Chances are your website isn’t perfect. Nothing against you or your website. But, to be honest, our website isn’t perfect either. With tools and needs changing so quickly, a website that functioned perfectly when it was first launched, probably needs a few tweaks and updates just a couple months later.

When we are approached by a new client, reviewing their current website is the first thing on our to-do list. If their current site functions fine, then we know that it’s editing the design to make it more user-friendly and accessible. When we are getting ready to draft a proposal, these are the steps we take to assess where our expertise will be most beneficial and how to effectively implement those changes.

There are two main areas that I look for when doing a website test:

  1. Website performance (aka. the visual side of things)
  2. How the internet views your website or how your site’s SEO is doing

1. 5-Second Test

Before looking at a site, I grab a sheet of paper, browse to the site, and scroll through the homepage for no more than 5 seconds. I close the window and jot down what I think the organization does.

A well-structured homepage makes your business goals clear. No one should have to search to figure out what you do.

You might ask yourself, “how can someone not know what I do? They searched a term linked to my business and landed on my website. There shouldn’t be a lot of ambiguity.” And, you’re right. There shouldn’t be, but there is. Let’s consider three businesses: Blue Apron, Instacart, and Epicurious

All three are food prep related, but in different ways.

Instacart makes it clear that they will just deliver your groceries. They provide you with no plan for those groceries, but you get what you ask for. While Blue Apron, lets you order their recipes. This is a little ambiguous at first, but as you scroll down, you figure out that they send you the ingredients with the recipes as part of their meal subscription service. Lastly, Epicurious allows you to search recipes. Since it is just a recipe site, it’s up to the user to figure out how to get the food into their homes to prepare the meal.

When I am first looking at a website, if I can’t get a pretty good idea of what the company does, then the content and the calls-to-action need to be worked on during the design phase of the website project.

2. How Are Your Calls-To-Action Structured?

Once we have an idea of what your business does, the next thing we check on is how your calls-to-action (CTAs) are structured.  Here are the questions I want to answer.

Do you use consistent colors, styles, and font weights for buttons/links?

This is important so that as people navigate your site, they are met with consistent styling triggering the same response. Ghost buttons don’t elicit the same urgency as buttons that are filled in with a solid color. This is also a place where the classic color mood rules apply. Reds and oranges are great for energizing and engaging customers while blues and greens will provide a calming response.

Do you use phrasing that prompts action from the user?

If your CTA doesn’t compel people to act, then they aren’t doing their job! Make sure they the CTAs are answering the customer’s tacit question.

If they are looking at a product “ADD TO CART” is the obvious CTA. It answers the question, “How do I get it?” If they are looking at a service you provide “GET A QUOTE” or “CONTACT US TODAY” is the first step to get them to purchase your service.

There are certain phrases that work better than others, so try some out and see which works best for you. I look to see if the CTAs are compelling me to take action.

Does the content around the CTA guide customers to their solution?

If your product is multistep, providing customers with a peak into the process can help alleviate some of their concerns. If all they see is “contact us today” you are giving them no information and no peace of mind. While some people are ready to jump in with both feet just from the homepage, others may need some handholding to get them to take action. Answering some basic questions about a service’s process, or a product’s features, or a return policy will help someone who is  more tentative to take action.

3. Test site on mobile, desktop, and tablets

The next thing I look at is to make sure that the website functions correctly across different platforms. Responsive design is common now, but older sites can still have issues. Since 2014, mobile traffic has overtaken desktop traffic, but since most sites are designed at a computer, it’s still worth a second look.

The most common problems are with image size, headers not displaying correctly, and menus that are difficult to navigate. These are all easy fixes, you just have to work with the right team.

4. SSL Certificate

Checking that your website has an SSL certificate is quick. On most browsers, when you look in the address bar you will see a lock (🔒) icon. If you don’t see that lock, it’s time to get your SSL certificate. Having a certificate will let your users know that when they land on your website, it is actually your website and not a similar site, that is imitating your website. It allows them to feel secure in any purchases they make or any personal information that they may put into your site.

Another reason to get one is that Google likes them and will improve your ranking if you have the certificate. A lot of hosting providers partners partner with Let’s Encrypt where you can get a free certificate.

5. Working Links

Making sure your links work is critical. Whether they external links or links to other pages on your site, finding links that don’t function as a user expects and fixing them will improve the user experience. Since you can’t always control what other people do on their sites, I check to see what we can control on your site and how to fix it.

First, I like to make sure that any external links open in a new tab or window. This ensures that if they are redirected to a page that no longer exists, they have an easy way to get back to you and don’t have to re-navigate.

Next, I check to see with links on your site are broken. Using a tool like Ahref’s Broken Link Checker will help to identify any problem links and where to find and fix them.

