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Nuts and Bolts: Storefront Design

April 27, 2011

Why is the design of your storefront so important? Isn’t it just an extension of your artistic creativity, a way to further impress the beauty of your personal aesthetic on an audience of onlookers?

Um… no, not quite.

You see, those artists who do custom requests already know something you may not – a lot of shoppers don’t understand that Greeting Card Universe is composed of individual artists. No matter how many different styles of card they’re looking at, they believe it’s all just GCU itself. And that’s why I’m passing this tip along to you.

How to put this delicately… let me begin by saying I’m not pointing fingers here, and no names will be brought up, so don’t take anything personally. I’m just stating a fact: some artists go too far when customizing their storefronts. Dark blue or purple background with red text; badly designed, wrong size or distorted banner; an artist profile that’s either the size of War and Peace or full of spelling and grammar errors or both; HTML or Javascript like, God help us, Midi music. That’s what I’m talking about. See my hand? No pointed fingers.

So what? Who cares if another artist chooses to represent themselves that way? Why should you care about another artist’s errors or poor judgment?Β  BECAUSE if a shopper happens to run across such a storefront, they’ll USE THAT STORE’S APPEARANCE TO JUDGE THE REST OF GCU… that includes me, you, and everybody else. Remember, many shoppers don’t understand we’re individuals. If they come onto a GCU page from an outside search (which happens often), then the first store they light upon is the one they think represents ALL of GCU.

Just as we’ve often talked about how an unappealing card design can drive shoppers away, not just from that card but from purchasing any card at all, we need to represent ourselves with a professional storefront. In this day of Web 2.0, Internet users expect to see sites that are clean, uncluttered and attractive.

Put it another way… would you trust your credit card details to an on-line retail company whose website was riddled with mistakes, and was shoddy and unprofessional looking to boot? Of course not.

Here are three examples of excellent storefront design. You’ll notice the banners are clean and well thought out; the background of the pages is white, so as not to detract from the card designs; no weird HTML or Java, no animated this and that. These artists present themselves as professionals, ready to do business with shoppers.

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I’m not saying you need turn your storefront into a clone of these examples. Far from it… as you see, there’s plenty of room for individuality and originality (particularly in your store banner). As artists and as business people – yes, if you’re selling your greeting cards to the public, you ARE in business – we need to give a good impression to the shoppers who visit us, so they’ll have an overall good impression of GCU.

Check your storefront with a critical eye. Look at it closely, not from the standpoint of an artist, but from the standpoint of a shopper who is considering giving her hard-earned money to GCU (and, by extension, to you as well). Ask people you trust to give you an honest assessment. Be aware that your storefront not only represents you, it represents GCU as a whole. What’s your storefront saying? Is it a message you want shoppers to hear?

A word to the wise… a little bird told me the Big Kahunas at GCU are considering removing some of the storefront customization options because of this issue. Don’t panic. The option is being discussed, that’s all. However, if we don’t clean up our act, we may find our toys taken away. ‘Nuff said.

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36 Comments leave one →
  1. April 27, 2011 8:44 am

    Oh Corrie, I was getting more and more anxious about my storefront as I read the first part of your post. So what a relief when I got down to the examples! Thank you!

  2. April 27, 2011 9:06 am

    Like I said, no pointing fingers. I just hope that if some artists have gone a little overboard with their storefront designs, they can get a better idea of what a good storefront is like, and why they might want to do some housekeeping on their own.

    Corrie

  3. April 27, 2011 9:44 am

    Well said, Corrie! Your examples of good design are well-chosen. I will certainly review my own store front to make sure that crimes against good design are minimised. From a personal point of view, I must say that I click on the close box when a web site starts playing music or speaking at me. If I do that, then there may well be customers out there doing the same thing.

  4. susiemermaid permalink
    April 27, 2011 12:19 pm

    Agreed, self-starting music is a huge no-no in the webdesign field. There was a time when everyone wanted to do it. It expressed their individuality and they got to be the DJ for their site.
    BUT, people hate it. There is nothing worse than being in a quite place – work, school, or a library – going to a website & having music blaring at you suddenly. Often times you can’t find the control panel – and the music is always at a different level from page to page.
    The biggest problem is that it causes most pages to load very slowly. This is a huge consideration when you realize that many people are still on dial up. A longload time means that the experience will not be enjoyable and the person may simply abandon the page or never come back to GCU.
    And yes, the little dancing gifs & other stuff need to stop too. Super unprofessional & can also affect load time. They are so 1992 – let’s move on.

