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December 27 2013

07:30

E-commerce Freebie on Noupe: 50+ Credit Card Flat Icons by Freepik


  

The year 2013 comes to its end. Christmas has already been and gone. Maybe you’ve spared yourself a few days to recover, but soon enough you’ll be thinking towards 2014 again. We have quite a few maintainers of online shops in our readership, who might right now be polishing their sites to deal with next year’s customers. It was with you in mind, that we sat down with our friends from Freepik to put together a set of flat icons with a focus on international payment systems. The 50+ icons we serve you today can be used freely for private and commercial purposes alike. The only twist is, that you can only grab them from here…

November 22 2013

03:00

32 Well-Designed eCommerce WordPress Themes

Advertise here with BSA


One of the amazing things about WordPress is its versatility. It is not just for blogging. It’s not just for portfolios. It’s not just for business/corporate websites. You can find a WordPress theme for almost any type of organization, from bands to restaurants to retail stores. In fact, eCommerce themes are one of the easiest themes to find, beside general purpose themes, and eCommerce layouts come in all shapes and sizes, with many being responsive themes as well.

But creative eCommerce WordPress themes aren’t always easy to find. Many seem to follow a certain format, very often with little visual stimulation…except for the collection below. In the following list, we have compiled some of our favorite well-designed eCommerce WordPress themes for your enjoyment and, perhaps, your benefit if one happens to be perfect for a project. Be sure to click on the Demo links since most of these themes come with more than one layout or extra skins. Have fun browsing!

1. StyleShop

Demo & Download

2. eStore

Demo & Download

3. Boutique

Demo & Download

4. Cance

Demo & Download

5. High Fashion

Demo & Download

6. Flatshop

Demo & Download

7. ClassicShop

Demo & Download

8. Responsive Prestashop

Demo & Download

9. Bistro Store

Demo & Download

10. Glamshop

Demo & Download

11. Moderns

Demo & Download

12. Beautyshop

Demo & Download

13. Autumn

Demo & Download

14. Trego

Demo & Download

15. R.Gen

Demo & Download

16. Shopper – Magento

Demo & Download

17. Alysum

Demo & Download

18. Warehouse

Demo & Download

19. Transformer

Demo & Download

20. Journal

Demo & Download

21. Nina Bobo

Demo & Download

22. Velvet Sky

Demo & Download

23. Legenda

Demo & Download

24. Agritourismo

Demo & Download

25. Agriculture

Demo & Download

26. 123Interior

Demo & Download

27. All Around

Demo & Download

28. Balita

Demo & Download

29. Merchant

29-ecommerce-wordpress-themes-merchant

Demo & Download

30. Clock Magazine

30-ecommerce-wordpress-themes-clock

Demo & Download

31. Handmade Two

31-ecommerce-wordpress-themes-handmade

Demo & Download

32. Sliding

32-ecommerce-wordpress-themes-sliding

Demo & Download


Advertise here with BSA

October 14 2013

08:00

50 Inspirational E-Commerce Website Designs

For e-commerce websites the design and layout of the site can have a huge impact on sales because of usability, in addition to just the importance of making a good first impression with new visitors. A well-designed e-commerce site will provide the user with a much more pleasant experience and will make it easier for them to browse, search, and complete the checkout process.

In this post we’ll showcase 50 e-commerce sites that look great. You’ll notice that product photography is equally important to the look of an e-commerce website as the layout and graphic design. Sites that showcase the products effectively will be far more successful as a result. Hopefully this selection will provide you with some inspiration that can be put to good use in your own work.

If you’re looking to build your own e-commerce website, we recommend Shopify.

Free People

Free People

Design by Humans

Design by Humans

Shoon

Shoon

Bored of Southsea

Bored of Southsea

Bonjour Mon Coussin

Bonjour Mon Coussin

Red is White

Red is White

Wire & Twine

Wire & Twine

One Horse Shy

One Horse Shy

Threadless

Threadless

Urban Originals

Urban Originals

wigglewaggle

wigglewaggle

Inkefx

Inkefx

Chic at Home

Chic at Home

CXXVI

CXXVI

Earnest Sewn

Earnest Sewn

Nasty Gal

Nasty Gal

Refinery29

Refinery29

Insane Co.

Insane Co.

Afends

Afends

United Pixelworkers

United Pixelworkers

Yellow Bird Project

Yellow Bird Project

Ugmonk

Ugmonk

Rigby & Peller

Rigby & Peller

Victoria’s Secret

Victoria's Secret

Wall Creations

Wall Creations

Evie Oliver

Evie Oliver

Cole Haan

Cole Haan

Time’s Arrow

Time's Arrow

Ink & Spindle

Ink & Spindle

Mulberry

Mulberry

Privateer

Privateer

Bold & Noble

Bold & Noble

Red Velvet Shop

Red Velvet Shop

Toobydoo

Toobydoo

Boob Baby

Boob Baby

Peter Nappi

Peter Nappi

Poketa

Poketa

Sanctuary T Shop

Sanctuary T Shop

Haggar

Haggar

Pop Chart Lab

Pop Chart Lab

So Worth Loving

So Worth Loving

Hemline

Hemline

Jem Apparel

Jem Apparel

Born

Born

Heartbreaker Fashion

Heartbreaker Fashion

Reiss

Reiss

Marie Catrib’s

Marie Catrib's

Diva

Diva

Stacy Adams

Stacy Adams

Best Buy

Best Buy

For more design inspiration, see:

June 28 2013

10:00

Why Social Commerce is a High Priority

Social commerce is crucial towards entrepreneurial success on the Web. If this is the first time you have come across this term, then you are at the right place. In this article, I discuss the importance of social commerce, as well as a few fundamental tips for your social commerce strategy.

What is Social Commerce?

The term social commerce first appeared in Yahoo!’s search blog in 2005. The Internet company used the phrase to describe tools and products that make online shopping more social by means of leveraging social networks and facilitating user-driven content.

(In Yahoo!’s inceptive blog post, they were talking about a new product they launched, Shoposphere and its Pick List feature–a sort of product wish list that your friends can see.)

Examples of social commerce:

An example of Amazon’s customer review system on the book "HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites"

Social Commerce is Dangerously Undervalued

In small businesses, there’s still a lack of awareness over the power of social commerce and social media in increasing profits, retaining current customers, as well as gaining new customers.

In a survey of small-sized companies, only 37% believed that social media marketing was the best way to get new customers.

In the study, social media marketing ranked only fourth on the list. Daily deal sites, online advertising, and business directory listing sites were the chart-toppers.

Why Social Commerce is Important

The opportunities are ripe for social commerce, and they have been for a while. Let me tell you why.

Social Commerce Improves Visibility

The average user of social media services spends up to 11 hours per day connected to the Internet. He follows an average of about 10 companies and brands at any given time.

These social media consumers can provide you with a solid base for building up a good brand image.

In addition, 42% of social media users exclusively do research of the products they want to buy, in social sites. So, a brand without good social commerce features in place can lose a lot of visibility within this segment of their customer base.

Social Commerce Can Produce Value

For a company, the monetary value of a Facebook fan is $174, at least according to social media marketing firm Syncapse. So a rudimentary, back-of-the-napkin calculation suggests that a Facebook Page with 5,000 fans is conceivably a $870,000 asset (of course, the research study shows that the value of a Facebook fan for a particular company varies). Social commerce, then, becomes crucial in this regard because it is one of the few ways available to you for increasing the size of your social networks.

Social Commerce Could Increase Site Traffic

The click-through rate on Facebook walls is an astounding 6.5% whereas many other forms of online marketing efforts such as banner ads would already be considered extremely successful at only a 2% click-through rate.

And, in the same Syncapse research findings referenced above, it was observed that 66% of a company’s Facebook fan base believed that sharing information with others is important in social media. This indicates that your Facebook fans play a decisive role in expanding your reach towards new people who are not yet fans. This, in turn, means more traffic to your Facebook page and, indirectly, to your website.

Social Commerce Strategy

Following are tips that can help you improve social commerce implementations.

Share Your Identity

When starting a social commerce implementation strategy, keep these three things in mind:

  1. Identity
  2. Conversation
  3. Community

In this social design, identity is what you communicate through conversation with the community. It’s imperative to create a social commerce plan that involves conveying the identity of your brand properly and effectively.

Provide Ways Your Customers Can Interact with Each Other

Social media services are designed in a way that encourages the free exchange of information between its users. You can incorporate this same idea within your site. An e-commerce website should embrace additional means for fostering interaction between their users. That’s where social commerce steps in, in the form of forums, your commenting system, through conversational threads on your Facebook page, and so forth.

Analyze Your Existing Social Network

Reviewing the conversations occuring in your social network can give you great insights about the perceptions people have about you. Your social network is a key data point for your social commerce strategy.

Some Parting Thoughts from Social Commerce Proponents

Let me end this article with some opinions from two social commerce champions.

"Social commerce gives us the ability to reach more customers, in ways that are becoming an expected norm in the e-commerce industry. Attracting consumers though reviews, blogs, recommendations and other content is something that is part of e-commerce now. It fits in the objective of our company to increase revenue and target."

- Martin Keane , SVP of e-commerce at Bluefly

"Social networks are great places for the people to have conversation and share information. But their effect on ecommerce is increasing as prospective buyers are able to share authentic and honest information among them."

- Jeremiah Owyang , Web Strategist and Senior Analyst at Forrester Research

Related Content

About the Author

Brian Taylor is VP of Business Development at Forix, a web design agency in Portland, Oregon. Forix specializes in the design and development of company websites, e-commerce systems, and mobile apps. Connect with him on Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

The post Why Social Commerce is a High Priority appeared first on Six Revisions.

Tags: E-commerce

April 24 2012

13:58

Stop Shouting. Start Teaching.


  

Imagine you are in a classroom. Let’s say a high school classroom. You’re sitting at your desk, listening to your favorite teacher—the one who inspired you, the one who got you excited about that thing you love for the first time.

You’ve stopped taking notes because your body just can’t quite function normally when your mind is being blown. You don’t feel the pen in your hand, or the surface of the desk under your arms. You’re somewhere in between your body and the blackboard. That’s the magic of learning; it’s transportational.

Now, deep breath.

Back to reality.

Perhaps your learning experiences were not like this, but I hope they were. And if they were, did it ever occur to you in those moments that you were being sold something? That the moment was approaching when you’d be asked to sign on the dotted line or open your wallet? When you’d kick yourself for being fooled into thinking that your teacher was offering something to you for free? When you’d learn to stifle the desire and ability to trust someone?

Of course not. What you received came without strings attached; it was a free gift of knowledge to change you, to shape you, to edify you. Not to compel you to buy something.

After all, your teacher wasn’t a marketer.

Right?

Or, was he?

It’s worth asking at this point: What, exactly, is marketing? Here I won’t quote a definition—not just because we’re all capable of looking it up ourselves, but because it really doesn’t matter anymore what the “official” definition of marketing is. Marketing, in its ubiquity, is something we all live and breath. We know what it is, though we may struggle with articulating it with any meaningful precision. In our culture, the distance between marketing and creativity is virtually nonexistent.

Every bit of that space has been filled with the promotional. What were once barely overlapping magisteria have become fully integrated. It’s not enough that we make beautiful things, or have brilliant ideas, or even have powerful experiences anymore; they’re hardly real to the world until they’ve been shared in some digital burst of “Here I am, you should pay attention to me.”

Stop Shouting. Start Teaching 2

Life and work has become noisy with marketing. And the noisier it gets, the noisier it gets, because we’ve bought into the lie that nothing cuts through noise better than the right kind of noise. But noisy marketing—of the parade for a naked emperor kind—is cheap; there is no there there, and we all end up feeling cheap for looking, anyway.

There is a better way, of course. But the better way requires that we get as far away from this sort of marketing as possible. In fact, it might be better that we call it something else entirely, because no one ever says, “I want to be a marketer when I grow up.” So, why not call it education? If you ever experienced the free gift of education—whether or not as I dramatized it above—let that be your model for marketing. For your sake; for the sake of all of us.

Inception

Disparaging marketing is easy, isn’t it? What I just wrote came naturally; it flowed out of my experience struggling with my own value for privacy and the frequency with which it is violated, coupled with my job representing a company and the frequency with which I have to market our services. I know the kind of marketing I don’t like, and to do it differently is easier said than done. Frankly, it’s just far easier to do marketing than to have marketing done to you. Yet, there is no Golden Rule for marketing—market unto those as you would have them market unto you. Shouldn’t there be such a rule? There can be.

It starts with doing something good.

Quality

There is nothing wrong with selling things, or even with making lots of money selling things. There is something wrong, though, with selling a product or service that you know is not worth its price. So there are some questions we must ask if we are to follow any “golden rule” of marketing: Do I believe in what I’m selling? Is it good for people? Is it worth what I am asking people to pay for it?

Stop Shouting. Start Teaching 3

Could you imagine a teacher answering “No” to any of these questions? “No, I don’t believe in what I teach.” “No, what I teach is not good for people.” “No, what I teach isn’t worth the time my class requires.” Could any teacher with integrity answer no to these questions and still manage to show up for class every Monday morning? I doubt it.

Alan Jacobs, writing for The Atlantic about the role of quality in the shifting sands of business success, had this to say:

“What goes around comes around; what goes up must come down. Microsoft has been gradually drifting to the margins of our tech consciousness; Google is scrambling to find a way to compete with Facebook. Everything moves faster in a wired world, including the pace of change in business… A decade from now the landscape of the technology business will sure look very different than it does today. Maybe by 2022 Apple and Amazon will be marginal companies once again—underdogs that I can feel good about supporting.”

What shifts the sands of the business landscape isn’t marketing, it’s quality. Apple rose to the top because it made outstanding products, not “just fine” ones with outstanding advertising. Microsoft, on the other hand, stumbled not because its advertising is terrible—though it really is—but because its products weren’t very good, either. And as for Amazon, Amazon rose to the top by offering a level of service that shocked shoppers: an easy to navigate store, with an unfathomably large inventory, and delivery that exceeded anyone’s reasonable expectations for speed. It reset those expectations.

If Amazon fails, it will fail because either someone else comes along who can do better—unlikely as that may be—or because we decide that we don’t feel comfortable with the costs of the level of service they offer. Many right now are already questioning that, whether inexpensive and immediate delivery are worth the working conditions that make it possible. Marketing will probably try to change our minds. It may even work on some of us, for a little while. But if failure is to be avoided, marketing will have little to do with it.

If you can do something truly good, you won’t have much of a marketing challenge. If you can keep doing something good without something bad subsidizing it, marketing will take care of itself.

Positioning

But what if someone else does exactly the same thing you do? What if you can’t beat their price? What if you can’t outserve them? This is typically where “savvy” marketing comes in. When labels carry claims that either overemphasize a non-differentiator so that it seems like one, or straight up lie.

Stop Shouting. Start Teaching 4

Imagine the educational corollary: “The same easy A, now with twice the History!” or “Become a Quantum Physicist, Results Guaranteed!” Preposterous.

It’s a whole lot easier to avoid resorting to manipulation if you don’t have any real competitors. Competitors force each other to make less meaningful but more manipulative distinctions between one another. If you think you’ve got the “good” thing down, consider your positioning. Are you actually different? If not, how will you survive without being sleazy?

Attract, Inform, Engage

So, let’s say you’ve got the quality and positioning stuff worked out. You do something good that nobody else does. Fantastic. That is, assuming people know about you. Taking a Field of Dreams approach—if you build it, they will come—won’t work. If you build it, and they know about it, they will come. But even if they come, you’ve got to make sure they understand what it is that they’re coming for. And then you’ve got to make them want to stick around. This is a three-step process: attracting prospects, properly informing them, engaging with them. That is what marketing should be all about. Attract, inform, engage; not attract, mislead, compel.

If you are well positioned, attraction is much easier. Imagine three hot-dog vendors at a baseball game. Two wander up and down the stands, shouting, “Hot dogs! Get your delicious hot dogs here!” Their success is going to come down to luck—who happens to be closest to the right people. But the third vendor sticks to the low seats. He’s shouting, too, except he’s got different dogs to sell: “Low-fat hot dogs! Eat two for the fat of one!” Now who do you think will have an easier time selling hot dogs? The more specific your audience is, the easier it is to attract them.

If you can attract a specific audience, informing is easy, too. You already know something about them and what they need. If you have a worthy solution to that need, all you have to do is tell them about it. That’s where the teaching comes in: Start generally—Introduction to Your Problem, then Our Solution 101—and be prepared to give them more detail as they need it. Incrementally informing, by the way, will also take care of engagement. Give them some, they’ll want more. Ask any engaged student sitting in Advanced Trigonometry 3 why they are there and you’ll likely hear many similar answers, all having to do with being attracted and informed by someone special back in their beginner days.

Know Your Role

If you make things, it’s difficult to avoid marketing. But if you can do it the good way—attracting, informing, and engaging—to serve that good thing you do, then that thing we’ve wanted to avoid no longer looks so bad. And even then, “marketer” is just one of many roles that people who make things play in some capacity. But it’s a role that should always be subservient to your primary one: making and doing good things. To keep that role connected to the good things we do, I’ve used teaching as a metaphor.

I know it’s abstract, but if there is one single characteristic of good teachers that could stand to make everything we do—as well as how we market it—better, it’s caring. Good teachers care. They care about the material. They care about how they teach it. They care about their students. If we care too—about what we do, how we do it, and who we do it for—then we’ll be OK.

Resisting the Dark Side

That’s the setup, anyway. But caring is hard. Caring requires a commitment to resisting the very things that currently seem to drive the culture of marketing—things like haste, deception, and even your own ego.

Stop Shouting. Start Teaching 5

Slow Down

Slow down, please. Not everything needs to be right now. One thing I like to say that usually riles people up is that there are no marketing emergencies. Really. If there are, it’s because somebody screwed up or somebody’s expectations are out of whack.

But that doesn’t change the fact that other people feel differently. Open your email account and watch it fill before your eyes. Open Twitter and watch the nonstop flow of information push down your timeline. It’s incredible how rapid-fire online culture has become, and naturally, how marketing has followed suit. As marketing has become so predominantly digital, speed has become a defining characteristic of the experience. But when your blood pressure rises and you feel the anxiety of falling behind—that you should be blogging more, tweeting more, posting more on Facebook, Pinterest, and the like—ask yourself this: How good can it be if you’re producing so much of it so often?

Honesty

Honesty is the enemy of traditional marketing. It’s sad but true. It’s not because honesty isn’t possible in marketing, but that if companies were completely honest about their products and services—about how they’re made, what they do, their flaws, their shelf life, etc.—fewer people would buy them. That’s why creating illusions is so essential to marketing. But it only takes a tiny crack in the surface to destroy an illusion. As a colleague pointed out to me recently, a supermodel only has to stumble once before the illusions so central to fashion fall away and you are left with just people wearing clothes. If the quality is there, there is nothing to hide.

