WordPress is the leading content management system, powering 30% of the web. E-commerce has become one of the biggest online activities, reaching a record $2.3 trillion in global sales in 2017. So, it stands to reason that e-commerce and WordPress would go together perfectly — but the reality is complicated.
Getting an online store up and running on a WordPress site isn’t too difficult. But managing and optimizing that site to drive traffic can be a challenge.
That’s why WordPress developers are intrigued by the recent announcement that the team behind BigCommerce, a major SaaS e-commerce platform, is developing a BigCommerce plugin for WordPress.
If the plugin works as intended, BigCommerce for WordPress could make establishing an e-commerce store on WordPress a lot more efficient.
What’s Required for E-Commerce on WordPress Today
WordPress does not support e-commerce by default. It is possible to set up an e-commerce site using WordPress (and many companies do, like Book Riot and Clickbank) but it requires that you install and configure:
- A domain
- An e-commerce-friendly WordPress theme
- An e-commerce plugin for WordPress
There are already dozens of plugins (free and paid) designed to add e-commerce functionality to WordPress. However, picking the right one can be a challenge of its own. In choosing an e-commerce plugin for WordPress, you must think about:
- What you are selling (some plugins lack shipping and inventory management, or only support digital products)
- Your payment system of choice (few plugins support all the various payment options)
- WordPress theme compatibility
- Plugin customer support (is someone there to help if your store goes down?)
WordPress is almost endlessly customizable, and the process of building an e-commerce site using WordPress is less time-consuming than creating one from scratch. However, it isn’t the fastest way to get into e-commerce. All-in-one e-commerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce are faster and more user-friendly.
Shopify and WooCommerce for WordPress
The top three e-commerce platforms in 2017 were WooCommerce, Magneto, and Shopify. WooCommerce was designed for WordPress from the ground up. Shopify is a standalone platform first but has released a WordPress plugin. Magneto does not integrate easily with WordPress.
WooCommerce has notable benefits for WordPress users: the basic software is free and customizable, with no limitations on the number of products or orders it can handle. However, many features are locked behind paid add-ons, including expanded payment and checkout options.
Another downside of WooCommerce it’s only for WordPress, meaning businesses have to rebuild their online store if they ever switch content management systems.
Shopify-built e-commerce sites are robust, but not without limitations. Its terms of service limit what you can sell on the platform, and it is not possible to manage WordPress and Shopify at once. Vendors have also reported configuration issues with shipping rates, weight-based shipping, and other time-sensitive factors that get in the way of conversions.
How BigCommerce Could Make e-Commerce on WordPress Easier
BigCommerce is an up-and-coming e-commerce platform that saw rapid gains in the market last year. Recently, it launched the developer beta of a BigCommerce WordPress plugin, which shows promise as a better option for e-commerce on WordPress.
Like Shopify, BigCommerce is software-as-a-service or SaaS, meaning it takes care of hosting and maintaining the servers, databases, and code for its engine. This system frees up resources on the WordPress end and ensures the online store won’t slow down the site, which is important for search engine optimization.
BigCommerce also promises an efficient control panel that allows businesses to manage both the e-commerce elements and the rest of the site from the WordPress platform.
We also like that BigCommerce is already Gutenberg-ready, so you won’t have to switch platforms when this massive WordPress update rolls out later this year.
If you run a WordPress e-commerce site, you’ll want to check out BigCommerce’s blog post on the subject, which has more information on planned features for the plugin.
A website redesign is much more than a visual facelift. With technology advancing at an unprecedented pace, companies must proactively respond to the changing ways customers find and consume content online. How often you redesign your website can have a significant impact on your ability to reach customers and stand out from competitors.
How Often You Should Redesign Your Website
There’s no rulebook on a website redesign, but the power of observation reveals that organizations with a strong online presence tend to change their website at least every three years.
Why three years? There are several reasons why proactive companies wait no longer than that to update or overhaul their web design.
While the timeline may vary to an extent in different industries, three years is approximately how long you can wait before it becomes necessary to adapt to changing technology, trends, and browsing habits.
Any longer than that and the site will start to fall behind.