  5. April 27, 2011 2:55 pm

    Great topic Corrie and I need to go re-evaluate my storefront, see if it’s too much or unprofessional. I strive for that pro-look, but our eyes can be deceiving…hahaha! I too agree with the music and other stuff on the site. I put some Z stuff in the bulletins and get sales from them, so I wonder if they are too much? I really don’t like the stores that have tons of HTML non-sense in the welcome message so you have to go way down when you enter their store to see any of their work.

    Thoughts on my own improvement, Corrie?

    • April 27, 2011 3:14 pm

      Personally, I don’t care for colored or patterned backgrounds on my own storefront – I think it’s a distraction to the eye, but that’s just my opinion on my own stuff. I like your Mother’s Day countdown; that’s a good reminder to shoppers who may be there for another reason.

      Corrie

      • April 27, 2011 11:19 pm

        Thanks Corrie! I had been wanting to give my store a better look, but hadn’t taken the time to do so yet. I’ll give her a go in the next few days.

      • April 28, 2011 3:16 am

        Okay! I managed to push some things aside today and give my storefront and banner an overhaul. Simplified and more professional…I hope, hahaha!

        http://www.greetingcarduniverse.com/SalonOfArt

      • April 28, 2011 8:21 am

        Doreen, I really like your banner – so crisp and professional – and the background is no longer distracting. Thumbs up!

        Corrie

  6. April 27, 2011 3:43 pm

    WONDERFUL article. I would only add that organizing your store front to not have rows upon rows of the same card design is also an advantage to keeping a browsing shopper on the GCU site.

    I welcome constructive feedback on my store front! http://www.greetingcarduniverse.com/dogbreedz

    Why I customized the way I did:
    MAIN CONTENT
    – My banner and profile picture: those are the same from site to site, to let folks know they have MY site and not any other “dogbreedz” sites (there is a .com that isn’t me, and someone at Zazzle snagged up the name before I got there, so at Z I’m DogBreedzSD).
    – two countdown banners (made to fit side by side) to highlight the next two upcoming holidays that I have designs for, to remind folks to buy NOW!
    – contact me module (up high, so shoppers don’t have to search for how to reach me)
    – while I usually prefer to have product “above the fold” I use the welcome module to introduce my store and show off “your photo here” teasers for an upcoming holiday
    – my main store front (and yes, I arrange my product for “artist’s sort” – I HATE going to a store and seeing 100 different of the same design!)
    – tell a friend module for easy sharing
    – testimonials …. we all love to be a part of the crowd, so showing the great comments can fuel a new shopper to actually add to cart
    – featured products – I use FP for my widgets elsewhere and I prefer to anchor it down at the bottom of my main store instead of above

    SIDEBAR CONTENT:
    – “search this store” appears first to help folks use MY search for MY cards instead of the GCU search box at the very top
    – Artist profile – to talk about me, includes a link to my main web site where folks can find lots more goodies and a blurb about the volume discount (includes a link to the discount page from GCU – NOTE: all my links to non-DogBreedz.net pages open up in a separate window so folks don’t lose ME).
    – Private Gallery module
    – Social Networking module (to encourage likes and tweets for marketing/publicity
    – Bulletin – PLEASE don’t do away with this, GCU! I announce my newest cards there and toss in a simple/clean link to my Zazzle shop. I learned early on that the bulletin is often picked up in off-GCU site search engines and brings folks in!
    – Keyword Module. I HATE this module for how it looks, but I know it is helpful – so I balance that by plunking it near the bottom of my page.
    – upcoming holidays – also plunked near the bottom for folks to access who don’t notice the text link provided in the GCU footer.

    Whew … thanks for listening!

    • April 27, 2011 5:35 pm

      Excellent explanation, Peggy. πŸ™‚ Love the ‘countdown’ banners. Do you replace those daily yourself, or is that some sort of Java (or similar) element?

