Create an account in seconds:

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Creating a landing page to capture leads is an easy and effective way to improve online marketing strategies, drive sales figures and collect important data for future marketing campaigns.

There is nothing to lose and sales to gain!

Disqus: the only commenting system worth contemplating

Why we recommend Disqus as our preferred commenting system:

If you are running a blog or website and want your commenting system to be real time, fast, effortless and user-friendly, Disqus is the only plugin worth contemplating. Disqus is free and readily available on platforms like WordPress, and it’s a quick and painless process to replace your current commenting system on most blogging platforms. Once you’re signed up, you can start commenting immediately and site users can create their own Disqus profile and take it with them to other sites. This makes it easier for people to leave comment on your site, because they can use their Disqus profile on all sites that have the plugin integrated.

3 reasons to make that comment with Disqus:Disqus-logo-vector-blogger

  1. Less Spam – If you are serious about reducing spam, Disqus is one of the few commenting systems with powerful detection technology that is designed to keep the robots (and repeat anonymous offenders) out! Some best practice strategies include:
    1. Changing pre-moderations to ‘non-verified’ to avoid comments with fake emails going live straight away
    2. Including a requirement for links in comments to be reviewed
    3. Receiving notification if a comment is flagged by readers. You can set a flag amount and when it is reached, an automatic removal of the comment will be generated
    4. Blacklisting trolls who use repeat anonymous logins
    5. Sending comments for review that contain restricted words
  2. Social Integration – the three major social networking sites, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are currently supported by Disqus, so anyone who doesn’t wish to become a Disqus user can still leave a comment using social media. Conversations can be easily promoted or shared, and people invited to the discussion by simply adding social media buttons under comments
  3. Personal Control – you can manage the look of your comments, change avatars, and even export and import entire threads. Not only that, email notifications give you greater real-time commenting control, and you can approve, delete and reply to comments from your email inbox

Last, but certainly not least, Disqus opens up a huge online community through ‘Discovery’. This feature not only brings popular discussions that are internal to your blog into focus, it also points commentators to related links on your blog. The external arm of ‘Discovery’ has a monetisation program available that is based on CPC (Cost per Click), but due to the volatility of this type of revenue, the external feature is of more value due to increased visitor engagement and traffic generation to and from your blog.

Art Exhibition in Sofia, Bulgaria

Jan Palethorpe is a leading artist based in Chewton who we’ve been working with for a number of years. It’s wonderful to see her exhibiting her new exhibition 33 Ways to Wrap Christo in Sofia, Bulgaria. As part of the exhibition Jan has produced a limited edition lithographic book with 33 etchings in each book. For those of you that can’t head to Bulgaria pop in to Woodbine Gallery, Malmsbury before June 28th to catch the exhibition in its entirety.
33 Ways to Wrap Christo from Robin Jennings on Vimeo.

Special thanks to James Evans for the wonderful poetry narration as well Bruce Armstrong for the music score.

33 Ways to Wrap Christo from Robin Jennings on Vimeo.

HTML5 v Flash

The Great Debate

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Which is the superior medium – HTML5 or Flash? There seems no end to the debate. Some developers believe Flash is already dying in a PC-bound backwater, while others believe it has far too much traction online to simply go under and drown. As yet there had been no definitive answer, but we believe the future is HTML5.

Weighing up the Advantages

The developers and supporters of Flash insist they have the numbers to prove the worth of the technology they prefer. 70% of web-based games are built on Flash, over 70% of web-based video content are viewed via Flash, and over 90% of enterprises rely on Flash. Numbers like that deserve confidence and no doubt are music to Adobe’s economic ear, but numbers alone cannot protect the future viability of a technology that is driven by consumer demand for accessibility.

HTML5 offers mobile capability, which means content can be downloaded on any device; a capability that the PC-bound Flash medium does not enjoy. Most modern browsers and many mobile devices that are incapable of running Flash readily support HTML5. The ability to run content across a variety of platforms is incredibly important when you consider that in all probability, one in five views will occur on a mobile device. HTML5 also has semantic markup. When it is properly formatted it allows for easy reading by a spider and can provide a huge boost to a site’s SEO. Flash, on the other hand, is compiled code so the content cannot be spidered to increase the SEO rating of a site.