Within a three-year period, it’s practically inevitable that:
- Web design trends will change to the point that the website’s visual design reveals its age.
- The ways many people use the Internet, and the devices they use to access it, will shift.
- Companies will phase out old marketing campaigns and launch new ones.
- Search engine algorithms will evolve, and search engine optimization strategies along with them.
Any one of these changes is enough to justify at least a minor change to a company’s website. Depending on the website’s structure, or the time that has passed since the last redesign, it may be necessary to undertake a more significant overhaul.
Below, we’ll look at how these changes can have an impact on the bottom line.
1. Keeping Up with Web Design Trends
Redesigning a website is about more than updating its appearance, but the visual design does matter.
Much like music tastes, fashion trends and more, the web industry changes daily and so do its trends.
The first impression customers have of a site is its colours, layout, graphics, photos, and other visual elements. If the site looks unappealing or outdated (especially compared to your competitors), customers are less likely to explore its contents.
The look and feel of a website is akin to a storefront. If a store looks shabby on the outside, you probably aren’t going to step inside, especially if there’s a competitor down the street.
Having an appealing, easy-to-use website show customers that a company is growing and on top of current trends. It’s important to incorporate new designs, upgrade efficiencies in code and practice new technologies that can improve the speed or overall user experience.
You may not succeed by look and feel alone, but it certainly helps.
2. Responding to Customer Browsing Habits
Ten years ago, only a small percentage of website traffic came from mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Now, mobile browsing accounts for 56% of web traffic worldwide.
This year, Google plans to begin ranking websites based on mobile versions first, making it essential to have a responsive, mobile-friendly site.
The shift to mobile browsing is just one example of how consumer trends can change drastically in a short time. Voice search is another powerful force that is changing how people find goods and services online.
It pays to be proactive in redesigning a site in response to these trends. While many businesses are rushing to bring their sites up to speed, those that implemented mobile-friendly sites years ago are reaping the benefits.
3. Aligning with Branding and Marketing
A business’s website should always be consistent with its current branding and marketing.
Many customers who learn about products, services and promotions offline go online to find more details. If there’s no trace of them on the business’s website, it could cost the company what could have been a lucrative lead.
What’s even worse is if the website has an outdated logo or tagline, leading customers to wonder if they’re even in the right place.
Even if the business doesn’t sell or offer services online, a well-designed website can reinforce and amplify its other marketing and branding initiatives. It should change and evolve with the overall marketing strategy.
4. Improving Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization should be on the agenda at your very first redesign strategy meeting. Why?
Because even an outdated or underperforming website has SEO value. Search engines have crawled its content, indexed its pages, and given the site authority.
The last thing you want to do is hurt your current rankings through a poorly-planned redesign.
Well-intentioned web designers can inadvertently do damage through mistakes like:
- Failing to redirect after changing page URLs
- Removing old pages with valuable content
- Adding visual elements that slow down page speed
- Making web design choices that are bad for SEO (like sliders)
It’s important to keep SEO in mind to preserve a site’s SEO value during a redesign, and actively monitor keyword rankings, organic traffic, and backlinks.
As search engines evolve, so do SEO tactics. Google tweaks its algorithm 500-600 times each year, so there is always something you can do to improve your site. Proactively optimizing for SEO during a website redesign is far more time- and cost-effective than continually fixing a poorly-designed site.
5. Meeting Business Objectives
Websites exist for a reason, whether it’s to generate leads, sell products, raise brand awareness, or get customers through the door. If a site isn’t contributing to a business objective or is doing so less effectively, it’s time to examine how this could be improved through a website redesign.
A site should reflect the company’s current goals. When those goals change, so should the website.
Websites are no longer simply a data-driven, content-based items. They’re a storytelling device, and a crucial piece of your marketing funnel. This is why UX/UI design have become the forefront for many agency websites, designed with a mind to the user journey.
6. Leveraging New Technologies
The web is constantly changing and evolving. It’s not only style and design sensibilities that shift – web standards are also moving forward, opening the door to new tools and technologies.
One addition that has made an impact over the past few years is the use of CSS Variables to create interactive elements, something we never had access to in previous renditions. We’ve also seen the rise of Progressive Web Applications, which could well be the future of any web project. We already have apps that auto automize our images, text, code and more, and as this trend moves forward, we will be capable of building websites increasingly faster, leaner ways.
