As a freelance web designer, Shopify is one of the best platforms to create an online store for your clients. Gone are the days where you must build your websites from the ground up on a basic text editor.
But even as Shopify has made web design more accessible to the layman, there are a few things to consider to make your design practical, consistent, and attractive to your client’s customers.
Here are 6 things to consider to help you get started and eventually make money on Shopify.
#1 Plan Your Navigation
Navigation is the backbone of any online store (and any website, for that matter). How the items are organized, how the information is worded, and how easily users can find what they need are all elements that come together to build trust within your client’s market. If your client’s potential customers can’t navigate to your listings, they won’t buy anything. And they’re also more likely to never return.
Planning navigation for websites is usually very straightforward—information is arranged within three or so pages: Home, About, and Contact. A Shopify website, however, demands a more robust system—one that requires a bit of thought on your part, as a designer. When outlining the site’s navigation, ask yourself the following questions:
What does your client sell? This is the essential question, as it will determine the structure of their Shopify. Are they a clothing store? Do they sell only one type of item? Are they a retailer for many other brands?
Who are they selling to? What is the type of user that will be using your website? Do they belong to the pre-internet generation, or are they part of the digital movement? What conventions will you have to follow so that users will have an easier time?
How do similar brands organize their information? Check their conventions, if they have any. When you look at other brands, don’t look at specifics—look at the underlying structure of their navigation. What is on their main menu? Why do they put that there? Will it work for your client’s website?
#2 Less Is More
Minimalism is a concept that is frequently misunderstood. The general opinion of it is that the less there is on your screen, the harder it will be for users to navigate the site. But this is not true. In fact, the fewer choices the user has to make, the better the experience will be for them.
Take the time to understand what users actually need to maneuver your website. Before you add anything—animations, links, or information—consider if the user really needs it. Because aside from making it easier for them to get around your site, you’re also trying to lessen loading times and keep your pages lightweight. Otherwise, your client will lose customers with slow internet connections.
#3 Featured Items
In a physical storefront, vendors utilize their large windows to display certain items they would like to feature. Businesses know that these items must be tantalizing, and must be styled optimally to look their best. Lighting, props, and other paraphernalia are used to achieve this effect.
In an online storefront, however, you don’t have these large windows. Instead, you have a Home page at your disposal, to fill with things that will give a potential customer their first impression of your client. When you design their Home page, consider the items they’d like to feature and pick the best photographs at your disposal. These images must be simple, clean, and inviting.
Then create a carousel of these items using a Shopify app. I recommend Banner Slider if your client has the budget.
#4 Guest Checkouts and Repeat Customers
How do you ensure that customers will keep buying? How will you ensure that they return to your client’s site to spend money on their products? Will you require them to register an account before purchasing from the shop?
Requiring users to register an account places a barrier between them and the products. It could feel like exclusivity. If you know that your users are composed of a market that wants to be with the ‘in’ crowd, this could be an effective marketing strategy.
However, if your client is not a recognized brand with a big pool of loyal customers, it could be a problem instead. In this case, it would be better to allow guest checkouts to give their users time to trust the brand. Maybe after a few purchases, they’ll trust the site enough that it becomes more convenient for them to register an account.
Enabling guest checkouts also creates a more welcoming environment. It invites any user to buy anything they like, so it also builds rapport with the market.
#5 Listing Fixing
Listings are the bread and butter of an online shop. As such, you should treat them with respect and give them the attention that they deserve. Since customer experience builds trust for your client’s brand, your listings should have a uniform look. The information shown in each listing should follow a convention.
Take a bit of time to standardize your photographs and descriptions. Ideally, you’re working directly with your client’s photographer. But that’s not always the case. If you don’t have access to bespoke photographs, choose clean images that showcase the item well, and use a consistent background. A light, solid color is always a good option.
If your client is a manufacturer, you might also want to consider implementing a Shopify inventory management system for their listings. Shopify’s native inventory tracker can be a bit lacking. Reliable inventory management may help with their back-end processes.
#6 Collections and Categories
In a physical storefront, vendors create ‘sections’ for their wares. In a clothing store, for example, menswear and womenswear are separated by a clear division, usually a wall or a sign. You don’t have that in an online store.
To help users browse your site, you must create these divisions by organizing listings into collections and categories. Look at the items, and discern the best ways to sort them. Will you categorize by brand? Color? Type? Will you sort products once, or will you include a few products in two categories?
Sorting the items into categories will also help your client find their own listings in the back-end.
After going through these 6 things, ask others to test the site. There will always be things you’ve overlooked, and it’s good to get an extra pair of eyes to help you spot them.
Designing a Shopify store for a client may seem like a daunting task. But it can be rewarding if done right.
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