HTML5 v Flash…and the Winner is…

The open standards development of HTML5 means it is not controlled by one company vision. Feedback is encouraged and has helped developers keep up with the demands of a growing world of users, making HTML5 a clear winner for on-the-move gamers who demand the latest technology.

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Why your website needs a Landing Page

We’ve been privileged enough to have written an article on one of the web’s best resources for web designers and graphic designs: Creative Bloq Magazine. The article is on Landing Pages- what are they and how they can benefit your business?

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Here’s an excerpt from the article or see the full post at Creative Bloq here…

Good landing pages are designed to focus attention towards visitors engaging in one action. A landing page could be designed to convert traffic into sales, gather new enquiries, gain social media followers or email sign-ups. It sounds easy enough, but all too often companies don’t spend enough time and money on creating outstanding landing pages that convert.

 

Five of our favourite eCommerce web designs

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The best eCommerce web designs double as online showcases for the business they represent, but they should, first and foremost, reinforce brand awareness and sell products and services. Capturing maximum sales and return traffic is less problematic when web design is holistic. It’s not enough to embed newsletter sign-ups and ‘buy now’ buttons. If a web designer has done their job correctly, a website will be an inviting commercial space where the history, ethos and style of a company gels with their customer demographic. We’ve put together five of our favourites sites, and the reason we love their design.

Stella McCartney Online

 

A pop-up appears as soon as you enter the site and invites you to join the ‘Stella Newsletter’ or the ‘Kids newsletter’, but you are not compelled – an understated diamante star shuts the pop-up down if you decline, because this is not a demographic to push around.

Everything about this site screams exclusivity. Gorgeous artwork and professional fashion shots provide links to different pages. Social media buttons and contact details are politely tucked at the bottom of the page but still accessible. Every time a new page loads, a lovely diamante S scrolls up and down, gently reminding you that you are in the presence of Stella.

Sony Official Store

 

The most impressive element of this website is its outstanding simplicity. All information is easy to read and laid out in tiled banners that draw the eye from one logical level to the next. Navigating to the section you want can be done within seconds, but before you click on a thing, you’ve already been informed about the latest specials and free shipping on all orders over $25.00.

Luhse Tea

 

You’ll never look at a cup of tea in quite the same way after visiting Luhse Tea. This website stays on message in 1940s noir style with a comic twist. The opening animation is so good we won’t spoil it – go online and take a look! Navigation is logical and page icons are interesting and offbeat amusements while you shop. One of the Luhse Tea design strengths is the playfulness of words and images.

The Hungarian Wine Society

 

This site is rather like a good bottle of aged wine. The palette is understated, the images steeped in elegance – this is a site to consume with your gaze. It quietly promises that you too shall attain Hungarian Wine Society refinement if you purchase one of their special drops. Navigation is via a subdued, but easy to access list across the top of the screen, and a scrolling checkout box stays in easy reach to the left of your screen.

Dog Collar

Take a simple product, add great design and easy navigation, and you’ve got the Dog Collar website. This site is proof of the importance of developing a concept and staying on message. Navigation is easy with large icons across the top of the page listing size charts and products. The shopping cart, social buttons and specials are less prominent and the plain background and simple graphics lets the collars do the walking!

 

eCommerce Discussed Part #2: Processing Payments

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Processing Payments & your eCommerce store:

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Processing payment programs are the least understood part of running an eCommerce store- solely for the reason it is completely bewildering! Most people turn to the old faithful Paypal, but people that use Paypal as their processing program will tell you its neither faithful nor inexpensive.

This is one area where you really need do your homework. Some Processing Payments programs have a free monthly account but you pay a higher transaction fee, others have a large monthly fee but the % they take is less.

Crunch the numbers and find which package suits your business.

Why do you need a Processing Payments program?