URLs aren’t pretty. To be honest, they’re often awkward and unwieldy, especially when they include a UTM tracking code. That’s the great thing about Google’s URL shortener: it can turn any web address into a short, compact URL that is much easier to share on social media and print materials.
But recently, Google announced it is ending support for its goo.gl URL shortener service to focus on another product called Firebase Dynamic links.
According to a press release on its developer blog, Google has already shut out users who have never used the URL shortener before April 13, 2018. For the rest of us, the goo.gl console will close on March 30, 2019.
Will goo.gl Short Links Still Work?
If this is the first you’ve heard of it, you are probably having the same thoughts we did: what does this mean for goo.gl users?
Fortunately, Google has given assurance that all existing short links will continue to redirect to their intended destination. The change will ‘break’ your goo.gl short links.
But the other intriguing part about Google ending the goo.gl IRL shortener is the company’s emphasis on Firebase Dynamic Links — a term mostly unheard of outside the world of mobile app development.
What are Firebase Dynamic Links?
If you browse the web on your phone (and if you’re like 75% of the world, you do), you have probably encountered links that automatically open a mobile app when you click them. This known as deep linking, which are great for brands who want to promote a mobile app. For example, you can send users an email containing a deep link that will take them straight from their inbox to the feature in a single click.
Trouble is, deep links are prone to a few bugs:
* They do not always work perfectly on both iOS and Android devices.
* If the user has not installed the app or clicks it from a desktop computer, the link might behave differently (or not work at all).
* Users who do take the step of installing your app after being prompted will land on the app’s generic welcome screen. To get to the content they want to see, they’ll have to click the link again.
These are the issues Google’s Firebase Dynamic Links are meant to solve. Firebase Dynamic Links are designed to ‘survive’ the app installation process and take users directly to their destination after installing the app.
As for desktop users, Firebase links will direct them to the equivalent content on the brand’s website. The link’s destination depends on the device: one for desktop users, another for iOS users, yet another for Android users, and so on.
The continuing momentum of mobile browsing makes Firebase Links an incredible tool for marketers and companies that want to reach customers online. Check out these uses cases for examples of how you could potentially leverage dynamic links.
Alternatives to Google URL Shortener
Short URLs are great. They look cleaner, take up less space, and are easier to copy from print media without making typos. What makes the goo.gl console especially awesome is that it automatically tracks how many times the link gets clicked, which is vital in any digital marketing endeavour.
So as we prepare to bid farewell to goo.gl, it’s time to get to know the Google URL shortener alternatives out there.
Most social media scheduling software, like Hootsuite, have a built-in URL shortener tools that also track link clicks and shares. Many require a subscription, but Hootsuite’s Owly shortener is available to users with a free account as well.
As for free goo.gl alternatives, the go-to at the moment is Bitly, which has the added bonus of customizable URLs and social media titles in addition to click tracking.
Content sliders, also known as carousels, showcase multiple links and images inside one box. The slider rotates through a sequence of content at a set interval, displaying each ‘slide’ for only a moment before moving onto the next.
It was not long ago that sliders were the go-to homepage design. There’s a reason for that: sliders are dynamic and eye-catching, and they let you easily to swap content in and out to keep the homepage current.
So why are so many sites ditching them?
Just look at this post showing examples of beautiful slider design. How many of those sites still have homepage sliders today?
In short, the downsides of sliders outweigh their visual appeal. Sliders hurt a site’s search engine visibility, frustrate its users, and do little to drive conversions. We’ll take you through the reasons why you should dump content sliders on your website.
Page Speed Reduction
Page speed matters when it comes to search engine visibility. Most people will wait no more than three seconds for a webpage to load before they abandon it, and Google’s search engine algorithm penalizes sites that are too slow.
Too Many H1 Tags
Search engine algorithms look to H1 tags for clues to the subject of a page. Best practice is to have one H1 tag with relevant keywords per page. The more H1 tags you have on a page, the less clear it is what the page is about.
