The reason I started this blog in the first place is to help print companies, sign shops or design firms move their business online. We’re very familiar with the conversion process because we did it. This is why we write a great deal of online tips designated for small businesses in our field.
When we developed our current website, like everyone else, we researched what other companies were doing and picked out what we liked best. The following print e-commerce websites have specific aspects that we fell in love with and maybe you will too.
Threadless’s website is intimidating if you plan to sell shirts online. Our company plans to expands it’s shirt offerings soon, and our owners intend to create a carolina-based brand called Carolina Vintage. With our current website, we followed Threadless’s lead concerning the simplistic top navigation and easy-to-use forms.
At first glance, Lulu doesn’t seem like much, but they get to the point with a clean interface focusing on their products. On the home page, they utilize a huge area of screen real estate with “Find” and “Create” options where you instantly know what steps to take next. My favorite part of Lulu’s website is the publishing products page though. They did a great job highlighting the core products which influenced us to redesign our home page and get started pages.
There’s no question about it, Zazzle has incredible developers raising the bar for online print companies. They have an amazing interface for users to customize their own products, but that isn’t what I liked most. First, they have an incredibly simple signup page that’s dummy proof. I prefer less clicks during the processs, but we built our signup process based on that simplicity. Second, they use BIG orange buttons for forms so users know what to do. Every page has a strong call-to-action. Commands like “Shop Now” or “Add to Cart” and “Proceed to Checkout” are encased in large orange buttons that cannot be missed. We followed this same model (just not the orange). Finally, Zazzle offers “The Zazzle Promise” (their form of a guarantee) which inspired our “PrintKEG Promise.”
Mimeo’s homepage allocates a large area with gigantic buttons, like Zazzle, that read something like “Shop Now” or “Print Now” or “Learn More” or whatever else that engages the customer right away. Since day one, we also implemented this technique with a huge “get started” button on our website’s home page. I also like Mimeo’s clean design with tons of white space. They make good uses of tabs to present tons of information without cramming everything all over the page. Mimeo also implements video segments and template downloads in smart places, which we mimicked.
This site actually made me rethink how we organize each product page. Envelopes.com has such a nice layout for each product page, its scary. There are tons of options, prices, an image gallery, reviews, FAQ’s, templates on the page, but with NO CLUTTER. The page is smartly laid out, organized and easy-going. We implemented a similar tab model on our product pages which I love. They also utilize large orange buttons that look like Zazzle’s. For a long time, this was my go-to site for ideas.
Like, Envelopes.com, Stickermule’s website made me rethink; only they made me rethink EVERYTHING. Their design greatly supports my inclination to remain minimalist. I believe they’re working off an e-commerce platform optimized with Ruby on Rails, but they’ve done a lot with it. Because of them, I’ve redesigned our templates page, removed clutter and rethought my forms. I love this website, and you should check it out. Visitors know exactly what to do from the home page, they use big images and big fonts and big buttons (big orange buttons again!), ridiculously short forms, and its just plain easy every step of the way. They showoff beautiful photographs to represent their work, not a common practice among printing sites. Why many print companies don’t take photographs seriously is beyond me. Some of you may think this site doesn’t compare to the other four sites, but its the minimalism and ease-of-use that makes it number one for me.
We also reviewed non-printing associated websites like Amazon, JCPenny, Walmart, Sears, Overture, Zappos and many many more during the process. We researched numerous methods of essential e-commerce tactics that attributed to our success, but the above websites were very influential on how we conduct online business in this field and we hope it was helpful to you.
One thing I never noticed until writing this article: Most of above sites use BIG ORANGE BUTTONS. Is there research showing that works? Is it a coincidence? Probably not.
If you know of any print or design related websites worth boasting, please comment and we’ll take a look!
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