Stop Shouting. Start Teaching. 6

That’s the big-picture, but I think most honesty-erosion tends to happen on a smaller scale, where the line between truth and fiction can be pretty blurry. There’s a general impulse toward bending that line intentionally, one often motivated by our desire to bring attention to something we believe deserves it. Whether it’s a product, a service, or even a cause, we might be willing to “sex up the story” if doing so means bringing greater awareness to it.

This isn’t just a marketing problem, by the way. We do it when we believe the attention garnered by a thing or an idea or an injustice isn’t as big as it should be. Listen to the retraction issued by This American Life of Mike Daisy’s account of working conditions in Apple’s factories in China. Pay attention to how uncomfortable you feel. That discomfort is a measure of the distance between truth and fiction.

For the first year after graduating from college, I did freelance design work. I registered a business, created business cards, set up a website, the works. I wasn’t alone, either. Several classmates did the same thing, and we would often compare notes and even help each other get work from time to time. We learned all kinds of things by trial and error back then, but the one thing that left the greatest impression upon me had to do with how honest we were in describing ourselves. Every one of us made heavy use of the word “we” on our websites—though “we” was almost always just one person working from a room in a shared apartment—because we feared we wouldn’t be hired if it was clear that “we” was really “I,” a freelancer flying solo.

We believed that no matter how good our work was, we’d be ignored as individuals. So we created an illusion that we thought looked strong. “I” was just a kid on my laptop at a desk in his bedroom; “We” was a company, confident, experienced, secure. But that, of course, wasn’t true. I learned that there was no point in trying to convince potential clients of something other than that which would quickly become clear to them if they hired me. So, a simple rule: If you’re one person, never refer to yourself as “we.” That’s the kind of small-scale honesty we need to take seriously.

In, but not of

But let’s be realistic. Even if you change, you can’t expect everyone else to change too. It’s certainly possible that if enough people embrace a new way of doing things, the culture might shift overall, but that is unlikely to happen overnight.

The culture of online marketing is unhealthy—the lack of criticism of it is pretty astonishing to me—but the real tragedy is watching the forces of self preservation turn good people with good intentions into obnoxious, self-aggrandizing loudmouths that collect into BS echo chambers. Sometimes what you see accepted or celebrated around you is exactly what you shouldn’t do. I liked how Oliver Reichenstein put it in a post-SXSW tweet:

“Studied the SXSW talks to find out what not do as a speaker: 1. Don’t think you’re cool 2. Don’t preach 3. Don’t sell. 4. No false modesty.”

Why do we feel that the only way to survive is to do things like everyone else does? There’s no good reason for it. In fact, we’re all waiting for someone to pave the way for us by having the courage we don’t have, the courage to do something different. Why can’t you be one of those people? When it comes to doing the right thing, don’t wait for someone else’s courage to stand in for your own.

Ground control to _____

Remember those clumsy supermodels? They do us a favor when they stumble. They bring us back down to Earth, where we’re all just people wearing clothes. No matter how important we think we are, or how important we think the things we make or do are, we could all stand to stumble down the runway every once in a while. Especially when it comes to marketing.

Stop Shouting. Start Teaching. 7

A great example of this came in the recent blow-up over “Homeless Hotspots,” a campaign created by BBH (a marketing firm) that turned the homeless of Austin into roaming internet access points available to the throngs attending the South by Southwest conference. Needless to say, it was controversial. Plenty has been said about it—both in support and in criticism—but amidst the noise, one comment written by Thomas Wendt resonated most for me:

“In the end, everyone is full of shit—supporters and detractors—and it’s all a result of spectacle and denial. The entire system creates such dissonance that we lash out against it. We’re unable to reconcile the differences between image and the real, altruism and self-interest, trust and deception. So we gravitate toward poles: BBH is a charitable company or BBH is a lying capitalist institution. Of course, the truth in somewhere in between, but denial and self-deception keeps us from admitting it.”

Wendt’s post was titled, Staring Down the Spectacle, which really gets at the point: It is the culture—and the spectacle it creates—that is your adversary, not any specific action per se, nor any other person. Yet culture has a profound power to shape each of us, so just as much as we should scrutinize what we observe around us, we should bring equal scrutiny to what we observe within ourselves. When it comes to marketing, the most meaningful question I can ask at any point is, just how full of shit am I?

Guilty as Charged

I wrote this as an act of resistance, as a way of keeping myself from disappearing into the “dark side,” not as a prophet condemning from atop a mountain. I see myself struggling to maintain the integrity of an educational marketing model and I often don’t like what I see. But, I’ve also discovered that we must intentionally learn from examples—both good and bad ones. The bad ones are easy to study. We’re all close enough to them to do it. We’re among them. We may even be one of them. The question is whether we’re willing to do something about it.

(il)


© Christopher Butler for Smashing Magazine, 2012.

April 05 2012

23:00

18 Hosted CMS to Solve Your Needs and Grant You Unlimited Jedi Power

When it comes to choosing a CMS, there are a lot of options to choose from. One can go with traditional ones, such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla! Alternatively, one can opt for a hosted solution too.

Hosted CMSs tend to be quite popular with designers. While they may not be able to compete with self-hosted ones in terms of scalability, they have several advantages of their own. Apart from included hosting, they also come with A+ grade support from the CMS manufacturer, and thus you know that if something were to go wrong, you won’t be left feeling lost. Secondly, most of them feature intuitive interfaces to help you develop websites easily.

Apart from that, almost all hosted CMSs come with Reseller Tools – you can re-brand and re-sell the websites you create to your clients. Thus, using a hosted CMS allows designers to not just work in an easy manner but also gain a residual flow of income. You have ready-made hosting, support and CMS deployment at your service – all you need to do is create websites and receive payment! Also, almost all hosted CMSs nowadays offer a free trial, so you can try before you buy.

In this article, we take a look at some of the major hosted CMSs. However, before we take the plunge, it is worthwhile to point out that this article, for the sake of clarity, mentions CMSs that project themselves as Content Management Systems in the proper sense of the term. Thus, awesome services such as WordPress.com have been left out (although WP.com offers WordPress as a hosted solution, it projects itself as a blogging tool and not a regular CMS).

1. Agility CMS

Agility CMS lets you manage your content and create websites in a snap. The CMS comes with its own Content API. You can also use Agility CMS to manage websites built with ASP.NET

Agility CMS

Agility CMS

Pros: Great Rich Text Editing, support for JSON API and ASP.NET.

Cons: Bit overpriced, may seem too sophisticated for some clients.

Pricing: Basic Plan at $200 per month (includes two content editors).

Website

2. LightCMS

LightCMS is a CMS specifically meant for designers. You can create a free website with 3 pages, but if you wish to resell and create unlimited websites, you’ll have to opt for the paid plans. The CMS does not have the typical Admin Dashboard – instead, it features in-context editing, that is, you can edit your website simply by clicking on the respective regions.

Light CMS

Light CMS

Pros: e-Commerce Tools, Reseller options, special plans for web designers.

Cons: Needs better documentation.

Pricing: Basic Plan with 1 GB storage at $19 per month.

Website

3. Squarespace

Squarespace is another hosted CMS that lets you create a blog, website or portfolio. The CMS offers excellent templates, stats and specialized features for particular websites such as photo galleries.

SquareSpace

SquareSpace

Pros: Awesome apps for iOS and Android, Importers for WP, Blogger and others.

Cons: Virtually nil

Pricing: Standard Pack at $8 per month (billed annually) with 500 GB bandwidth and 2 GB storage

Website

4. HiFi

HiFi lets you create websites with zero design constraints. It offers a slick API and intuitive interface.

HiFi

HiFi

Pros: Excellent SEO settings, easy to use interface.

Cons: Plans should be limited in terms of bandwidth instead of pages.

Pricing: Starter Plan for $19 per month (maximum 25 pages).

Website

5. Adobe Business Catalyst

Adobe Business Catalyst is an all-in-one platform for building websites, online stores and managing businesses. As the name suggests, it is useful only if you have enterprises and businesses as your clients. Apart from content management, BC can also help you with turn-key eCommerce, CRM, email marketing and other similar tasks.

Adobe Business Catalyst

Adobe Business Catalyst

Pros: Ideal for businesses and organizations.

Cons: May not suit the needs of non-businesses.

Pricing: The Basic+ Plan is available for roughly $12 per month. It includes 1 GB of storage and 1 TB of bandwidth, along with hosted emails.

Website

6. Webvanta

Webvanta lets you build websites with ease. You can embed functionality such as blogs, photo galleries, slideshows, forms, etc. As a designer, you also have the option to become a partner and re-brand the CMS. For end users, there is a free plan with limited functionality.

Webvanta

Webvanta

Pros: Special plans for designers, priority support, monthly webinars.

Cons: Pricing on the higher side.

Pricing: Starter Plan at $149 per year (includes Premium Hosting).

Website

7. Webpop

Webpop is another cloud-based hosted CMS for designers. Unlike others, Webpop does not offer unwanted abstraction and instead allows you full HTML and CSS control. In fact, Webpop’s pricing plans too are modeled around designers’ usage – Personal, Freelance and Agency!

Webpop

Webpop

Pros: Excellent stats and analytics, gorgeous layout.

Cons: Virtually nil, though it can use a limited features’ Free Plan.

Pricing: Personal Plan is at $19 per month, which allows you to have 1 GB storage, 5 projects and 1 client/collaborator.

Website

8. Edicy

If Webpop is meant for designers, Edicy caters to end users. It offers out of the box SEO, responsive templates and layout, and support for building multilingual websites (native support, that is – you don’t have to do the translation).

Edicy

Edicy

Pros: Multilingual features, Competitive pricing.

Cons: Edicy’s own website seems to be slightly slow in loading (compared to others).

Pricing: Pro Plan at $9 per month, with 5 GB storage (Free Plan also available).

Website

9. Shopify

Shopify is a hosted CMS meant for creating e-commerce websites and stores. It provides you with all the functionality you need to run your e-commerce website, such as product/inventory/customer management, payment gateways and even fraud detection.

Shopify

Shopify

Pros: Ideal for running an e-commerce website, good tools for designers.

Cons: Not useful for non-e-commerce sites.

Pricing: Basic plan at $30 per month with 1 GB storage and unlimited bandwidth.

Website

10. Magento Go

Magento Go is another hosted solution for e-commerce websites. Basically, it is the hosted version of the famous e-commerce web application Magento.

Magento Go

Magento Go

Pros: Terrific features for e-commerce stores.

Cons: Awkward pricing (after 800 MB, the next storage option is 5 GB, with no other price point in between).

Pricing: ‘Get Going’ Plan at $15 per month with 200 MB storage and 4 GB bandwidth.

Website

11. Highwire

Yet another e-commerce CMS, Highwire lets you manage orders, customers, products and marketing in an easy manner. As a designer, you have full HTML and CSS control, and as an end-user, you have unmatched e-commerce tools at your service! There is also a free ‘Facebook’ Plan for users.

Highwire

Highwire

Pros: Awesome stats and analytics, good tools for e-commerce.

Cons: Can use a better documentation.

Pricing: Bronze Plan at $19.95 per month (unlimited features, but your sales volume cannot exceed $1500 per month).

Website

12. SolidShops

SolidShops is a solution for e-commerce stores. Bored of e-commerce already? Well, SolidShops is different from the rest in the sense that it focuses on designers, not end users or store owners. The feature set is mere essential, and the focus is on simplicity. Also, it offers full design control.

SolidShops

SolidShops

Pros: Meant for designers of e-commerce websites.

Cons: Simplicity in features may not suit everyone.

Pricing: Basic Plan at $29 per month with 100 MB storage.

Website

13. Volusion

Volusion is a hosted CMS meant for (yes, you guessed it right) e-commerce websites. It offers several beautiful templates, management tools for orders, customers, products, as well as many unique features such as email newsletters, customer wishlists, daily deals, etc.

Volusion

Volusion

Pros: Many unique features for e-commerce websites.

Cons: Needs better documentation.

Pricing: Steel Plan at $19 per month with 1 GB data transfer.

Website

14. Concrete5

Concrete5 is primarily a self-hosted CMS like Drupal and WordPress. However, they also offer hosting and thus, Concrete5 can be run as a hosted solution too. Speaking of the CMS, Concrete5 is easy to use, features many unique elements and can power many different genres of websites, from enterprise entities to blogs. I once did a two-part review of Concrete5 here and here.

Concrete5

Concrete5

Pros: Awesome CMS with in-built Sitemaps, Stats and SEO.

Cons: Slightly expensive (CMS itself is free, but the hosted version isn’t).

Pricing: $45 per month with 5 GB storage and 25 GB bandwidth.

Website

15. Breezi

Breezi is a visual CSS Editor and edit-in-place CMS meant for designers. It offers great control over style, useful apps, powerful WYSIWYG, custom tracking codes, integration with Google Fonts Library, and several other features.

Breezi

Breezi

Pros: Interesting set of features, good support.

Cons: Still in BETA, so may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Pricing: $12 per month.

Website

16. CushyCMS

CushyCMS is a simple CMS meant for designers. It is versatile and swift in operation and offers several features.

CushyCMS

CushyCMS

Pros: Extremely easy to use.

Cons: Features may seem limiting as compared to others.

Pricing: Pro Plan at $28 per month (Free Plan also available with limited functionality).

Website

17. Vae Platform

Vae Platform is an integrated CMS and e-commerce solution along with redundant hosting. It includes support for shopping carts, newsletters, analytics, etc. Also, the CMS offers full support for PHP, CSS, MySQL, and Subversion. It also comes with a 90-day money-back guarantee.

Vae Platform

Vae Platform

Pros: Perhaps the best pick for e-commerce websites.

Cons: May seem expensive if you do not need the advanced features.

Pricing: Solo Plan at $299 per month which allows hosting 10 websites.

Website

18. PageLime

PageLime is a CMS meant for designers. It offers reseller tools and support for mobile devices. We did a detailed review of PageLime here.

PageLime

PageLime

Pros: Reseller tools, iPhone app.

Cons: Feature set not as advanced as other CMSs in this league.

Pricing: Professional Plan at $19 per month which allows you to have 50 websites (Free Plan with limited functionality also available).

Website

With that, we come to the end of this round-up. Do you use a hosted CMS? If so, feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments.

March 29 2012

14:02

Selling Digital Goods Online: E-Commerce Services Compared


  

There’s a realization that every freelance designer must go through at some point: client work isn’t enough to ensure your long-term financial security. What if you get sick? What if you can’t find clients? What if you want to take a vacation?

One possible answer to this problem is earning passive income — i.e. selling products or services instead of selling your own time. A common way to do this is to sell digital goods such as eBooks, PSD templates, WordPress themes, icons, and so on. But how exactly should you sell them?

Although there are lots of marketplaces for selling digital goods, they often take a big cut of the profits. What’s more, they don’t let you customize the sales page, or let you use your own brand. This is where digital goods services come in. These services only take care of the payment, file storage, and download, and let you do the rest. This means you can easily sell your products from your own website, or through social networks.

I recently wrote an eBook about UI design and needed to find a way to sell it, so I compared five such services: Quixly, FetchApp, Pulley, E-junkie, and Gumroad. I’ll tell you which one I picked at the end… but in the meantime, here are the results of my research.

How Does This Work?

First of all, let’s see how those systems actually work. Simply said, all these services let you upload some files, provide you with a link that you put on your site, and take care of the rest. The customer flow usually looks something like this:

  1. Alice clicks the “Buy” button on your website
  2. Alice briefly goes through the digital goods website, and is automatically redirected to the payment processor
  3. Alice pays for your product with Paypal, Google Checkout, etc.
  4. Alice is then redirected to the digital goods service, where she can download the product

Payment Processors

Let’s take a moment to look at that second step. Most digital goods services do not deal with the big credit card companies directly, but instead go through payment processors such as Paypal or Google Checkout.

This means that you need to take into account the additional fees charged by these companies (the standard fee for both service is a 2.9% charge plus a $0.30 fixed fee per transaction). The only service which does notgo through a payment processor is Gumroad, meaning it lets customers pay right there on Gumroad. Now that we have a basic understanding of how things work, let’s take a look at each service.

Quixly

Quixly
Large view.

Quixly is the brainchild of the tireless Drew Wilson, who’s also the man behind BuildItWith.me, Pictos, and many other projects.

  • Supported payment processors: Paypal, Google Checkout
  • Used by: Kyle Steed, others
  • Pros: cheapest option in many cases; nice UI
  • Cons: limited bandwidth
  • Special feature: sales reports and visualizations

FetchApp

Fetch App
Large view.

FetchApp was originally — and still is — a Shopify app (in fact, the first ever!) but has since taken a life of its own. According to FetchApp’s Mike Larkin, it’s “simple enough to be used to sell a single product, but large enough to also accommodate record labels selling hundreds of tracks”.

Pulley

Pulley
Large view.

Pulley is an offshoot of BigCartel; a hosted shopping cart system similar to Shopify.

E-junkie

E-junkie
Large view.

E-junkie has been around for quite a while, and it shows in its homepage and dashboard’s design. But it’s also the most full-featured service by far.

Gumroad

Gumroad
Large view.

Gumroad is a relative newcomer in this field, but has been generating a lot of buzz. Unlike the other systems, it doesn’t have a monthly fee, and instead charges a fixed cost plus a percentage on each transaction.

What’s more, Gumroad founder Sahil Lavingia points out that his service is the only one to deal with credit card companies directly: “everyone else uses PayPal as their main processor or sole processor. This means that they’re just making PayPal bigger, and will never own the entire experience.”

This is a strong argument in Gumroad’s favor, since having to deal with less intermediaries is always better. And this means Gumroad works even in countries where Paypal isn’t available, such as Serbia or Pakistan.

  • Supported payment processors: credit card
  • Used by: 39Argyle, others
  • Pros: no monthly fees; supports credit cards; works in countries where Paypal doesn’t (Serbia, Pakistan, etc.)
  • Cons: expensive for cheaper, high-volume products
  • Special feature: pays you all of your profits at the end of the month

Other Options

Of course, there are a lot of other options, such as Payloadz, Digital Delivery, and one of Paypal’s many confusing services. But I decided to focus on these five because they seem to be the most commonly used among Web designers. Hopefully this article will give you the tools to evaluate other options by yourself if you need to.

Pricing

FetchApp, Pulley, Quixly, and E-junkie all work the same way — they have pricing tiers corresponding to file sizes (and sometimes the total number of files you’re selling), but all have unlimited bandwidth.

Note that Quixly has relatively cheaper pricing tiers (free, $10 / month, and $30 / month), but charges $0.40 extra per GB of bandwidth when over the limit for each tier.

On top of this, all four services require a payment processor, which charges its own fee (usually 2.9% + $0.30).

On the other hand, Gumroad’s pricing model is completely different. Instead of charging a fixed monthly fee, Gumroad takes a fixed fee ($0.30) plus a percentage (5%) for each sale. It’s important to point out that Gumroad does not charge Paypal’s 2.9%, even when it’s time to transfer your earnings to your Paypal account.

For this comparison, I’ll imagine three use cases and then see which service works best for each of them.