Trouble is, content sliders usually have a separate H1 tag for each slide. Each time it shifts from one slide to the next, the H1 tag changes as well. Search engines have a harder time contextualizing the page as a result, dampening the impact of those keywords.
Bad for Mobile Browsing
Soon, Google will begin ranking websites based on the mobile browsing experience rather than the desktop version. That’s bad news for sites with content sliders.
Not only do sliders reduce page speed (which leads to even longer load times on mobile devices), but they translate poorly to touchscreens. The images shrink, the text loses formatting, and the tiny controls are even harder to use than on desktop.
Low Clickthrough Rate
Many firms have done studies on the clickthrough rate of content sliders (Yoast has a great round-up here.) While different sites have had varying success, they all support the same troubling finding: few visitors click sliders at all, and the clickthrough rate decreases with each successive slide.
There are several reasons why sliders don’t click. For one, they often resemble banner ads, so the banner blindness effect leads people to ignore them. One company that ran tests on sliders found that users had a hard time locating information in a slider, even though it was in a large font at the top of the homepage.
Usability is another factor. People don’t want to wait for the slider to rotate, nor spend time figuring out how to go back to a slide they missed. As a result, many users either leave the site or find another route to the content they want.
Dominates Above the Fold
The space above the fold (meaning the part of a page users can see without scrolling) is a site’s most valuable real estate. If the content above the fold doesn’t make the right impression, people are less likely to explore the rest of the site.
Considering how few people engage with them, sliders are a poor use of that space. So what’s the alternative?
Take another look at the list we mentioned at the start. Many of those sites have switched to what’s called the hero layout – a single bold image and a compelling tagline. Given that the first image in a slider always gets the most clicks, this one-message approach makes a lot of sense.
Imaged Modified From: 123RF
Having the right plugins on your website can ensure it is optimized for a better user experience while increasing its functionality.
So, what exactly is a plugin? A plugin is a piece of software that acts as an add-on to a web browser, giving it additional functionality. A plugin also allows your web browser to display content it was not originally designed to display. When you start to work with WordPress, you will learn there are hundreds of thousands of plugins. It can be a process to figure out which ones are the best fit for your site. Some work very well, while others may not play well with your theme.
We have put together a list of tried and true basic plugins that will work with almost every theme while increasing the functionality of your site.
Yoast SEO is one of the most popular plugins to help optimize your website. We like it because it gives the author a list of checks and balances to follow when creating content. The plugin itself doesn’t give you higher search rankings, but it ensures you include the right information so Google can learn more about what the article is about. For brands who want to amplify their content on social, there are custom boxes where you can add specific text, images and titles to attract more engagement.
Yoast also offers Google Analyics and Webmaster Tools integration.
Social Media Buttons/Sharing
Your website and social media channels should work seamlessly to promote your brand. Social media buttons make it easy for your audience to share your content right from your website. Best practice suggests that social media sharing buttons should be displayed along the side, top or bottom of your webpage.
A XML Sitemap helps search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing better index your website. Using a sitemap makes it easier for crawlers to see the complete structure of your sitemap and retrieve it more efficiently. Additionally, the sitemap plugin will notify search engines when new content is posted to your website.
Akismet is an advanced anti-spam service that uses an algorithm to filter spam from comments, trackbacks and contact form messages. When someone comments on your blog, Akismet servers reviews the post and user to determine if it is spam. Spam is a huge pain to sort through and can hurt your SEO if not properly monitored.
W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache helps to improve user experience and SEO of your website through caching the site’s pages and assets. Caching is the temporary storage of web documents such as HTML pages and images. The storage of these web documents helps to reduce bandwidth usage and speeds up server load, making your website faster.
While this plugin is important for optimization, it can be tricky to set up, so make sure you follow the steps on their site to ensure you are taking full advantage of the plugin’s features.
WP-Optimize automatically cleans your WordPress database so it runs at maximum efficiency. If you create a lot of content or are constantly updating your webpages, you will create a lot of bloat on the back end with post revisions. You can reduce database size by cleaning up your website regularly, which means quicker and smaller backup files. WP-Optimize will also clear out spam comments and the site’s trash can. Running this plugin once a month will keep your database clean and your site as light as possible.
