There are a whole host of things that should be considered before setting up an online shop. eCommerce website design is, by its very nature, labour intensive. To make the process efficient and to keep costs down, we have created a list of questions that we ask clients before we start the eCommerce journey. These questions include:
- Once the website is complete, who will manage the day to day running of the shop?
- Do you have appropriate systems in place to handle stock picking, packing and distribution?
- Ideally, how will payments be collected?
- What taxes and VAT apply to your products?
- How will be responsible for returns, refunds, recalls and exchanges?
- Are there any legal implications of selling overseas, or to specific groups such as children?
- Do you have existing product descriptions and photography, or do these need to be created?
- Do you want your products to be found on search engines like Google and Bing?
- How regularly should the site be updated to keep content fresh?
Once the website is complete, who will manage the day to day running of the shop?
Just like a normal ‘bricks-and-mortar’ shop, any type of eCommerce website design will need someone to run it. This will vary depending on the business size and how many products are processed, but we always recommend that an appropriate person is assigned responsibility before the process starts. The purpose of this is two-fold; firstly they may benefit from being involved in the design process, and secondly so that they understand the mechanics used to control and manage an online shop.
Do you have appropriate systems in place to handle stock picking, packing and distribution?
‘Fulfilment’ is a complicated area of eCommerce design. It looks at how orders are processed, packaged and ultimately sent out to the end customer. Order processing can vary from bespoke orders to selecting an item off the shelf. This may require additional investment or training to make sure orders are efficiently managed.
Product packaging can also prove to be a stumbling block for many businesses. We often design bespoke packaging for our clients’ online businesses; this helps to keep the process smooth while preparing orders for distribution. It is also common for a second layer of packaging to be used, particularly when using a third-party distribution network or courier service. We try to keep this as sensible as possible and advise on the most sustainable processes and materials to maintain a low carbon footprint.
Ideally, how will payments be collected?
Online retail payment systems vary in size and scope. The exact type of solution will always depend on the type of payment required, what countries should be included, whether credit should be considered and the data will be handled. Common examples of payment gateways include PayPal, Stripe and SagePay. At LBD Studio, we prefer to use Stripe as this offers a wide range of best-in-class solutions while handling all sensitive data.
What taxes and VAT apply to your products?
It is also important to know what tax and VAT implications are involved — especially when selling overseas. We can work with your accountant to devise a plan of action, ensuring nothing gets missed. Our reporting system gives a full breakdown of product charges, taxes and VAT — this can then be shared with customers through receipts and invoices.
How will be responsible for returns, refunds, recalls and exchanges?
Another operational element that is often overlooked is how returns, refunds, recalls and exchanges are handled. This will often fall under the responsibility of the shop manager, however, when bespoke product is involved it can also be worthwhile sharing responsibility on decision-making.
Are there any legal implications of selling overseas, or to specific groups such as children?
It is illegal to sell certain products in the UK. It is also against the law to sell age-restricted items to children under the age of 18. These laws change from country to country, so it is important to gain a clear understanding of what can and cannot be sold online. We recommend speaking with a product lawyer to ensure you are acting responsibly — we will never engage in a project or with a client that looks to deliberately circumvent these laws.
Do you have existing product descriptions and photography, or do these need to be created?
Website content is an area of digital design that can make or break an eCommerce website. Product descriptions, namely the text (and sometimes video) content used to describe a product, will always be needed to help consumers understand what they are buying. This can be as simple as a few paragraphs, however, the most successful websites go into much more detail, describing everything from product USPs to dimensions and how-to-use guides. If your online shop is selling products sourced from other suppliers, these suppliers will sometimes let you use their product descriptions for free.
Product photography is another essential element in eCommerce website design. A set of high-quality product images will help customers understand what they are buying and can show details that other sites may neglect. For example, when selling a luxury product, it is important to show the overall item as well as some of the finer details. This will help to build a sense of quality.
We regularly help clients with product content, including brand copywriting and product photography. For more information on these services, please get in touch directly.
Do you want your products to be found on search engines like Google and Bing?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is widely regarded as an essential component of any successful website and this includes eCommerce design. Properly structuring a site to run quickly, with no unnecessary code or oversized images and using Google best practice guides will always result in a better customer experience. It will also result in a better rank from Google as they look to reward sites that embrace ‘clean coding’ while punishing developers that reject it. It is also important to feed the SEO machine with the right kind of data — this is often behind the scenes information that won’t be displayed on the website itself.
For more information on Search Engine Optimisation and how we can help your website rank on Google (and other search engines), please get in touch and we will be happy to help.
How regularly should the site be updated to keep content fresh?
We always recommend that brands — both online and offline — keep their service offer up to date. When it comes to eCommerce design, we prefer to work quarterly, encouraging clients to update content every three months to ensure their latest products and services are appropriately displayed. This may also be timed to work around a marketing calendar, using product launches and events to dictate when content is updated.
Other topics that we discuss with clients include things like website security, maintenance and phased design iteration. This keeps everything up to date and in line with best-practice standards. We recommend that eCommerce websites have a yearly structural update plan, where the major site infrastructure is reviewed and edited to ensure the latest technology and content continue to work well together.
If your business would benefit from a fresh approach to digital design, please get in touch and we will be happy to advise on the best route forward. We recommend that a strong brand identity is defined to ensure all online materials are unique, consistent and effective.