Category Archives: web developers

Retail Development: The Importance of Proper Web Development in E-Commerce

Retail Development The Importance of Proper Web Development in E-Commerce

On any given day, I spend probably 3 to 4 hours tinkering with a user interface of an e-commerce website. I might be simply browsing what’s on sale on Steam, salivating over the dozens of terrific watches from NOMOS Glashütte or just checking out for new jeans because you could never have too many pair of jeans. Two decades ago, doing any of the above things would require me to walk into an actual store and do some window shopping, the progress made in web development in the past 20 years means that I now can do all of the above things while sitting in my bathroom.

What this shift means is that the time businesses used to spend on coming up with just the perfect layout for their store now should be spend on coming up with the ideal website for their business. Functional should be the minimum requirement, not the ultimate goal, and if there’s anything you can do or add that would make the website more appealing or easier to use, you should definitely give it a shot. Now that small businesses are dime a dozen, it’s not enough to have a great product line-up, the importance of having an equally great space to house all of those products should never be underestimated.

The digital store layout

It turns out that I apparently have a relatively higher standard when it comes to store layouts as I once walked out of a fast fashion retail store once it became clear to me that whoever designed the layout must’ve done that under the influence of at least a dozen shots of tequila. I know that people like to say that visiting the actual store makes for a better shopping experience but from what I’ve seen from the typical retail stores, that hasn’t always been the case. There are some genuinely great ones but those are usually the exception instead of the norm although that could simply because of my high standards.

This is not to say that the landscape in e-commerce is perfect, far from it in fact, but if you came across an e-commerce website that you deem to be subpar, finding an alternative is simply one new browser tab away. In the physical space that would mean more walking and that’s not always welcomed. This sheer convenience is why e-commerce has been slowly but surely killing the once-ubiquitous retail space, as can be seen in the dozens of abandoned malls in America.

One downside (or upside, depending on your perspective) of this new normal is that it has made the playing field considerably more equal. In the bygone era of physical retail, big brands have the advantage of putting their products in front of the highest amount of people possible while small businesses with meager resource don’t have that kind of luxury. With the era of e-commerce, even the smallest of brands could have their moment in the sun with their very own website and the competition would be in which business have the ‘best’ website based on the following characteristics.

How easy is your website to navigate?

Near where I live, there’s this new-ish rooftop cafe that became one of my favorite places to hang out with friends. For one, they serve all-day breakfast and one of my lifelong dreams is to be able to eat eggs benedict three times a day. Secondly, being situated on a rooftop of a six-story building in the suburbs, they have quite a lovely view. They have a private elevator for access but the problem is, back when the place was first opened, there were no signs indicating that you have to use the elevator to get there, which was quite confusing when I invited some friends for a gathering of sorts.

They’ve changed this and now there are signs indicating the way to the elevator all the way from the entrance to the building but this analogy illustrates the importance of navigation. If potential customers can’t find what they’re looking for in your website just from a glance, you’ve got your work cut out for you because the back button is always accessible. This is one reason why minimalist design has started to become the norm; it won’t be hard to find what you’re looking for when there’s very little on display to begin with.

Don’t make your customers jump through unnecessary hoops

Forgive me if I’m boring you with anecdotes but here’s another one. A female-friendly bar just opened near where I work and a close friend asked me to check the place out because she’s an attractive woman and whenever we’re out in a bar, she always have to deal with unnecessary attention. The bar had a pretty great atmosphere and the pink decor was chic without being girly and we had a pretty good time there, at least until we wanted to close the bill. Apparently, they had a problem with the system and since we didn’t have enough cash on hand, we had to walk to an ATM a couple hundred meters away. Needless to say, I doubt we’ll be coming back in the near future.

The main thing that makes e-commerce so attractive is the sheer convenience inherent to the practice and businesses has to do everything they can to make the process as seamless as possible. Try to include as many popular payment options as possible and don’t ask for more data from your customers than necessary. Additionally, make sure to include supplementary information about the product to spare potential customers the burden of having to ask for additional information.

Aesthetics should take a backseat

In an e-commerce website, the product and the accessibility of the website should always be the priority. This isn’t to say that the aesthetics of the website should be neglected but you have to make sure that they won’t overwhelm the two things mentioned above. Ensure that the designs remains consistent and clear across all sections of the website and then you can worry about additional adornments. Once you’re done with adding those little touches, check to see if they’ve made the website any less usable. Once you’re confident they haven’t, you can then call it a day.

