ecommerce

Featured Client: William T. Baker

William T. Baker

I have to admit, I have some of the best clients on the planet. Intelligent & talented individuals and innovative businesses who appreciate quality and excellence. Recently I had the pleasure to re-imagine and rebuild the online property of award-winning residential designer William T. Baker.

If you're not familiar with is work, he designs exceptional homes for clients all over the world. These are not your ordinary homes. The level of thought and consideration that goes into every detail of these residences needed to be reflected in his site.

Moving from WordPress, I rebuilt his site from the ground up. This was as much an SEO project as it was an online portfolio, and thus the creation of contextual content was key. Rather than row upon row of images, we created galleries that put the user's needs first. Large photography coexists with relevant descriptions that is both user-friendly and search engine optimized.

Much like his luxury residential projects, every bit of this web site was custom crafted and thoughtfully planned. The result is a powerful online experience that serves as a powerful marketing tool for his firm, is e-commerce enabled to sell his books, boasts massive SEO-rich content and is stunning in appearance on every device. In addition to the site we leveraged the power of MailChimp to power his email marketing needs and have partnered up for a series of Facebook campaigns.

Visit wtbaker.com to learn more about this remarkable residential designer.

When redesigning your site, seek out a digital partner that will do more than just give your online branding a facelift. Ensure they understand the value of SEO-rich development practices and user-centric design. If you have any questions at all, don't hesitate to book a 30-minute call so we can chat about your needs. It's absolutely free and I'd love to brainstorm ways to bring your brand to life online.

SHOPIFY VS. SQUARESPACE COMMERCE. WHICH IS RIGHT FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

Shopify vs. Squarespace Commerce

This is the top question I'm asked by clients. My simple answer is this: it depends. In this post I'll weigh out some of the major the differences and strong points of each platform...

First, let's help by outlining the similarities. Both ecommerce solutions have made launching a storefront of any variety relatively easy. Squarespace and Shopify both offer complete solutions: the ecommerce development platform, the hosting solution and the site development tools. Both are hosted solutions, meaning you have no software to install, no security updates to concern yourself with and no special hosting type to secure. Squarespace and Shopify both take care of the secure checkout, the data encryption and the credit card transaction flawlessly. One stop shopping, if you will.

With both, you can get a store up and running fairly quickly and accept major credit cards (and/or paypal) with quickly. That said, each platform offers strengths in certain areas, weaknesses in others and it helps to know which one might be best for your bright idea.

FOR THE LOVE OF SHOPIFY

If you're aiming to develop a product catalog the size of Horchow, Shopbop or Nordstrom (think: thousands of SKUs) Shopify is clearly the way to go. This is because Shopify is an ecommerce solution first and foremost, and a site design/blog solution second. Ecommerce is its core offering and it is what Shopify does best. Your admin panel centers around customer data, order details and store management. If your focus is to built a world-class online shopping experience with many products, I encourage you to take a look at Shopify. Many of your favorite brands have arrived at this conclusion and entrust their online commerce to Shopify. Tesla, Budweiser, Redbull & Kylie Cosmetics (yes, that Kylie) are just a few examples of major companies who have established serious digital footprints online and are leveraging Shopify to power their online sales.

Another strength of Shopify is its massive list of third-party integrations. Building an on-demand t-shirt business? Shopify is the solution to automate that process. They integrate beautifully with Printful, Gooten and other on-demand print services. (Note: Much has changed since this post first published. Now Printful now integrates with Squarespace and the platform itself has really begun to win me over for running boutique stores, on-demand product sites & other online shops).

Running a drop-ship business? Shopify rocks. In fact, you directly integrate with drop-ship suppliers from your Shopify admin panel.  Need POS for your physical store? Again, Shopify is the way to go. For mid to large-scale retail solutions, Shopify is absolutely wonderful. Frankly, there is very little this platform cannot do and if someone comes to me looking for a rock solid online shopping solution I'm likely to guide them this direction first.

Why look elsewhere, right? Well, here's why...

SPECTACULAR SQUARESPACE

Squarespace is an interesting platform that addresses multiple needs effortlessly in a seamless fashion. Over the past few years they have quietly encroached on the footprints of other platforms (I'm looking at you Wordpress & Shopify) to offer a complete solution for today's more integrated online sites. 

What if you want a gorgeous web site with blog content peppered in, context-sensitive products appearing on appropriate pages and customized sales pages that drive your audience to those products? Squarespace does this with incredible ease. Need video smoothly integrated as your page background or an easy way to sell those ebooks? Squarespace. I've developed a genuine appreciation for the platform's versatility and ease of use. Squarespace is (in my opinion) the winner if you see your needs as branded content first and also want to sell some products securely and safely. As noted above, it now has seamless integration with Printful and is a more robust ecommerce player. If you are running a boutique ecommerce business selling a limited number of your own products, I would consider Squarespace as the platform of choice first. Yes, first.

As an advanced front-end developer, both allow me the freedom to custom design any template with CSS and custom coding, meaning you are never locked in to an off-the-shelf design.

TOP QUESTIONS

Which platform is best for ebooks and PDF downloads? Both. Each solution (when set up properly) will generate a unique link for the customer to download the link to your digital content, good for 24 hours. Customers will also be able to download it instantly after checkout is complete.