6. Speed tests

A slow website makes for a bad user experience. You might think that your site loads quickly and there isn’t a problem. And it may, for you. But, I challenge to you clear your cache or use a private browsing window and open it again. Since you probably visit your site a lot, it will load quicker for you than for most people.

Checking site speed lets me know if your files and images are web ready or what changes need to be made. By using a service like Pingdom, I can get a list of all files being included on the website and how long they take to load. This helps me to identify what problems need to be solved and helps me to solve them quickly.

7. Review Google Analytics

Checking to see if you have Google Analytics installed on your site is more for your benefit than the customers. It’s free and will let you see how customers are finding and engaging with your site. You will be able to see which pages have the most traffic and capitalize on that by adding CTAs to those pages.

Here’s a real life example: I was working with a client who wanted to improve his business as a speaker. The page that was getting the most traffic was not his contact page, it was actually a page that just discussed his past speaking events. This meant that the page people were landing on didn’t have a call-to-action. This was a great opportunity to utilize the information and help people get the product that they wanted, in this case a speaker, by prompting the action that needed to be taken (“Contact Me For Your Next Event”).

Another thing you can do within Google which will help is making sure that your sitemap has been submitted. If you haven’t don’t this, you are missing a lot of traffic. This is an easy task to take on, and essential to helping large search engines index your sitemap for searching.

8. Search Ratings

Another thing I look for is how your website ranks for relevant search terms. Using the tool Uber Suggest, I can see who ranks above (or below) your site for specific terms. Using this, we can improve your website’s content and help you rank higher for terms that your competition may not be using.

I was working with a client recently who was having a difficult time trying to get their website being the featured snippet on Google. Customers were searching for “John’s Restaurant menu” but site that collects menus from all different restaurants was showing up higher in Google than them. We dove into the data and found out the the “menu aggregator” site pulls in tens of thousands of page views per day, while John’s Restaurant only pulls in a meager thousand. Google views the “menu aggregator” as more authoritative and therefore shows it higher in the list of results.

Outpacing a large, national company, when you’re small or local can be hard, but knowing what powers are at play helps you improve your results over time.

9. Image Alt Tags

Visual search is on the rise. You can benefit from it by including alt tags in your images. This will help improve your sites SEO by creating more information that can be indexed and searched by Google and other search engines.

Conclusion

These website reviews don’t take a lot of time, typically under an hour, but doing them helps me to provide customers with a structured game-plan for their business. If I look at a site and an overhaul is obvious, then I can pretend they don’t have a site at all and suggest a build-from-scratch approach. However, sometimes it takes some digging to see where our services can provide the most impact.

Ensuring that our customers have a strong web presence means that every project and every website is tailored to fit that client’s needs.

There are a few evergreen rules that we have found that help us to build and maintain strong relationships with our clients. But, we can’t stop with you, our clients. We have to focus on YOUR customers and how to help you build and maintain a relationship with them.

We like to make sure your web presence is more than a brochure, we want your audience to be called to act.

Discovery + Problem Solving

You define your business by the solutions you provide.

We know websites and we love WordPress as a content management platform. Our clients need our knowledge of website design and development. They also need us to be able to teach them why WordPress with a web development team is a better option than a website building platform.

When we get new clients, it’s because their website needs help. Either there isn’t a website or the current site is flawed.

When we build a new functioning site that has clean code (so it works), thoughtful design (so its navigable), and improved SEO (so people can find the new site), our client and their end user are both benefiting from our expertise.

In order to do this, we talk with our clients about their current website. We get an idea of the website experience they want for their customers and compare it to the current situation.

By recognizing what doesn’t work, it’s a lot easier to identify a solution.

Relationship Building

Solving someone’s problem is not the end of the road. In fact, it’s just the beginning. Now it’s time to focus on the relationship and build to something long-lasting.

Feedback

We have found that in-person meetings lead to the most productive and fulfilling conversations, but depending on your type of business, other follow-up is more appropriate.

One of the things you want to find out first is how you did overall.

Sending a quick email asking these questions is a great way to get a lot of feedback quickly. You probably have received an email like this from an Amazon seller or another online retailer.

To incentivize people to respond you can provide coupons or free products in exchange for their feedback.

Reviews

Encouraging product or service reviews will not only help new customers find you, it will allow people to feel more confident in your ability to solve their problem.

Some of the best people to contact for reviews are the same people that gave you direct feedback. While good reviews are preferred, negative reviews give you the opportunities to publicly address and resolve issues by replying on the review forum.

Fostering Repeat Business

Your best customers are the ones that already know and enjoy working with you. Repeat customers ensure the survival of your business, and repeat customers expand into new customers – ensuring the growth of your business.

To best take care of this relationship, go back to how you initiated the connection: a potential client had a problem and you held the solution.

