As a person that makes a living out of your work, it’s important that your website supports you by acting as a sales channel, showing the world what you do and putting your products in their best light.
At We Make Websites, I’ve had the joy of working with many different designer-maker businesses and of learning about the tremendous work that goes on at charities like Cockpit Arts and Craft Central.
The designer-makers I’ve met over the past 6 years running a web agency have always been interesting, fun and dedicated to their passion.
The question we have to answer is: how do we convey that online?
Your website needs to do justice to the work you create. I’ve seen hundreds of designer-maker websites and here are the most common mistakes I see. Most are missing key elements that would otherwise generate instant business.
1. Not being clear about the proposition
All businesses need strong clear selling point. As a crafter, yours will be related to the unique design and production of the items you sell, so this needs to be clearly explained in a short sentence on the homepage.
Ideally this sentence should also touch on the benefit or outcome that the item delivers to the customer. Does it help the customer complete their home? Does the customer want to support local crafters? Does your product provide a more interesting alternative to another product? Is the customer treating themselves? Have a think about why people buy from you, what are they really buying? It’s not just the product. It’s some outcome behind it. Again, you can do yourself a favour by making this obvious on the homepage of your website.
It may not be as clear-cut as the example below but you should work towards clearer copy that explains on first reading what you create and how it benefits your customers.
A good starting point is to ask your most loyal customers why they like to buy from you. If you find a theme, it’s likely that this is the message that will appeal to other future customers.
Condense it down in a sentence that you can use on your homepage. This will also be your pitch when people ask what you do in the real world.
2. Not being ready for mobile visitors
It’s important that your website works on mobile and tablet because over half of your visitors are using these devices to visit your website.
Also, as of April 2015, Google penalises websites that don’t work on mobile.
The best way to be ready for all devices is to use ‘responsive design’, which means that the website optimises layout at all screen sizes, as you can see on the example below from Yen Jewellery.
The advantage of responsive design is that all screen sizes are covered, even those that don’t exist yet such as larger mobile phone screens or wider desktops.
Although people browse a lot on mobile, they usually then buy on desktop for a number of reasons. Perhaps they want to see bigger pictures, or would rather use a proper keyboard to enter cumbersome payment information and addresses. Around 20% of ecommerce sales are currently through mobile, although this varies a lot by country and industry.
However, it may surprise you to learn that on luxury and fashion websites, the amount of mobile transactions is actually much higher for both browsing and buying, compared with other industries. People seem to be more impulsive on these websites, more comfortable with buying through their phones and perhaps just don’t deliberate too much before spending money. So if you sell high value or luxury items, ensuring your ready for mobile and tablet visitors is crucial.
3. Bad software
Choosing the right platform for your website is crucial. Re-platforming later on is expensive and time consuming.
I’ve seen some dreadful platforms that are slow, hard to upgrade and don’t include the necessary features to run an online business.
For ecommerce, we’d always recommend Shopify and that’s why we specialised in it a few years ago. Here are a few benefits:
- A beautiful array of responsive templates
- Easy to use and update
- Easy to manage orders
- Fast pages anywhere in the world
- Fully secure and PCI compliant
- Affordable, with plans starting from $29
You can can get a free demo of Shopify here: http://wemakewebsites.com/tryshopify
Once you feel comfortable with a platform, you can use a professional agency to create a bespoke design and build that exactly meets your preferences and requirements.
SquareSpace is another good option for making websites if you aren’t focussed on selling online.
My advice is to avoid anything else except Shopify or Squarespace when building your website. Both of these platforms have beautiful designs, are easy to use, packed full of features and highly affordable.
4. Being hard to use
Try not to break too many conventions when designing your website, because usability is an important part of keeping people on your website. If your website is hard to use, people will leave it.
I’d recommend using usertesting.com or similar to get real feedback from users on how they perceive using your site. You could also ask a friend or relative to use the website, it’s been shown by usability that if you ask just 5 people you capture 90%.
You may have seen Ling’s website on Dragon’s Den a few years ago. She’s making a killing in her business but her conversion rate is around 0.1% based on my calculations. Imagine if we could push that up by just 0.5%, that would mean a lot more cash and all that requires is making the thing easier to use.
OK – that was an extreme example.
