10 Key Things Your Ecommerce Web Designer May Not Want You to Know!
As we now know, web agencies, designers, developers and graphic designers are not all created equal or even as good as they claim to be. Do they cover things up? If so, what do they commonly hide?
1) You Must Register and be the Sole Controller of Your Domain Name… And Retain 100% Intellectual Property Rights to Your Website.
Always buy and register your own domain name and forward the name servers to the server/hosting company where your website is hosted. If your design company insists that they wish to buy and control the domain, turn and run!
There are a massive number of people/businesses that have been slapped by web companies unwilling to play fair. They will not release the ownership and control over to the rightful owner. This tends to happen when the customer realizes they want full control of the domain, so they can move to a new designer, etc.
On a website I built for a client, it took about 6 months of negotiations and frustration to (a) locate the company in control of the name, (b) get a transfer deal sorted and (c) get them to actually action the transfer.
A big tip is to make sure you register your domain name before revealing it to anyone, as some bandits will go and register it quick, as soon as you mention it and try to charge you a fortune for it!
Your website intellectual property rights also need protection. Make sure from the outset you have 100% legal ownership of software, images, text, etc. created for your site. If they want to use any aspect of your site, which you conceived and built, such as bespoke modules and features, then they have to pay you for it at your desired asking price. Where possible, get them to sign a contract to back-up this agreement.
2) Who is Designing Your Website?
When you highlight a website design as one you like, before agreeing to hire a designer it is essential to establish who built the website you like. Then find out if the original designer is available to build your website. Every person on the planet has his or her own perception of a clean, dynamic and professional website. So whatever your website brief, you need a designer who has the same perspective as you do, based on existing site designs you have seen.
3) What Level of Service do They Provide to Support You and Your Website? 24/7/365?
Most web companies have no idea and no interest in your business or your long-term success, fact! They like to build you a website, take your money, add the site to their portfolio and disappear. But they are very interested if you are happy to spend more on a monthly maintenance fee or for ‘SEO’—as some companies position it. Be very wary of these services unless you get a detailed plan of what they are doing and what you are getting for your money. Results are all that counts, so offer to pay on results, and see if you’re dealing with professionals or just hot air!
Do your best to find a company or developer who has the X Factor! Hire someone that has an interest in your business results and growth and communicates well. If they provide you with hosting find out what they will charge, and what their uptime is (you’ll need uptime very close to 100%.)
It’s also critical to establish what handover training they will give you and your team when your site goes live. Is it a 30 minute demo of the back-end and then they say goodbye? Is it just ‘ring or email with any questions at any time?’Do they charge for this? If you are new to ecommerce, you will without a doubt need help getting familiar with the software and processes.
4) Running a Profitable Ecommerce Website is not Easy.
Do you recall the Traffic > Conversion > Relationship model?
Miss this foundational strategy and fail to implement this and the other tips in this book – and competitors will absolutely take the sales you miss. You need to work hard to attract customers and convince them to buy from you, and that’s only part of it. You also have to buy products, handle products, ship products, deal with customer service and all the other elements of an ecommerce business. There is a lot of work involved without a doubt. It comes down to how much you want it to be successful.
You have heard the superlatives that are essential to achieve success like creativity, passion and tenacity. While these are good traits to have, but also build on a solid foundation of planning, common sense and watching the financials and the numbers.
You will never achieve a successful ecommerce business, or any business for that matter, working on recreational time. You need to put in the hours, and even if you outsource the majority of tasks, you still need to keep in touch and watch your outsourcer team, marketing, sales and profits to stay on target.
5) Your Competitors are Constantly Trying to GET Ahead of You in the Search Engine Rankings.
Business is business and if you do not take the sales on offer, a competitor will gladly take them from you. So watch them closely, monitor their websites often, and use GoogleAlerts and software such as Copernic Tracker. If you follow the strategies in this book and on www.ecommercejuice.com you will have the robust foundations you need to kick ass in ecommerce and SEO!
6) If You do Not Update Your Website Often, You will Lose Business.
Follow the principles in the book by blogging at least once every 1 to 3 days where time and money allows. If you can, add keyword rich blogs daily and allow blog comments to site users to get new and regular content, but watch for spam and negativity. Also, continue to add keyword rich articles and how-to guides often. Add a customer review module so your product pages get fresh content as and when a new product review is submitted—and frequently with your product keyword or key phrase in the review. Also add new products, where feasible, on an ongoing basis.
This does not mean change your homepage, info page or product page content every week, just to have changes. It means keep updating and adding site pages in a way that brings value to your customers and gets you further along to your business goals. Do not let your site get rusty.
7) Customers will Not Find Your Website just Because it is Live.
Yes, as we discussed in the ‘97% of ecommerce sites make $0 profits in their first 3 years’ statistic, this means you should be marketing your website on a weekly basis, if not daily. Spend time working on your website as opposed to working in your business running it. However, this is the big challenge especially when it comes to ecommerce, which is why using efficient systems, automation, and speed are essential.
There is an old quote about business ‘early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise’. The point here is the word ‘advertise’. Without it your business will never reach its full potential. You have to be assertive and not passive; I would even upgrade assertive to aggressive!
8) You Need to Test Your Website Across Multiple Browsers and Platforms.
It’s very important to check your website daily by simply skipping through the key pages, categories and processes to ensure all is working fine. Websites and HTML can break without warning especially after updates (for example, if your web developer uploads and downloads product CSVs often.) If people cannot view your site in their chosen browser or platform, your sales will be hit.
Open your website in all browsers (on PC and Apple Mac) including but not limited to Internet Explorer (Versions 6, 7, 8), Firefox (versions 2 &3), Google Chrome, Opera and Safari. If you cannot get all of these specific browsers to test, ask your friends, family and work colleagues. More often than not they will have older versions of these browsers and operating systems.
9) Your Website should be Built using CSS and a CMS to Work Faster and More Efficiently.
Ensure your developers build your website using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) so the html code is clean, which essentially means it will load fast, Google can easily index your site and if you make changes to design elements, these can be replicated across the site in a snap, as opposed to updating every page independently. Also, build your ecommerce site using a Content Management System (CMS) software. This is the engine of your website: it’s high quality, robust back-end software allowing easy customer and product management, products additions, order processing and returns, etc.
10) You could Save Money into the Future if You Get All of Your Required Features in the Initial Website Build.
You will need to quiz your developers on this, but in my experience if you do not get as much of your future start up site development work, features and modules as you believe you will need into your initial site build, you will have unnecessary costs later on. This is because the initial build is generally charged at a set price, and updates will be billed by the hourly rate (normally $50 plus per hour.)
Therefore, brain dump what you want from the site now and into the future. Modules and features you do not need when you launch can simply be deactivated until you need them and switched on later.