Once we get clients online, they could be done with us, but we are proud of the work we do. Our name is on their site, so we like keeping it up through maintenance and hosting support for our clients.

Most people don’t need us every month, but when they do we are readily available for them, and we have the background needed to make quick work of their latest issue.

Conclusion

Client relationship building comes down to listening and being there for continued problem solving.

First, you listen to their specific problem and use your skillset to solve it. Then, you listen to their feedback and reviews of your work to improve your business and make it the best that it can be for the customers that you want. Lastly, walking with your client in their business to make sure that they are getting from you what you need and fostering a strong relationship. These three steps will help you ensure a long and successful business.

We get asked a lot of questions about web hosting. It seems like the part of the process that is most complicated because it’s not directly related to the design or development of the website. There are a few different paths to take when deciding on where to host your website. Let’s dive into some of the top questions we get about hosting and break down the answers.

Can I keep my domain name with a new website host?

Good question! Most of the time when you are creating a new website, the place you end up getting your domain name is the same place you use for hosting. SquareSpace, GoDaddy, Host Gator, etc. provide you with the option to get a website domain and launch your site all at once.

However, you can take it with you!

Your domain name is a separate from your hosting provider even if you got them together. As your business grows and your site demands more, moving to a new provider that allows you to manage the traffic you are getting is critical. And, when you decide to make that move, your domain name can move with you.

If you have a WordPress site, an easy way to get started is to buy your domain name from Name Cheap and purchasing a cheap GoDaddy WordPress hosting plan. That way, you can customize your site with WordPress while using your own domain name. Given WordPress’ status as the go-to source for content management by web users of all skill levels and talents, Reclaim is a sensible place to begin. Site hosts such as GoDaddy and BlueHost also offer platforms tailored to a WordPress site.

If my domain name is separate from my web host, what exactly is the domain name?

A brief explanation of how the internet works: A computer has its own IP address and they can pick between the vast network of wires that make up the Internet to find a specific site. The IP address is exactly that – an address. The numbers help your computer navigate correctly to a site, but the domain name is what you use to get it there.

All websites have a string of numbers that make up the IP address, but instead of typing “146.148.50.87,” just type “classiccity.com” in your browser’s search bar. That’s it, and it’s easy to remember, because you’re calling the Classic City website.

How does the web host work?

A website’s IP address actually points to the physical server (or computer) of your web host. Every site needs a host, and companies exist to provide website file storage and operational services. Based on your industry, specialty, or the purpose of your website, many hosting companies offer various plans at different price points, each including its own benefits and features.

By now, we understand the difference between a domain name and a web host. So…what makes a good hosting provider?

Deciding on a Web Host

When looking for a web host, consider factors such as site performance, security, and load time. Using managed hosting for your website, for example, means enhanced security at the server level as well as daily backups from your site. You don’t want to lose your digital identity.

Fortunately, this is easy enough with WordPress. Almost a third of websites run on WordPress, and there are managed hosting system tailored specifically to WordPress. While you get to focus on the upfront and public elements of running your site – such as operating your business, drawing in customers, and optimizing your site for search engine results – using managed hosting entails having all of the back-end parts of your site – such as storage and site operations – taken care of.

This means your site is supported, quick, and easy to use. It also means your site is secure.

The most cited reason for a site’s failure does not come from a security breach, but rather the domain’s owner failing to update all elements of the WordPress site. Managed hosting not only takes care of regular updates, but also warns the site owner of malicious plugins and themes and prevents harmful attacks.

To this end, it might not be an outside attack that causes you to lose content. Having a managed host not only protects your site from outside harassment, but also provides regular backups – often daily – for your website. Should something detrimental happen to your site, all it takes is one click to restore your site from the most recent archive.

Caching is no longer a manual process, either. Instead of installing an additional plugin, a managed host makes your site faster and easier for users through its own caching system. It takes advantage of reverse proxy that does not change even as you update your content or alter your theme.

Managed hosting means everything is automatic and in one place. Why make it complicated when it can be simple?

Get SSL Certified

Google cares about its users, and they want you to care about your customers. If your site does not already have an SSL certificate, Google will flag your site. Getting an SSL certificate is necessary for everyone, but is particularly important if your site is tied to e-commerce.

The two main contingents rely on your site setup. If your site takes any sort of data – such as password logins, search results, or contact forms – or if your site uses HTTP://, be sure to implement SSL.

If you don’t, visitors to your site will receive a warning that your site is not secure.

An SSL certificate – or secure sockets layer – ensures an encrypted link between a web server and browser. Without the certificate, that connection cannot be securely established. It provides the name of its holder, a serial number and expiration date, a copy of the certificate holder’s public key, and a digital signature of the authority who issued the certificate.

Users’ valuable and sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers are protected under SSL. Information is still passed between a computer and a server, but only the server can read it.