Use Case #1: Selling A Short eBook

Let’s say we’re selling a short eBook for $10. The file is pretty light, let’s say 9MB, and we sell 100 a month, using up 900MB of bandwidth, earning a total of $1000.

Website Monthly Fee Bandwidth Costs Percent Charge Fixed Fee Total Quixly $0 $0.40 $29 $30 $59.40 FetchApp $5 unlimited $29 $30 $64 Pulley $6 unlimited $29 $30 $65 E-junkie $5 unlimited $29 $30 $64 Gumroad - unlimited $50 $30 $80

Quixly is the cheapest option, since we’re within the limits of its free plan. Although FetchApp also has a free plan, it’s only for files up to 1MB. So for small files, Quixly comes out ahead unless you really plan to use up a ton of bandwidth.

And what about Gumroad? Well, since they charge you extra for each sale, it doesn’t make sense to use them in this case unless you know you’re only going to sell your product a couple of times.

Use Case #2: Selling A WordPress Theme

Our WordPress theme comes with all the PSD sources and a lot of documentation, so it weighs in at 70MB. We sell 50 per month for $30, coming up at 3.5GB of bandwidth per month and $1500 of revenue.

Website Monthly Fee Bandwidth Costs Percent Charge Fixed Fee Total Quixly $10 - $43.50 $15 $68.50 FetchApp $5 unlimited $43.50 $15 $63.50 Pulley $6 unlimited $43.50 $15 $64.50 E-junkie $5 unlimited $43.50 $15 $63.50 Gumroad - unlimited $75 $15 $90

For our second use case, Pulley is the best option, thanks to their entry plan that goes up to 100MB in storage. That being said, for a couple of megs (more or less) another service might reveal itself cheaper.

So I’d say the mid-size files category has no clear winner — but Quixly, FetchApp, and Pulley are all safe bets.

Again, Gumroad’s model reveals itself a little expensive for our use case. So who exactly is that service for? Read on to find out…

Use Case #3: Selling A High-Def Video

Our video is high-def, 1080p goodness and it’s a whopping 4GB. We expect to sell 10 per month at $50, so that’s 40GB of monthly bandwidth and we’ll earn $500.

Website Monthly Fee Bandwidth Costs Percent Charge Fixed Fee Total Quixly $30 - $14.50 $3 $47.50 FetchApp $49 unlimited $14.50 $3 $66.50 Pulley $49 unlimited $14.50 $3 $66.50 E-junkie $185 unlimited $14.50 $3 $202.50 Gumroad - unlimited $25 $3 $28

The clear winner here is Gumroad, since it doesn’t care about bandwidth or file size. For files that you only expect to sell a couple of times, it can be a very interesting model, especially if those files are big and you sell them for a low price.

Quixly is also an attractive option, but if you’re dealing with big files, watch out for Quixly’s extra bandwidth costs! Let’s say instead of selling 10 videos, we sell 100, putting our bandwidth at 400GB. That’s 400-60=340GB over the limit, which will cost us 340*0.4=$136 extra!

Thankfully, Quixly will warn you before you reach that limit, which will give you the time to switch to another provider. Still, if you expect to have big bandwidth costs, you might be better off choosing another service from the start.

What About Marketplaces?

Marketplaces, like ThemeForest or the other Envato websites, are also a great way to sell digital goods, and should be seriously considered. Sure, you give up a big chunk of your earnings (one usually keeps between 50% and 70% of each sale). But on the other hand, a lot more people will see your product and buy it.

And don’t forget you can also sell your stuff non-exclusively (i.e. in addition to one of the services we’ve already discussed), although be warned that if you choose to go that route, you’ll get an even lower cut of the profits (only 33% on Envato websites).

I would say that marketplaces are a good fit for people who would prefer not to take care of their product’s marketing, or are selling a lot of similar items. They also make more sense for certain items (like WordPress themes, or stock photography) than others.

The Self-Hosted Solution

Another solution is hosting the whole thing yourself. For example, WordPress users can get the free WooCommerce pluginto set up a shopping cart and then hook it up to Paypal or many other payment processors.

While this approach is cheaper in the long run, it does take a lot more time to set up, and requires more technical skills (so it’s not for everybody). But if you’re trying to build a business out of selling digital goods, it can be a very interesting option.

Conclusion

So which service is best for you? Without generalizing too much, here are some broad guidelines:

You might be wondering which service I picked for myself. I hesitated between Quixly, Pulley, and FetchApp because they all looked great, but in the end Quixly’s beautiful user interface and detailed reports won me over.

After using it for a few days, I have to say the visual reports, although not a core feature, are a very nice touch to see how your sales are doing. But I did get a sizable number of people who encountered problems with Paypal, or didn’t buy altogether because they didn’t have a Paypal account.

So I’ve decided to let people choose for themselves between Gumroad (if they want to pay by Credit Card) or Quixly (if they want to pay via Paypal). The great thing is that since Gumroad doesn’t charge a subscription, there’s no extra costs in adding it as a second service. And I will probably give FetchApp and Pulley a try soon as well to compare them with Quixly.

The great things with having so many options is that everybody can find the one that suits them the best. So I encourage you to try out and compare these services for yourself!

What I’d like to see

This is clearly a very dynamic space, and I’m sure we’ll see lots of evolution in these products in the coming month. Here’s some of the features I’d love to see:

  • Let user pick their own preferred way of paying: Even though most services support multiple ways of paying, the seller can only pick one at a time. I would love to see an intermediary step that lets users choose their own favorite payment method.
  • Improve stats and reporting: I would love to see reports generalized across every product, as well as more advanced features like filtering, export, etc.
  • Discount code support: When marketing an online product, you need every tool in the arsenal!
  • No fixed fees: Paying a fixed $0.30 fee on every transaction is a killer when you’re selling something for under $5.

I’m definitely going to keep an eye on all five services to see what they come up with. In the meantime, I hope this guide has been useful to you, and that you’re now ready to start making money!

(jvb)


© Sacha G for Smashing Magazine, 2012.

October 20 2011

17:15

Having an e-commerce meltdown?

Are you working on an e-commerce project and in desperate need of some inspiration? Well, I think you will find Monster Meltdown e-commerce collection quite helpful. Not only does this inspiration set provide you with a heaping helping of ideas, it is broken down into 22 parts that cover the wide range of pages and issues e-commerce sites face.

You may already know that the entire collection is not free, but some of it is. And this is why I really wanted to take a minute to focus on the portion of the content that is free. This not only allows you to get a taste for what you will get with the full collection, but also serves as a valuable inspiration tool even if you can’t justify the purchase.

While the free content includes the digital books introduction, it also contains the first three topical chapters. These three articles on their own represent a huge set of inspiration. Let’s take a look.

E-commerce Site Design Styles

This is the first chapter of the E-commerce Meltdown collection and is a great introduction to the topic. In this article I break down all 120+ of the featured sites into various design styles. Since this looks at the topic of ecommerce from a very high level it is most likely the sort of inspiration that will be helpful early on as you build a new e-commerce site.

I find that e-commerce sites are most often categorized based on the type of product they offer. This is rather logical of course, but in my opinion somewhat limited. As you will find in this set the styles come from a wide range of industries. Even better it includes sites that do millions of dollars in business all the way down to tiny shops with much lower revenue.

The end result is a breakdown of beautiful e-commerce sites into various overall design buckets. Some really diverse ideas and samples can be found here for lots of fresh ideas.

Browse the free chapter Site Design Styles.

E-commerce Home Pages

Chapter three of the collection features e-commerce home pages. Given that home pages tend to get the most attention, and are a reasonable place to start, you will find that home pages is really where this book begins its journey.

In an effort to take a fresh look at the topic, this article breaks down e-commerce home pages into various layout formats and strategies. Again I find that most often we look at industries, not strategies. This is why I personally love this chapter. I really think it demonstrates that we can take a different look at an age old topic and draw some fresh new ideas.

Read the free chapter E-commerce Home Pages.

E-commerce Category Pages

What I really love about this collection as a whole is that it affords the opportunity to look at many of the less glamorous nuances of an e-commerce site; category pages are one such topic. While such a part of the industry might never warrant many write ups, this one provides a heaping helping of samples.

This free article breaks down over 100 e-commerce category pages into some common layout patterns. As you dig through you can easily see a very wide range of solutions to a given approach. As always, the idea is to inspire and challenge. I hope this set can really bring some fresh ideas to your everyday work on such pages.

Checkout the free article, E-commerce Category Pages.

Conclusion

As the first collection on Monster Meltdown, this set is a great first look at what is to come and hopefully the free chapters can really provide some fresh ideas on their own. And of course I really hope you find enough value in them to justify purchasing the full collection. Regardless I am happy to be able to publish content in the spirit of the original Design Meltdown for free!

August 16 2011

13:00

Top Approaches for e-Commerce Product Videos

Product videos are more engaging and have higher conversion rates than static images. But implementing product videos is expensive and there are many different approaches for doing it.

Product videos started getting a lot of traction on large e-commerce sites in 2010 (though as I’ve already pointed out, they haven’t caught on everywhere). The number of videos launched by top retailers increased dramatically, particularly in preparation for the holiday season.

In their “State of Video in e-Commerce” report for Q1 2011, SundaySky illustrates the total number of product videos offered by top retailers on their e-commerce sites.

One reason that product videos are becoming so popular is that more and more consumers have the fast connections and computers required to display videos without choking. Also, recently released research reports indicate that videos increase conversion over the same product pages that have only static images. For example, Treepodia found in A/B tests for their clients that visitors who watch product pages videos convert more than twice as often then those who don’t. For certain categories, the conversion differential was even higher.

In Usography’s 2011 Q2 UX Audit, we found that 16 of 100 retailers had launched product videos in their primary e-commerce catalogs. We looked through the videos offered by these retailers for patterns, and discovered that the patterns fall into 3 main categories: Contents, Production Method, and Presentation Space. Let’s take a look at what these categories entail.

Contents

Product videos launched by different retailers have widely varying purposes, or customer goals, as reflected in their content strategy. Although content approaches varied widely, most fell within the following categories:

  • Product in Use
  • Features and Benefits
  • Instructional
  • Slideshow
  • Narrator and slideshow

Product in Use

Showing a product in use is an effective way of alleviating customer doubts about a product they’re viewing online. With static images, it’s difficult to determine how a product will look and feel when it’s actually being used. This is a reason that customers often cite in interviews for needing to go to the store before purchasing a product they discovered online. Providing a video that shows people using the product can meet the needs of some of these consumers, thereby increasing online conversion. REI’s product videos (illustrated below) are a good example of the product in use video content category.

Features and Benefits

Video can play the role of a sales person, explaining the features and benefits of a product. This is the approach that Cabela’s (illustrated below) has taken with its product videos. Whereas the Product in Use videos seem rather neutral, the Features and Benefits videos are more salesy, and may give the impression of being like a commercial. To encourage customers to watch these videos to the end, make sure that the script focuses on attributes that help viewers decide between similar products.

Instructional

With products that are more complex to purchase, like home theater systems, it makes sense to have product videos that are instructional in nature. Presumably, the less confused customers are about the product, the more likely they are to investigate and make a purchase. That is the approach that Crutchfield and B&H take with their product videos. Crutchfield’s videos (illustrated below) don’t necessarily address individual products, but talk about how to evaluate or install a category of products.

Slideshow

When a product video doesn’t actually contain motion video clips but still images that are manipulated, the contents tend to be more similar to a slideshow than a commercial. There are images and bullet points that change to other images and bullet points. The PC Mall product videos we reviewed (illustrated below) were of the slideshow variety. The benefit of this type of video is that it is inexpensive to produce, and it gives customers useful information without them having to read the fine print.

Narrator and slideshow

The slideshow product video can be enhanced with real video by splicing in a narrator’s introduction and explanations. The narration portions can be shot in a studio, while the slideshow portion is taken from existing photos and marketing materials. We found this type of video on Buy.com (illustrated below). Like the slideshow, the benefit of these videos is that they are relatively inexpensive to produce in large quantities, and have the added benefit of a person on camera explaining the benefits of a product.

Production Method

Retailers pioneering product videos tended to use one of the five following methods for producing their videos:

  • In-House
  • Automated
  • Manufacturer
  • Partner
  • User-Generated

In-House

The most expensive ways to add product videos to an e-commerce catalog is to produce them in-house. By in-house, I mean that the retailer bears the full cost and responsibility for the video production, whether actually filmed by employees or third parties. The biggest advantage of this approach is that the retailer can directly tailor the script and imagery to speak to the needs and wants of their customer segments to trigger purchases.

Zappo’s (see illustration below) is one of the leading examples of this approach. Mike Robertson, a consultant to Zappo’s on product videos, said that Zappo’s produced almost 60K product videos in house last year alone and plans to increase that to more than 100K videos this year. He also said that 77,316 website visits each month are attributed to Zappos’ video listings in search engines.

Automated

Automated product videos transform existing product images and marketing copy into a dynamic presentation, and format it as a video file. The products are not actually filmed in usage. Still images are manipulated to give them the sense of motion, like a multimedia presentation transformed into a video. The advantages are low cost and rapid automated conversion of a complete catalog. Treepodia is a leading provider of automated videos, and asserts (quoted above) that research shows an increased conversion rate due to the automated videos. Retailers like Tool King (illustrated below) are adding large numbers of automated videos to their e-commerce product catalogs.

Manufacturer Produced

Many retailers are likely to wait on their vendors to produce web- and mobile-ready videos before they take the plunge. This isn’t strange, since manufacturers currently provide the visual and marketing assets incorporated into many online product catalogs. Videos produced by manufacturers tend to look like commercials more than demonstrations. Nike (illustrated below), Dell, and Kodak have led the way among manufacturers who provide digital videos for e-commerce consumption. Many manufacturers will probably follow their lead. But even if manufacturers provide the videos free of charge, retailers still have to go through the cost of uploading, indexing, reformatting, monitoring, and updating product videos.

Partner Produced

Some retailers are using relationships they have with partners to get videos produced, which they then load on their e-commerce sites. For example, B&H Photo partnered with the National Association of Photoshop Professionals to produce videos of high end SLR’s. The videos have an instructional focus, and prominently feature logos of both organizations.

User-Generated

Some customers get a thrill from seeing their creations posted on high-traffic web sites. Amazon.com channeled that energy by launching video customer reviews several years ago (illustrated below). The products that have video reviews are still few and far between, but because of the rising popularity of user-generated video on sites YouTube and Vimeo, this approach could become viable for other retailers as well.

Presentation Space

There are a variety of methods for presenting product videos. Each method has advantages and disadvantages. For retailers, the best video presentation is one that transitions from viewing to purchasing in as few steps as possible. The most common presentation patterns we observed in the UX Audit were:

  • Embedded
  • Overlay
  • Separate URL

Embedded

An embedded video can be viewed without leaving the product detail page. The advantage of this approach is that customers remain on the product page, and can purchase the product afterwards with just one click. The disadvantage of this approach is that the video has to be integrated into the page template and code, and it usually occupies a relatively small area, making it difficult to see details. QVC (illustrated below) and Nike follow this approach. QVC’s product videos are TV clips in which the products were featured, which means they are very relevant to the product purchase decision.

Overlay

Most sites that have product videos use some kind of player overlay on top of the product page that was being viewed when the video icon was clicked. The advantage of this approach is that it is flexible in terms of the player, code, and size that are used to display the video. The disadvantage is that users then need to close the window in order to return to the product page, a step that isn’t needed in the embedded presentation. Some retailers, like Patagonia (illustrated below), have designed this overlay so that it reinforces the brand.

Separate URL

Some retailers code product videos so that when clicked, they open a new browser window, with its own URL. I’m not sure what the advantage of this is, but if you have ideas about that I’d appreciate you adding a comment at the end of the article. The disadvantage is that users can click away in the new browser window to some other retailer site.

Think before taking the leap

The only reason a retailer should go to the expense of launching product videos is to increase sales. Before committing resources to videos, retail UX teams need to understand their customers’ shopping behaviors and purchase decision processes. Then they can use the above patterns to select the most appropriate approach for their categories of merchandise, perhaps testing a couple of different approaches for conversion rate variation. Video will likely be a feature on nearly every e-commerce site in the near future and it’s up to retail UX teams to figure out what works best for their customers.


Advertise here with BSA

June 14 2011

13:30

Considerations for the Facebook Commerce Experience

Monetizing social media is an elusive but desirable target for retailers both large and small. According to Forrester Research’s annual retail study with Shop.org, 72% of retailers plan to increase social marketing spending in 2011, and the ever-popular Facebook is unsurprisingly central to their strategy.

JC Penney Splash Screen

JC Penney Facebook Shop Splash Screen

Though there are many ways to engage customers via Facebook, one recent strategy involves bringing the online “store” to a business’ Facebook page. This allows potential customers to browse products, add items to their cart and complete checkout, all without leaving the Facebook website. Despite Forrester’s warnings—analyst Sucharita Mulupuru says that “these efforts do little to drive sales”— and considerable doubt among retailers themselves—59% said that the monetary returns on these social efforts remain unclear—many companies plan to launch Facebook-powered stores in the next 12 months.1 As with any emerging platform, the time-to-market for these stores will often take priority over the quality of their design and, as a result, many user-centric design principles can be overlooked.

In this article, I’ll take a look at several of the first-to-market Facebook shops to determine what considerations should be made when deciding to build one. The shops I reviewed include JC Penney, Lands’ End, Steve Madden, Express, GNC, Westin Hotels, Molly Sims Jewelry and Rachael Roy Jewelry. After evaluating these experiences, some common themes emerged, leading to these 5 considerations for the Facebook commerce experience:

1. Maintain Experience Standards

Any branded experience that a company provides—even on a third party site such as Facebook—is an experience with that brand, and thus should be treated with the same care that would apply to an experience within a company’s own domain (or anywhere, for that matter). Customers will not forgive a negative experience because they happened to be on Facebook, nor will they accept poorly designed graphics or navigation just because it was built by a third-party for a Facebook commerce app.

A great example of how this can go horribly wrong is for Molly Sims Jewelry. Comparing her website’s look and feel to the look of her Facebook shop, it’s easy to see that there is a huge gap in the overall branding:

Molly Sims Shop on Facebook

Molly Sims Jewelry Page on Facebook

Molly Sims Shop on Facebook

Molly Sims Jewelry Main Site

The main site looks clean, polished and well-designed, yet the Facebook app is busy, amateurish and does not make her products look particularly nice.

Several other brands offer product images that are far smaller on the Facebook shop than they are on the main site. In Steve Madden’s Facebook shop, for example, the Product Detail image is 43% smaller than on the main site, and the Product Listing image is 32% smaller.

Steve Madden Image Comparison

Steve Madden Image comparison

In my experience, both usability research and site metrics suggest that larger image sizes resonate more with customers and drive higher conversion rates. Though it is true that the width of the Facebook shop area is smaller than the width of most websites, this should be no excuse to offer the customer poorer-quality images.

2. Leverage Proven Content & Features

This comment, from a Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide excutive in a Wall Street Journal article on social commerce, gave me pause: “The Westin Facebook shop is identical to its online shop, but it doesn’t have the same advanced search capabilities.” So it isn’t “identical”, is it? If this advanced search would help a customer using the Facebook shop, how would they know they could find said feature on the main website?

