LeafCutter Interview

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Tell us a little about your business and how you got involved with ecommerce…

We’re an innovative digital agency focused on building websites, ecommerce stores and other digital platforms using web and mobile technology. We started in 2011, wanting to deliver value through technology faster and better than we had in our corporate experience at companies like IBM and Westpac. In those early days we worked with a wide variety of businesses, and many that were starting out chose to build on the Shopify platform, which is how we got started with Shopify (alongside WordPress, Magento and many other technologies).

Why Shopify? What are the advantages and disadvantages you see when working with Shopify…

Shopify is a great platform for starting out and getting setup quickly. We commonly recommend Shopify for anyone in eCommerce looking to get up and running fast – the administration interface is easy to use, the variety of themes is great and are easy to work with, and all the performance and maintenance aspects of the platform are taken care of.

Where Shopify starts to struggle a little is when you start to go beyond the inbuilt functionality of the platform. Want to give different discounts for different customer groups, or add delivery timeslots to your checkout? You need a separate app, need to create workarounds (e.g. in the cart or instead of the checkout), or move up to Shopify Plus and speak to an account manager. Whilst there is commonly an around-about way to solve most problems with the Shopify platform, at that point it’s worth strongly considering re-platforming to an open source or proprietary solution (e.g. Magento).

In summary, Shopify is great for a startup or a 1-10 person business looking to get online or to simplify their eCommerce processing, but if you are looking at something more customisable or you have an established online business you might want to consider other options alongside Shopify.

Tell us about the creative process that you go through with each of your new clients..

We have an in-depth method for creating our sites, which ensures we get the best results for our client.
Our project process is as follows:

Requirements
Detailed documentation of project requirements is essential to ensure alignment throughout the project. We use our requirements document template to capture the essential details of the project.

Client asset review
Content is essential and your digital asset isn’t much without it. It is essential that both agency and client have clear and realistic understandings of the type of content made available by the client and what type of work needs to be done on this front to ensure the agency can progress with the subsequent project phases.

Sitemap and UX
The structure of the intended digital asset is mapped out. This phase outlines each aspect of the intended digital experience including the high level sections of it (sitemap) and the detail captured within each section (wireframes). This information is then turned into wireframes that dictate section layouts and content on each section of the site.

Design
The visual design of a site dictates what the end product will look like to the the customer. The wireframe and UX structure is brought to life by inserting content in the site. This is influenced by the clients brand guidelines and/or a look and feel document specifically for the website.

Development
Our development team are briefed by our design and project management teams outlining the assets created for the project (design files). The development team uses the design files produced by the design team to develop the site and build the required layouts and functionality.

Testing
Testing is an essential component of every job. It ensures that specified functionality is behaving as required and that the digital asset in general is robust and stable. Thorough device and platform testing helps to reduce the chance that customers experience issues when engaging with your digital asset.

Deployment and project completion
Once the digital asset is complete, it is signed off on by the client and the project is complete. All relevant assets including code and any other files are handed over to the client.

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What makes a great ecommerce design..

This deserves a whole article in itself! However if we were to pick the top 3 points these would be:

  1. Keep it simple with a purpose – your site needs to focus on converting customers. Tell them what is great about your products and your brand then push them into the buying process. Don’t put in overly fancy sliders and features or too many offers and messages. One or two key messages or actions per page laid out nicely are often enough.
  2. Have a sense of character – to avoid looking like all the sites on the internet, have something unique about you in the design. Don’t put things in because they look nice or someone else did it; instead look at what your brand is and what it stands for – and then design around that.
  3. Measure everything – we have redesigned and relaunched sites that have had 200% increases in conversion due to the redesign, however the only way we knew it was better was because we measured it. Know that your site can always be better – you can add more content, explain things a different way to a different audience, create new pages and more. You need to be constantly measuring to ensure that you consistently improve your design over time.

What are some of the challenges in Shopify design that clients may not be aware of…

Coming back to the limitations of the platform, here are a few that consistently popup:

  • The checkout is very limited in customisation – without moving up to Shopify Plus, you can change everything up to the cart stage. Once you go to the checkout, you are prevented from making any significant changes to the checkout, aside from some simple colour/font style changes. Whilst the Shopify checkout is really great, this can be a barrier for more mature online businesses who want the control and flexibility to customize the checkout further. This is probably the number one gripe that our Shopify clients request to be changed.
  • Shopify is only optimised for one country – the checkout process will always display the currency chosen by the stall holder, and there is no inbuilt multilingual support for Shopify. You can add scripts to get around this, however if you are looking at a multinational store with internationalisation support, you may want to look elsewhere.
  • There is no out of the box wholesale functionality or recurring billing – there are apps that you can get that provide this functionality, however it is more time and hassle required to get them to work consistently.

When should a client choose a custom design over a pre-made template or theme..

Whenever a client is looking to stand out is when they should be looking at a custom design. Commonly this is a combination of:

  • The client has an established and proven website that’s slightly outdated and they are looking to redo it
  • The client wants to create a unique or high-end brand and need their online presence to reflect the strength of their offline channels

Pre-made themes are great for anyone starting out with a work-from-home business or getting their first website, and for a few additional hours of work from an expert you can even customize a pre-made theme to be a little more unique.

What is your best advice for a company looking for a web design for their Shopify store?…

Be really clear on what you want and don’t be afraid to consult an expert/partner. All our clients know their brand best – its up to them to come up with the vision and their brand and really set the direction of what they want to do. Then the other element to driving success is having an expert who is really willing to act as a partner – a team who is happy and able to bounce ideas off the client, can deliver, and genuinely has their best interests at heart.

You can visit their website here: LeafCutter Shopify Development and Design

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