It may seem like an arbitrary decision left to web designers, but the colours you choose to code your brand with can make a big impact on conversion. There is an entire field of psychology that revolves around colour preferences and the subsequent emotional reactions, but here are a few simple tips that can help your company use colours to your advantage.
The specific colours you choose are more important that simply for aesthetic purposed. The colours you apply to specific buttons and parts of your page can change the way a customer reacts to your brand. It takes 90 seconds for a customer to form an opinion on a product and by using specific colours you can impact that opinion. Choosing the right colours on your headers, graphics, headline type, borders, backgrounds, buttons and popups is crucial to conversion success.
The most important consideration to make is who your audience is. Bright orange, yellow and green are perfect for company that sells children’s bouncy houses but would be inappropriate for a high fashion website.
For colour, the easiest way to break down your audience is by gender. Women prefer blue, green and purple and primary colours in general, while men prefer blue, green and black colour schemes. Both genders have a general disdain to earth tones like orange and brown. These preferences can be used to inform the base colours of your website.
When considering buttons and features on your website, look at the breakdown of these commonly used colours, the feelings they evoke, and the best place to use them.
BLUE= TRUST, PEACE AND ORDER
There is a reason that many popular apps and websites use blue as their main colour (hello Facebook, Twitter, PayPal and Capital One). Blue projects subtle messages of trustworthiness and serenity, loyalty and tranquilly. Use blue to your advantage on landing pages on your website to make the customer feel comfortable and at peace right away. The only case that you should not use blue for your website, is if your business is related to food. Very few types of food are blue and the colour can send a message of distaste.
YELLOW= WARNING, ANXIETY
This colour can sometimes be associated with happiness or sunshine, but more often it is linked to warning signs (think wet floor and traffic signals). Yellow evokes a heighted sense of emotion or anxiety, so it should never be used as the main colour for the branding scheme of a website. Yellow is best to be used on features like call to action buttons where a bit of anxiety or tension will urge the user to click the button.
GREEN= ENVIRONMENT, OUTDOORS, ACTION
The word green itself is often used as a term to describe environmentally-friendly or outdoors related practices, so using this colour for any business that has to do with nature, the environment, organic products or the outdoors will produce great results. Green is also a great colour to use on Call to Action buttons that says “purchase” or “submit” because it sticks out in isolation against a simpler background. This is common practice for a reason! Besides that, green has been known to boost creativity! Use this colour wisely.
ORANGE= FUN, CONFIDENCE, URGENCY
This colour is great to encourage physical activity, competition and confidence, which is why it is often used in many sports team’s logos. The colour suggestion of activity explains why many companies use the colour for “Limited time offer” banners, as it stimulates attention. However, beware that some people can interpret orange as signifying “cheap”, which is appropriate for a promoting a sale, but not for a luxury high value website.
BLACK= LUXURY, VALUE
This is a very commonly used colour that signifies luxury, elegance, sophistication and power. Black is a classic and timeless colour that gives the impression of exclusivity and importance. Many high value companies like Louis Vuitton and Lamborghini use this colour to add intensity to their websites.
BRIGHT COLOURS= CALL TO ACTION
The brighter the colour on you call to action button, the higher conversion rate. In particular red, green, orange and yellow are the most effective, but as long as it is bright, the call to action will be more successful than if was in a darker, cooler colour. Anti-aesthetic colours tend to perform well as they are different and catch the eye against your coordinated aesthetic.
WHITE= FREEDOM, SPACIOUSNESS, BREATHEABLILITY
Though not technically a colour, white can often be neglected when considering a colour scheme for a website. The simplicity can be a powerful design feature when used a background colour. It lets your text and buttons standout and gives users a sense of freedom and peace in their experience.
The most important thing to remember when you are creating a website is to test a variety of colour combinations with your audience. Use this guide to inform your colour choices, but only through testing will you know exactly what works for you.
If you already have a website and brand that prevents your company from making dramatic changes to your colour scheme, try to at least adjust the call to action buttons. Small changes in specific places can still have big impacts on overall conversion.
Having a deliberate plan with your use of colour can have a big impact on the overall performance of your website!