SSL also protects you from criminal activity.

With cyber crime on the rise, protecting your site means protecting your visitors’ information. Because an SSL certificate protects data in transit, not data stored in a server, it is designed to keep valuable information hidden. If your site processes payments, rather than redirecting visitors to PayPal, for example, you are required to be SSL certified.

For that reason, the SSL certificate builds trust with your site’s visitors. It is becoming second nature for most web users to look to the address bar and see “HTTPS” with a padlock – highlighted in green when making a financial transaction – to ensure their protection. As the web continues to become more dynamic, certain outlets also become more vulnerable. As a site owner, take steps to keep the worst from happening.

Staging Site vs. Live Site

A staging site is a copy of your live site that you can edit and then take it live when all your changes are complete.

Though it can get technical, using a managed hosting provider (such as WPEngine), you can set up a 1-click staging site to preview any changes you plan to make to your existing, sans actually making those changes in real time.

Be sure to avoid some plugins (such as those with automated posts) and be mindful of proper domain direction when copying 1-click staging from your existing website.

WordPress Staging Site How-to

Let’s focus in on WPEngine’s hosting platform for now. From your WordPress dashboard, simply click on the “WP Engine” logo on the side bar’s top-left corner, selecting the “Staging” tab, and click “Copy site from LIVE to STAGING.” After a bit, your site is copied to a staging environment.

Accessing your staging site’s server is exactly the same as accessing the server for your live site, just with a different name. Simply create a new SFTP account on your server and set the environment to “Staging.”

Feel free to make all the design and copy edits you want.

Once you ready to take your staging site live, all it takes is a few clicks on the WordPress dashboard. After logging in, return to the “WP Engine” logo on the top-left of the sidebar. Under the “Staging” tab, click the red button marked “Deploy site from STAGING to LIVE.” Select the degree to which you want your site overwritten via the dropdown menu, and your updated site is live.

Build your support system

Website hosting has its challenges. You and your team will run into issues regardless of skill level and experience…and that makes sense.

What separates the seasoned WordPress user from the novice is the support system they’ve established.

This is one area in which it’s really not okay to skimp on quality. Don’t be fooled by the cheap cost-effective services out there that offer email-only communication. That’s basically snail mail when you’re trying to run your business and your site is down. Look for support services that have technical specialists on live chat or are available by phone to help when things go wrong. Such a feature is a marker of an above-and-beyond level of support, and sites that offer that kind of contact are likely to also feature improved security, regular theme updates, performance optimization, and repair broken links.

When choosing a support system, be thorough. Ask in-depth questions about what features they offer beyond support, response time, and – of course – cost. A good way to decide on a WordPress support system is customer feedback.

That’s why part of our business is hosting sites. Classic City Consulting has a partner with built-in support, so that we don’t have to charge our customers small fees for every single technical issue. Having an integrated support service ensures a better experience not only for you and your business, but also for your customers.

Consider everyone when designing your experience.

Shared Hosting

Just like managed hosting, shared hosting comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. A part of the myriad of options you get for web hosting these days, shared hosting is exactly as it sounds: multiple sites sharing a single server. These other sites are unknown to you, and that’s okay because each customer is limited by their hosting plan.

To that end, shared hosting is the most cost-effective sort of hosting available, with plans ranging from $2.99-$9.99 a month (That $5.99 hosting you’ve heard so much about? It’s shared hosting.) Part of that plan also includes technical maintenance coverage as well as a cPanel for personalized site maintenance. However, using a shared hosting plan means your site isn’t quite as customizable as you might have liked, and there’s also the possibility of your site running slowly with increased traffic.

In short, shared hosting is ideal for those just getting started with WordPress. As your skill improves and your business grows, it might be a good idea to upgrade to managed or dedicated hosting, which is possible given that you aren’t locked into a standard plan.

Conclusion

Whatever route you choose to take with your hosting, you need to make sure that your site is with a stable and secure service. Your business requires a certain web presence, and the back-end of your site is the core of how it works. Be specific with your web hosting needs. There are options tailored to exactly what you need and what you can do. Remember, how your site functions is a reflection of your business, and it starts with what goes on behind the scenes.

Remember the phrase “There’s an app for that”? In WordPress, it might as well be there’s a plugin for that. With more than 50,000 plugins to assist with everything from social media to spam blockers, it’s easier now than ever customized your site with just a quick click and download. But, with so many options, where should you start? We work with dozens of small businesses around the country. While they are all different, here are a few that seem to benefit everyone regardless of business type.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics provides a way to understand the visitors to your site with insights like demographics, how they behaved on your site, and if they returned at a later date. Once you know what interested someone enough to get them to your site, you know how to make their experience better.

