1. Tell us a little about your business and how you got involved with ecommerce…
I’m a freelance developer currently based in New Zealand. I’m primarily a front end developer, and my work comprises of custom Shopify design and build projects, WordPress development projects and front end development for select studios + designers.
I got into website development after a 4 year computer science degree. From there I worked for a company building an in house website applications, and then as a front end developer in a studio where I learnt a lot about studio work and processes, design and coding and all the in-between. From there I started freelancing on the side, then made the jump to full time freelancer. About this time I was getting a lot of requests for online shops, and after comparing all the systems I found Shopify was the best fit for most of my clients and there projects so started specialising in Shopify for all my ecommerce projects.
2. Why Shopify? What are the advantages and disadvantages you see when working with Shopify…
I did a lot of research when I started out building shops, as obviously the system/technologies you work with has a huge affect on your workflow/processes and ongoing work with support, security and maintenance etc. Shopify was easy to setup, easy to configure so I didn’t need to worry about security and lets me spend time on the things I’m best at, building the shop design and features. The things that drew me to Shopify was it was so intuitive for the client to use, I have to do little to no training once I setup the theme/example collections/navigation structure when I pass over to my client. I don’t need to worry about security, its really easy to setup domains, payment gateways etc. There support is excellent as well as the ongoing information about setting up and managing a shop to keep you up to date with tips as a shop owner. There is a big range of themes online stores can start off with as well if they don’t want a custom design.
Disadvantages I have found, are as Shopify is so robust and structured whilst its easy to setup and to maintain, there is less flexibility. Especially for larger scale projects (although Shopify Plus is helping with this). Some roadblocks I’ve encountered is the limited number of variants per product which especially affects jewellery stores. Shipping can be tricky to navigate a perfect solution for some stores. And whilst there is a large range of apps and workarounds for features that aren’t inbuilt this can get quite expensive and ‘speed’ heavy if you’re not careful i.e. using app for every solution without consulting a developer.
3. Tell us about the creative process that you go through with each of your new clients..
First I ask them questions about there project, other sites that inspire them and from there if relevant I make recommendations from sites that feature some functionality or design elements that would work really well. Then I recommend the theme that would best fit there needs, or a theme + custom work, or otherwise a full custom build depending on there scope and project budget.
4. What makes a great ecommerce design.
Usability and beautiful design. Usability is huge important element I believe, so knowing who the audience is then keeping this on mind when working on the design/functionality of the site so it works as a user would expect. Some audiences you can use newer technoligies/trends that would work really well for the site, others you need to keep really traditional so the users know exactly what to expect when browsing through the site. Coupled with beautiful design you’ve got a great ecommerce site! I like my minimal designs so they more timeless and the branding/photography and typography of the brand create the vibe and feel of the site.
5. What are some of the challenges in Shopify design that clients may not be aware of…
Getting a balance between usability and beautiful design/new web trends whilst not looking like every other shop, as you want points of differences to stand out from other shops.
6. When should a client choose a custom design over a pre-made template or theme..
A custom design allows you to customise the flow and feel of a site specific to a brand and stand out from other shops. The risk of a ‘pre-made’ template/theme is that it can look like other sites if time hasn’t been spent on branding and typography, and perfecting the little details when setting up the site. You want a site to look like its gone over with a fine toothed comb so it all looks to perfection and aligned with the feel of the brand. Its the little details that is going to make a difference to the customer, and sometimes this requires custom build to get this perfection!
7. What is your best advice for a company looking for a web design for their Shopify store?…
Compile a list of sites that are top of there game in your industry or others and what you like about the different parts of them. Find a designer/developer that has ‘similar feel’ sites in there portfolio, you can go through the Shopify Experts directory to find a range of designers/developers/setup experts. And go from there, get quotes, ask advice. You can also have a look on the Shopify themes store as well and see if there are any themes that align with what you’d like. If you go down the ‘pre made theme’ route I still recommend finding a Shopify expert to help you setup a theme and to assist with typography/branding part of your store, as these details are important and they can help you with this.
Visit her website here – http://nataliejleigh.com