  • It is exactly the same as having a retail store, you need to connect your EFTPOS terminal (through a bank) so you can receive payments from customers via Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Diners.
  • Processing payment programs handle the credit card security aspect of your eCommerce store. The compliance involved in protecting your eCommerce store from fraud and hackers is too onerous for small businesses so you need to have a third-party handling this.
  • Tax Invoices will be handled by the processing payment program. When a customer makes a purchase they will be automatically emailed a tax invoice as will you. Advanced programs will connect your invoices with your accounting program such as XERO or MYOB. You pay extra for this feature but long term it will save you hours in double handling and bookkeeping.
  • Trust. Customers who see the logo of a well known bank or credit card company are more likely to purchase.

Questions to ask before signing with a Payment Processing company?

  • Does the payment facility include different tax rates such as 10% GST, VAT etc
  • Can you accept International Payments?
  • Is there phone support in case things go pear shaped (they will!)
  • How long will it take to get your money? Some payment processors take 3-5 days, others are 24-hours.
  • How secure is the payment gateway? What encryption program does the processing software use?
  • How well regarded is the company? Will potential customers trust the brand?
  • Can you add your own branding to the Tax Invoice templates?
  • Who handles disagreements with fraud and missing monies?
  • Where is the payment program hosted? Is it in a trustworthy country such as USA, UK or Australia?
  • How much are you charged if a customer asks for a refund?

What sets Payment Processing Software Programs apart?

  • Invoice syncing which automatically inputs invoices into your bookkeeping program
  • The Payment facility you choose needs to work with all manner of shopping cart software
  • Can customers automatically sign up to the mailing list when they purchase?
  • Inventory and stock control automatically syncing with your shopping cart program.
  • Saved Sessions- if a customer attempts to purchase four items and then gets distracted and visits your website 8 hours later, will the website remember their order?
  • Reporting. How easy is it to get critical sales data? Can it be exported via a csv file or a PDF?
  • Automatic backup so you can always get access to your sales data

What type of payment system should you use?

We recommend at least initially to use PayPal as the payment gateway if you are dipping your toe into the eCommerce world for the first time. It is by far the best known payment processor online, is secure and is easy to set up and install. It is less of a financial risk initially as there are no ongoing fees (for a basic package) but long term PayPal is expensive. PayPal seller fees are 2.9% + 30 cent transaction fee and takes 3-4 days to get access to your money. If you’re starting a new eCommerce store then spend your spare time on marketing than worrying about setting up a technical processing payment software program.

There are numerous other payment platforms all vying to take the reigns off Paypal. Some are horrendous, some are great and some are expensive. The payment processing options for the Australian market differ hugely from the US and Europe.

In the next installment we’ll be discussing the various companies that handle payments processing in depth.

 

Thinking of an Online eCommerce Store? Part #1: Freight Costs

Freight Costs & your eCommerce store:

As with everything in business you need to make sure you have planned properly and researched thoroughly, as a wrong decision in the design stage will cost you thousands and will lead to dozens of hours a week in maintenance, inventory control and double handling.

Determine freight & postage fees early on

Setting shipping costs can be rather difficult. You need to research the fees and costs involved in shipping around Australia and the world. There are numerous shipping options available, live shipping rates may work for a large firm, set-fee might work for small eCommerce stores.freight-costs-shopping-cart

Things to consider when setting your Freight fees:

  • Will you selling overseas?
  • How long does it take to pack each item? If packaging and handling takes an hour (such as artwork) then this needs to be factored in
  • How urgent do your customers want their product?
  • Can you use various carriers in different situations? For example you would use Australia Post for Australia-wide delivery, and a courier company for local delivery if its more cost effective.