Figuring out how someone lands on your website is important for developing your marketing strategies. Knowing what actions or search terms were used before someone found your website will help you strategize how to get other people to your site. It could have been a simple search for a related term or they could have found you if another website linked to yours. You may not be the first or last stop in someone search history. Where they’re from and where they’re going is information you can use to strengthen your own web presence. Finding topics that resonate with your audience means you have a chance to create a valuable relationship.

For  e-commerce businesses, Google Analytics allows you to track your site metrics. It’s essentially a revenue report showing the number of visitors, duration of visitor, sales made, and revenue. A key aspect of the plugin is devoted strictly to business results

Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is the original WordPress plugin for search engine optimization. Yoast provides information not only for site visitors but also for search engine spiders seeking to provide information for autofill the next time you search.

Its key purpose is to provide information for writing SEO-friendly content. Relative to your site the Yoast SEO plugin is another form of creativity. You can learn more about what attracts customers and terminology to enhance their experience.

Yoast helps you get technical about your writing style.

While Google Analytics is about learning your customer base to build the ideal web experience, Yoast is about tailoring your web content. Keeping the editing process in mind, Yoast offers a live preview feature for search results. The same is true for the ever-important canon of improving your social media.

From there, you can take it a step further: Yoast Premium.

An enhanced version of the standard Yoast SEO experience, consider the premium edition to get even better at managing your SEO. Premium offers assets such as content insights to reveal the five key phrases most used on your page, writing suggestions for links to other pages in real time, and unlimited support from a support team, not merely a list of FAQs and forum posts. Even better, Yoast Premium has a redirect manager, meaning that a changed URL or an updated version of your site will not deter visitors, instead of the dreaded 404 error message.

A site’s usability is as much about content readability as it is about the actual framework of the site. Visitors should not have to root around endlessly to find what they need, and the ideal site is the first stop on a search engine. You can’t be on page one without an optimized site. Getting there starts with understanding what users want.

Ninja Forms

Ninja Forms offers a way to build mailing lists, manage and edit user submissions, and receive data such as users’ email and phone contacts with embedded forms. The intuitive drag-and-drop interface and extensions for expanding your contact base, such as MailChimp and Constant Contact. Each builds on the idea of simplicity while also offering an unlimited amount of signup forms, creative form presentation, and sorting users based on their preferences and responses.

In the age of bots, there is truth to the argument that chatbots could eradicate preferred contact forms. However, plenty of sites still do not offer immediate action interfaces for collecting data, and the bots themselves are still considered somewhat stop-gap in their usability. To that end, whether contact forms are going away in two years or ten, your customers have to get in contact with you and Ninja Forms offers an ideal, seamless integration for doing so.

Conclusion

Combining the three pieces above means learning why people visit your site, how to gather more visitors, and how to optimize their experience. There’s a reason WordPress is the most popular content management system, with a seemingly endless gamut of support systems, customizable add-ons, and styles.

However, it’s important to note that not all WordPress plugins are created equal. It’s easy to download and activate a plugin for your site, but give the plugin a quick review before you install it. Pay attention to how many active installations are running and read reviews on the most recent version. It also helps to scroll through support forums and consider what issues might others have had and decide whether those would be your issues too. A larger, more vetted plugin has less of a chance of being problematic and more of a chance of enhancing your site.

As far as e-commerce platforms go, Shopify is easy to use, cost-effective, and (somewhat) SEO friendly. All things considered, users get great value out of Shopify themes, widgets, and cross-channel capabilities. However, Shopify does leave something to be desired for some more code-savvy online retailers. Decide if this tool is right for your e-commerce store by weighing out the pros and cons.


Shopify Pros

1. Excellent Theme Selection

There’s no denying that Shopify has some of the best theme templates available. It offers something for every business model, ensuring every ecommerce site looks stylish and on-brand.

2. Easy to Use Widgets

Shopify’s variety of applications make vamping up your website a simple task. Want to feature new products on your homepage? Consider it done. Need your items specially categorized? No problem, there’s a widget for that.

3. Budget Friendly

Although Shopify customers can upgrade to a paid version, the free templates are usually all business owners need. There are over 100 to choose from, so before signing up for paid services which may require specialty coding, explore the functions and aesthetics of free themes.

4. Flexible Customization

Between Shopify’s customizable themes and applications, business owners often have everything they need to design their online stores. Plus, customer service is always available to help clients problem solve and achieve desired functions when necessary. Even if you make a catastrophic mistake, representatives are there to help.

5. Seamless Social Media Integration


Social posts provide authentic examples of customers and influencers using your products in their everyday lives. For many ecommerce stores, social media channels drive traffic and lead to final purchases, so Shopify has invested heavily into its seamless social integration. Site headers and footers offer links to store channels, and blog posts allow for easy sharing to personal pages.