Point of Contact: 4 Reasons Why Having a Website is Essential for Small Businesses in 2019

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I have what I call a low-profile Instagram account. I use this mostly to keep myself in the loop of what people I admire (mostly musicians) is up to and for the endless stream of jokes. I still set my profile to public and used my real name for the account but I’ve never told a single soul about my profile and yet, barely a week after I set up the account, people I went to high school and college with began following my account. It can be really easy to find people or businesses you’re looking for online.

Given this, it’s common to see businesses forgoing website entirely and simply limit their presence to the various social media platforms available. With the sheer amount of social media platforms available, you can bet that each slice of the population is properly served by at least one platform and on a purely technical level; businesses don’t need a website for customer’s reference. Then again, I don’t technically need Spotify to listen to music but there’s no way I’m cancelling my Premium subscription. In a way, website and web development occupies that same position in that they’re vital to the success of your business.

Having a place to call your own

For me personally, having my own personal space is important, both metaphorically and physically. Every month, I always try to dedicate a single weekend where I can be in a place where no one I know will ever find me. Even if it’s technically a public place, it’s always nice to carve your own corner of the world that just for a moment belongs to you. There’s this unassuming coffee shop near where I live for example that even on the weekends is never full that I regularly use if I don’t feel like making a trip.

In a way, this is what I consider websites to be, your own little corner of the internet that belongs to you. Your business’ website is your business’ personal space while by comparison; your Instagram or Facebook page is like your seat in the theater. Yes, technically it’s your space but it’s also cramped and you’re still very much in close proximity with the other patrons. Websites could offer your business the kind of freedom and flexibility that social media platforms couldn’t, and this freedom could help your business in 4 different ways.

Websites help lend a sense of professionalism

Anyone can open Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/(Insert social media platform here) and open an account there but to set up a website and everything that goes with a website requires considerably more commitment. Of course, there’s an ocean of difference between a well-thought-out and properly designed website and something that looks like as if it’s been assembled together in less than 10 minutes so having a website for the sake of having website won’t be enough. Think of having a website as going to a job interview wearing your best clothes and you won’t be too far off the mark.

Websites give you the freedom on contents

For example, many moons ago Instagram requires every image uploaded on the platform to have the shape of a square. That restriction no longer applies but there are still some limitations on what you could post on Instagram, like video lengths and how you can’t include external links on your post. Yes, you could argue that for videos, you have access to YouTube and Vimeo but those platforms have limitations of their own and there’s not a single social media that could reliably accommodate everything you’ll ever need.

Websites aren’t perfect, especially if you’re sticking to a pre-existing theme, but they have much less restrictions on what you could do compared to social media platforms and you could still include contents from your social media feed to your website if you want to. Dedicated websites are especially useful if you have the capability to create interactive contents. For those working in the creative industry, the restrictions on social media platforms can be particularly suffocating.

They’re practically required for businesses dealing in e-commerce

Have you ever tried ordering stuff online through e-mails or texts? I have and it was a bit annoying. There was this boutique watchmaker I’m interested in but it turns out that one of the items they have on display on their Instagram account isn’t available on their website. I asked them about this over text and it turns out they do have that particular item available, just not on their website. I ended up having to order it through text where I have to write the detailed specification of the item, my personal details, etc.

If you’re in the business of selling things, you are practically required to have a website and regularly updates said website when you have new things in stock or when a particular product is sold out. Having to go through that laborious process of ordering through text over and over again is just annoying. For example, take a look at what Undone Watches have done, where customers and potential customers could customize their watches through their website and see how it’d look like in real time instead of having to list their preferred specifications.

They’re now made easier with website builders

There’s the ubiquitous WordPress for one but if you’re looking for something more minimalist and classy, take a look at what Squarespace or Wix is capable of. Squarespace and Wix highly values simplicity and accessibility while being aesthetically pleasing. Both Squarespace and Wix are very easy to use but you’re going to have to sacrifice some degree of customization, which is somewhat similar to how Apple controls their platforms. These platforms also comes equipped with a tool to help with the more complex idea of SEO or to set up an e-commerce site, which can be a boon for business owners that have a limited understanding of web development.

