For e-commerce sellers, establishing a website and online store plays a vital role in creating a profitable and sustainable business. It is not enough to rely on online marketplaces for all your sales. You need a space that will offer you more control and more room to be yourself.
Online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay are bustling and busy spaces, used daily by millions of people all over the world. It only makes sense that you would list your products there and reap the benefits of access to such a large number of buyers. But, it can be hard to stand out in those spaces. Competition is plentiful and the relative uniformity of the listing options makes it challenging to display your brand’s real character and establish a relationship with your customers.
Amazon, for example, has rules in place for their sellers that are meant to create a more level playing field while rewarding those who meet various sales and service metrics. These rules are a double-edged sword. They prevent shady practices and give even the smallest business the room to make money but they limit your control and ability to market your brand the way you might like.
When you have your own website and store, this is no longer an issue. You have all the control and make all the decisions about content, brand voice, product listings, and price points. You have the freedom to pick colors and choose a layout that creates a memorable experience for any visitor to your page.
Shopify gives you the ability to build an online store inside their existing platform. With dozens of themes ready to go, you may find what you are looking for right away. Add a few customizations and plug-ins and you may be well on your way to the website of your dreams.
But sometimes, the available options just don’t cut it and you are looking for something more. In these cases, it may be worth taking the time to build your own design. If you have some experience with design, here are some ways you can get started on your own design:
1) Get comfortable with Liquid
Liquid is Shopify’s open source template language. This Ruby-based language is the driving force behind all of Shopify’s themes.
Using placeholder constructs, Liquid accesses a store’s data and outputs that relevant data directly to the template. In other words, Liquid is an intermediary between the content of the store and the HTML that is rendered in the browser of the user.
If you are new to templating language this can be confusing and overwhelming but there are many available resources and tutorials that can help this make a little more sense.
2) Use Timber
Building a theme can be time-consuming. Using Shopify’s open source Timber framework can speed things up a bit. Timber is a bare-bones theme template that can function as a starting point. Timber comes with the tools you need to create your design like a range of templates and code that you can copy and modify to suit your purpose.
This simplified process removes the need for backend integration and frees you up to focus on what really matters, the design and development of your store’s front-end. This is the part of your store that customers will be interacting with and so the ability to concentrate your efforts in this direction is a real gift.
One thing to remember during this design processes is that you want to keep the site as clean as possible. If there is too much going on, customers can experience cognitive overload which may cause them to leave your page without ever making a purchase. You want a site that is easy to read and easy to navigate. It does not have to be simple, but it should be tidy.
3) Know the Rules
Not all created themes will be accepted by Shopify. Before you sink a bunch of hours into this project, take some time to read and understand the guidelines and review process.
Submitted themes are judged on their aesthetics, attention to detail, and layout so spend some time working on these elements.
When you are ready to submit your theme for review, make sure you include:
- Mockup designs for the desktop layout of your homepage, collections, and product pages. You need to submit all three.
- Mockup designs for the mobile layout for the homepage and product page. You need to submit both.
- A clear rationale for all of your design choices.
If you make it through this approval process, you can begin to code your theme.
4) Work with a Designer
Let’s face it, most people do not have all the necessary skills required to create a standout website. The template and tools available through Shopify are useful but if you do not even have the most basic understanding of web design, they can’t do much for you. If you have a developer on your team, that is an incredible boon and you can work with them to get things right but for smaller companies, this is not likely to be the case.
There is nothing wrong with knowing your limitations. If building a Shopify website falls outside your skill set, it may be time to hire a professional. Even if you have ample experience with web design, bringing in an outside perspective could help facilitate creative solutions and break up mental blocks.
By partnering with an agency like Seller’s Choice, you will have an entire team that is working towards creating a space for your business that positions you as a serious contender in the marketplace.
Taking the site design off your list of tasks can enable you to work on other areas of your business. Perhaps you need to improve your supply chain or start thinking about a marketing strategy. There are many important elements to a successful e-commerce business that can, unfortunately, fall by the wayside when you are trying to do too many things at one time.
When you hire professionals, you do not have to worry about the approval process, the approval guidelines, or understanding what Liquid is all about. They will look after all of it and at the end, you will have a website you can be proud of.
5) Be Yourself
One of the greatest things about having your own site is the ability to truly express yourself and your creativity. Whether you ultimately decide to go with an existing theme, create your own, or hire someone to do it, YOU and your brand voice, need to shine through.
Obviously, individuality is not one of Shopify’s technical requirements but it can go a long way in setting you apart from your competitors.
Using highly stylized product and promotional photographs and videos, for example, can shape the customer experience and help them come to understand your brand and what it is all about. And while a picture is worth a thousand words, the words you use on your site still matter. Use your own voice and language style to develop an overall brand voice. Pay close attention to your copy. Who is your target customer? Use tone and phrases that are appropriate to them. Yes, you want to appeal to as many people as possible but it is vital that you appeal to your target.
Building your own Shopify website design is not an easy task, but it is a worthwhile one. It can free you from reliance on crowded online marketplaces and open your business to a new audience. But perhaps most importantly, it gives you a competitive edge but allowing you to create a space that best showcases your product and puts the uniqueness of your brand on full display.