Six Options for your freight costs:

  • Live Shipping Rates: Some advanced eCommerce stores have a live shipping rate ie. the customer types in their postcode and the goods they are purchasing, the weight is calculated which informs the customer how much they owe in shipping fees. This has been fairly limited in Australia but Australia Post is slowly coming around.
    • Issues: Customers don’t know the full cost of a purchase until the last minute in a sales process
    • Benefits: You can accurately keep on top of your shipping costs
    • Issues: The development time and budget to design a live shipping rate will be greater than other freight cost options.
  • Free shipping: If you know how much shipping will cost, you can factor freight costs into your cost margins. This approach suits larger dollar sales.
  • Free Shipping for orders above $100: This is an incentive for customers to increase purchases.
  • Flat Shipping Rate: One fee for all orders no matter how big or small.
    • Issues: This can get costly if many customers order from far flung places
    • Benefits: Easy to understand costs for the customer so they know immediately how much costs will be.
  • Various Shipping Rates: Depending upon your main delivery locations you can set shipping rates according to weight or general location.
    • Benefits: Accurate shipping costs so you’re not out of pocket
    • Issues: Can be complex to the casual viewer.
  • 2 Different Rates: You can have one rate for standard 3-4 day delivery but you could have a second price for next day delivery.

As you can see there is no simple solution to creating an eCommerce store.

If you’d like to discuss the various aspects of setting up an eCommerce store further, why not get in touch?

Considering an E-Commerce site?

11 things to consider when developing an E-commerce site

E-commerce. It’s been a buzz-word of the retail industry for the last decade or so. It seems so easy to get an online store and start making money. Customers come to you, via your website. What’s not to like? Every retailers dream, right?

In reality it’s not so simple as all that, of course. And who gets the blame when the website finally goes online and fails to attract the hordes of buyers? The developer, of course. So here are some tips to consider before embarking on the e-commerce journey:

1. Is your business the right business for an e-commerce site?

This is the most important point I want to get across, for the client, the developer and everyone’s peice of mind.

Not every business will benefit from an e-commerce web presence.

This point is, unfortunately, the most difficult to get across. Especially when the client has been reading about the (seemingly) instantaneous wonder stories of other online businesses, or their partner/family/friends have succeeded. An e-commerce presence just doesn’t guarantee success on its own. Make sure you understand the background work needed to attract people to your website – and I don’t just mean SEO and high Google ranking either. Customers only buy from vendors they trust and this can take time to build a rapport and reputation online.

Some good questions to ask yourself before engaging a web design company:paypal-logos

  • Does your business already have a strong mail-order identity – state, national or international?
  • Are the products easily transportable and is shipping simple?
  • Where do your customers come from already?
  • How much time are you prepared to put in promoting your e-commerce site? For example:

So, presuming you are still keen to go ahead with the web site and you understand that it’s not a licence to print money, the next most important step – and sadly, one that many people don’t grasp– is:

2. Have clearly defined boundaries, or price points, with your web designer.

E-Commerce is complicated, mighty complicated so get everything in writing, understand what’s included in your fixed contract and understand what isn’t. Remember the more customisation you want, the more you’ll be paying for your website. Often building features and functions at the beginning of the web design process will save money in the long term so understanding what you want right from the start is vital. I would suggest writing a wish list that includes everything you could possible include if money was no object, then a realistic list and finally a bare bones must have list to give your web designer. In this way you have stated your ideal situation so you can negotiate with your developer what you really need and what you don’t. Often some jobs that look difficult take 15 minutes and functions that look easy take 5 hours so its always worth checking.

3. Does your website appeal to the customer?

Does the style, layout and imagery project your companies image correctly?

  • Does it look professional?
    • A clunky or cheap looking site gives the idea of a less reputable business. A good guide is that if you notice the layout, it’s probably distracting from the business and products. Think about professional-looking colour palettes – the colour schemes used by large corporation sites have been carefully researched to provide the most trustworthy impression. It may seem silly but the point of layout is to feature the content, not the layout itself.
  • Is the logo prominent?
    • The logo is an identifier that customers, either consciously or subliminally, recognise as the symbol of the business as a professional entity. We want to remind customers that they are here to buy products, not just surfing the web, so the logo needs to be prominent without distracting from the business of the site. The logo also helps the customer trust the site as a genuine place to purchase items and not a scam.