Hidden in Plain Sight: Best Uses of Hover Effects in Website

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There’s this certain trope from classic point-and-click graphic adventure games referred to as pixel hunting. The best way I could explain that trope is by using an example so here goes. Let’s say you’re playing a game in which you’re faced with a locked gate. To unlock this gate, you have to find the key stashed in a drawer with dozens of other keys and the only clue you have is that the key features a similar design to the gate you’re facing. The gist is that only the right key can be picked up but you have no way of knowing this until you’ve clicked on the right key.

It sounds like a terrible joke but a lot of games I played when growing up suffer from this problem. The classic Myst and the Indiana Jones games from LucasArts are some that I can name off the top of my head. Luckily, modern adventure games no longer suffer from this condition as usually, they include what is called a hover effect, in which the mouse pointer changes to indicate that a certain object can be interacted with or picked up, which makes life a whole lot easier. It’s not just in video games, hover effect also bring several things to the table when it comes to web development.

The trend of hover effects in websites

You know how when you’re reading something on Wikipedia you come across a name or a term you’re unfamiliar with that you feel like you have to click on the link only to close it again after reading the first paragraph? You no longer have to do that anymore. In the desktop version of Wikipedia, every time you hover over a link, a small box will pop giving users a general overview of what that particular link is about.

Let’s say that you opened the Wikipedia article on this year’s Oscar for a recap on all of this year’s nominees and while you’ve seen A Star is Born, you don’t exactly remember who Sam Elliott is. Instead of having to click on his name, all you have to do is hover over the link and you’ll be presented with a short information on the man and a photo of him with his trademark mustache and you’ll go, “Oh, I remember that guy!”

This feature from Wikipedia is just one example from how hover effects can be used in the internet. This one is purely functional, saving users from having to open a link if they’re only looking for short information but there are other decorative uses as well. If you’re thinking that hover effects seem too small of a feature to make a meaningful impact on your website, you’re not exactly wrong but as we’ve seen with Ariana Grande’s tattoo fiasco, it’s the little detail that counts. The following is some of the better uses of hover effects I’ve seen so far.

To provide users with additional information

The Wikipedia example is one and Amazon also uses hover effect in their homepage to provide users with a prompt for ‘Quick look’, in which can then click on the label to see more about the products on offer without leaving the page they’re currently in. Again, this application might seem minor but you have to remember that users normally spend their time in Wikipedia and Amazon opening multiple links and products and adding a feature that minimizes the work on the users’ part is no small feat.

To a lesser degree, the entertainment news website Vulture also uses the hover effect to provide users with contextual information where necessary in lieu of links. For example, in this piece detailing how the film Oscar nomination for the film Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book has generated a backlash. In certain parts, some words and phrases in the piece is followed by a number written in superscript, akin to what you see in Wikipedia. Hovering on these words would reveal additional text on the left side of the piece providing contextual information.

To inform users of additional actions

This is somewhat similar to the Amazon example above, where users are given the prompt for ‘Quick look’ but more comprehensive. For example, in Netflix, whenever you hover over a film or a television series, a trailer for that particular film will play in the background while possible actions are showed on screen. The thumbs up and down icon allows user to like or dislike that content, the plus icon allows user to add that content into their queue while clicking on the arrow will reveal even more information about that content.

YouTube also does this on a much smaller scale. Hovering over a video would reveal the clock icon, which when clicked will add that video to the user’s queue. The news aggregator service Flipboard is more in line with Netflix’s approach where hovering over a story allows the user to add that story to their magazine, like that story or share that story with their contacts. In this case, hover effects simply add convenience to the user, allowing them to perform actions instantaneously without having to jump through unnecessary hoops.

To show off your creativity

Take for example, the website A Story about Trusts. Set up by the historical banking institution J.P. Morgan & Chase as a way of familiarizing new users with their investment trusts, the website cleverly and creatively uses the hover effect for users to manipulate certain elements on the screen while still delivering information on their services and investment in general in an attractive way. I’m not personally a fan of private financial institutions but even I have to admit that this was pretty brilliant.

When using hover effect as a creative outlet, the possibilities are endless. The typeface design company Font Smith went way above and beyond the call and duty when they launched the typeface FS Untitled, named so because it’s too flexible to pigeonholed to a single name. There’s quite literally nothing I could use to describe what they did so jump in and play around to see the kind of thing you could do with hover effects if you’re willing to go that far.