What can we learn from "Bricks and Mortar"
So you've got yourself a Printfection store, chosen a theme, uploaded some designs and you are ready to go, right? Well to be honest, probably not. It is true that great designs will always sell, but it is also true that a little investment of time in how your store is presented could make a big difference.
I got thinking about what makes a great storefont and went searching for some articles on the web that could help me formalise my thinking and to my surprise, one of the best articles I could find was actually about designing retail "Bricks and Mortar" stores. The article can be found here - Trio Display, Store Planning Primer. In the article, they point out 11 key design principles that I beleive can equally apply to your Printfection Store just as much as a retail store.
Let me go through each of the 11 areas and explain where I think the synergies can be.
1. The Store Front
There are many things in the article that ring absolutely true for a Printfection store as well as a retail store. This is the first thing that people see when they visit your store from an external link. Particular points here are:
- "...anyone driving by will immediately know what you sell" - I see many Printfection Store fronts that even after three or more clicks in, I am still not entirely sure what is on offer. Put some clear indications of what is on offer on theat first page, right above the fold in plain sight
- "Make sure the logo is prominent" - fairly obvious, but there are still plenty of stores with either no logo or a small incidental one
- "Create memorable windows on a six-week and/or seasonal basis" - Add designs regularly and rotate them through
2. The Entry
This is your real chance to make an impact. Your color scheme, logo, graphics and photos all contribute to the first impression that you make. Be bold without hurting people's eyes, but make sure they have plenty to look at and lots of places to go.
Now of course, your online store does not have flooring, but you do have something similar - your background. The background is a great spot to have an almost subliminal display of your logo, designs or some sort of theme. Again, don't let it overpower your main content, but don't waste valuable real estate either by not using it.
Whilst we don't have to worry about lighting, we do still have to worry about the visibility of the store. This needs to take into account various aspects such as monitors, display resolutions, readability etc, however the biggest single factor that affects the "lighting" of the store is contrast. How well do your products stand out from everything around them. Think about presenting your products as not just pages and pages of white shirts on a white background. This can cause the ecommerce equivalent of "Snow Blindness". Mix it up a bit and display a mixture of whites, darks and lights.
5. The POS Counter
In a Printfection Store, this is kind of taken care of for you, however there are still a few things you can do. Firstly make sure that you don't forget to style your shopping cart. Secondly, make sure that your shoppers can find the check out by adding a nice big cart button or putting Minicart onto your store. Finally, make sure that you offer your customer a discount by placing any valid discount coupons prominently in your store. You can automate the display with my add on here
6. Wall Fixtures
The equivalency that we have here is how you layout your design sections. You can split up by design or gender, or groupings of themes. Whatever you do though, avoid just throwing everything onto the first page with no ordering or grouping taken into account. Think also about your section icons / buttons. Make them big and bold, and definatley think about making them all the same size so that they line up neatly.
7. Floor Fixtures
Ever been to a retail store where there were racks and racks of clothes almost set up like barriers as far as the eye can see. Nothing better than feeling like a lab rat, in search of the electric cheese. Again there is a Printfection parallel here as well. Whilst it is true that we should have a variety of products, think seriously how many products you have per page, avoid the temptation to throw one of everything into a section. Maybe break up genders and kids, have a seperate section for bags and another for chopping boards. Having lots of products on a page gives choice, however it makes pages load slowly and gives people RSI on the mouse wheel.
8. Sound and Music
It is entirely up to you if you decide to have some background music on your store. I personally dislike online stores that have music, (real stores as well for that matter - see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8psZqPRlqs), however if it makes sense and adds the right sort of atmosphere, go for it.
9. Signs and Graphics
Invest time in your logo and overall theme to ensure continuity of theme and keep the shopping experience as immersive as possible. Ask yourself, "Is my logo good enough to wear on a Tshirt", if not, then its not good enough for your store. It doesn't have to be complex, just clearly identifiable and memorable. My Ukulele Shirt World logo gets lots of comments from people as it simply portrays exactly what the store is about and is memorable and unique without being complex.
I think I would prefer to call this one animation. Having something that moves on the screen can be eye catching and engaging. Try not to make it look like a Star Trek fan page from 1998. Try adding a slide show to start with and see where you go from there.
11. Kiosk Computers
Well, we really have this one all over those retail guys, but to think a bit further outside the box, why not think about adding an RSS feed or some useful links related to your store theme, so that not only is your Printfection store a great place to get shirts, it also has some useful information that people may keep coming back for.
So there you go, this is some of what we can learn from the "Bricks and Mortar" guys and hopefully helps you think further about how you present your store.
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