4. Is the site easy to navigate?

That is, is it easy for clients to buy the product they want? A clear menu system is imperative, as is multiple places on the site where they can be linked to the products pages. Articles and featured posts are also good for this.

And once we get there, do the products have information that is easy to read? A good system lists thumbnails of products on an index page, then clicks through to an individual product with features and benefits in the product information. What is the difference between a feature and a benefit?

  • Features: clear, simple attributes of the product
  • Benefits: reasons why this product might be good for you

For example, a packet of Toffee Crunch biscuits might state:

  • Golden toffee surrounded by crisp oats, covered in pure milk chocolate (feature)
  • The sweet toffee combines with the smooth chocolate for a chewy, crunchy biscuit experience (feature)
  • In packets of 6, 12 or 24 (feature)
  • Great for morning tea with the ladies (benefit)
  • 98% fat free and only 150 KJ per crunch (benefit)

5. Is shipping clear and simple?

Shipping is the most complicated aspect of e-commerce. How do you manage shipping items of different sizes in the one shipment? What about areas that you can’t ship certain items to, like fruit? Do you use a courier or the postal service, and do you give customers the choice? And even though most customers are used to the idea of shipping at an additional cost, how do you compete with the big boys offering free shipping?

The logistics of shipping are so varied and specific to different businesses that I can’t help much right here – the best advice I can offer is to ask your customers what they want. Customers love being asked their opinion…

The other best advice I can offer is FREE SHIPPING. How do you do that? Work out your average shipping costs and simply factor that in to the price of your items. Free shipping not only makes the customers feel like they are getting a bargain, it completely simplifies the calculation of the total shipment price.

Complicated extra prices are a real turn-off to customers – there’s nothing more depressing than watching your customers get to the final checkout only to find they don’t go through with the sale once they see the final figure.

Factoring shipping into the product price actually gives the customer a clear picture of how much things will cost. Clear and simple.

6. Make sales taxes clear to understand

Whether it’s Sales Tax, GST, VAT or whatever the tax on the purchase price is, customers like simplicity and clarity. Include the sales tax on the product price listed on your site rather than slug the customer with the extra tax % at the checkout. You’ll need to show the tax amount on the invoice – most e-commerce systems will allow you to so this, or check with your country’s tax office for instructions how to make the calculation in reverse.

7. Adding and editing products

You need a system that allows the client to easily add, remove and edit products and information. Thankfully there are some great systems out there that are user-friendly for anyone with a good grasp of how general business works. Most Content Management Systems like WordPress and Joomla have e-commerce plugins that interact directly with the CMS framework to treat products just like other content you might manage with those systems. Don’t get stuck developing a beautiful, customer-focused site that forces you to continually manage the content because the client can’t get their head around it!

If you’d like some more detail about what E-Commerce platforms we recommend in what situations click here.

8. Inventory management

Inventory management is a must for any e-commerce websites. Most mail-order warehouses are plain boxes on shelves – a large store will have a warehouse manager who might be able to tell at a glance how stock levels are, but an e-commerce website might not be so simple. You will need to know when stock levels are getting low in the warehouse by a reminder on the screen, not when they process a paid order to find there’s none left in the box left on the shelf.

This is especially important for clients who manage a retail shop in addition to their e-commerce site, which brings me to the next important point to consider:

9. The e-commerce site as a Point of Sale

Let’s take the common example of a client who has a good retail presence, and is planning to expand into web-based ecommerce. They have a simple numerical cash register with buttons for product types – they enter the type and price of a product at the register, then print a report at the end of the day of the sales. This then gets manually reconciled to their accounting package weekly and new stock ordered. Monthly sales reports are generated and reconciled to the register reports.

Then the client sees how efficient the e-commerce site does all that for online transactions and thinks, ‘surely that could work in my shop instead of my register’… And it can! Well, some do it better than others. But it’s definitely possible and something to talk to your web designer about.

