White Flag Interview
Tell us a little about your business and how you got involved with ecommerce…
I run a studio in the South of Sydney called ‘White Flag’. At White Flag we partner with select businesses to help give them the best tools to connect with their customers – online and offline.
eCommerce was a natural progression for our company. I’ve been building websites for the last 12 years. When I first started out, clients just needed an ‘online brochure’ for their business or store – over time, naturally, our clients wanted to start selling their products online as well so, I had to figure out the best way to do that for them. Now, a large chunk of what White Flag does is setup online stores and help our clients get customers to that store.
Why Shopify? What are the advantages and disadvantages you see when working with Shopify…
I started working with Shopify around 4 years ago because I was looking for a system that would be really easy for my clients to work in day to day. I’d been setting up custom stores for each client on various programming platforms and each of them were pretty clunky and limited.
When I started using Shopify I found a system that was designed for the shop owner. It really made online selling easy for anyone and the provided templates (which I started using as a base for the first couple of sites) were really well designed for the customer.
The great thing about Shopify is that they continue to research how users are shopping and finding ways to improve that experience, as well as taking note of what shop owners need out of their system. New features are always being added or improved, and it’s become so easy to set your business up online and start making sales.
There are limitations – there’s limitations with every system. The most common one I’ve run into: it’s not easy to run a wholesale and retail on the same site with Shopify. I’ve had this request a number of times from clients, and (currently) I haven’t found a simple and clean solution. There are ways to do it, but they aren’t straight forward for the shop owner or the customer. I’m sure there’ll be an app developed soon to make it really easy, or Shopify will introduce this feature, but currently, Shopify isn’t my first port of call when this requirement is on the table.
Tell us about the creative process that you go through with each of your new clients..
With new clients we help them identify their Ultimate Online Goals (UOG) – What is the main thing you want from a user when they visit your site?
With eCommerce this might seem obvious – “I want the user buy something … lots of things … everything! And then return the next day.” But we drill down to specific products they want to focus on and pathways for users to become customers and then repeat customers. There’s always more than one way for this to happen too, so we map it all out.
After we have identified this, we start to design the site and the user experience based on these goals and desired outcomes. Once the site is designed, we get down to the nuts and bolts of building a responsive site (because mobile visitors are more than 50% of your web traffic). Then we test, test again, then launch. That’s when the hard work starts – getting the site seen.
What makes a great ecommerce design..
A simple purchase experience, great photos and prompt communication post-purchase. Your eCommerce site doesn’t have to blow the user’s mind, it has to make it really simple for them to buy what you want them to buy and have confidence in your brand so they’ll spend the money.
What are some of the challenges in Shopify design that clients may not be aware of…
There aren’t too many challenges with designing the front end of the site if you are coding from scratch. The hard part is configuring the Shopify system so that custom features can be easily updated in the CMS without using code.
Shopify is an online selling system, so when you venture into content rich multimedia features like masonry image galleries, extensive blogs, audio players – Shopify doesn’t have many ways to enter this content and for it to be managed through their system. You either have to buy an app to add onto your site to enable this, or get creative with the system.
When should a client choose a custom design over a pre-made template or theme..
Templates and themes are a great way to get started, but very rarely do they have everything that you need or want – even if they have an extensive list of features.
If you have been running your site for a while, you’ll have analytics and reporting to examine how your site is operating: how many people are adding to the cart? From there, how many are checking out? What’s stopping them? How many users are coming from mobile? What is the main thing they are searching for?
Based on these findings, you can custom design your site to influence the behaviour of the user. If a lot of people are searching for the same product, you can design the site in a way to feature this product. Are people spending a lot of time on that product page? Design that page so that it has more convincing information. Are people dropping off when they get to the cart? Perhaps they are being put off by the shipping and need to be informed upfront when they are browsing.
With a custom template, you can design your customer experience and refine it to try and capture more customers. With a template, you are limited to the framework that’s been put in place and even hacking at this template might leave you short of where you want it to be.
What is your best advice for a company looking for a web design for their Shopify store?…
Find a designer/design studio that understands you, your product and your customer. If you can find that, the design of the store will come easy. It’s not about finding the best ‘artist’, it’s about finding a designer/developer who can help you communicate your product’s value to a visitor so they become your customer.
More practically, go to all the stores you like, find out who designed them and contact those companies. That’s the fastest way to get started.
You can visit the website here: White Flag