If you read my previous post, you know I’m pretty angry right now. I don’t like seeing good people get lousy service, especially when it hurts the future of their business. So I’ve channeled that anger into a list of things that any competent internet marketing type should include in an online store.
If you’re entrusting your online business to a designer or developer, then ask them to write this list down. If they miss any items, you hire them at your own risk.
A good online store must:
- Not require that customers log in to check out. Explain to me why it makes sense to make a customer log in in order to buy your sewing products online, and I’ll apologize and open a bike shop. Otherwise, stop trying to justify flipping the bird at every customer who tries to buy from you.
- Allow me to add copy to category pages. As the store owner, I need to be able to write 2-3 lines of quality copy at the top and bottom of those pages full of product thumbnails. Otherwise, it’s like having sales staff and putting duct tape over their mouths.
- Let me edit product descriptions. Easily. Without knowing HTML. It’s a paragraph of text, for god’s sake.
- Let me edit product names as they appear on product pages.
- Let me edit product names as they appear in the title tag on each page. I’ve cracked molars grinding my teeth over this one. It’s not like this is news any more. The title tag is critical to SEO. If you can’t edit the title tag for every page on the site, you’re out of luck. And you have to be able to edit it without screwing up way the products are named on category and product pages. “Silver Spoon” may be what I need on the product page, while I need “Silver Spoon Flatware by Smith & Co” in the title tag. Get it?
- Automatically use the first 150 or so characters of the product description in the description META tag. Don’t argue. It takes 10 minutes and one line of code to do this. Do it.
- Let me edit category names as they appear in the navigation, only.
- Let me edit category names as they appear on the category pages, only.
- Let me edit category names as they appear in title tags, only. I need to be able to edit each one separately! If a developer argues with you, say this: “I don’t ask you why you need 10 gallons of Mt. Dew, or why you never return my calls. So shut up and write the damned code.”
- Include space for copy on the front page. Search engines generate 75% of online sales. Search engines read copy (the kind of copy I can cut-and-paste, not an image with type in it), not images. So you must have copy on your home page.
- Let me edit that home page copy, without knowing HTML.
- Not add session IDs throughout the site. If your cart is adding something like “?sid=2134aldfkasdf2309481234” to every link, kick your developer in the tuchus. You only need a session ID once the checkout process starts, and even then there are other, better options.
- Include a short and a long description for every product. Chances are, you’ll want to use the short description in places like category pages, and the long description on the product page itself.
- Include a ‘zoom’ image for every product. It can be as simple as a popup window with the larger image in it.
- Be set up with basic analytics, so I can track site traffic. I don’t mean some weird custom solution – I mean a known package like Google Analytics or Yahoo!’s new toolset.
- Use the e-commerce tracking features of that analytics package.
- Adapt. The site your developer builds must be something to which you can later add features, either by hiring that developer back or hiring another. If the site code reads like the ravings of a heroin-crazed oracle somewhere in the Khyber Pass, you’re in for trouble.
- Bonus: Let me generate a Yahoo! and Google products feed.
When they read this list, the first thing your developer will say is “That’s not in the budget!”.
They’re partly right. Your budget doesn’t include adding these basic, basic features after the site launches. It does include the 20 minutes it takes to make sure they’re there in the first place.
Just to prove that I’m not a rabid hater of developers: Don’t confuse required features with stupid ones. Read 15 Features Your Site Doesn’t Need to make sure you don’t kill your own project with silly feature requests.