Shacking Up: Building a Home(page)

Many handmade shop owners can feel like setting up their own online store is too overwhelming-- from design to driving traffic it just seems daunting. While it can be, it's totally worth it. Especially when you are looking to provide consistent customer experience within your brand. And the daunting part doesn't completely go away when you are rebranding an existing site. Just ask #ahasmembers Handcrafted Honeybee, who have been chronicling their rebrand in this 10-part series. Read on for how they handled it! 

The entire series can be found here:
read the prologue here
Part 1 (where they talk about their need to change) here

Part 2 (why it takes awhile to get a rebrand right)
Part 3 (what it's like finding a designer)

Part 4 (creating compelling content)
Part 5 (creating and using your brand guide)

Part 6 (creating compelling packaging)
Part 7 (juggling two brands at once)

Part 8 (building a homepage)
Part 9 (launching their new site)
Epilogue (why going through a rebrand helps you love your brand more)
AND read their designer's advice on getting better with graphic design here

When you think about your online presence, it can be helpful to picture the real-world equivalent. This is especially true if you’re selling products online.

Listing your products on Amazon can feel a lot like you’re sitting on a shelf in the world’s largest big-box store, surrounded by a thousand other brands.

Etsy has more of a craft-show atmosphere, where each brand has an opportunity to showcase their wares but you have little control beyond the boundary of your virtual booth.

I’m not really sure what the real-world equivalent of selling on social media is, but it’s probably something like setting up a table on the street outside a concert venue. The people didn’t come to shop, but you might be able to convince a small percentage of them to check you out.

Your Website Is Your Storefront

So, what does it mean to think of your website in terms of a brick-and-mortar store? There’s certainly more up-front investment of time, money & energy than selling on someone else’s platform.

But you also have the most control over how people interact with your brand. And the kind of people who walk through the doors of your shop are already primed to be curious about what your brand has to offer.

If your content marketing is the invitation, then your website is the chance to deliver on that promise. Your website is the place where the customer experience truly begins. And you have the power to craft that experience any way you choose.

Redecoration or Renovation?

A rebrand does not necessarily require a new website. It all depends on the scope of the rebrand.

How much has the visual style changed? How much has your audience or your message changed? Does the structure & style of your current site support the goals of your new brand identity?

If there haven’t been big changes in look or message, then you really only need to redecorate your storefront, maybe rearrange things a bit.

Our brand direction had changed significantly enough that our existing site would no longer support our goals. It was a great, custom-developed site. It still functioned well.

But in order to create the experience we wanted for our customers, we were going to need to make fundamental structural changes. We needed to renovate.

Assembling the Team

Since we were working with Aeolidia for the entire rebrand, the development of our new logo and visual identity flowed seamlessly into the website project. Only now, the team of experts they brought to bear had expanded.

In addition to our incredibly talented designer, Sarah, and our steadfast project manager, Samantha, we would be working with a bevy of brilliant ladies. Like Charlie’s Angels…or Fox Force Five, each woman on the team had a specialty.

Picture an opening credit montage, complete with 70’s wah-wah funk music…here’s the team:

  • Sam: The Project Manger
  • Sarah: The Designer
  • Shoshanna: The Web Developer
  • Natalia: The Copy Editor
  • Jen: The Photographer
  • Marina: The Quality Control
  • and Arianne, as Charlie (The power behind the scenes)

How mindblowingly cool is it that our brand – which is dedicated to inspiring girls to dream big – was working with an all-female team to bring our vision into being?

Starting With Goals

We sat down with our team (virtually over Basecamp, of course), and we discussed goals. Each member of the team would play her part in helping us to achieve those goals.

Our short-term goal was improving our online sales conversion. We needed streamlined navigation, a clear, coherent value proposition, strong visuals, & simple, secure checkout.

Our long term goal was a bit more complex: strengthening our customers’ relationship with the brand. As the owners, Stacia & I were in charge of content creation, but each member of the Aeolidia team would be able to contribute to the story we were trying to tell, the value we wanted to deliver & the connection we wanted to forge.

We took the analysis one step further and established the goal of each page on our website. Every. Single. Page. We asked ourselves: What is the one action we want the user to take when she is done reading this page? How does each page contribute to the overall customer experience?

Bridging the Gap With a Transitional Website

Aeolidia had delivered our brand visuals to us by the end of January. However, the schedule for development, testing & roll-out of a completely new custom website would take a few months more.

We had three choices:

  1. Wait to sell under the new brand until the new website’s ready
  2. Start selling under the new brand with the old website
  3. Plug the new brand elements into a Shopify theme-template and operate a “transitional” website until the new website’s ready

Each of these choices had costs & benefits, but we decided to go with Option #3. It would require a lot of additional work to create a site meant only for a few months, but it would provide a clean look that was consistent with the new brand identity.

And the process of moving everything over to the transitional site gave us the opportunity for some much-needed housecleaning. To be honest, we had focused so much of our energy in 2015 on craft shows and wholesale. As a result, the storefront was looking a little shabby.

We took the time to tune-up the back end. Ensuring our links were all functional, checking load-times, etc. With the transitional website as the excuse, we started doing a lot of the things that we should have been doing before.

And we were able to time the move to the transitional site with the launch of the new brand. We brought the pre-launch promotional period to an end by literally closing up shop for a day. In 24 hours, we had migrated everything over to the transitional site and were ready to open the doors for launch-week.

Next Time: Plenty of people saw the transitional website and asked what more could possibly be needed. I’ll share the reasons why we wanted to go with a custom site. I’ll also show you how Aeolidia took our goals and turned them into an awesome new website.

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