Advanced faceted search is actually one of the features that was frequently missing in the Facebook shops I reviewed. Steve Madden, for example, offers refinement by size, color and price on their main site, but only refine by size on their Facebook shop. JC Penney offers a bit more on Facebook — including item type, gender and color refinements, but leaves out price range, brand, ratings and more from their main site.

Speaking of ratings, of the sites I viewed, almost none (including JC Penney and Lands’ End) offered customer ratings and reviews on their Facebook product detail pages. This is a crucial feature for online shopping; Forrester reports that 39% of US online buyers say that they’re more likely to purchase from a store that features ratings & reviews. My own research affirms that most shoppers rely on ratings & reviews to make an informed purchase. Only Express comes through here; though they’ve somehow incorporated an extra click to get to the full review content, the information is nonetheless available.

Express Product Page

Express’ Facebook Product Page

Express also demonstrates superiority in product detail image functionality. Unlike Lands End’, Steve Madden and JC Penney, Express’ Facebook shop offers all the key visualization features that are so important to online shoppers, including the ability to view the item in each available color, alternate views of the item, and enlarged or zoomable images.

We must not forget that if a customer is viewing an item on Facebook, and can purchase it without leaving, they may not also be looking at the item on the main website. Thus, if features or content exist that have been proven over time to increase conversion, they logically should also to be included in the Facebook shop. Otherwise, it would be more prudent to direct this traffic to the main website which offers the features we know customers want and need.

3. Drive Traffic to Your Website

Along those lines, directing customers from a Facebook shop to a main website is a perfectly reasonable idea, despite what marketers seem to highlight. Messaging around these shops includes verbiage like “You can now shop Lands’ End without leaving Facebook”, or “Why leave the social scene to shop? Get what you need right on Facebook!” (GNC). What is so earth-shattering about “leaving Facebook?” It’s a link. We use them all the time — they are the foundation of the web. Especially if the main website has better content or features, as referenced above, why not just tell users that and direct them to a place where they are more likely to convert?

Lands End Splash Page

Lands’ End Splash Screen (Cropped)

In addition to being simple, linking also alleviates the pressure of duplicating and maintaining every single feature and piece of content on the main site, and might even drive more traffic to the main site. Rachael Roy, a division of Jones Apparel, for example, created a “pop-up shop” on Facebook for a product launch event, and this also led to one of the top 3 revenue days in the history of rachelroy.com.

4. Be Timely & Unique

Rachael Roy Shop

Rachael Roy Facebook Pop-up Shop

Rachel Roy’s pop-up shop also seems like a great example of how to utilize Facebook to offer unique, time-based experiences. According to the design firm that created the five-day shop, which announced a limited-edition jewelry collaboration with singer Estelle, a Facebook-exclusive item sold out in six hours, and the promotion helped double the brand’s “likes” in one week.

Retailers such as Steve Madden and Express, on the other hand, have converted their entire catalog for sale within the Facebook store, in essence creating a duplicate version of their commerce website. Without any exclusivity or urgency, however, the point of this seems unclear, especially when considering the UI limitations of a shop within Facebook’s interface, not to mention the extra problems related to maintaining functionality across multiple experiences. Even Facebook itself doesn’t recommend this approach. In a Wall Street Journal article on social commerce, a spokesperson from Facebook suggests that “rather than simply bringing their existing Web experiences to Facebook, we believe retailers who provide deeply social shopping experiences will see the most success.”

Lands’ End also choses to offer a limited subset of items, to more inconsistent results. On the positive side, their promotion is seasonal (swimsuits during May 2011), and the exploratory UI is an attempt to create a quickly browsable experience within the Facebook page.

Lands' End Facebook Shop

Lands’ End Facebook Shop

Unfortunately, the messaging around this promotion leaves something to be desired. Though the splash page indicates a promotion of the Beach Living collection, the product listing page is titled “Women”, leaving customers to wonder if they are viewing all women’s clothing or some subset. In addition, neither the product listing page nor the product detail pages informs customers that there may be any other bathing suits available from Lands’ End, a clear missed opportunity to drive them to their main website.

5. Don’t Forget The Basics

Lastly, thought it may seem silly to suggest to a UX audience, we can’t forget the basic principles learned over the past 15 years. (Why do we need to have this conversation every time a new “technology” is introduced?) Take the back button, as one example. On JC Penney’s Facebook shop, the browser back button is completely deactivated. To navigate backwards, one must use the breadcrumb or a “Back” link that sometimes (not always) appears in the upper right.  On Steve Madden’s Facebook shop, the back button is activated, but it rarely goes to the previous screen (usually it brings up an earlier screen). On Lands’ End shop, the back button always goes to the splash screen, no matter which page is currently displayed.

The back button is a basic usability standard that we all have known about for years, yet somehow these three rather large retailers found a way to break it. Is this a limitation of the platform? No. The back button works fine on the Express Facebook shop.

Just like any user experience, if we don’t let the excitement over the newness of the technology cause us to forget that we have a toolkit of standard best practices, and we conduct usability research to find out what works best for our customers and our business, we’ll surely build a good experience. That said, if we are tasked with launching this along an aggressive timeline, don’t forget to maintain experience standards, leverage existing content and features, drive traffic to the main website, and create timely, unique reasons for customers to participate in the Facebook shop.

References

  1. (Shop.org State of Retailing Online)

Advertise here with BSA

April 06 2011

11:37

Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design

Advertisement in Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design
 in Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design  in Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design  in Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design

Here is the harsh reality of e-commerce websites: according to recent e-commerce studies, at least 59.8% of potential customers abandon their shopping cart (MarketingSherpa puts it at 59.8%, SeeWhy at 83% and MarketLive at 62.14%). The main question is why do customers abandon their shopping cart so often? Is there some fundamental mistake that designers of e-commerce websites do very often? Are there any common guidelines or rules of thumbs that make it more difficult for our users to purchase products? And is there some meaningful way to improve the conversion rates for our products?

Well, that’s exactly what we wanted to find out. In 2010, we recruited a batch of Web users and conducted a usability study, focusing only on the checkout user experience, from “Cart” to “Completed order.” The study was conducted using the “think aloud” protocol and was documented by recording everything that happened on the computer screen. The behavior of the test subjects was then analyzed by scrutinizing these recordings at a later date.

Credit-card-payment in Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design
The study has shown that it is often difficult to lead customers to the final step in the checkout process when the only thing left is to submit their credit card details.

The 15 e-commerce websites that we tested were: 1-800-Flowers, AllPosters, American Apparel, Amnesty, Apple, HobbyTron, Levi’s, Newegg, Nordstrom, Oakley, Perfume.com, PetSmart, Thomann, Walmart and Zappos.

In total, the test subjects were given more than 500 usability issues, ranging from being distracted by animated graphics to being thrown off course by an illogical checkout flow. These issues were then analyzed and distilled into 63 checkout usability guidelines in a report titled “E-Commerce Checkout Usability.” In this article, we’ll share 11 fundamental guidelines from that report with you.

1. Your Checkout Process Should Be Completely Linear

Issue: Having steps within steps confuses and intimidates customers as it breaks with their mental model of a linear checkout.

One of the worst usability violations that we discovered in our testing was non-linear checkout processes. Websites with a non-linear checkout process left several of our test subjects confused and intimidated. At the time of testing, both Walmart and Zappos had a non-linear checkout process.

The typical way to “accidentally” end up with a non-linear checkout process is to create steps within steps. This happens, for example, when the customer has to set a “Preferred shipping address” (Walmart’s violation) or “Create an account” (Zappos’ violation) on a separate page, and is then redirected to a previous checkout step upon completion.

Below, you can see Walmart’s checkout flow in thumbnails (click image for larger view). Notice that it’s non-linear because the “Preferred shipping address” sub-step directs the user to a previous step:

Screenshot
Walmart’s non-linear process. Large view.

Luckily, making the process completely linear is easy. In this case, a sub-step such as “Account creation” should never redirect to a previous step in the checkout process, but instead direct the customer to the next step in the checkout process.

This is critical because the mental model of most customers dictates that a checkout process should be linear. Upon seeing the same page twice, most customers would conclude that the website has an error, because this is what happens with validation errors.

As one test subject said, “This looks suspiciously like the page I was on before. Is there something I didn’t do correctly?”

2. Add Descriptions To Form Field Labels

Issue: Without descriptions, many form field labels can be ambiguous.

“What does this “Address line 2” mean?” a test subject mumbled. Other test subjects were confused by “Billing address.”

The vast majority of test subjects had problems understanding certain labels. They varied in which labels they had trouble with. The problem was critical in a few cases, and one subject gave up a purchase because she couldn’t understand the label for a required field, making it impossible for her to complete the checkout process. Therefore, always provide clear instructions for each field.

One form that caused confusion belongs to HobbyTron, where test subjects had to guess what “First” refers to:

Descriptions-to-form-field-labels-1 in Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design

On Apple’s website, the majority of test subjects started typing their zip code in the field labeled “Area code”:

Descriptions-to-form-field-labels-2 in Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design

When you have form field labels without any explanation, some of your customers will likely be confused about what information is being asked of them. Alleviate this by adding short descriptions and examples next to labels. Because not all customers need the extra help, you may want to hide these instructions behind a “What’s this?” link, or perhaps slightly fade its color or reduce the font size.

Below are examples of how descriptions below form field labels can help customers understands what inputs are required of them:

Descriptions-to-form-field-labels-3 in Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design

Even unambiguous fields, such as “Email address,” are great opportunities to explain what you’ll use the data for. “Email address” may be a sufficient description, but most people would want to know how you’ll use their email address. Why do you need it?

Finally, for fields that users have to fill in by referring to a paper or card, illustrations can enhance the descriptions a lot (for example, an image of an expiration date from a credit card).

3. Avoid Contextual Words Like “Continue”

Issue: Contextual words such as “Continue” are ambiguous and tend to confuse customers.

Depending on the customer’s state of mind, a button labelled “Continue” in a shopping cart could mean one of two things:

  1. Continue shopping
    Say, if the customer is also looking for a shirt to go with those jeans.
  2. Continue to checkout
    If the customer has all the products they need and just wants to pay.

Another example is “Back.” Back to the last page? Back to the search results? Where? And how about “Proceed”? These are all contextual words that change in meaning depending on the context (i.e. the page) and the customer’s state of mind.

HobbyTron was one of the websites on which multiple test subjects clicked on the “Continue” button thinking they would continue to the checkout section:

Continue-shopping in Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design
Hobbytron’s Continue button. Large view.

After clicking a wrong button, one test subject said:

It was confusing because I thought, “I want to continue.” I didn’t think about continuing shopping, but rather I was continuing to checkout.

This is a good example of how contextual words, being open to interpretation, can confuse customers. Roughly half of the test subjects at least once clicked a wrong button because of contextual words.

Instead, use words that aren’t open to interpretation, such as “Check out now” and “Shop more.”

4. Visually Reinforce All Sensitive Fields On The Payment Page

Issue: Customers might hesitate if credit card fields don’t appear secure (regardless of actual security).

Many test subjects didn’t think about security until they had to enter their credit card details. In fact, several test subjects talked about certain parts of the checkout page in terms of being “secure” and “insecure” (typically related to credit card details).

Parts of the page with security icons, badges or text and a general “robustness” were perceived as being more secure, while parts without these visual cues inspired less confidence, despite the fact that these fields were all part of the same form on the same page. Technically, there was no difference in security. However, most customers don’t understand the technical workings of forms. All they know about your website is what their gut feeling tells them.

There is a clear divergence between the customer’s mental model of form-field security and the actual security.

As one test subject who had just abandoned their purchase said, “It didn’t look safe enough.” Her reaction wasn’t based on the technical security of the website, but rather on the perceived security of the fields.

Below is a quick mock-up I made to illustrate how you can visually secure your credit card form fields (version B). Notice the background color, padlock image and placement of the GeoTrust seal:

Visually-secured-checkout-design in Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design
Mock-up of a visual reinforcement. Large view.

By adding visual cues (such as borders, background color, and security icons and badges) around the form fields for credit cards, you can increase their perceived security for non-technical customers.

5. Don’t Use An “Apply” Button In Your Form

Issue: Customers don’t understand “Apply” buttons for distinct sections of a form.

More than half of test subjects were confused by websites with an “Apply” button somewhere in the form; for example, to apply a shipping method to an order.

In almost every case, these buttons were either:

  1. Not clicked, even if the relevant input field was filled out;
  2. Mistaken for the main form submission button.

Test subjects simply didn’t understand the purpose of having a separate “Apply” button in a form.

Below is Newegg’s checkout, where only half of test subjects who filled in their zip code also clicked the “Go” button (problem 1 from above):

Screenshot
NewEgg’s Apply button. Large view.

The consequence of mistaking “Apply” for the main form submission button is that customers will be redirected back to the same page in order to apply the change, thwarting their expectation of moving to the next step and likely leading them to think that there’s an error on the page (as we saw in guideline #1). This happened to two test subjects, who were left to guess what the error was because no error message was displayed (since a technical error never actually occurred on the page).

Below is a form for American Apparel, where test subjects mistook the “Apply” button for the main form submission button (problem 2) and consequently couldn’t proceed with the purchase.

Apply-buttoin in Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design
American Apparel’s Apply button. Large view.

If you really need to update a value before moving on to the next step, then auto-update the value using AJAX or the like, without showing an “Apply” button.

6. Format Field For Expiration Date Exactly As It Appears On Credit Card

Issue: Fields for credit card expiration dates can be tricky to decipher if they aren’t written exactly as they are on the credit card.

Some websites use month names, while other websites use a combination of month names and numbers, while still others just use numbers. Which is best? The correct way to format a field for an expiration date is to match what the customer sees on their credit card (i.e. numbers only). This minimizes confusion and misreading because the user can easily verify the field against their credit card.

Below are four examples of how not to format the fields for expiration date. Example D, with the month written as text and the year in four digits, is the worst.

Credit-card-expiration-fields in Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design

The correct way to format the month field is to use numbers and to prefix all single-digit numbers (i.e. 1 to 9) with a 0, so that they appear exactly as they do on credit cards (for example, 03 for March).

The correct way to format the year field is to use just two digits, to match the number on the credit card (for example, 14 for 2014).

Our test subjects didn’t have any difficulties when month names were included, as long as they came after the digits. So, “03 – March” is okay, but “March – 03” is not. Whatever is on the credit card should appear at the beginning of each option.

You could put a forward slash (/) between the month and year fields to further match credit cards (so, 03 / 14 for March 2014).

7. Use Only One Column For Form Fields

Issue: Customers have an amazingly difficult time understanding the relationships between form fields in two columns.

Half of the test subjects had problems when form fields were in two columns. There were two typical scenarios:

  1. One of the two columns of form fields was missed. It was either dismissed as unrelated or simply overlooked by test subjects.
  2. Unrelated form fields were filled in and/or submitted, often causing validation errors.

Below is Perfume’s form for signing into and creating an account:

Screenshot
Perfume.com’s shipping form. Large view.

This form was interpreted in three ways:

  1. All form fields should be completed in order to create an account.
  2. The “Email address” field and the fields in the right column should be completed to use “Guest checkout.”
  3. Either the left or right column should be filled out.

Another example is PetSmart. There, the most common behavior was to overlook the second column, with the “Credit card identification number,” resulting in an error message:

Screenshot
PetSmart.com’s payment form. Large view.

On two occasions, test subjects abandoned their purchase because they kept submitting the wrong data in the wrong column.

Our suggestion is to use a single column. None of our test subjects showed any difficulty with this.

8. Use Shipping Address As Billing Address By Default

Issue: Most customers order products to their home, so requiring both a billing and shipping address doesn’t make sense.

Customers typically order products to their home address. So, by default, you should use the same address for shipping and billing, unless you happen to record data differently for your store.

By defaulting the billing address to the shipping address, your checkout process will have many fewer fields, making it less intimidating for customers. Users also reduce the risk of misspelling their address if they have to enter it only once; they won’t rush through the form as quickly, and if there are errors, the customer will have to fix them only once.

Shipping-address-1-checkout-process in Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design
NewEgg’s checkout. Large view.

Moreover, you should hide the billing address fields entirely. Disabling the fields isn’t good enough. On the one website that did this, most test subjects were confused by why the fields were grayed out, with some users clicking on them. Instead, show only the fields for the billing address, unless the customer explicitly asks to use separate shipping and billing addresses.

Some websites have a “Copy shipping address” button. The problem with this is that it also copies any errors, so the customer has to correct the same information twice. While the customer could just click the “Copy shipping address” button once they’ve corrected the error, all of the test subjects in this situation forgot to do so.

Shipping-address-2-checkout-process in Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design
Apple’s copy shipping address feature. Large view.

Also, depending on the website’s layout, such a feature could be easily overlooked. On Apple’s website, half of test subjects overlooked the “Copy shipping address” link and ended up typing in the same address again.

A check box (or something similar) is better for this purpose because errors will have to be corrected only once. Amnesty International’s checkout page is a good example of how to do this right:

Screenshot
Amnesty International’s checkout. Large view.

9. Use Clear Error Indications

Issue: Customers overlook error messages, making them less likely to resolve the errors.

More than half our test subjects had serious problems finding or understanding error messages on the websites we tested.

When a customer has problems with a form, the likelihood that they abandon the purchase increases significantly. When a customer fails more than once, they will be inclined to leave the website altogether (whether because they assume they were blocked or the website has a bug or something else).

Below are four examples of a lack of a clear indication of error.

On American Apparel’s website, the yellow bar at the top is actually an error message, saying that the data in the phone field at the bottom isn’t valid:

Clear-error-indication-a in Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design

On Walmart’s website, the two red arrows (next to “Ship to home” and “Site-to-store”) are actually error indicators:

Clear-error-indication-b in Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design

On PetSmart’s website, the red of “State/Province” is not an error indicator, but rather just the style chosen for this particular label:

Clear-error-indication-c in Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design

On Perfume.com’s website, the red does indicate an error in the “Phone” field:

Clear-error-indication-d in Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design

Unless placed in close proximity to the relevant fields, error messages were likely to be overlooked by our test subjects. Many websites present error messages only at the top of the page, not next to the form fields.

Without this proximity, error messages can be difficult to understand. Some test subjects, seeing nothing wrong with the fields, tried to submit the form again, assuming the page didn’t load properly the first time. This, of course, resulted in the same page being shown again with the same error message.

If a customer doesn’t notice or understand your error message, they will not be able to resolve the error or proceed through the checkout process. In such cases, abandonment is inevitable. So, put time and effort into designing and wording your error messages.

Make sure your error messages:

  • Are contextualized (that is, not at the top of the page but in close proximity to the relevant fields);
  • Are clear and concise;
  • Stand out so people notice them (provide high contrast and maybe even use arrows or other visual indicators).

10. Registration Should Be Optional

Issue: Customers strongly resent having to sign up for an account.

