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"ecommerce" category

The website that grew, part 11

6th July 2013
Categories: design, ecommerce, tWtG

(for previous episodes, try the "The website that grew" category)

Hugh came back to Kate with a draft design, which he said would need to be approved before the website "build" began.

Website designs differ from real websites in the same way that architects' plans or CAD drawings differ from buildings.  On a CAD drawing, one component might be a wall, whereas in reality a wall is made up of several components - not just bricks, but a cavity in between, and possibly plumbing and electricity running through it. It will also need to conform to building regulations.

Designs are typically created in computer graphics packages such as Photoshop or GIMP, which allow designers to work with multiple components, called layers, when creating a design. Sometimes these components exactly match the components that will be used to build the website - for example a button might be a layer in GIMP and a "tag" in HTML, but in many instances the layers are only an approximation of the website components - they are just being used to create a "picture" of how the website will look.

So once the design is agreed, the work of building the website still needs to be done - not only because the HTML needs to be written, but because buttons and links need to work (i.e. make things happen on the website).

Sometimes designers create a "picture" of every page on the website - and sometimes they will create a home page from which other pages can be derived. The former activity is of course more expensive but will make sure that very little can go wrong in terms of the website looking professional and being easy to use.

Hugh's design got rid of the background colour of the existing cheese shop website - everything was on a white background, so the featured cheeses could stand out. He also came up with a few ideas while designing - including a dinner party cheeseboard calculator.

Cheeseboard calculator

The cheeseboard calculator asked users two simple questions: "how many people?" and "how conservative/experimental are their tastes?".  As well as being fun to play with, it would give users a very quick way of catering for the last course of a small dinner party, which made it quicker than buying cheese on a supermarket site - so definitely worth building into the site.

After a few small tweaks to the design, Kate OK'd it, and the website building work began...

The website that grew, part 9

11th February 2013

"What do you want to achieve with the online shop?" asked Hugh.

"I want to supplement the shop's income." said Kate, "so that we can be more profitable."

"And what does that mean in terms of volume of orders?  A hundred orders a month?  A thousand?  Ten thousand?"

"I really want 500 orders a month online."

"How many customers come to the real shop right now?  As in, how many different people do you see in a month?"

"I'm not sure.  It's probably around 500, but some of those would come back several times in a month."

"OK.  Whichever way look look at it, you need customers from outside Aylesbury, which means advertising online.  So if you're aiming for 500 new orders, you should build something solid, that works, and that brings people back to the site, and something that grows.  When you get to 500 you should be fairly certain that the next month is going to bring more orders, and so on, month after month."

Kate was sceptical.  "How can I be sure that this will happen?  And what's it going to cost?"

"It's not cheap, but cheap will get you the results you're getting now.  We know what works because we've done it before, but it will need your input."

Kate's problem now was that she couldn't spare the time, and John didn't want to. "What if I can't provide much input?  Can you help?"

"We can provide more day-to-day help," said Hugh, "but it is more expensive.  What about your shop assistant - er.. "


"Yes, can he spare any time?"

"Not really, but I think I might be able to persuade John's mum to get involved.   She's started using an iPad and she loves it!"

"OK.  That sounds good."

Hugh and Kate chatted about how the online shop would attract and retain customers, and Hugh promised to put some figures together.  They agreed to ditch the shop and start again with a completely bespoke shop (though built on some readily-available open source software that Hugh had used before).

After 3 days, Hugh came back with a proposal and an estimate.  The estimate contained the following figures*:

website redesign £1000.00
bespoke online catalogue £1000.00
integration with paypal and amazon payments £1000.00
email list management and sales follow up  £1000.00
set up of blog £1000.00
project management and training £1000.00
TOTAL £6000,00

*Please note that the prices in the table above are completely made up; every shop is different and it is no use extrapolating these prices for your individual circumstances.  A web developer will normally discuss your plans, and tailor the solution to your requirements, the speed at which you want to grow, the technology available at the time, and so on.

Although Hugh's pitch had sounded convincing, and he'd also included examples of websites that he'd built which were doing well in terms of sales and visitor numbers, Kate baulked at the cost.  But she sat down with a spreadsheet and worked out the return in investment, and became calmer.  "Once we hit the 500 sales mark", she thought, "it will take just 8 months for the profits to pay off the website."

She did think that John and Nancy would be difficult about the cost, and she resolved to get at least one more quote.  She searched the internet for local web shops, found a few, and fired off some enquiries. She arranged meetings with the ones who seemed most friendly, and in due course received two more estimates, one cheaper than Hugh and one more expensive.  

Then she organised a lunch with Nancy, and we'll find out more soon....

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