I run an online apparel store, which solution is best?
If you run a niche apparel brand, either could work. But if you have Tory Burch sized dreams and an ambitious plan for growth, I would nudge you in the direction of Shopify in large part due to the robust administrative panel and ever-growing third-party app integration solutions. Also - the customer admin panel allows you to manage your orders the way a larger brand would. 

I run a brick & mortar business and want a better online presence to match, which solution is best?
If you have a physical boutique and area ready to take it online as well, Shopify's POS cannot be beat. You can use their system for in-store transactions and ensure real-time inventory updates with your online storefront. Shopify also offers robust accounting and other third-party integrations that make this option the best in class for your needs.

I want to have a successful lifestyle blog that also sells my art. What should I use?
For me, Squarespace takes the obvious lead. Your online store can grow with your art collection and I love the platform for blogging and site design. Products can be featured and integrated on virtually any page of the web site (including blog posts) and/or on a dedicated page, giving you rich content options.

What payment solutions does each use?
Get ready to meet your new BFF: Stripe (more on that here). This nimble payment processing tool is integrated with Squarespace and has a sleek (and enjoyably simple) app for your smartphone. You can even take payments from clients you meet in real life, over coffee, for example. Stripe integrates with many cool apps and offers high-quality bank security. Shopify now uses Shopify Payments or a number of other payment processing services.

I want to sell subscription memberships to special content not visible to the public. Solution?
Squarespace. All day long. It's not that Shopify can't do this, it's that it Squarespace is more nimble in the "what would you like to do with this page" arena. Using Shopify (in my opinion) would be overkill for the secured content and private access solution you are seeking.

I'm authoring another post on this topic shortly since this is the area of growth I'm seeing for most of my clients this year. Sign up for the newsletter to make sure you catch that post. It will be juicy!

I've been designing ecommerce storefronts since 1999 and have designed online stores for some very well known brands. This background only means one thing: I know a great ecomm solution when I see one and I can very easily spot deficiencies (and strengths) when I see them. Each of these platforms offer unique advantages to slightly different (and yes, sometimes overlapping) audiences. This brief post barely scratches the surface of the lengthy comparison of features and benefits of each solution.

If you are currently vetting ecommerce solutions, the above info has likely raised more questions than it answered. If you would like additional information, please enjoy a complimentary personal call and we can discuss your ecommerce and online marketing ideas. No obligation. No expectations. I'm happy to answer any and all questions you may have, free of charge. I look forward to hearing from you!

Why I Love To Take on Freelance Projects & How This Benefits My OTher Clients

I'll never forget the day the first call came. "We received your name from XYZ and wonder if you have bandwidth to help us on a few projects." Interestingly, I'd never heard of the source of the praise, but I knew everything there was to know about the digital marketing agency on the phone. I was a huge admirer of their work, their fun creative culture and their impressive client roster. And here they were calling to see if I could jump in and help on projects. I said yes, of course. And thus my love affair with freelance work began

That may have been 14+ years ago, but I've never lost my passion (and gratitude) for taking on freelance and overflow work from successful ad agencies & creative design companies. Much like my regular client projects, the experiences build upon one another, shaping me into a better designer & better professional creative with each new role.

Whereas design projects for my regular clients are more comprehensive, usually starting with branding and moving through launching an entire website or ecommerce storefront, agency work tends to be more concentrated on one particular skill set. Perhaps I'm asked to jump in and design a microsite for a giveaway or promotion for a major mobile phone network. Maybe I've been asked to create digital holiday greeting cards for a major theme park. Or perhaps the request is to rethink the ecommerce flow for a global brand. Regardless of the challenge, I love these opportunities to deep-dive on a specific skill set and partner with other team members on the project.

The benefits to my traditional clients are many. First and foremost, freelance work keeps me razor sharp and continues to refine my design skills. The collaborative nature of freelance projects offers constant lessons in teamwork and requires one to be an expert listener. More so, working with brands of such a high caliber on highly visible projects is the best way to bring out excellence (yes, we type-A's love a good challenge!). 

A not-so-obvious benefit for my Branding Glamour clientele is the feedback I receive from the creative directors and VPs at the agency or from the clients themselves on these projects. It's great to be asked to try something different or shift the design approach to the left or to the right. It's the collaborative spirit at its best, and it's fantastic to receive valuable feedback from these industry experts pushing the boundaries of design in their niche.

Which brings up my final benefit. Each agency or design firm has unique specialties. Being invited to the table to help them deliver excellence in their area of expertise opens my eyes to new styles of design, new marketing strategies, new technology stacks and new ways of creative thinking. Even the smallest of projects provides an opportunity to learn a new skill or truly demonstrate mastery of an existing one. And it's this continuous growth, refinement and expansion that keeps us happy as humans. As a creative? We live and breathe for opportunities to learn and improve.

In addition to some really fabulous agencies here in Plano and the Dallas area, I've recently discovered the Toptal community, designed as a matchmaking service of sorts for today's top design & creative talent. These opportunities allow me to flex my creative muscles and benefit from an ongoing source of new creative experiences.

Want to see more of my work? Swing by to see my portfolio or client roster. If I can help you, your business and your brand, don't hesitate to book a call.