I’m going to let you in on a dirty secret of the do-it-yourself website industry.
By DIY website, I’m talking about Wix, Squarespace, and yes, even the mighty, mighty Shopify. I went to Squarespace’s website, and the first words that popped up were: “Make it beautiful.” At Wix, the first words I could read were: “It All Starts with Your Stunning Website”. So before almost anything else is said, Squarespace and Wix mention “beautiful”, and “stunning”. What these terms have in common, of course, is that they express a highly subjective measure of quality. Even if these vendors can deliver on the promise of making it very easy to build a website, there is still an elephant in the room: nobody really cares about the beauty of a website as much as the person who owns it. And that person can run the risk of putting up a billboard in the desert (there’s nobody around to see it). Yes, you can build a “beautiful” website, but that's necessary but insufficient. Maybe it's even only necessary for the owner.
Redefining the success criteria.
So what are better success criteria for building a website? As my latest favorite marketing guru David Miller said (paraphrasing): if your marketing is like a song for your business, a website is the drum solo. It should be a high-energy, punctuated blast that communicates what you do, how you do it, and and who the audience is (at a minimum; with eCommerce, we can of course run an entire business). But don't let the musician analogy confuse you into thinking it's about the vision of the artist. Artists generally create for themselves on a very personal level before sharing with an audience, whereas a business owner must generally think of the needs of customers first (even if he or she is a customer of the business). What visitors care about is whether or not they can use it to solve a problem, even if that problem is as trivial as needing entertainment. DIY website vendors love to hire celebrities to show how easy it is to create a website, and they choose these spokespersons for a very good reason. Celebrities already have an audience, which means they've already solved a problem for that audience. For anyone else, beautiful design on low-value content is like great special effects in a movie with a terrible plot...you leave feeling full, but still hungry.
Put the audience before beauty.
You cannot solve a problem for an audience unless you know that audience, write words that clearly communicate a solution to that audience, put those words in front of that audience, and then measure the effectiveness of those words. Words, it turns out, are what matter; not fonts, pictures, graphics, animations...unless they facilitate and provide context for the words. And a website is just one of many ways to share words.
So, try not to make a beautiful website your goal, regardless of what the DIY vendors say. If you want to build a site that you think is beautiful, fine; but realize that when you spend a lot of energy on this, you've put yourself first and your audience second. The way to avoid this trap is to focus on giving your audience the story that describes the solution they are looking for, and measure how well you are doing that. Use design when it contributes to that goal. I promise you the DIY website builders cannot help you with this.
However, we can.
Not only do we build WooCommerce sites with a focus on creating and measuring success, but we keep them running with Unlimited Support so you can focus on turning readers to visitors to members to customers. (If measuring success sounds interesting to you, stay tuned for Audience Analytics.)