Customers dislike having to register for yet another account. This quickly became evident during our testing as every single subject showed great frustration when forced to do it. 30% of them ended up abandoning one of their purchases as a result.

There are many reasons for this resentment.

For one, customers already have a myriad of user names and passwords to remember and don’t want to create an entirely new account just to buy one or two products from an online store.

Account-registration-optional-1 in Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design

Another reason is that 40% of test subjects expected to be spammed with marketing material, even if they explicitly declined to sign up for a newsletter during the checkout process. These customers have a mental model in which Account = Newsletter. Or, as one subject described it: “If I create an account, they can send me spam from now on and forever.” Their prior experience on websites that check the newsletter box by default and obscure it likely led them to this conclusion.

Also, customers likely realize that you’re storing their information indefinitely. While most companies keep a customer’s information in their database regardless of whether they registered an account, most customers don’t think of this. It’s about perception, and some customers just don’t like the idea of a website storing their personal information.

Signing up for an account also takes time. It adds more steps and fields to the process—and complexity. Yet another reason to dislike it.

Finally, many customers just don’t understand why they need an account to buy a product. As one subject clearly put it, “I don’t need to sign up for anything when I’m buying a perfume in a regular [brick and mortar] store.”

Most test subjects didn’t mind having the option to create an account, but they found it illogical and annoying to be required to do so. Some said they would voluntarily create an account if they regularly bought from the website.

If you’re looking for an unobtrusive way to get customers to sign up for an account, then consider simply asking them after they have completed their purchase. “Would you like an account? Just enter a password in the field below.” You can set their email address as their user name and fill in the account information with their order details. This way, the customer isn’t forced to create an account but has an easy way to do so after completing their purchase. (Remember to explain the benefits of having an account.)

11. Don’t Require Seemingly Unnecessary Information

Issue: Customers feel that their privacy is being invaded when they are required to submit seemingly unnecessary personal information.

Refusing to give up their phone number, one test subject anxiously clamored, “Look, why do they need my phone number? What do they need that for? They don’t need it!” Every test subject at one point or another complained about a website that asked for too much personal information.

Being asked for a phone number when the website already had an email address was especially irritating when subjects were trying to make a purchase. The logic goes, if the store already has one way to contact them, why does it need another?

Unnecessary in Fundamental Guidelines Of E-Commerce Checkout Design
Apple’s checkout process.

If the information is necessary, at least explain why. What is obvious to you may not be obvious to the customer. They have learned to expect the worst when shopping online (usually spam email and phone calls).

Our test subjects were surprisingly forgiving, as long as the website explained why the information was needed. Here’s a tip: don’t hide it behind a link; state it directly in the field’s description. In fact, the test subject we quoted above provided their phone number to another website without any complaints because the store clearly explained that the phone number was needed so that it could contact the customer in case of delivery problems.

The more expensive the order, the more accommodating the customer will be. When buying a laptop, customers want you to be able to contact them. But this holds true only if you require the information in order to complete the purchase. On websites where the field was optional, our subjects weren’t comfortable giving their phone number and simply left the field blank. However, this means that required and optional fields must be clearly distinguished.

Designing A Better Checkout Experience

While there are many more subtleties to designing a good checkout experience, these 11 guidelines go a long way. If you adhere to them, your checkout process will perform well above average.

In a study that he conducted 10 years ago, usability guru Jakob Nielsen concluded that large e-commerce websites violated many basic checkout usability guidelines. It seems little has changed when you look at websites like AllPosters and Walmart.

While a lot of the big websites boast impressive features such as geo-targeting, address validation and state look-up, they don’t manage to get basic usability principles right, and they suffer greatly as a consequence.

With the latest improvements in Web technology and browsers, the potential to create an amazing user experience has increased dramatically. Yet, advanced features shouldn’t be the focus until basic usability guidelines are met. If we add the latest technology just because it’s new and exciting, then today’s abandonment rate of 59.8% is unlikely to decrease.

Things like meaningful flow (see guideline 1), good copywriting (2, 3), simple form design (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9), and privacy considerations (10 and 11) go a long way to creating a great checkout experience.

Do yourself and your customers a favor by following these 11 guidelines. Once you’ve covered the basics, you can venture into more advanced territory.

You can find further checkout usability guidelines in our report titled E-Commerce Checkout Usability (not free).

Further Resources

You may be interested in the following related resources:

(al)


© Christian Holst for Smashing Magazine, 2011. | Permalink | Post a comment | Smashing Shop | Smashing Network | About Us
Post tags: e-commerce, usability

January 25 2011

17:02

Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

Advertisement in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites
 in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites  in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites  in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

Designers are constantly striving to create eye-catching designs without losing the usability features that add significant importance to the experience of online shopping. Today’s showcase presents a variety of websites with elegant design solutions and innovative design techniques. We have analyzed the designs and now discuss their advantages and disadvantages in this review. We also suggest improvements and further ideas that could help improve shopping experience on these sites. Hopefully, you can learn something useful from our thoughts.

Heartbreaker Fashion
With clothing inspired by ’50s and ’60s fashion, pin-up girls and vintage culture, Heartbreaker’s design nicely fits the company’s profile, with its pastels and retro textures. Good use of dotted and dashed borders, which separate the various elements rather delicately. Notice how well the designers keep the vintage theme across the product and category pages, with nice attention to detail for the credit card icons in the footer.

Vintage-Inspired-Fashion-by-Heartbreaker-Fashion in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

Hunter’s Wines
Hunter’s Wines is an online wine store. The front page introduces some dynamics in its grid by placing text blocks next to each other in a somewhat chaotic manner. Notice how well the design separates sections of the pages by using yellow color in the background of the wine bottles. Product pages contain an interactive, sophisticated search filter, backed by a pastel color scheme and beautiful typography that nicely fits the overall feel of the site. The color of the text on call-to-action buttons could be improved.

Also, we have doubts about some elements on the page. A symbol under the wine bottles doesn’t really have any purpose and the arrow in the right upper corner of sections in product pages doesn’t seem to work properly. Overall, a very nice design which could use just a bit of rethinking to improve the shopping experience.

All-Wines- -Hunters-Wines-Marlborough-New-Zealand-copy in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

Sassy Duck
Sassy Duck is a young fashion-forward handbag brand that creates luscious accessories for the modern woman. This website literally elicits a hunger for those female accessories. Again, large product photography is striking on the website, trying to evoke an emotional response from the site’s visitors. It’s interesting that the overview pages do not contain prices — they are displayed only once the visitor hovers over the product image. The call-to-action buttons could use some :hover, :focus and :active states to make the buttons a bit more responsive. The horizontal product navigation pans across as the mouse nears the edge of the page. A nice example of how an e-commerce website can work with a minimal amount of text.

Sassy-Duck- -Welcome-copy in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

Telegramme Studio
Probably the most eye-catching detail in Telegramme Studio’s design is vivid, high-resolution product typograrphy displayed in the horizontal slideshow in the upper area of the front page. The slideshow might be moving a bit too quickly for some visitors. The grid remains consistent across the pages, always focusing on the designs produced by the agency. A nice example of a site on which high quality product shots are integral to each page.

STORE-Telegramme-Studio-copy in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

Oi Polloi
Oi Polloi is small retail store based in the Northern Quarter, Manchester, UK. This website design is (again) in retro style, supported by the typewriter-style typograph and old print-style textures. They capture the Oi Polloi brand well. The navigation menu is a good old drop-down which doesn’t quite work, especially because the page has six of them on top. This requires a bit more clicks than you’re used to on an e-commerce website. When you roll over an item on a product page, a tooltip provides details about available (and unavailable) colours and sizes. It might be useful including these options in the search as well.

Oi-Polloi-of-Manchesters-home-page -copy in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

A Modern Eden
A Modern Eden sells posters and iPhone applications. The design also features a large horizontal slideshow area on which all illustrations have a nice shadow to make them look a bit more realistic. The fonts used are chosen carefully and used consistenly throughout the design. The shopping basket ribbon placed next to the main navigation in the right upper corner is a nice touch. Product pages are nicely designed, with attractive green call-to-action buttons. It’s interesting how the designers display the price tag: it’s put somewhat above the product item’s title with a red circle in the background.

Home-A-Modern-Eden-copy in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

Sky’s Guide Service
Sky’s Guide is a wonderful example of what a service website can look like with a quality set of textures and images. The choice of colors for design elements and body copy nicely complements the theme of the website and logo of the company (dark red and light brown). Call-to-action buttons are carefully designed to stand out against other elements and capture the user’s attention.

Notice a simple yet striking grid in the footer and a consistent use of fonts across the site. However, the site misses subtle hover effects to make the experience a bit more responsive. The font size of some texts on the site could be increased as well.

Skys-Guide-Service-Oregon-Salmon-Steelhead-and-Sturgeon-Fishing in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

Patrik Ervell
Patrik Ervell demonstrates innovation at its finest. Category pages present a Flash video of the clothes being modelled on an actual male model, giving the customer a sense for how the clothing would actually look on them. The website also gracefully degrades to static images for browsers without Flash support. A very interesting take on the modern clothing website, and good use of white space. Unfortunately, the product page does not have a Flash video, although it might be a bit annoying if it did. The typography could be improved a bit to make the texts more readable and more pleasing to read.

Patrik-Ervell- -Shop in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

Matthew Williamson
Designer fashion outlet Matthew Williamson demonstrates good use of fonts, contrast and high-quality images. The product pages allow users to zoom in and out to take a closer look at the shop items. Also, the product page provides a size guide, a delivery guide, a return guide for customers as well as comprehensive product details. The website does not feel particularly dynamic, though; the sidebar navigation has to reanimate after each page load. The splash page isn’t necessary, either. An example of how beautiful imagery doesn’t quite work when overall usability of the website isn’t good enough.

Buy-Matthew-Williamson-Designer-Fashion- -Official-Online-Shop in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

Paul Smith
The Paul Smith website has an elegant design that emphasizes the quality of the brand. There is something quite appealing about the simple navigation at the top, especially the logo and colored horizontal stripes. The main shop page has a bottom-top navigation (instead of the traditional drop-down) which is not quite intuitive at the first glance. What is striking is that each product page has plenty of high-quality product images which is unfortunately not that usual on e-commerce websites.

Paul-Smith-Women-copy in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

Chicago L-Shirts
Chicago L-Shirts is big and bold on Helvetica and the dark processed vintage illustrations. The website is unique and hits you straight away with the featured product on sale, which fills the entire background. What’s interesting is that the shop doesn’t really have an overview page on which all t-shirts would be presented. Instead, the visitor has to navigate using “Prev” and “Next” links. And actually, it works quite well, because there are not so many t-shirts to browse through. A nice example of a shop which makes sure that every product page has a strong photographic presence. Unfortunately, arrows in the navigation aren’t clickable and different views (e.g. side view) of every t-shirt isn’t available.

Chicago-L-Shirts-El-Stop-T-shirts-copy in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

W+K Studio
WK Studio sells various stationary, t-shirts and children’s clothing. The color scheme is warm and friendly, and so is the stylish navigation and large product previews. Built on the BigCartel shopping cart, the shopping experience is pleasurable for a small store. Notice the lovely price tags shaped in the form of the heart which is an essential part of the studio’s logo. The color and typography of the body copy could be improved, and so could the typography. Very simple design that doesn’t look too simple because of the very well thought-out style and theme of the site.

W K-Studio- -Home-copy in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

Marie Catrib’s
Probably the most striking attribute of this website is its playfulness. The typography is inviting and attractive and makes the reading experience pleasurable. The navigation menu on the top is very simple, but nice; subtle use of texture fits nicely to the style of the website. Also, notice the dashed horizontal line on the top and the decorative ellipses spinned in the footer of the page. When you hover on an item on the products overview page, two additional navigation options appear: “More info” and “+ Cart” which is a nice example of a context-sensitive navigation. Great use of subtle colors, textures and bold fonts bring out the tastiness of the freshly baked bread and confectioneries offered at Marie Catrib’s.

The-Goodies- -Marie-Catribs-copy in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

Sanctuary T Shop
The landing page for Sanctuary T really helps to sell the brand and welcome customers. Best-selling teas are beautifully listed underneath the large eye-catching slideshow. New products are introduced using striking, pleasing and eye-catching illustrations. The site uses many colors (7 on the front page), and although they do fight for user’s attention, they actually never really get in the way. The typography is pleasant and inviting, however, mostly images are used to embed the fonts on the pages (and sometimes, Cufón is used). Notice how wonderfully the designers use tea cups to display the rating of every tea. Sanctuary T is a prime example of a website that brings the best out of square-edge elements and white space dividers.

Pure-and-Artisanal-Loose-Leaf-Teas- -Sanctuary-T-Shop-copy in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

Bohemia
There is certainly a lot to like about this website: the blended shades of blues, contrasting orange highlights, delicately patterned borders (complemented with an equally elegant choice of typography) and the subtle shadows on the roll-over navigation tabs. The design shows a lot of attention to small details, be it texture in the background or a “telephone” icon in the footer which works very well with the style of the site. The mega drop-down menu looks nice and stands out on hover. The page has a lot of whitespace, especially on overview pages and product pages and makes the shopping experience lightweight and easy.

Bohemia-Bohemian-Clothing-Odd-Molly-Clothes-and-Moroccan-Pouffes-copy in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

Grenson
Grenson is exemplary for a very strong and consistent grid layout. The design is accentuated with red highlights. The most striking element of the website is the roll-over product previews on single product pages, which automatically zooms in and pans to wherever the mouse is. It’s quite a nice touch and removes the extra clicks required to zoom and pan. A clean and good design without distractions and unnecessary trickery.

Grenson- -Shop- -Mens-Brogues-Mens-Boots-Mens-Shoes-English-Shoes-copy in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

Cow&Co. Superstore
Cow&Co demonstrates good use of interactive elements in the filtered navigation to make page selection a little more interesting. Adding items to the basket is quick and easy, and a lot of the navigation occurs without having to reload the page. The designers of the shop do not highlight “Add to basket” buttons, although it would actually make it just a bit easier if the buttons would stand out a bit more. The interesting part is that when you click on a product image on the overview page, the details are displayed on the right, without the page being reloaded. It’s hard to say if it’s a good idea or not: this behvaior might be a bit confusing for visitors who wouldn’t be able to locate the detail page. It would be useful to highlight it in some way when it appears after the click, though.

CowCo- -Online-Superstore-Magnifique in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

Dark Sky
Dark Sky’s website shows how dots can be used to build and structure the layout of the page. The typography is just wonderful: attractive, yet not too eye-catching to distract. Notice the whitespace in the vertical grid layout and on the product pages. Call-to-action-buttons have the same background color as many other elements on the page which may be a bit confusing at first. However, other colors probably wouldn’t work that well together with other elements.

Dark-Sky-Magazine-copy in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

RFRM
By itself, RFRM would be a very simple and not that remarkable website with handmade, vintage inspired jewelry. What sets this online shop apart from other sites is that the centrepiece of the website is the large window, or “hole,” that exposes the background layer image below. When you scroll the website, it feels like you’re looking out of the window — which looks very interesting and unusual.

RFRM-Handmade-Vintage-Inspired-Jewelry-copy in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

Theo
This website doesn’t look remarkable, but it uses a nice design technique that helps it stand out. Each product page has a large seamless header that creates a large frame for the product. This allows for large product shots of background images that can be used on each page. Interesting idea that may find its place in your e-commerce website as well. The downside of the design is the not so comforable navigation: all navigation items are always hidden in the horizontal navigation on the top of every page.

Home- -Theo-copy in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

Ben The Bodyguard
This website of an upcoming app for iPhone or iPod touch has been discussed a lot over the last months, and rightly so. The site is a remarkable example of how an original, innovative design can bring a lot of attention to the site that actually hasn’t been released yet. As you scroll the page down, Ben the Bodyguard is following you through the city, leaving comments about the neighbourhood and services he provides. There are also some tricks which become apparent if you try resizing your browser. Ben’s path ends at the e-mail subscription box. Wonderful idea, wonderfully executed. A wonderful example of storytelling. The Web could use more websites like this one.

Ben-bodyguard in Showcase of Beautiful (or Creative) E-Commerce Websites

In Conclusion

It goes without saying: large high quality product shots are a key element of success on e-commerce websites. JavaScript-based image slideshows of products, elegant rich typography and meaningful use of white space all enhance the shopping experience and increase conversion rates. Some good websites experiment with innovative design techniques, yet all good websites pay a lot of attention to the look and feel of every single design element, be it a shopping cart, search box or headings. We are looking forward to more beautiful and usable e-commerce websites appearing online in the months to come.

(al) (vf) (ik)


© Scotty Vernon for Smashing Magazine, 2011. | Permalink | Post a comment | Add to del.icio.us | Digg this | Stumble on StumbleUpon! | Tweet it! | Submit to Reddit | Forum Smashing Magazine
Post tags: e-commerce, Inspiration, showcases

December 20 2010

14:33

E-Commerce Copywriting: The Guide to Selling More

Advertisement in E-Commerce Copywriting: The Guide to Selling More
 in E-Commerce Copywriting: The Guide to Selling More  in E-Commerce Copywriting: The Guide to Selling More  in E-Commerce Copywriting: The Guide to Selling More

Quality product descriptions can transform e-commerce conversion rates — it’s common to see increases of 30-100%. As well as converting more visitors, search traffic increases drastically when unique copy is written for each product. Most online retailers use manufacturers’ copy or rely solely on images to sell products. They then use inadequate copy elsewhere on their site and fail to achieve a consistent tone to persuade their audience. This creates a compelling opportunity for savvy retailers — by writing quality e-commerce copy you will create a unique competitive advantage.

Essentially, your copy must achieve two goals:

  1. Establish trust and
  2. Convince visitors that your product is right for them.

Potential customers cannot see or touch the product since it’s not physically there in front of them. This is why it’s important that your copy anticipates the needs of your visitors while convincing them that your company can be trusted to provide excellent products. Persuasion and creating trust are difficult things to do with words alone; yet, they are still achievable.

You must establish the right tone, a mix between informative and engaging, while showcasing your product’s usability, practicality and benefits. If the copy on your website makes sense, it follows that your products and services will meet your customers’ needs. In this article, we’ll discuss some techniques that will hopefully help you learn how to sell more products and create distinctive, appealing copy.

Formatting

E-commerce websites should usually opt for a combination of bullets and paragraph form. When 79% scan the page versus read word-for-word, bullets effectively communicate key product details and benefits. Paragraphs add color and texture to your products, eliciting a deeper emotional response.

Runningwarehouse in E-Commerce Copywriting: The Guide to Selling More

Running Warehouse uses both bullet points and a short paragraph to describe the product. Notice that a paragraph format is used for a general description, which in this case required more than a few words for its explanation. Quick facts about the product are listed in bullets, allowing the customer to gather information quicker than in paragraph form.

Basics of Good E-Commerce Copywriting

To keep your writing as simple and readable as possible, think about these rules while you write and proofread your copy.