Although Shopify customers can upgrade to a paid version, the free templates are usually all business owners need. There are over 100 to choose from, so before signing up for paid services which may require specialty coding, explore the functions and aesthetics of free themes.

6. Facebook and Instagram Sales

According to Nchannel, 20% of online shoppers would be likely to make a purchase from Facebook,” and analysts only expect this trend to grow. That’s why connecting your stores Facebook and Instagram accounts to your ecommerce store is crucial! Luckily Shopify makes it easy to link your store products to Facebook and Instagram posts. The best part is, all sales on these channels are captured through Shopify, meaning you won’t have to hassle with multiple platforms to manage order logistics.  Just be sure you review Facebook/ Instagram’s lengthy policies for prohibited content to avoid posting listings that may be flagged or removed.

7. Automatic Feed Plugins

Being your own boss is thrilling, but it keeps you busy juggling a lot of responsibilities. Installing Shopify’s Instafeed plugin takes just  minutes and saves you hours of future time.  It syncs your ecommerce store and social media accounts, so your website automatically refreshes as you add new posts to Facebook or Instagram. Most importantly, Instafeed is SEO friendly and uses proper rel-canonical tags which keep web crawlers from classifying your feeds as duplicate content.

8. Mobile Responsive Web Design

Statistics show that mobile traffic has finally exceeded desktop; today 52% of all online users are browsing the internet via cell phones and tablets, so it’s time to change the way we design ecommerce sites. In fact, if a business owner chooses not to embrace mobile compatibility, his sites search engine rank is likely to plummet.  As of 2018, Google’s search algorithms have implemented “Mobile First Indexing” to prioritize pages optimized for mobile performance. Luckily if you choose Shopify you can rest assured that your website will be mobile responsive! Just about every Shopify theme was built with mobile in mind, and as an added bonus, Shopify sites tend to fall on the leaner end of page speed loading speeds.

9. Cross Channel Capabilities

As the proud founder of an ecommerce site, your goal is to sell products, and Shopify recognizes that doing so means taking advantage of multiple sales channels such as ebay and Amazon. The company states, “It shouldn’t be complicated to expand your reach,” and it makes cross-channel integration a breeze.

10. Simple Ecommerce Setup

Lastly, the Shopify platform is simplistic. The easy setup is unparalleled! Because clients aren’t building custom sites from scratch, many are able to build out fully operational ecommerce stores within just 5-8 hours of creating their accounts.


Shopify Cons

1. A Forced Foundation

Creating a store on Shopify is often described as building a house on a pre-laid foundation. It’s nice because you don’t have to start from square one, but you are forced to follow someone else’s floor plan, so to speak. For most stores, the themes aesthetics may vary to some degree, but process and content will be largely the same for every store.

2. Lacking Checkout Page Customization

Despite everything Shopify does so well, the platforms biggest drawback lies in its lack of checkout page customization. All Shopify ecommerce sites, excluding those using the high-priced Shopify Plus, default to essentially the same checkout process with few features that can be altered for better performance.

Here are the categories which you can edit in the checkout process:

3. 2-Phase Checkout Only

Shopify sites implement a 2-phase checkout system. Why don’t they allow more customization? Shopify claims the standard 2-phase checkout helps to increase sales. Frankly, we don’t buy it, and neither does the company’s client community.

While it may be the case that in general a 2-phase system works better than a 1-page checkout or 3 or more-page system, this is not always true for store in every industry. Some industries and products do better with more pages in their checkout flow. In fact QuickSprout published a popular article a while back which demonstrated a 3-page checkout outperforming a 2-page checkout.

4. Up-Charging Difficulty

Having the same cookie-cutter checkout page capabilities may not be a big deal for most basic ecommerce sites, but if you’re a vendor who depends on up-charging based on upgraded product features, you may want to take your business elsewhere.

Reason being, you will find it very difficult to give customers the option to add more profitable features to their products at the point of final sale. Of course, you can experiment with Shopify Plus, but that will cost you $2,000+ per month.

5. Poor URL Structure

As an owner of an ecommerce marketing agency that specializes in SEO, this one hits a little close to home. My biggest qualm with Shopify as a CMS might lie in their lack of customization of URL structures.

In addition to limiting customization at checkout, Shopify also gives ecommerce clients minimal options when it comes to changing their URL structures on product, blog, and general pages.

This causes problems because it unnecessarily lengthens URLs and places web assets in parent pages which are unrelated. A perfect example is that Shopify places all general pages as a child of ‘/pages’ (i.e. ‘www.domain.com/page/[URL]’). Not only does this practice clutter URLs, but it also hinders SEO.

According to Search Engine Journal, Avoid Superfluous Words & Characters. They explain that URLs should use as few words as possible to make sure they have a high impact. Ecommerce stores often need to get creative with their parent-child structure to effectively rank to help Google understand site structure; however, keeping URLs tidy can be very difficult on Shopify.