      I also love that you offer “your photo here” cards. I’d like to start doing that, so I wonder if you could possibly point me in the right direction (ie: do we need GCU’s permission [beyond the normal card-approval process]? and does it increase your sales for the time you invest in the customization process?).

      As I was revamping my own store today (after reading Corrie’s fine suggestions) I found out about dragging the individual modules around (at the “Store Layout and Design” page) because like you, I’m not thrilled with seeing multiple identical card images as the first viewing the customers see. Although, I still have a lot to learn about “artist sort”, “featured products” and adding a neat and well-designed table like Tom Rent has at his Comical Captions store (I hope I succeeded with the link – lol!), at least I’m progressing. πŸ™‚

      Thanks again, Peggy, for your helpful explanation about store customization.

      Cindy

      • April 28, 2011 6:50 am

        Hi Cindy –

        Thanks for the feedback…

        The countdown banners do all the magic themselves – makes it so easy for me!

        My “your photo here” cards get a lot of interest at my photo site, from people who see me for pet portrait sessions. I’ve sold some thru GCU and the way I design my templates I really don’t have to do a lot of work to customize for peeps. So for me, it works to help pull people in.

      • April 28, 2011 8:22 am

        The countdown thing is really interesting. Care to share the code with us?

        Corrie

  7. April 27, 2011 6:16 pm

    Yes, important topic. I need to do a video on that at some point. We all have our likes and dislikes. I like bright and clean stores with not a lot of fancy stuff. I do think it should have a great name and banner, that together really represents the art we create. I am amazed at how “C-” some stores look are by some rather accomplished artists.

    Thanks for the plug Cindy!!

  8. April 27, 2011 7:48 pm

    Wow, I just got a major wake up call with this article. My storefront totally fits into the purple category. I thought it was a way for folks to get a feel for what I like to create. I would hope it is liked as well. I guess I will have to do a rethink!!!
    Quick question while I am here. I am trying to set up a blog on this same site but my entries only come out one at a time, you can’t scroll down and have them all on the same page the way this one does. Am I missing something or doing something wrong. Also, I don’t have alot to say, I just want to post graphic art because I love it. Is this a problem?

    • April 28, 2011 5:34 am

      Betsy, you’ve got a free WordPress.com account?

      • April 28, 2011 3:55 pm

        Yes I started one but only have 2 posts and am pretty time strapped. I do want to meet your 3 card challenge though!! In response to the nuts and bolts post I have changed my storefront and am very pleased with the simple result. I would love any feedback on this, although you probably have no idea what my previous one was. http://www.greetingcarduniverse.com/dragonfiregraphics and for my blog, it is http://dragonfiregraphics.wordpress.com/

      • April 28, 2011 4:02 pm

        Hi Betsy! It’s easy to add links to GCU greeting cards. Just choose your card, click the $ sign underneath it, and grab the HTML code – either for a text link (you’d be supplying your own image) or an Image Link (cut and past the code where you want it on the page, and you’ll get a small linked image of the card). If you manage to create just one blog post before May 8 with 3 GCU card links in it, you’ll be entered into the drawing. Good luck!

        As for your store, I think it looks great. Very clean and uncluttered.

        Corrie

  9. April 27, 2011 11:06 pm

    Oh my, I just changed my store banner this morning, before reading this thread. I hope it isn’t too much! If you think it is, please let me know. Thanks. Sher

    • April 28, 2011 1:22 am

      I LOVE your banner, Sher! Great idea to include your card pix right there at the top! πŸ™‚ Also, just as I admired Tom’s table at the beginning of his page, I love your category choices at the top of yours. πŸ™‚ How are you guys doing it? It looks like it would be kind of a tedious chore. Or are you using some kind of widget to sort your cards automatically? Inquiring minds want to know. πŸ˜‰

      Thanks!
      Cindy

      • April 28, 2011 3:55 am

        Hi Cindy and thank you.
        Creating the clickable links is a little bit of a tedious process, but I do like having the links available to the buyer. Here is how I did mine….

        Let me use my Administrative Professionals Day link as an example.

