E-commerce is changing the marketplace and industry forecasts tell us the trend will continue to grow at a feverish pace.
According to Shopify.com, e-commerce sales were at $2.86 trillion in 2018 and are expected to grow to $4.5 trillion by 2021.
Across the landscape, brick and mortar businesses are either converting to e-commerce or shuttering their doors. Announcements of mall closings hit the headlines with great regularity.
In this digital age, websites and how they are designed will continue to be storefronts to the world for businesses and will determine how businesses are perceived by their customer base.
For that reason, many companies look to “white label” website design companies to design a website and then rebrand it to make it appear the company developed its own site.
So how does a company find the right white label design firm?
We have identified the top six elements a company should look for when shopping for a white label design firm.
Like building a house, the foundation of your website is the platform it is built upon. Though there are good platforms out there (Wix, Squarespace, GoDaddy, Jimdo and Hibu), the best of class remains WordPress because of its functionality, plugin options, ease of integration and customizability.
Many companies in the e-commerce era experience rapid growth. WordPress is scalable, allowing a company’s website to grow and expand to match the company’s growth.
By having an evergreen web design, a company can build upon that foundation, maybe add a second floor to that house, without having to rebuild the entire structure.
2. Initial Setup
To twist an old phrase, “lack of speed kills.” How fast a page loads can be a deal killer. According to sweor.com, slow-loading websites cost retailers $2.6 billion in lost sales each year. It takes about 50 milliseconds (that’s 0.05 seconds) for users to form an opinion about your website that determines whether they like your site or not, whether they’ll stay or leave. Forty-seven percent of users expect a maximum of two seconds loading time for an average website. They will not wait for your site.
While it may be tempting to pepper your website with beautiful, high resolution images, it can greatly detract from your website’s effectiveness. In fact, not only does slow load time influence user behavior by causing users to leave your site, it also affects SEO.
Peep Laja, founder of Conversion XL, writes about the visual hierarchy in good web design, discussing how the human eye perceives what it sees.
Laja discusses proportions, targeting, choices, the rule of thirds and Gestalt design laws, but what really grabbed me was his discussion of white space and clean design.
There is a temptation to pack everything, down to the last detail, into a web page.
Here’s what Laja says about this.
“White space (also called “negative space”) is the portion of a web page that remains “empty.” It’s the space between graphics, margins, gutters, space between columns, space between lines of type, or visuals.
It’s not just “blank” space—it’s an important element of web design. It enables objects within it to exist. White space is all about the use of hierarchy for information, typography, color, or images.
A page without white space, crammed full of text or graphics, risks appearing busy or cluttered. Typically, it’s difficult to read. (People won’t even bother.) Therefore, simple websites are scientifically better.
The right amount of white space makes a website look “clean.” While a clean design is crucial to communicate a clear message, it doesn’t just mean less content.
A clean design makes the best use of the space it’s in. To create a clean site design, you need to know how to communicate clearly by using white space wisely.
The appropriate use of white space makes it easy to focus on the main message and visuals, and the body copy is easy to read. In general, white space promotes elegance and sophistication, improves legibility, and drives focus.”
Other setup considerations include the following:
- The site’s caching system, or how it stores your pages.
- SSL certificates, which speak to your security protocols. As hackers and identity thieves continue to invade our digital world, how we protect our websites and data will continue to rise as a priority.
- Header tags. This is how Google reads your webpage, it communicated to Google the importance of the topics you discuss on your website.
- Snippets. These are previews of what is on your site, and these results are displayed directly on Google’s search engine, allowing customers to easily understand what your website is about before clicking on your link. These are important getting customers to actually visit your website.
- Basic keyword search. Remember, it’s all about how searchable your site is. Customers are looking for you, but they won’t find you if you are not focusing on the specific niche that is your business. An optimally designed website needs to have pages that related to their services, i.e. their targeted keywords, in order to be found.
- Where was the site built and where is it hosted? Is your site on a staging site and are you using a domain or subdomain? To put it simply, a staging site is a clone of your live website. Developers often use staging sites as a testing ground to prevent errors occurring on ‘live’ websites, thus avoiding the issues and/or downtime that might otherwise result. A subdomain is an additional part to your main domain name. Subdomains are created to organize and navigate to different sections of your website. You can create multiple subdomains or child domains on your main domain.
Website hosting firms provide technical and services support for a website to go live. You must connect the name of your domain to the hosting provider, who will assign server space to keep the contents of your website.
Here are some tips which can be helpful when you decide your hosting provider:
- Try to pick a dedicated server over a shared server.
- Choose a VPN plan
- Ensure your hosting provider has an active phone or chat support
- Get an easy server hosting interface for the end user
- You should have excellent server security in place
When looking to hire a website designer, it is imperative to consider the points listed above. These standard practices are necessary in order to provide quality white label design services to your customers. If you work with a design/development firm that does not offer these services, this could reflect poorly on you as a loss of quality leads to a lack of trust in your customer’s minds.
3. Quality of work
Because there are legions of web designers out there, companies seeking a white label design firm need to pay close attention to the functionality of the site design. Not all web designers are equal. How does it flow? Is it easy to navigate? Is it readable?
Anuja Lath, CEO of RedAlkemi in India and widely recognized as a digital marketing guru, outlined five top elements of an optimized website design.
· Accessibility: Great web accessibility allows people with a wide range of abilities to navigate and interact with your website with ease. It has emerged as a key feature for businesses to target underserved yet effective audiences.
In addition to the basic features like screen readers, voice-recognition, user-made content, etc. accessibility has also come to include best practices in compliance.
Customer Experience:It is a fact that customer experience does not exist without great usability. It helps your business to be able to understand the needs of the customer at depth and give shape to various strategies for achieving the same. There are many types of usability testing and it is imperative that all these are scaled for the product or service which is supported by it.