I’m sure your website doesn’t look like Ling’s but still, have a look around for areas of improvement and definitely seek the opinion of others. It’s easy to end up inside a bubble when designing your own website.
5. Not enough product information
Are your product descriptions including everything that a prospective buyer would want to know? Furthermore, are they compelling enough to inspire the viewer with the same inspiration that led you to make it?
Some common questions people might have when purchasing:
- What are the materials
- How is it made
- Why did you make it
- What are the limitations
- What are some example uses
- When is the item dispatched
- What is the packaging like
- What are the care instructions
- Is there a warranty
- What is your returns policy
If I am paying the premium price that often (and understandably) accompanies an item that is designed and made by an artisan, I need more information to feel comfortable with the purchase. This will at least include the above, so check your product descriptions to ensure you are adequately describing your offering.
6. Poor photography
Photographs are extremely important because they are the way in which visitors will judge your products.
They need to be well lit, high resolution and consistent in style throughout the site.
Use your creativity to think about how the photographs can be blended in with the design of the site, in 2016 we are seeing some impressive creative direction when it comes to ecommerce design. What could you do with your web designer and photographer that can make your website more engaging and your products more appealing?
7. No social proof
Unless you’re a household name, people are going to need a bit of reassurance before buying from you. The best way to do this is with ‘ social proof ‘, like launching a Youtube page and advertising your products on it but be aware that after launching a youtube channel you just have to buy views for starters among other vital steps and the same goes for Instagram too. some examples are:
- Recent press. Use the logos only, it looks cleaner and makes the point, don’t show a full photograph of the page.
- A big social following. If you have a large instagram following, show this.
- Spotted… Celebrities wearing your stuff.
- Good old customer testimonials
- A formal and automated review system like Yotpo or Trustpilot
Doing one or more of these will make people feel more at ease when buying online from you. Trust is everything in ecommerce.
8. Not showing basic ecommerce info
A website can be an artistic statement but if you want to make a living selling online it also needs to include at least some of these elements:
- Clear shipping and returns policy
- Free shipping potentially, if you offer this it should be obvious in the website header as this is a great selling point. Free shipping over a threshold also works well for increasing your average order value (AOV) e.g. “Free shipping over £50”
- Any payment methods you accepted should be shown in the footer.
- Easy to use checkout that works on mobile
- Trust badges should also be shown in the footer. This might include industry accreditations, security badges or industry memberships.
You don’t need all of these and what you can do will vary depending on your site design. Including this information can be done in a way that fits with your brand though, see the example design of Julia Davey’s website below.
Grace Gordon’s website also does a good job of clearly conveying her product quality and the fact that she ships worldwide.
9. Not promoting yourself
Originally this section was called ‘not promoting the website’, but given the website is at its most simple a base for holding information about the business, not promoting the website equates to not promoting yourself.
Your website will not attract visitors without you marketing it.
As someone that is creative and has chosen to pursue craft as a way of paying the rent, it’s important that you hustle so that you sell enough to keep going. The most common problem I see with people selling online is that they don’t put enough time, effort or money into promoting themselves.
With the right proposition, and by following the other points above, your website should be ready to convert visitors in to customres if you can just make people aware that it exists.
Here are the most effective ways to do that.
- Producing high quality, interesting content that addresses a need e.g. a homeware seller might create posts like ‘How to decorate a bedroom on a budget’, ‘5 of the best interiors fairs this year’, ‘10 ways to make a dark room feel light’
- Old fashion PR is going online, investing in a good agency will get you noticed online whilst boosting links to your website, which help get you higher on Google.
A note on SEO – don’t worry about it. Google pays attention to how many people are linking to you, which is achieved through PR and social. It also looks at whether your website produces valuable content, which is why I suggest writing good product descriptions and an interesting blog that answers real questions. The technical side of SEO just comes down to usability and website speed, both of which will be addressed by using a good platform like Shopify or Squarespace.
Thank you for staying with me all this way. If you can put all of these points into action you’re sure to see more money coming through your site, more orders and more happy customers. All of this leads to a happier business and an easier life.
If you want help with your Shopify store, my company are the highest rated in the UK and have a specialism in design-led retail. Over on our blog we produce regular articles full of advice on how to sell more. You can also try Shopify for free here.
Good luck in your crafty adventures!