Having explored some pros and cons of using Shopify for your ecommerce store, note that in general the Tekli team are big believers in the platform. Lack of checkout and URL customization is our biggest issue with the platform, but there are plenty of opportunities to launch a flourishing online business with Shopify.

It’s cost effective, easy to use, and awesome in terms of cross-channel and social media integration. If you’ve been toying with the idea of building an ecommerce store, setup your account today to get started.

With an average of 75% of startups failing, you want to know how the 25% succeed. Everyone starting a business is driven to it for some reason, but it is not the easy career path. Let’s examine some common problems and how you can beat the odds, stay afloat, and turn a profit over time.

Having Passion

You are going to be taking time and energy away from many things that you care about: family, hobbies, watching baseball. Having a passion for your new company is what is going to make those sacrifices worth it. Be honest with yourself about what starting and succeeding as an entrepreneur entails. Having your own company will never be easy, but it should always give you a reason to get up in the morning and something to be excited about.

Hiring the Right People

A team will take you further than you can go alone. Hire people that compliment your leadership style and share your passion. Since these people will be helping you build the company, they need to be able to take initiative and own their work. It’s hard sometimes to step back from your business and let someone else take the reigns, but you are never going to know everything! You do what makes you great and let an attorney, accountant, marketing professional, or web designer help you out. In the beginning, you may not all be in the same office. Learning how to effectively manage a distributed team will help you to go a long way in the early stages.

Well Designed Business Model

Have a well thought out business model. In the early days, you are going to have a lot of ideas. Write them all down since they could be important one day. But the day they are all important is not day one. Identify your starting point, then branch out and pivot accordingly. Your business should seamlessly flow from one element to the next. If you try to do too much at once, you won’t get anything done. If your business is a canoe, then the business model acts as your oars. It will guide you when the water gets rough and keep you from swaying too much in any direction.

Clear Focus

Being able to state in a few words what makes your business beneficial is essential to success. What is your unfair advantage? You can’t properly tell someone why they should work with you until you know yourself. Really define why there is a need in the market for your business and what you do differently from your competitors.

Marketing Plan

Your focus and your business model will help you to create your marketing plan. Do some basic market research to identify who you should be targeting and what will catch their attention. Establish your budget and be diligent about staying within the boundary you have created. It’s easy to just go a little over here and there, so identify when you are making those changes and adjust in other departments accordingly. One of the top reasons that a startup fails is because they ran out of money!

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Thank You!

Classic City Consulted was named one of the top web designers in Atlanta by Clutch and one of the top 20 design agencies in the city by The Manifest. We are excited that our dedication to quality work and our commitment to client satisfaction has recently earned us these recognitions.

Through their extensive evaluation of companies’ data, D.C. based sister companies Clutch and The Manifest rank businesses and provide insight on industry trends. From client interviews to assessments of market presence, they review and compare small and mid-market businesses based on their performance, work, and customer satisfaction.

We enjoy building great products with great people, and our devotion to those we work with is demonstrated through open dialog and transparency in the design process. The feedback and support that we’ve received from clients, from our community, and from our industry peers is humbling. Whether we are working on web development, rebranding, marketing strategy, or software consulting, Classic City enjoys building partnerships. We thank Clutch and The Manifest for recognizing our dedication to the quality of our work.

There are only 24 hours in the day, and we all want to use them wisely. Here are a few articles from this week that can hopefully help make June your most productive month of 2018 so far!


7 tips to bring your productivity to the next level

I present you with your productivity primer. It has all best tips for getting yourself in gear. My favorite tip? 1-3-5 rule. This is not something I had heard of before, but it makes total sense. Instead of listing all your tasks for all time, narrow it down with one big one, three medium ones, and five smaller ones.

Read More…


Want to Take Better Notes? Ditch the Laptop for a Pen and Paper, Says Science

News flash: Sometimes the best solution is the simplest. When you have information coming in from Slack, email, and via phone the best thing you can do for yourself is to put it all in one place. May I suggest these wonderful planners from Moleskine? We have a couple of members on our team that rely on them!

Read More…


This well-known productivity advice is actually pretty bad

While it may seem like your day will work better with the most difficult task done at the beginning of the day, that may not be the best course of action. Recently, it’s been shown that building up momentum with easier tasks will help to prime the pump and make you feel overall like you had a more workday.

Read More…


Turn Your To-Do List Into A Ta-Da List

While to-do lists certainly can be effective, they can also be daunting. If you need a new twist on an old tactic, try a “Ta-Da List” where you can celebrate what you’ve done all day instead. It’s always easier to know where you’re going when you know where you’ve been.