Brand Positioning:Poor quality of usability can cause irreparable damage to a website as it is one of the primary elements to gain the trust of your customers. The impact can have far-reaching consequences even for the bottom-line of the business. All this can be handled by ensuring highly optimized user experience which can promote the overall perception of the brand.
Productivity:Systems which are easy to use and can be updated using simple methods are considered a valuable business asset. Studies have proven that employees have higher job satisfaction if they engage with a usable interface. This enables them to complete their tasks on schedule. Hence, overall productivity is improved.
Conversions:Websites that incorporate both contextual and visual cues to customers experience much higher conversion rates. Simple calls to action in emails or on a website can enhance clicks by 371 percent and increase sales by a phenomenal 1,471 percent.
DesignRush.com, a B2B marketplace connecting brands with agencies, recently cited the top three design trends in the website design space as the following:
· Personalization– Personalization across digital platforms is proven to increase click-through rates, time spent on site, conversions, and bottom lines.
For example, one study found that personalized calls to actions increased conversions by more than 200 percent.
· Content-driven experience– It’s no secret that content marketing is one of the most effective forms of digital marketing. After all, content marketing costs 62 percent less than outbound marketing yet creates three times more leads.
But it turns out that content marketing – in all its forms – can drastically improve the overall user experience on websites, too.
Brands that invest in content marketing can build a stronger and more transparent relationship with customers and inform them about relevant information – both of which improve UX, returning consumer rates, and time on site.
· Augmented Reality— AR/VR is slowly but surely creeping its way into web designs, mobile apps, video marketing campaigns, social media and more. We will see more AR integrations in the future, but it is something worth mentioning now. Don’t be mistaken, AR/AV will be an integral part of almost every website within the next 5-10 years.
But although virtual reality has the power to completely transform a user’s reality, augmented reality can manipulate a consumer’s experience in a more believable manner, which is proving to be more valuable to brands.
Plus, augmented reality can be more cost-effective to produce and easier to release to the public on a multitude of platforms.
Another key factor to consider is how mobile-friendly your website is. We all know how pervasive the mobile market is with smartphones, tablets, and hybrid phone/tablets.
Eighty-three percent of mobile users say that a seamless experience across all devices is very important, according to sweor.com. But what does “seamless experience” mean?
Seamless doesn’t mean the same experience across all devices, rather it implies that a user can view a website on a computer, then pick up a phone or tablet and pick up where he or she left off without any confusion.
That kind of functionality and accessibility needs to be built into your website design, but does not mean displaying the same webpage elements across all devices. Certain elements or columns may be hidden across different devices in order to improve the user experience.
Process speaks to how the white label website design firm engages its clients. Does the company recognize the uniqueness of your company or does it try to apply a cookie-cutter approach to your white label website?
Though all websites have some commonality, each site should reflect the unique characteristics of the company. The marketplace is a diverse and dynamic place and each website should broadcast that abundance of diversity.
When evaluating a website design firm, look for some tells that will reveal their philosophy and commitment to excellence.
· Do they ask questions that reveal your company’s vision?
- Are they talented and nimble enough to become part of your team, integrating into your corporate environment?
- What are their payment requirements? How much do they require up front?
- Do they provide high fidelity mockups?
- How many revisions are you allowed without paying premiums? (Standard is 2-3.)
- Are they hosting, or are you?
5. Speed of service
A website design firm should be able to turn around a standard 5-10-page website design in three weeks or less.
If your schedule is not in that ballpark it may speak to a design firm that is understaffed or has taken on too much work.
Find a firm that has the resources to complete your job in a timely fashion and deliver quality work.
Again, look at how they collect their fees and what type of organization they have. Design firms that have it all buttoned up keep track of their clients and meet deadlines.
Designing a website is a repeatable process that should be evident in how they manage the project.
6. Ongoing Support/Management
A company’s responsiveness to you as the client will reveal volumes about their ability to deliver a top-notch website design and their overall customer service philosophy.
Do they return calls in a timely manner? Is their project coordinator available to you on a regular basis? Do they have a project coordinator? How long does it take them to turnaround edits?
Ongoing support from the web design firm is critical, especially for e-commerce sites when downtimes and glitches translate into missed sales.
A solid website design firm will have secure cloud backups, be able to restore your site in the event of a crash from their cloud backups, provide security monitoring, accommodate migrations, product add-ons and provide funnel pages.
Sales funnel pages are landing pages that are standalone web pages designed to encourage a visitor to perform a specific task, such as downloading an e-book or signing onto a mailing list.
And we can’t say enough about security. Does your website designer build in protections against spamming and fraud?
The design of your website is literally a make-or-break proposition for your business.
Quite simply, without a responsive, intuitive, and customer-centric design that boasts a customer success mindset, your site has no chance of competing with the winning web designs in your industry.
Nate Vickery, a business technology expert and a futurist mostly engaged in finding and implementation of the latest technology trends, put it well when he said the following:
“Without a modern, efficient, functional design, your online presence will suffer, and you will lose potential as well as existing customers in the process. After all, search engines reflect the preferences and needs of your target audience, so they will penalize a site that provides a subpar experience.”
Your site needs a simple layout that’s easy to navigate, quick to load, and intuitive to follow. Even if you have a multitude of different services and content to offer, you need to make it all easy to find.
Starting with clear, brand-specific labels, all the way to intuitive categories and a detailed site map, your site’s structure plays a vital role in the overall design. Keep it simple, and you’ll keep them happy.
Remember that customer experience is a dynamic, ever-changing concept. You need to follow these fundamental web design principles as well as other industry-specific best practices to ensure higher engagement rates and greater success.
Let your web design strengthen your brand presence and provide extraordinary customer experience for years to come.”