        1 – I clicked my store front url link so I could get the code I needed from My Store and NOT from my Manage Store area!
        2 – I clicked on the “Holiday search tab” on the left column which then brings up a list of all holidays
        3 – I clicked on the “Administrative Professional Day tab” to bring up all my cards for that category.
        4 – I copied the url at the top of the Administrative Professional Day page.
        5 – Now we are going to go paste the url by clicking through these tabs =
        Manage Store – Look and Design – Store Layout and Content –
        Click on the Welcome Tab/Edit button
        6 – You will paste the Admin url in the Welcome section along with two other parts of the code.

        I’m going to list the three parts of the code on three separate lines below to show you what worked.
        But you will put all three parts of this code together to make one long line, no spaces.

        START THE CODE WITH THIS:
        Admin Pro Day

        PRESS SAVE

        Go to your store page again and see if the words Admin Pro Day are showing in the Welcome Section and click on the link to test if it worked.

        Repeat the process for whatever categories you want to have clickable. In between each string of links I placed a ~ to separate them in my store.
        I only selected key categories and did not do all of them.

        Hope this was helpful.

        Sher

    • April 28, 2011 5:35 am

      Sher, I think your store is very clean, and your banner is cute. Love the way you integrated your cards into it. Very nice.

      Corrie

      • April 28, 2011 11:37 am

        Thank you Corrie for your feedback. πŸ™‚ I appreciate it.

  10. Cathy Gangwer permalink
    April 28, 2011 12:49 am

    Great article on store-fronts!

  11. April 28, 2011 4:00 am

    Well darn~ It made it a link when I had the code all separated on three different lines to explain it. ugh. Sorry about that….
    I will put the entries into three posts, maybe that will work. πŸ™‚

  12. April 28, 2011 4:01 am

    START THE CODE WITH THIS: <a href=

  13. April 28, 2011 4:01 am

    ENTER URL YOU COPIED FROM ADMIN PRO DAY:
    http://www.greetingcarduniverse.com/community/store.asp?store_id=1239&CGID=13&num=

    • April 28, 2011 10:13 pm

      Thanks a million, Sher! I absolutely appreciate the details you posted for me. πŸ™‚ I am going to look into setting something like that up on my storefront soon, although I guess I need create a few more cards to make it worthwhile. lol.

      I’m grateful you took the time to guide me through this process and I very much appreciate your explanation and effort. πŸ™‚

      CindyJ

  14. April 28, 2011 4:03 am

    ENTER THIS CODE AT THE END OF THE URL: >Admin Pro Day

  15. April 28, 2011 12:01 pm

    I examined my store front for crimes against design and decided that a retweak was in order. Hopefully, it is an improvement!

  16. Mindy permalink
    April 28, 2011 6:29 pm

    Yes, we are considering limiting the bells and whistles available to artists to customize their storefronts in an effort to present a more unified and professional appeal across GCU. Stay tuned…

  17. Catherine Silver permalink
    April 28, 2011 6:35 pm

    You were right. After looking at my storefront it was in need of an update.

  18. May 1, 2011 2:47 am

    I would love any feedback about my storefront. I like it and feel the colors are warm and inviting but would like others opinions. Thanks, John.

    • May 1, 2011 5:51 am

      Welcome, John! I don’t think the background yellows detract from your cards, and it ties nicely into your banner. I like the framed text in your banner, too. Looks good.

      Corrie

  19. May 2, 2011 10:52 am

    Thanks for the feedback Corrie! And thanks for starting this blog, it will be very helpful to so many of us!

    John

  20. May 3, 2011 1:32 pm

    Wow Corrie, I’ve only just had the time to sit and read all the “latest” (yes, I’m a bit behind!) posts and see that you’ve featured my site here. Do you know, I’ve only just redesigned all my blogs and stores with exactly what you’ve said in mind? So it’s truly positive to have you point mine out as an example, I’m thrilled and (almost) speechless. Thank you.

    I needed to have a cleaner and more professional look to represent Floating Lemons and my designs and was actually wondering whom to ask to see if I’d come anywhere near achieving my aim πŸ™‚ I think I still have a long way to go, but at least I’m headed in the right direction. You’ve stated truly relevant points here, and I’m keeping all your advice in mind. Thanks again!!

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