Read More…


Headspace | Mini Meditation | Let Go of Stress

Mindfulness and meditation have become more popular in the work environment. Since it has been shown to improve morale and productivity, companies like Google, Apple, and Nike all have made it a part of their corporate culture.  So, I’ll leave you with this mini meditation to help you Let Go of Stress and breathe.

Watch…

Indra Nooyi, C.E.O. of PepsiCo
Indra Nooyi became C.E.O. of PepsiCo just in time for a global financial meltdown. She also had a portfolio full of junk food just as the world decided that junk food is borderline toxic. Here’s the story of how she overhauled that portfolio, stared down activist investors, and learned to “leave the crown in the garage.”

Read More…


People working on a product
When you build a product, over time that product features change as well as how you sell it. Where a lot of businesses die off is when they can’t make that transition from one generation to another. This company went with the flow during a redesign of their site and realized that no one on their team could really tell a potential client what their product does. So they decided to tell a story.

Read More…


Working from home
If you are starting up your own business, this is critical. Grab yourself a UPS box somewhere and don’t use your home address as the publicly-available address for all your clients to find. I’ve had this conversation with many of our clients in the past and everyone has reaped the reward of clients not knowing where they live.

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Leader building a team
As a leader, you build the culture of your company/team and everyone can see what you are doing. Lead by example and allow your employees the space to communicate with you what they need and just let them do what they do best.

Read More…


Meeting
Everyone has endless meetings – and no one likes them except for the person who calls the meeting. When we have large group meetings at Classic City Consulting, we are always trying to find ways to keep things quick so that we don’t waste time – which is harder given we all are virtual and enjoy chatting with one another. Make goals for your meetings and when you hit them – stop.

Read More…

Comparison pitches kill your credibility.

Does your company’s elevator pitch include one of the following comparisons?

  1. You know the _____ Company?  We are like that, except for the _____ industry.
  2. You know how _____ Company is known for it’s quality but also high price tag?  We do the same thing, but for cheaper.

If it does – stop saying it – PERIOD! It strips away what makes you and your business, unique. Interesting. Compelling.

And even worse, it looks like you’re borrowing another company’s hard-earned reputation for yourself.  Riding coattails has never garnered fresh respect, and it can even leave an impression of laziness or confusion about your own business.

Business model metaphors dilute your unique passion.

As a business owner (or salesperson) we want to get our scope across to potential clients as efficiently as possible. Sometimes the best way to do that is to leverage similar business models. They often help explain what we do more quickly – we’ll call these Business Model Metaphors.

In general, it’s an effective technique that helps reduce the hurdles a person encounters when learning who you are and what you do.  The goal of an elevator pitch is to sum up your business as quickly as possible to a random stranger, right?

But there’s a hidden cost to relying too heavily on metaphors or associations with other established business models.

Fitting in a box shuts down conversation.

But the thing is, these quick “business model metaphors” quickly override your story and your passion. A person’s predisposed ideas of another business takes the stage.  That can sometimes be favorable, but more often than not, it shuts down their willingness to listen to what you have to share.

Fitting in a box fails to get your story front and center. In the listener’s mind, boxes can actually swap you out for something you have zero control over.  Instead of leaving someone with your unique value proposition, you now leave them with “a slightly different XYZ Company” – and that’s not what they’re looking to buy.

Think of a pitch more as a side-by-side brainstorm session with a colleague. Listening and learning from each other builds trust and solves problems.

Think of a pitch more as a side-by-side brainstorm session with a colleague. Listening and learning from each other builds trust and solves problems.

Show that you’re listening to your market, and buyers will buy in.

Traditional strategy is focused on the company, trying to position the company as being a cost leader, being different, focusing on a niche, or something similar, as we have seen. But being cheaper or different alone is simply no longer enough to be successful (if it ever was). The Art of Opportunity takes an entrepreneurial stance, looking beyond positioning your company to a larger holistic perspective that involves creating value for your customer, your firm, and your business ecosystem. Only by creating value for a multitude of stakeholders does your company have the potential to be successful. And creating value is achieved through more than simply offering a cheap or different product, to include products, services, the entire revenue model.

The Art of Opportunity – Marc Sniukas

It’s simple: your business started because of a passion you had to fill a gap that the market needed.  Talk about the issue – explain why it’s actually a problem. (If you did your homework to get in front of prospects that your business serves, they are already going to know it’s a problem and they’ll be on your side.) Tell them how you can fix it to make their life easier. Walk through the process of how your product fixes issues and allows your customer to do more of what they need to be doing. Highlight customer benefits – that’s where the ROI is and that’s how you make your product memorable.

A good pitch isn’t about the prospect listening to you.  It’s about you listening to your market.  When your prospect recognizes that you’ve done the hard work to define and fill the gap for them, you earn credibility and open up opportunity to do business.  In a mutually beneficial way–isn’t that what we are all looking for? A win-win scenario?

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