Avoid long sentences

Long sentences are usually difficult to digest and therefore inappropriate for persuading your audience. To shorten sentences, avoid pointless modifiers and break up independent clauses into two separate sentences. Avoid wordy phrases such as “for the purpose of” when “for” will do, and refrain from peppering your copy with too many adjectives and adverbs.

Avoid jargon and clichés

Achieve clarity. Clichés are cheesy, unoriginal and usually only distract your readers. Using jargon that visitors may not know will result in confusion. If someone doesn’t understand something about your product, he or she certainly won’t take the risk to buy it. Remember the only goal of your website is to convince visitors to buy your product, so leave out extraneous, flowery language that won’t help customers decide.

Speak simply

Your writing should be easily understood. There’s no reason to use complex words in product descriptions. You are going for simplicity, not trying to impress your readers with your vocabulary. Using large words will either sound like you’re trying too hard or lead to confusion.

Active voice

Write in active voice. This means you should lead with the noun that is doing the action. Active voice is clearer and makes it easier to persuade your visitors to buy your products.

Pro-copy in E-Commerce Copywriting: The Guide to Selling More

Apple provides a good example of clear and crisp copy. On their MacBook Pro product page, they make sure technical product features are easily understood. Their processors “boost performance up to 50%” and the aluminum enclosure is “thin, light and durable.”

Avoid Common Mistakes

Many mistakes are easy to make but simple to avoid. Make sure your website always achieves its potential by avoiding these common mistakes.

Nothing to say

The most common mistake is to have no copy on product pages. Without copy, you lose a vital mode of expressing your product and building trust. The lift in conversion rates and search traffic are always palpable.

Inconsistent tone

It’s common for someone to write homepage copy and it’s another thing to write product descriptions, for example. With different writers and no defined tone of voice, this tends to lead to inconsistency. Your homepage, FAQs and “About”-page should all be written with the same tone. This is also imperative in the checkout pages and in error messages deployed on your site.

Exaggeration

Don’t exaggerate in order to make the product more desirable; this will cost your website authenticity and trust. Always use logically coherent arguments when explaining the benefits and applications of your product. It’s OK to exaggerate the emotional response to a product, but not the product itself. Even if you increase sales through misrepresentation, chargebacks, returns and negative reviews will eradicate any gains.

Ignore convention

With wording on buttons and links, it can be tempting to get creative but this is unlikely to be a good idea. Consumers have inbuilt notions of how to shop from their collective experience across thousands of websites. Stick with “contact us”, “add to basket” and factual, descriptive anchor text to link to product pages. From the experiments I’ve seen, the result is either indistinguishable or negative when creative wording is employed.

Forget to localize

Everyone has heard an example of translation gone wrong. Pepsi’s slogan “come alive with the Pepsi generation” became “Pepsi brings back your ancestors from the grave” to a Chinese audience. Without cultural sensitivity, copy fails.

American and British consumers have different expectations yet are often presented with the same copy. British people view American advertising as too aggressive, or at least that’s the conventional wisdom. So, some retailers believe American copy should be decaffeinated for a British audience. If you are unable to write different copy for different cultures speaking the same language, write copy that is compatible for everyone. Many retailers fail to even consider localization when writing their copy.

Establish Trust

One of the most important things your website needs to do is establish trust. Customers are wary to spend money and risk not receiving what they expect in return.

Flawless copy

The first way to establish trust is the most obvious; that is, to have flawless copy. Grammar and spelling mistakes make you look careless and incompetent. If you can’t put the time into flawless copy, visitors won’t invest time and money into your products.

State the obvious

Be clear when explaining payment, shipping and return processes — do not be afraid to state the obvious. If a customer is uncertain about any of these details they won’t buy your product. It’s that simple. Customers do not want to waste time on wondering whether payment and shipping will be carried out in accordance to their expectations. Keep things straight and clear: actual shipping costs and payment conditions shouldn’t be displayed in tiny font sizes nor be clarified using extra asterisks or footnotes. It doesn’t really elicit trust which you are actually aiming for with your customers.

A Forrester study showed that 20% of people have abandoned a purchase because shipping costs were unclear, so make sure your terms are easily understandable even when they are not a selling point. Free shipping has such profoundly positive results that it’s almost always worth apportioning the costs elsewhere and having minimum order requirements where necessary. For a more detailed look, read the article How the Offer of ‘Free Shipping’ Affects On-line Shopping.

Zappos in E-Commerce Copywriting: The Guide to Selling More

For one company that wants their policies easily understood, check out Zappos. The shoe retailer won’t let you get far without discovering their return and shipping policies. For Zappos, this approach serves two purposes:

  1. Ensuring visitors understand their policies, creating trust and confidence and
  2. Communicating unique selling points of shopping with Zappos, including their 24/7 customer service and free 365 day return policy.

Make sure any error messages are clear and to the point. Simply explain what the problem is and what they need to do to fix it.

Above and Beyond the Basics

Your copy needs to strike the right balance in tone between informative and engaging. To do this, good sales copy will explain details about the product and will explain why each detail matters to the customer.

T-shirt in E-Commerce Copywriting: The Guide to Selling More

For example, the product description for this Under Armour HeatGear work-out shirt describes in bullet points what each characteristic of the shirt means to someone who is using it. Under Armour doesn’t just say the product has a “new ergonomic fit” because what does that mean? Instead it says, “new ergonomic fit adds to an overall comfort by reducing abrasion in high impact areas.” Ergonomic fit probably won’t convince someone to buy this shirt, but overall comfort and reducing abrasion will.

It’s important to keep product descriptions straightforward and primarily informative. This doesn’t mean your copy should be boring; it should be positive and inspiring, which will draw readers in. But be careful about how enthusiastic your copy sounds. You want to pique visitors’ interest, but you don’t want to overwhelm them. Make sure informative facts about your products and company are sprinkled throughout.

Dyson in E-Commerce Copywriting: The Guide to Selling More

Dyson, which makes vacuums, achieves this well on their homepage, which briefly describes a few of their products and what makes them special in comparison to other vacuums. You can see how they weave the informative in with the creative: “Other machines are still designed to need replacement bags, belts and filters. Over five years, the maintenance costs are up to $267. With Dyson vacuums there are no bags, belts or filters to buy. So they don’t cost a dime to maintain.” Combining informative and engaging copy will keep visitors on your site and convince them to buy your product. Also, notice the vivid and strong product images on the page. They strongly support the copy, providing a very detailed, useful and attractive impression to the customers.

OfficeMax-Customer-Reviews in E-Commerce Copywriting: The Guide to Selling More
Source: OfficeMax Customer Reviews at Bizrate

During the research phase, copywriters should read reviews written by your customers and your competitors’ customers. This can be a great way to travel into the mind of your target audience.

Copywriters should work with marketers, developers and designers to increase conversion rates by performing split and multivariate testing. It’s possible to do this for free using Google Website Optimizer. On a large website, this may seem like an untenable task but there are ways to do this efficiently:

  • Start with the highest selling products moving in descending order,
  • Test the pages all visitors experience — checkout, FAQ, delivery,
  • Template copy — perform tests on the copy appearing on all product pages.

SEO: Outranking the Competition

To achieve the most from your e-commerce copy, SEO should be intertwined into the structure of your website with each page having target keywords.

Homepage: Widget Shop and Widgets
Category pages: Wooden Widgets and Metal Widgets
Brand pages: Peter’s Widgets and Sally’s Widgets
Product pages: Peter’s Blue XX1 Widget and Sally’s Red YY2 Widget

Do not use manufacturer’s copy. Individual category, brand and product pages should have unique text. Work with your copywriter to craft a message around each page.

If you have affiliates, provide them with alternative copy or change your own. Through giving them alternative copy, both you and your affiliates can rank for different keyword combinations.

Keyword research and SEO copywriting is a sophisticated process and it can be difficult to find copywriters able to do the task. Look for someone who understands the interrelationship between a keyword’s competitiveness, revenue potential and its relevancy to your website. A skilled SEO copywriter will know how to incorporate primary and ancillary keywords into your copy without destroying your message or credibility. It’s common to have a copywriter work from an SEO’s keyword research rather than have them perform keyword research themselves.

Summary

Most e-commerce websites have no copy on product pages. Alternatively, they have manufacturers’ copy that doesn’t match their tone of voice and that Google considers duplicate content. That’s why the right e-commerce copywriting strategy makes a big difference — it’s possible to increase search traffic by over 50% and conversion rates by over 30% on most websites.

Create a unique tone of voice that matches your brand and that’s persuasive to your audience. Whatever your tone, though, simplicity and readability are vital. It’s important to build trust. You should be informative and creative, explaining to your audience what makes you and your products special. From testing conversion rates to incorporating SEO, there’s also a scientific element to e-commerce copywriting. But, ultimately, the best copy comes from the most persuasive ideas.

(vf)


© Craig Anderson for Smashing Magazine, 2010. | Permalink | Post a comment | Add to del.icio.us | Digg this | Stumble on StumbleUpon! | Tweet it! | Submit to Reddit | Forum Smashing Magazine
Post tags: copywriting, e-commerce

December 02 2010

21:00

Using Flashy Product Photos to Improve Your E-Commerce Design

The main most important design aspect of any e-commerce website would be product photography. Being unable to touch, smell, taste and hold, alternatively handle the product they find interesting, the closest interaction the client could get are the images. Basically, the softer, tastier, flashier and more attractive your products look to shoppers, the more confident they’ll feel about purchasing from you and the better your conversion rate will be.

Knowing how deceivingly great product photos can look , keep in mind that your images should complement your website’s overall aesthetic and your company’s image. Let’s start with a few great examples of how online retailers have incorporated best quality product photos onto their websites and focus on images of actual items, rather than models, events or landscapes.

Great Examples of Flashy Product Photography

1. Mutant Shop

Very funky and uniquely crafted toys. Its clean product details and catchy colors invites the users to click on further and view their products.

2. Apple

Known and loved by gadget enthusiasts, Apple showcases their products that they can’t resist. With an additional limited number of images and a simple twistable 360-degree viewing mode, designers behind this website visually sum up Apple’s chant of fun and simplicity.

3. Better Closet

Provided with navigational options, users can search for their desired product easily. And with vivid detail of their products, they attract costumers even more.

4. Designbyhumans.com

One of the many known T-shirt companies. This one has a super-clean website and keeps the product well in focus, despite the human models (may sometimes distract from the product).

5. Soup Studios

This site sells very unique and one of a kind pottery, and ornaments. Their straightforward value proposition is strong and the content and labels chosen have shown customers why they should buy from them.

6. Bang & Olufsen

At first glimpse, it seems a bit less appealing, audio-video manufacturer Bang & Olufsen opts for a harder, more architectural aesthetic than some of the other websites we’ve looked at. While there is plenty of black, gray and white throughout, this website is far from cold and sterile, thanks to the side-sweeping product photos, which are bright but do not compromise the futuristic feel of the design. The pages of Bang & Olufsen’s collection have another nice touch: product thumbnails glow when you hover over them.

7. InCase

InCase offers not only neat and catchy product details, it also has the images of the product in different views. Thorough product details and reviews allows users to decide on their purchase more meticulously too.

8. Leica

From one of the world’s biggest names in photography and imaging technology, Leica has some high-quality images, especially of its camera equipment. You won’t find a ton of photos here, but in keeping with the brand’s no-frills, no-nonsense approach, the pictures you do see are high-res and sharp, a perfect example of how to do more with less.

9. Dog Funk

Touching up with a soft grunge style, this website sells snowboarding clothing and gear. Showcasing products with high quality images that would allure snow sport athletes and enthusiasts.

10. Chocomize

The ultimate playground for chocolate lovers. Provided with a wide variety to choose from, sweet-tooths can customize their own chocolate of their favored chocolate, fruits, nuts, herbs & spices, candy, decoration and other ingredients to satisfy those taste buds.

11.  Accessories Online

This site is a good example of clear Call to Action at above the fold of the site. Which caters to a wide selection of categories for different user needs.

12. Ties ’n’ Cuffs

This is another e-commerce store with a huge selection of cufflinks, ties and other accessories. Just like CuffLinks.com, it offers a handful of photos for each product. But Ties ’n’ Cuffs gives a super-clear picture of product details, letting customers zoom in to the image, that one might miss in a wide shot and showing how the crystals reflect the light. Browse around this website to see how they’ve implemented their zoom function for many different products.

13. Toys R us

This site displays high quality photos of their products with vivid bright colors and detail. The site attracts customers from toddlers to moms and dads.

14. Abel & Cole

This homepage states very clearly why people should shop with them together with 4 reasons. This is their up-front value proposition and the core value that is well blended into the design and the organization.

15. CuffLinks.com

This site clearly invests on good photography on it’s cufflink products. It offers customers a good view of its cufflinks from all angles. It also shows the packaging or box that the cufflinks will ship in, giving us a well-rounded impression. Fortunately for this company, the size and inflexibility of cuff links make them a relatively easy product to photograph. Take a look at their many other products and the different angles the shots have been taken from.

16. Dune

Using a large high-quality photo on the background gets the customers’ attention. Displaying their designs in such a vivid manner, this site delivers their message upfront.

17. Archiduchesse

What’s great about this site, is that the user is just 2 clicks away from the ‘Check-Out’ button. This increases the functionality of the site, and easy purchase could also mean higher sales. Very smart and creative at the same time.

18. Victorinox

This brand is known for precision equipment. Victorinox has a remarkable range of visual content on its website, especially in the product area. The website has a high-profile on its great examples of selective focusing and dramatic lighting, which really make the products outstanding.

19. Chrome Bags Store

This site displays realistic photographs of people on the move, while using their product. Using awesome photography skills and carefully choosing the best shots to display.

20. Pong Cheese Shop

This site offers a convenient gift-giving service. You can put in a personal message in the checkout and they will hand write it onto a card for you. They display high-quality and clear images of their dairy products.

21. Harry Winston

This high-end jewelry line website, uses very vivid and close-up photographs of their pieces. Showing every great detail of their celebrity-chased collection of jewelry.

22. One Horse Shy

This site uses very clear shots of their tees and the prints on them. Giving customers an emphasis on what design would suit their interest.

23. Munich My Way

A clean and simple site, that gives focus on their products. Displaying very clear and consistent images, helps customers see the details and size of the footwear.

24. Made.com

Made.com does an excellent job of showcasing its products from multiple angles and perspectives without disorganizing the website or making the images feel redundant. The selective use of color throughout the website directs attention to the products themselves, while giving the overall design a sleek minimalist feel.

25.Fugitive Toys

This site showcases their products with vivid and colorful images that catches the customers attention. They also give the customers a clear view of their toys in various angles and gives full attention to details.

26. Itself

This site clearly states what their products are all about. This minimalist design gives a more focus on the product images which is good for the customers viewing.

27. Big Brown Box

The site showcases their appliances using alluring images that would invite shoppers to view more. They display high-quality and detailed photos of their products.

28. Trolley Cards

This site does an amazing job on showcasing their cards. Using great photography in various styles that allure the shoppers to buy their products.

29. Rapha

This site clearly invests on high-quality photography to sell their products online. They use photos that has subjects who actually are using the products rather than just using plain boring product photographs.

30. Pure and Little

This site showcases their products by showing cute, dramatic shots and good lighting. They clearly know how to pick effective photographs that will captivate the shoppers’ attention and click for more.

31. Tillymoss

The showcase of various designs and clear shots of details makes it easy for the customers to pick their favored choice. Using great lighting and best angle shots, the products are very eye-catching.

Conclusion

Give your customers the best quality images to help them decide and give them a clear view of  the products you sell. It is important as well to provide user-friendly navigation and guidelines to assist the shoppers work their way to buying your goods.


November 03 2010

16:40

Magento for Designers: Optimization


Magento is a stunningly powerful e-commerce platform. In this miniseries, we’ll learn how to get started with the platform, getting to know the terminologies, setting up a store and all related aspects of it and finally learn how to customize it to make it our very own.

In this final part, we’ll be tackling one of the biggest complaints people have with Magento: its performance. We’ll review a number of different methods you could apply to significantly boost the platform. Excited? Let’s get started!


The Full Series


A Quick Recap

In the last few parts, we took a high level look at how Magento themes are put together, the components that drive it and how everything works together to create a working theme along with a cursory look at a number of API methods that Magento exposes. We also took a focussed, step by step look at what Magento multi store is, how it can help you and finally how to set it all up.


What Are We Going to do Today?

Magento’s performance is one area about which users complain consistently. Not a lot of it is true but there are a myriad different ways to improve the performance, of course. Today, we’ll be taking a look at ways to drastically improve the performance of your Magento installation. I know it sounds interesting and you’re itching to get started.

Quick note before we start though. The majority of the tweaks and/or optimizations mentioned here will be just those: mentions. You should probably google around for the implementation since the implementation itself will require a reasonably sized tutorial in itself. With that out of the way, let’s get started!


Choose the Right Platform

This is the most critical aspect of your Magento installation. Magento can be run on a shared host but beware, the performance is not going to be optimal. Magento really requires more power than a run of the mill shared host can provide and it’ll really show when you make it run on one.

A VPS or a dedicated server is most ideal when it comes to Magento. And remember not to skimp on the memory because you’ll be needing it. Lots of it.


Enable Caching

Letting Magento cache some parts of its code base is one of the few things that you should do when starting to optimize an installation. You need not enable caching for everything but I’d suggest layouts and block HTML output as essentials. With this caching enabled, depending on the size of the site, you can expect your load time to be decreased drastically.

Do keep in mind that you’ll need to disable caching whilst development. If you’re making changes to your code and it fails to reflect in the front end, caching is the culprit. Such an obvious point but it has been the cause of so much hair pulling during development.


Turbocharge Your Cache

Once you’ve enabled caching, you can now take it one step further. Magento caches information using a file based storage system. While this is the most reliable way, there are often times when you want sheer speed. In these cases, you should look into deploying a memory based caching system.

There are a number of options available and people have had great success with them. eAccelerator is my tool of choice these days. Just remember to configure it with sufficient memory or it may have to purge data during the most inopportune moments.


php.ini Tweaks

If you’re on a VPS or a dedicated server, look into disabling non-essential PHP extensions. Magento only needs a handful like PDO_MySQL so feel free to disable the extraneous ones.

Additionally, there are 2 tweaks that will result in better performance.

By default, PHP is configured to use an absurdly low amount of memory. You’ll need to increase this. You can do this by adding the following line to the config file:

php_value memory_limit 512M

The second is by tweaking the realpath_cache value to so.

realpath_cache_size=1M
realpath_cache_ttl=86400

Apache Module Tweaks

This is more of a general topic than a Magento specific one so I’ll be brief here. There are a number of Apache modules that you’ll need to enable and/or setup to improve the performance of your store.

The first is mod_deflate. This allows the output from the server to be drastically compressed, thus leading to better performance. Definitely a module that needs to be enabled.

Secondly, look into mod_expires. This module allows the browser to cache specific resources for a set period of time so returning visitors will have a more snappier experience.

And finally, KeepAlives. This allows for persistent connections by creating long lived sessions allowing multiple requests to be routed through the same TCP connection. This helps when you have a number of small assets in your page.


