When a local natural foods grocery contacted us about a website makeover, they had a stock site, as you can see below. Stock websites are like stock catalogs, and often come from the same companies: they offer essentially the same content to everyone, but have options for customizing the home page. Stock websites are common in many industries, and they have advantages. Often, they include the whole e-commerce package: they keep the stock updated, they fulfill the orders, they have the pictures and descriptions prepared already, and they can make e-commerce much easier all around.
The catch is, they look like stock websites. There was nothing characteristics about this site except the logo. Otherwise, it was interchangeable with every other natural foods store website that used the same stock catalog company. In this case, the store made a lot of mistakes in the way they customized their site, too, so they ended up being a wonderful, special brick and mortar store with a website that was the opposite of wonderful and special.
We teamed up with designer Tom Hapgood to create a new site that would look and feel like their store. We kept their logo, of course, but everything else changed. Here’s what’s new:
- Since the store didn’t actually want to do e-commerce, there was no reason to keep the stock site. Sometimes the trade-off is worth it, and we could have customized the stock site or created a homepage that would connect to the stock catalog, but in this case there was no need. Instead, we planned a better site architecture that put everything in logical places. I also write fresh content for them to replace the stock content they’d been relying on, optimized their own content, and tracked down good resource links for them. This way, their site continued to be chock full of information even though they lost the articles database from the stock site.
- Tom went down to the store, took photos, and matched the colors used in the building. He used lots of photos of the staff and the merchandise throughout the site. This wouldn’t work for every company, but when it’s an option, it can be very enticing.
- Tom also used some snazzy details. Using some special touches in the design can add excitement to your website — just be sure they don’t interfere with usability. You’ll note that Tom also made the images look like old photos or postcards with white edges. This, together with the farm fresh color scheme, gave a feeling of old fashioned wholesome country goodness to contrast with the modern trendiness of the tech he used — a perfect expression of the company’s zeitgeist.
The intial cost for a custom website may be higher than for a stock site, but this company found, as many others do, that the one-time cost represents a serious savings over time. The new site is also much more likely to bring in new customers than the old one was.