10. Adding customers to your mailing list

It might seem a bit cheeky but your getting your customers’ information at the checkout – so why not offer them, there and then, the chance to be added to your mailing list?  They can be updated with special offers, discounts, advance notice of new products, that sort of thing… And many systems can integrate with your favourite mail client so it’s as easy ticking a box.

11. Research, Research & Research

There are so many competing platforms & software that run E-Commerce websites that it is a minefield that is as bamboozling as anything online. Each platform has their own special benefits but they also in all likelihood have their own negatives. Some handle shipping well, others handle inventory well, others are cheap, others are scalable, some can have product ranges the size of a department store but no one platform is perfect for everyone so make sure you do your homework.

If you would like some advice about whether an E-Commerce website is right for you why not get in touch?

 

Shared Web Hosting

Shared Web Hosting vs Dedicated Hosting vs VPS Hosting

We can often become overwhelmed with the number of options available when it comes to web hosting. There are so many sellers, resellers, oversellers – how do we cut through to find out what we really need?

It all mostly comes down to three kinds of hosting option – Shared hosting, Dedicated Hosting and VPS Hosting. These all refer to the way your site is hosted physically in the host’s server itself. When considering hosting, we’re thinking not only about the amount of space our website needs, but also how many people can look at it at once, plus how much information is allowed to be downloaded from your website per month – that is, server space and bandwidth.

Shared Web Hosting

Shared hosting is the most common way to have a website hosted. The server itself is shared amongst a number of websites, relying on the fact that many smaller websites never use their full quota of space and bandwidth. Often hosts offering shared web hosting are, in fact, a reseller of server space bought elsewhere – which explains the large number of cheap hosting providers who offer very similar packages.

Shared web hosting can be a great option for personal sites and small businesses – it’s a cheap way to get your small site hosted, especially if you are looking for a web presence but don’t expect to have a lot of large files transferred (ie media streaming) or lots of people trying to access your site at the same time.

Shared web hosting is not good for larger businesses or e-commerce sites though. Larger businesses may find that they have issues with bandwidth – even though sites on shared hosts may be offered a particular bandwidth limit, in reality this is often oversold, as hosts allow for the unused amount in shared host sites. So even though you may think you have up to your limit, if all the other sites sharing your server experience a high demand at the same time, your clients may not be able to access your site when required.

The prevalence of reselling also means that you may not know the physical location of the server your website is hosted on. Because shared host sites all share the same IP address, if your site is sharing space with a disreputable site, simply sharing the same server could mean your SEO ranking is affected. It’s possible to have a site on a shared server with a unique IP, though usually costs more.

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting is just as it sounds – one server dedicated to one website. Dedicated hosting offers more choice regarding the operating system and management of the server, better security – both security of your data and of the physical location of your data – and is good for larger e-commerce businesses, corporations and high-bandwidth websites (such as video streaming).

VPS – Virtual Private Server

A Virtual Private Server is a server partitioned so that each partition operates as if it is a dedicated server. It’s a compromise between shared and dedicated hosting: cheaper than dedicated hosting, as the hardware is shared – yet appears to the client as a dedicated host.

VPS (and related Cloud technologies) rely, in the same way as shared hosting, on clients not using their total quota of space and bandwidth (which is predominantly the case in the real world). A good host will manage their servers to avoid traffic ‘bottlenecks’ or too much traffic for the server to handle.

VPS is good for medium to large e-commerce businesses as it combines price with private service – though not suitable for all clients as some software doesn’t run well in a virtual environment (like other virtualisers or emulators, for example).

Conclusion

As with anything: research, research, research and remember you get what you pay for!

At Explainafide we’ve used dozens of different web hosts from across the world for a variety of clients with different needs, budgets and locations. We’ve finally settled with an Australian web host company Rack Servers based in Brisbane who provide great service, technical know-how and servers that work 99% of the time.

Check Rack Servers out here…*

If you would like to get unbiased web hosting reviews then the Whirlpool forums are packed full of tech savvy people far more knowledgeable than I, all discussing the good, the bad and the downright unethical of web host companies large and small.

*I like the guys at Rack Servers so much I’ve started writing for them*