Rebuild Your Indexes

Remember to rebuild your indexes for the tables through the back end periodically. This is an essential point that will result in a noticeable performance boost to your store.

Do keep in mind that rebuilding the indexes is a very expensive affair, resource wise and should be done during off hours. Doing this during even moderate activity on your store will significantly degrade the store’s performance and responsiveness.


Add a PHP Accelerator

The PHP interpreter has to read each file from disk and compile it on every request, something that’s extremely CPU hungry if you consider the sheer size of Magento. In these case, a PHP accelerator like APC or eAccelerator is highly recommended.

Tools like these increase the performance of your PHP code significantly by caching your code in intermediate byte code and is served instead of having to ask the interpreter to compile it every time.


In-Memory Partition to Reduce IO Cycles

This is an extension of the point noted slightly above. Magento stores a lot of informations [not just the DB] in the server’s hard drive which as you know is the slowest link in the chain. This includes caches, session information and so on. If you want to improve performance in this area, the best way to move forward is to implement a memory based file system to make sure all that data is stored in-memory instead of costly calls to the hard drive.

Since we don’t have the space here, I’ll just point you in the right direction. What you’ll need to do is set up a tmpfs partition that takes care of your session and cache directories. These can be found under /var/www/domain.com/var/sessions/ and /var/www/domain.com/var/cache/ respectively.


Enable Flat Front end

The flat front end catalog module creates additional database tables to store data in a flat/linear format. This module is available for both category and product data so feel free to enable it independently as required by your use case.

Enabling this module is only recommended for big stores. Stores with a small catalog should definitely stay away since enabling this may not provide enough of a performance surge to warrant usage and may actually decrease performance. Make a carefully considered decision here.


Separate the Back End

Magento’s back end is significantly more resource intensive than the front end since it has to handle a lot more information. And once your store has reached a certain threshold with respect to the number of products, say, 5,000, it really starts to tax the server.

Having a dedicated admin server can help make the admin panel get the CPU cycles it needs with adversely affecting the performance of the rest of the site.


Tweak Block Usage

The default Magento theme is a great place to start from but isn’t really the most efficient. Let me elaborate. The default theme is designed to exhibit all of Magento’s features and thus, naturally, bundles every whiz bang feature. Remember that Magento builds a page through parsing the layout we specify and thus the page generation time is directly related to the number of block you use in a page.

So when building your own theme, avoid needlessly complex layouts, simplify and/or combine the smaller blocks to reduce the CPU cycles it takes to render the page’s code.


Add CSS/JS Intelligently

Magento has an elegant system in place to programmatically include/exclude style sheets and JavaScript files within themes. A lot of theme authors seem to completely bypass this system by just including these elements manually in the HTML templating. This is wrong.

The right way to include these assets is shown below:

<reference name="head">
<action method="addJs"><script>mocha.js</script></action>
<action method="addJs"><script>nitro.js</script></action>
</reference>

By using the code above in the layout files, Magento combine the JS files into a single file and served to the browser in a single request.


Serve Static Content Efficiently

The rules of optimizing normal sites or applications apply here as well. Browsers typically limit the number of downloads from a domain to 2-5 which is very limiting when you’re loading a media rich theme with a number of small assets. There are a number of easy ways out of this

The first and easiest is something you’re all familiar with: sprites. Using sprites, you can minimize the number of concurrent requests generated by your theme.

This approach may not work in all cases. What if your theme has a bunch of nifty scripts, videos and whatnots? These shouldn’t be block the loading of the rest of the page. In these cases, just create a sub-domain for static assets and point your Magento installation to the resource.


Balance Your Logging

Logging is essential but is also costly since it’ll need to write to the disk. Magento, in general, is very chatty when it comes to logging and soon you’ll be knee deep in log files most of which you won’t need.

The solution here is to disable all but the essential parts. Have you enabled slow queries to be logged on your production server? Turn it off, right now! Slow queries must be investigated and fixed well before deployment. It has its place in a development server, not a production server.


Keep Everything Updated

This is another essential tip that a lot of people keep forgetting. Whether it be the version of PHP, mySQL or Magento itself, the newer versions bring substantial speed and stability which you can’t quite afford to miss out.

Specially in the case of Magento, even each mini update fixes a number of performance issues and bug fixes so as long as the branch is labelled stable, upgrade!


Magento Compiler

Magento has a spiffy compiler module that promises anywhere between a 25%-50% speedup. As the name suggests, this module compiles all Magento files and thus leads to better performance.

Note that this module is still in beta and only supports 1.3x builds. This should be ready soon so keep this point in mind as well.


Use Fooman Speedster

Fooman Speedster is a powerful extension that can give your store a nice boost in performance. It works by combining, minifying, compressing and caching your JavaScript and CSS files. On top of this, it also enables GZIP compression for the rest of the store.

All in all, it means lesser data is sent and less requests which is a net win any way you see it. It works with all major version of Magento and is definitely a must have for any store.


Optimize your DB

Another of those things that you should do periodically to improve performance. You’ll need to repair your database, if necessary and then optimize it. You can do it through your hosts CPanel, phpMyAdmin or just shell commands. Here is a quick link walking you through the process using phpMyAdmin.


The Last Word

And we are done! Today, we took a look at a number of ways to improve Magento’s performance. Hopefully this has been useful to you and you found it interesting. I’m sure I’ve missed a number of points here so please feel free to chime in the comments with the tips you’ve been using.

Questions? Nice things to say? Criticisms? Hit the comments section and leave me a comment. Happy coding!

October 24 2010

10:00

50+ Useful Icon Sets for E-commerce Designs

The moment we think of E-Commerce, the next thought would be of the payment options and the hassles met at times. Even though this is the scenario most of the businesses are switching to online trading or e-commerce which has become indispensable. But most of the times we find this online transaction quite confusing, time taking and involving lot of procedures which do create a slight fear in us. The icons are often repetitive because of the factor that they should not confuse us and give us a standard picture for transactions, but now designers have taken an initiative to come out of this tradition and present with simple and easy-to-understand icon sets for e-commerce websites.

Presented here are some of the icon packs and icon sets for e-commerce which are simple to use, easy to understand the procedures at the first glance and look professional

1. Iconeden

Milky Set icons contains more than 131 free stock vector icons in green color for dark and bright backgrounds.  They can be downloaded in PNG and TIFF formats in sizes of 48 x 48 px and 64 x 64 px.

2. On Stage Icon

An icon stage set of 49 free vector icons created by Deziner Folio can be used for commercial and personal purposes comes with a source PSD file. They come in the resolution of 128 px x 128 px and are available in .png format. Purely shape based layered PSD’s are also included in the package.

3. E-Commerce Icons

This versatile and awesome icon set collection of six icons is from Speckyboy designed by IconShock for popular payment methods like Paypal, VISA, Google Checkout and also which includes icons for Wire transfers. They can be downloaded freely in eight different sizes starting from 12px, 16px, 24px, 32px, 64px, 128px, 256px and 512px.

4. Visual Pharm

A collection of Finance icons qhich are free for personal and commercial use but require a link to the website which can be purchased ar $4 – $199 per set. Icons are available in different sizes in Windows, MAC and PNG formats.

5. Weby Iconset

This is a collection of 100 icons from Iconspedia which can be used freely for your websites, templates or softwares. They can be downloaded freely in PNG, ICO and ICNS format in size of 64px x 64px. These icons are designed by Asher Abbasi and are licensed.

6. Iconset

A set of 59 fresh icons from Iconden which are of high premium quality. They are high flexible and useful financial icons for web application and software. These are available in 7 sizes ranging from 16 x 16px to 256 x 256 px and can be downloaded in ICO, ICN, TIFF and PNG formats.

7. Chalkwork

ChalkWork features a collection of 21 original icons and 105 variants which is a free set for personal and commercial projects. They come in 3 sizes and 6 formats such as transparent TIF, GIF, PNG, BMP, ICO and Mac ICNS. This includes action oriented variations of the original icons featuring overlays.

8. Multimedia Vector icons

A collection of free multimedia vector icons in different colors and styles which can be easily modified. They come in 2 vector file formats, EPS (Illustrator 10 up) and AI (Illustrator CS up).

9. Dry Icons

A curvy and colorful set of playful free icons which adds a playfulness and affection to your projects. They are available in high quality in sizes of 16 x 16px, 32 x 32px, 48 x 48px, 64 x 64px and 128 x 128px in PNG file format.

10. Informerchant

Infomerchant has a collection of major Credit card images like Visa Credit card images, Master Card, Discover Credit card images and more which can be used on your page or shopping cart just by right clicking in the image and saving it on the hard drive. They also present test credit card numbers for testing transactions.

11. Ipapun

This is a collection of 15 balck and white media icons in PNG format in size of 128 x 128px for Windows and MAC OS. They are free and can be used commercially.

12. Baggy Iconset

A set of 5 quality icons from Paul Kadysz for baggy designs which come in 3 different formats, ICO, ICNs and PNG and are available in 6 different sizes starting from 16px x 16px to 512px x 512 px.

13. Blog icons

A collection of blog icons Word Press, Blogger and Live Journal which comes in three different sizes and includes a PDS file.

14. Credit cards

This collection of free icons is for the Credit cards for websites for online payment of services through VISA, Cirrus, American Express, JCB, Master Card etc. These icons can be downloaded in 50px x 30px or 30px x 30px in Gif format. They are authorised, formatted and subjected under Creative License.

15. Cute Critters

This is a collection of 13 cute critters by the Cute Critters Icon Pack created by Elio Rivero of ilovecolours. Each icon is in a size of 512 x 512px and comes in PNG format that adds a bit of extra cuteness to your site.

16. Siena Icons

A set of 200 free icons which also includes the vector files for resizing the icons are from Siena which can be used as logos, websites and much more. Thet come in 6 different raster sizes.

17. Project Iconset

A collection of 18 beautiful project set icons related to Project Management is designed by Navdeep Raj for Smashing Magazine. The icon set includes icon address card, bar graph, calendar, clock, marker, etc., Files can be downloaded freely and are available in transparent PNG format.

18. Hand drawn Social Icons

A collection of hand drwan social networking icons like Diig, Facebook, Meneame, MySpace, Twitter and more. These icons are available in sizes of 24×24 px, 32×32 px, 48×48 px and 64×64 px, and are released under Creative Commons licence.

19. Silk Companion

Mark James presents a set of 1.022 silky smooth 16 x 16 true color icons in PNG format.

20. Startrek

A collection of official Star trek icons and desktop images.

21. Credit-card logos

Credit Card Logos present you an collection of more than 75 credit card logos and images which can be used directly in your website by simply copying and pasting the HTML code directly from the website.

22. 365 psd

365psd is a collection of icons which costs $1.40 for fifteen well crafted icons of the major payment option services.

23. Credit card icons

Presented here is a collection of six stock icons for VirtuaLNK customers as custom credit card icons as a freeware collection. This package comes in sizes of 48 x 48 px and 72 x 72 px in a 3D format with JPG, GIF, ICN, PNG, BMP and ICO formats which brings out an unique appearance.

24. Iconarchive

A set of 6 icons for Business including a brieface, printer, toolbox, disk, user and column chart icon in sizes ranging of 48 x 48px and 256 x 256 px and can be downloaded in PNG formats.

25. Morcha

An icon set of free and glossy 9 major web browsers like Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari etc., are available freely with a maximum of 256px x 256px and can be downloaded to get the ZIP and PNG ICO files.

26. Titan icons

Titan Icons presents 3 free E-Commerce icons in PNG, JPEg, GIF, ICO and Mac formats which can be downloaded in sizes of 512 px x 512px, 128px x1 28px, 48px x48 px, 32×32px and 16px x 16px. These icons are perfect for online and offline projects such as spreadsheets, web designs, prime media, GUI and more.

27. Luke pensa

These are a set of exclusive vector icons created by Luka for CSS Globe Cons and are available in AI, EPS, PDF and XAR file formats. They are of minimal designs.

28. Macthemes

Envelope style icons which comes in 3 different sizes.

29. Social networking glossy icons

These are a set of 25 free social icon set in the shape of clouds. They are available in PNG format in 60px x 60px.

30. Camera icons

A set of 4 Camera Obscura icons for Aperture library, iPhoto library, Aperture Vault and Aperture projects. These include 7 icons for MAC, Linux and Windows in PNG, ICo and ICNs formats.

31. Pixel-mixer

A basic set free collection of 42 high quality icons which can be used in your softwares, GUI and web applications comes in Windows, MAC OS and PNG formats in sizes of 16px x 16px, 32px x 32px, 48px x 48px and 64px x 64px.

32. Twitter Badges

A collection of a set of free unique Twitter graphics in 40 different graphics, icons, badges and buttons which come in transparent .png format and which can be edited and re-sized. Comes in different size variations.

33. Playground icons

A collection of high quality e-commerce icons which are sophisticated, visually appealing and has customer confident. They are freely available and come is 200px x 200px and are licensed.

34. Payment icons

A collection of 13 free Credit card, Debit card and paymant options is presented from the WebDesign blog in PNG format. They come in three different sizes of 32px, 64px and 128 px with package options as straight and curved edges which can be used in any e-commerce website. Icons are copyrighted by the companies but can be freely used without credit.

35. Free icons

This is a package of 16 high quality file status icons for Windows, Mac and Linux in file formats of ICO, GIF, BMP and PNG. They are licensed under Creative Common Attribution 3.0.

36. Payment options

Here is a collection of icon sets of 20 payment option icons. They are the icons of the most popular payment options in .png format over the internet like American Express, Visa, Paypal, MadterCard etc. These set of icons come in three different sizes as of small, large and big and can be downloaded freely.

37. Office icons

A collection of free Office icons in 30 designs are available in  sizes of 16 x 16px, 32 x 32px, 48 x 48px, 64 x 64px, 128 x 128px and 256px x 256px in formats of PNG, ICO and ICNS.

38. Hand cursor icons

Icojoy presents free icon sets that includes 6 different types with 6 different color variants of hand pointer icons. They come with a source PSD file with file types of PNG and PSD with a total collection of 36 icons.

39. Flag icons

A collection of 172 country flaga as icons which are available freely in PNG format in 48px x 48px. Can be used freely but comes with a link back to the author.

40. Hand drawn icons

This is an icon set of more than 20 hand drawn icons for social media sites like Facebook, Flickr, Blinklist, Skype and more. They come in sizes of 16×16 px, 32×32 px, 64×64 px and 12×128px and are available for free.

41. Payment type icons

A free collection of 12 Payment type icons and buttons which can be downloaded in 60px x 32 px under GIF format can be embedded into your website.

42. Mail Icons

Bored of the standard mail icon, learn to design a stylish and glossy icon for you applications and websited in Photoshop.

43. Vector Icons

A set of 90 free vector icons which are in EPS format has a collection of great general purpose icons.

44. Credit-card pixel icons

This is a collection of Credit card icons of Visa, AMEX, and Paypal type with a simple credit card logo. This icon set comes with a spurce fiel which letes you modify the card colors with hue or saturation. They can be downloaded freely and come in sizes of 32 x 32 px.

45. Cult icons

A set of 50 free high quality Web App icons which look strong yet subtle are available in PNG formats.

46. Robbery icons

This is a collection of 5 high quality Robbery Icon set in PNG, ICO and ICNS for Windows, Linux and MAC in the sizes of 128 x 128 px.

47. Vector diagram icons

A collection of free vector diagram icons  which has a total of 11 different images are available in Adobe Illustrator.

48. Sleek XP icons

A collection of 50 Sleek XP basic icons are available freely with Freeiconsdownload in PNG and ICO formats and are licenced under Creative Commons.

49. Shopping cart icon

A shopping cart icon which can be used for online shopping is available freely in PNG version which can be used for MAC, Windows and Linux.

50. Glossy E-commerce icons

A collection of 32 glossy icons which are free to use and can be remixed as per your wish in your E-commerce projects which comes with a master SVG file.

51. Passenger and pedestrian symbol icons

This is a collection of 50 passengar and pedestrian symbols from AIGA in EPS and GIF formats available freely over the net.

52. Hand drawn sketch icons

A collection of 19 sketch type web designs which are draws on a paper with a pen and later on scanned and cleaned up in Illustrator. They come in sizes of 48 x 48 px and 96 x 96 px in JPEG formats.

53. E-commerce payment icons

A free ecommerce payment icon set for popular gateways ad credit cards has 15 icons for VISA, MasterCArd, PayPal, SOLO and others. These icons are designed by the Colour Mill and licensed under Creative Commons Attributes. They can be downloaded in 24 px x 16 px size in 32 bit PNG format.

October 14 2010

12:00

50 Beautiful e-commerce sites

Sorry. This link has been removed as it turns out the target site changed and now contains harmful content (as in malware).

Tags: e-commerce

September 08 2010

10:00

How to Build a Custom WP e-Commerce Theme (Part 2)

In this tutorial you will learn how to create a grid view in WP e-Commerce without the Premium Gold Cart Plugin, create your own method to display recently added products, advanced pagination techniques and some nice CSS3 effects to your grid. (Note that I recommend you to buy the Golden Cart Plugin as it has nice features and it cost only 40$)

Foreword

Before you start this tutorial you should read the first part of this tutorial: How to Build a Custom WP e-Commerce Theme (Part 1). In case you want to start your first e-Commerce shop I also suggest you reading this: A Crash Course in Creating E-Commerce Websites with WordPress.

Requirements

Introduction

In this article I will explain how to design the Product Page within WP e-Commerce to give better usability and a more attractive design. Here below is a picture of what we are going to do today. You will also find the source code and a live preview.

Background

In the first tutorial we duplicated the “default” theme and renamed it to “djavu-shop”. We are only going to work of the “djavu-shop” folder! For this tutorial we need the EqualHeights jQuery Plugin. Download it and save it into “djavu-shop/js/jquery.equalheights.js”. As this plugin requires jQuery please check if your theme loads it to avoid errors.

In this theme the administrator of the e-commerce platform can give a (brief) description of the product in the main page. A drawback is that you do not know how much he is going to write. A few possibilities exists to deal with this problem. Here is my solution. A row has 3 columns. For every row I check the tallest column and make the other columns of this row the same height. Personally I think this is a good solution but if you have a better one feel free to share!

Creating the Grid View

Now open up your product-page.php file within your theme. As we are in a loop every time we get a new product we update $wpsc_count_products. If we pass through 3 items we increase $wpsc_count_products_rows. If this is the case we increase the number of the class equalbox+1. So if we have 9 products we would have 3 rows. In the first row the 3 items will have the class equalbox1, in the second row the 3 items will have the class equalbox2, etc…

Here is the code

<?php
<div>// Count n# of products</div>
<div>$wpsc_count_products = 0;</div>
// Count n# of rows
<div>$wpsc_count_products_rows = 0;</div>
...
/* Check if we have 3 columns of products and if yes we add a new row.
* So all products in a column will have the same height because we use jQuery Equalheights
*/
if ( ($wpsc_count_products % 3) == 0)
$wpsc_count_products_rows++;
...
equalbox">
?>

Please read the commented lines as it is easier to explain.

The complete PHP/HTML Code

<?php
// Count products
$wpsc_count_products = 0;
$wpsc_count_products_rows = 0;
?>
<div id="my-container">
<div class="box productdisplay default_product_display equalbox<?php echo $wpsc_count_products_rows; ?>">  // HERE WE PUT THE ROW NUMBER
<div class="box-col">

  // CHECK IF THE THUMBNAILS SHOULD BE VISIBLE (define on admin area)
<div>
<a rel="<?php echo str_replace(array(">" href="">
<img id="product_image_<?php echo wpsc_the_product_id(); ?>" title="<?php echo wpsc_the_product_title(); ?>" src="<?php echo wpsc_the_product_thumbnail(); ?>" alt="<?php echo wpsc_the_product_title(); ?>" />
</a>
<div>
<a href="<?php echo wpsc_the_product_permalink(); ?>">
No Image Available
</a></div>
</div>
<div>
<h2>

<a href="<?php echo wpsc_the_product_permalink(); ?>"></a></h2>
<a href="<?php echo wpsc_the_product_permalink(); ?>">
<div>
  // CHECK IF IT IS A DONATION
<label for="donation_price_<?php echo wpsc_the_product_id(); ?>">:</label>
<input id="donation_price_<?php echo wpsc_the_product_id(); ?>" name="donation_price" type="text" value="<?php echo $wpsc_query->product[" />' size='6' />

  // OR A SPECIAL PRICE
<span class="oldprice">: </span>
<span id="product_price_<?php echo wpsc_the_product_id(); ?>">:  </span>
:</div>
</a>

product);
do_action('wpsc_product_addons', wpsc_the_product_id());
?>
<div class="wpsc_description"></div>
$the_addl_desc);
}

if( isset($addl_descriptions['addl_desc']) ) {
$value = $addl_descriptions['addl_desc'];
}

if( function_exists('wpsc_addl_desc_show') ) {
echo wpsc_addl_desc_show( $addl_descriptions );
} else {
echo stripslashes( wpautop($the_addl_desc, $br=1));
}
?>
<!--
<div">
<a href=''>Learn more</a></div>
-->

The CSS

A product is on a div of class box which has a width of 190px (+10px padding). The class wpsc_product_price has some CSS3 effects such as a gradient. You can change the colors of the gradient if you do not like. Remember to add a default background color so that “old browsers” can still display it correctly. Round corners have also been added.

The CSS Code

/*
 * Product Page - Display the boxes with the products
 * 3 column design
 */
.box {
    border: 1px solid #ddd;
    float:left;
    font-size:11px;
    margin:5px;
    padding:5px;
    width: 190px;
}
.box:hover {
    border: 1px solid #bbb;
}
.box-col .box-producttext p {
    font-size: 9pt !important;
    line-height:160% !important; /*so it cannot be overridden*/
}
.box-col h2 {
    color: #666;
    text-align: center;
}
.box-col .prodtitles a{
    color: #666;
    text-align: center;
}
.box-col .box-imagecol {
    margin-left:auto; /* Align the picture in the center and the text also*/
    margin-right:auto;
    text-align:center;
}
.wpsc_product_price { /* Here is the price with the purple effect*/
    color: #fff;
    text-decoration: none;
    padding:10px 10px 5px;
    margin:10px;
    text-align:center;
    font-size:10pt;
    -moz-border-radius: 4px; /* add a small round corner */
    -webkit-border-radius: 4px;
    border-radius: 4px; /* future proofing */
    background:#6f1048;
    background: -webkit-gradient(linear, left top, left bottom, from(#9e005d), to(#5d1740)); /* here a gradient */
    background: -moz-linear-gradient(top,  #9e005d,  #5d1740);
    filter:  progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.gradient(startColorstr='#9e005d', endColorstr='#5d1740');
}
.wpsc_product_price a {
    border: 0;
    text-decoration: none;
}

Advanced Pagination Techniques

Here below are some Advanced Pagination Techniques for WP e-Commerce. This Plugin does not work with other pagination plugins of Wordpress!

//Displays page numbers
wpsc_pagination( $show ) // If you give 5 as input and if there are 10 pages of products, it will only show 5 page links at a time</pre>
$show (int) (optional) //The maximum number of pages to show at a time. -1 will show all pages.

//Displays previous and next links
wpsc_previous_products_link( $text, $show_disabled )
wpsc_next_products_link( $text, $show_disabled )
$text (string) (optional) //The text to use for the link.
$show_disabled (bool) (optional) //Wether it should show (the previous or next) text even if there is no previous page. Default: false

//Displays link to first and last product
wpsc_first_products_link( $text, $show_disabled )
wpsc_last_products_link( $text, $show_disabled )
$text (string) (optional) // The text to use for the link.
$show_disabled (bool) (optional) //Wether it should show (the first or last) text even if there is no previous page. Default: false

//Displays the total number of products
wpsc_total_product_count()

//Displays the current page number
wpsc_current_page()

//Displays in which page you are.
wpsc_showing_products_page() // Example: Page "3 of 7".

//Shows the number of  currently viewed products.
wpsc_showing_products() // Example you have 100 products and the user is seeing the products from "30 to 39"

//My default settings for this theme
Showing <?php echo wpsc_showing_products(); ?> of <?php echo wpsc_total_product_count(); ?> products <br/><!-- Number of products showing -->
Page <?php wpsc_showing_products_page(); ?>:
<?php echo wpsc_first_products_link( '&laquo;', false ); ?>
<?php echo wpsc_previous_products_link( 'previous', false ); ?>
<?php echo wpsc_pagination( 5 ); ?> <!-- Limit the amount of pages -->
<?php echo wpsc_next_products_link( 'next', false ); ?>
<?php echo wpsc_last_products_link( '&raquo;', false ); ?>

More on pagination here

Display recently added products without the WP e-Commerce function (for more flexibility)

What I am going to show you now can enable you to do great things with WP e-Commerce but use it at your own risk! With $wpdb->get_results() you can do a db query which is really nice! This makes wp e-commerce really powerful and your imagination is your only limit! Please check the db relationship before playing around.

Here is the code:


<?php
<pre>get_results("SELECT `id`,`name` FROM `".WPSC_TABLE_PRODUCT_LIST."` ORDER BY `date_added` DESC LIMIT 5");
   echo 'Recently added products
';
   for( $i=0; $iid."&thumbnail=".true."&width=32&height=32";
      echo '<a href="',wpsc_product_url($category_name[$i]->id),'"><img src="',$image_path,'" alt="" /> ',$category_name[$i]->name, '</a>
';
   }
?>

As $wpdb->get_result() returns an array you have to go through the whole loop to display the latest products. In $image_path we create a thumbnail out of the product id. That’s why we selected the id in the sql query. In the query we choose to select the 5 last products. You could also put 5 random products, etc…

In the next tutorial we are going to focus more on this!

Conclusion

That’s all! I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and find it useful! Now you should be able to do a clean grid view. Note that equalheights is sometimes a bit buggy.

Remember as I said in the tutorial before: Make a temporary install of WP e-Commerce and fill it with dummy content! This will really help understanding how WP e-Commerce works and will also help to find errors.

In the following tutorial I will focus on the single-product page as you can see it on the demo!

Further Discussion

Have some thoughts of this theme? Give them to me, I’d love to hear them. This is as more a proof of concept than a tutorial. It introduces html, css, jQuery, PHP and the WP e-Commerce plugin. I’m sure there will be people out there who will feel that a perfect e-commerce start page is something else. If so, what would you do?

August 25 2010

10:00

How to Build a Custom WP e-Commerce Theme (Part 1)

If you have ever tried to create an E-Commerce shop with WordPress, I am sure you know WP e-Commerce. If you are  a beginner and don’t know that much about it, I will suggest you to read this tutorial so that we are good to start the complex development. In this article I will show the process of how my latest custom WP e-Commerce theme was built from design concept through to completed theme.

You can preview the theme here or download djavu-shop work in progress theme here.

Tutorial Requirements

This tutorial assumes you are fairly comfortable using the following languages

  • Html
  • CSS
  • jQuery
  • PHP
  • Wordpress

What will we learn in this tutorial?

  • Creating a WP e-Commerce Theme
  • Brief introduction to Wp e-Commerce file relationship
  • A dynamic accordion slider (using jQuery Kwicks) that uses the company categories as content
  • Playing with CSS3 to add a nice touch

Preview of our WP e-Commerce Theme

The theme I’m working on is named Djavu-shop. The main feature of this theme is it’s accordion slide on top of the products. This accordion displays the available categories and/or brands. Sliding over the accordion will bring a brief description of the category. A click on the link will display all the products of this category or brand.

A few fancy effects such as the buttons and shadows are made with CSS3.This tutorial is the first part of a suite of tutorials. For the first part we will only focus on the product page (see picture above).

Anatomy of a WP e-Commerce theme

Before getting stuck into the build process, it’s important to know how WP e-Commerce themes work. Open the default theme (wordpress-directory)/wp-content/plugins/ wp-e-commerce/themes/default), you’ll notice that it’s all contained in a folder, and there’s around 9 core files. Note the default theme is always loaded! Your theme only overrides the default theme behavior. In our theme we will include more files which allow extra customization.

Here’s an overview of the main files you’ll be working with:
cart_widget.php // Cart widget to be displayed on the sidebar for example
category_widget.php // Displays a widget with the categories and brands given in WP e-Commerce
default.css // Stylesheet of WP e-commerce. Original file is always loaded!
functions.php //
grid_view.php //
images/ // Folder containing WP e-Commerce related images
list_view.php //
products_page.php // Page where all products are displayed, per category, brand, etc…
shopping_cart_page.php // It’s the checkout page. Where the client puts his name, address etc…
single_product.php // Description of a product

Each of these files then contains a series of PHP template tags. These tags tell WP e-Commerce where to insert the dynamic content. A good example is the <?php  echo wpsc_the_product_title (); ?> tag, which will display your product title (or name if it is more understandable).A catalog of all available template tags are here . Probably you will find a tag that will do exactly what you want or if it is WordPress related try the WordPress Codex.

Create a new theme out of the default

The best way to start creating your own theme is to make a copy of the original theme. The default theme is in (wordpress-directory)/wp-content/plugins/ wp-e-commerce/themes/default. Duplicate the “default” folder and call it “djavu-shop”. After this open the new created theme folder and rename the default.css file to djavu-shop.css. Delete everything inside your css file (!) and put the following code inside of it.

<code>/*Theme Name: Djavu-Shop Theme
Theme URI: http://www.djavupixel.com
Description: Just another WP-e-commerce theme
Version: 0.2
Author: Leonel Hilario
Author URI: http://www.djavupixel.com*/</code>

Login to your wp-admin section and browse to Store>Settings>Presentation page, click on the drop-down list and djavu-shop theme should be in the list. Select it and save changes.
Create a “js” folder inside our theme. We will put some JavaScript inside. Download jQuery kwicks and put “jquery.kwicks-1.5.1.pack.js” on the js folder created before.
In this tutorial we will only work with djavu-shop.css and products_page.php. The next tutorials will focus on other files.

Reminder

Inside the “djavu-shop” folder you should have the following files:
cart_widget.php
category_widget.php
djavu-shop.css
functions.php
grid_view.php
images/
js/
list_view.php
products_page.php
shopping_cart_page.php
single_product.php

Preparing WP e-Commerce for our theme

Add 4 categories in WP e-Commerce

Login into your WordPress account and then click on Store>Categories. For this example we will create 4 categories “MacBook Pro”, “iMac”, “iPod Touch” and “iPhone”.  Add a small description and a picture to all categories! In our example we need 4 pictures of at least 320 pixel width and 320 pixel height (for this tutorial I used 4 pictures of 576×320).  Here below is an example screenshot and here you can download the pictures.

For the lazy one like me here are the products descriptions:

  • MacBook Pro: The fastest, most powerful MacBook Pro ever. Three Times.
  • iMac: The ultimate all-in-one. Turbocharged.
  • iPod Touch: A great portable game player.
  • iPhone 4: This changes everything. Again.

Configure presentation settings

Just copy the same settings as in the picture below. Please note that this picture is tall. Click on the image to open the full size

Let’s start building our theme!

Open products_page.php and go to line 35 it you be “<ul class=’wpsc_categories’>“. Delete line 35 to 48, just before the endif. Here we will add Kwicks for jQuery which is an accordion slider.

Here is the PHP/HTML code:

<code><ul class='kwicks'>
<?php wpsc_start_category_query(array('category_group'=>get_option('wpsc_default_category'), 'show_thumbnails'=> get_option('show_category_thumbnails'))); ?>
<li>
<div class="kwicks_inner">
<div class="image"><?php wpsc_print_category_image(); ?></div>
<div class="caption-title transparent_class">
<?php wpsc_print_category_name();?>
</div>
<div class="caption transparent_class">
<a href="<?php wpsc_print_category_url();?>" class="wpsc_category_link"><?php wpsc_print_category_name();?></a>
<?php if(get_option('wpsc_category_description')) :?>
<?php wpsc_print_category_description("<div class='wpsc_subcategory'>", "</div>"); ?>
<?php endif;?>
</div>
</div>
</li>
<?php wpsc_end_category_query(); ?>
</ul></code>

We created an unordered list and inside of it we put we kwicks_inner class. Inside we put the picture as we think it is more flexible than putting it on the CSS. In class caption-title we put the title of the category. On mouse over the class caption will be displayed which contains the title and the small description that we entered before (see Preparing WP e-Commerce for our theme). Now open djavu-shop.css and paste this CSS code:

  • wpsc_print_category_image() prints the category image unscaled
  • wpsc_print_category_name() prints the title of the category
  • wpsc_print_category_description is the description we gave before to this category
  • wpsc_print_category_url() link to the category content

<code>/* Product Page - The accordion (kwicks) effect on top of page */</code>

<code> </code>

<code>.kwicks {
list-style: none;
position: relative;
margin: 0;
padding: 0;
border: 1px solid #ddd;
box-shadow: 2px 2px 5px #ddd;
-moz-box-shadow: 2px 2px 5px #ddd;
-webkit-box-shadow: 2px 2px 5px #ddd;
}</code>

<code> </code>

<code>#content #products_page_container ul{
margin: 0;
padding: 0;
}

.kwicks li{
display: block;
overflow: hidden;
padding: 0;
cursor: pointer;
}

.kwicks li{
float: left;
width: 160px;
height: 320px;
margin-right: 5px;
}

.kwicks li a {
color: #fff;
}

.kwicks .kwicks_inner {
width: 320px;
}

.kwicks .image {
width: 90px;
height: 240px;
float: left;
}

.kwicks .caption-title {
background-color:#333333;
color:#CCCCCC;
float:left;
font-size:16px;
margin:40px 0 0 16px;
padding:3px 0 3px 16px;
text-align:left;
width:100%;
}

.kwicks .caption {
display: none;
text-align: center;
width: 320px;
height: 80px;
color: #ccc;
font-size: 16px;
float: right;
/* Playing with CSS - Adding some transparency */
background-color: #333;
}

.kwicks li.active .caption {
display: block;
}

.kwicks li.active .caption-title {
display: none;
}

</code>

<code>.transparent_class {
filter:alpha(opacity=70);
-moz-opacity:0.7;
-khtml-opacity: 0.7;
opacity: 0.7;
}</code>

So this was a bit of code. As you may read we added a few CSS shadows. The .kicks li.active class is fired when a mouse passes over the accordion. Here we hide the .caption-title to show the .caption which contains the title and description of this category. For more information about Kwicks please read the well documented page or if you want to try other nice effects.

Now we hase the HTML and CSS code and here is the JavaScript code that will create all the magic:

<code><script src="<?php echo $djavu_theme_url ?>/js/jquery.kwicks-1.5.1.pack.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
<script type="text/javascript">
jQuery(document).ready(function($){
$('.kwicks').kwicks({
max : 320,
spacing : 0
});
});
</script></code>

Note that you can put this at the top oder bottom of the page. I would recommend at the bottom of the page so that the layout loads faster.

Conclusion

This may look a bit difficult at first sight, but it’s not and it is the first part of a series of tutorials. Make a temporary install of WP e-Commerce and fill it with dummy content this will really help understanding how WP e-Commerce works and will also help to find errors. In our next tutorial we will focus on more general parts of the design as I am working on it ;-)

Preview the theme | Download files

Further Discussion

Have some thoughts of this theme? Give them to me, I’d love to hear them. This is as much a proof of concept as it is a tutorial. It introduces basic html, css, jQuery, PHP and the WP e-Commerce plugin. I’m sure there will be people out there who will feel that a perfect e-commerce start page is something else. If so, what would you do?

August 11 2010

21:00

30+ Awesome Online Shoes Stores: Best Practices and Showcase

The internet is enormous and a big part of it is, online shopping and e-commerce. In this article we have written down best practices to run Online shoe stores and after that there is a showcase to inspire you. The main goal and purpose of every online and offline shop and store is To Sell. The online sale as an event is influenced by multiples factors, let us list the main ones:

  • the attractiveness of the offer;
  • the wide choice or
  • the presence of the desired product or brand;
  • the easiness of finding the desired product;
  • the simplicity of the purchase process;
  • special offers and discounts;
  • the overall design and feeling of the online store;
  • representation of 1st class, luxury, reliability, quality whatever.

There’s probably not much difference when creating the design for the flowers, cushions or shoes online store, those several principles outlined above always remain the same and can be applied to any industry. Still and if you want to stand out from your competition there’s something unique you have to offer to your potential customers.

The style of design of your new future online shop should be determined by the brands that will be presented on the website. If that’s a one brand website you can allow a splash page with the huge photos of the products and a few introductory words. If you’re selling the costly designer shoes your website should transmit a sense of luxury and style. If that’s a stock shoes site for whatever shoes in the world there are- you should make an emphasis on the variety of choice, and if that’s a low price that you can boast then you should create the banners featuring not the products but your pricing.

The showcase of some nice online stores below is meant to help the designers who are facing the task to create a unique, nifty design for the shoes store that Will Sell. Here you will see one brand websites with the huge images and get some tips on creating the “sale” banners that work. You will see websites with the “glamour” structure and websites with clean layout; you’ll learn to build both horizontal & vertical user friendly products navigation and combine the style of different brands into one. Let the force be with you and feel free to share your own designs or links to the other cool online shoe shops you were lucky to see and visit.

33 Online Shoes Stores Providing Great Selling Tips

Schuh

Shoebacca

Betts

ShoeShed

Shoes.co.uk

ShoeMetro

Converse

Urban Original

ShoeGuru

ShoePassion

Teva

Project Shoes

Habitat Shoe Boutique

Mivo Kids

Pro-Keds

The Shoe Buff

Shoegazr

DSW designer shoes

Viva La Diva

ShoeFest

Shudoo

Overstock Online Shoes

Braska

Cinti

Dr. Martens

Allen Edmonds

Asics

Brikenstock

Born Shoes

Hush Puppies

Naturalizer

Rockport

Shoes.com

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Don't be the product, buy the product!

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