It may surprise you that Warren Buffett doesn’t attribute Berkshire Hathaway’s success to an ability to predict the future or particularly clever insights. Instead, he says it comes from the team’s willingness to accept its own limitations.
“If we have a strength, it is in recognizing when we are operating well within our circle of competence and when we are approaching the perimeter.”
Put another way, expertise follows focus.
TAG frequently works with clients that first hired a branding agency to design a new consumer or business product. And frequently, an actual Shopify Plus store was included in their design and strategy deliverables.
But caution is crucial when you hire a branding agency to build a Shopify Plus store. Why? Because paying a branding agency to build your Shopify Plus store is a lot like hiring Taylor Swift to design your new house.
Sure, her professionalism and talent in pop music might translate a little into architecture, but do you really want to pay T-Swizzle rates when an architect might do a better, less expensive job?
Here are our nine tips for ensuring that your branding agency is delivering a solid Shopify Plus store:
#1: Did they theme the 404 page?
Long a best practice in the content world, it’s important to ensure that your branding agency designs and implements a 404 page that thoughtfully turns a friction point into an opportunity for conversion, and is consistent with your brand voice.
Bonus tip: You should also measure this page carefully when you launch the site and test ways to improve conversion.
#2: Is the search results page experience built?
Search is best described as a cry for help from the user. Both the search box and the search results page need a consistent design The search results page needs to be thoughtfully themed.
Bonus tip: Ensure the search field and results page are properly instrumented with Google Analytics so you have the right data to improve your search experience and can measure how well the results convert into sales.
#3: Do you have a good static page template?
Almost every Shopify Plus store needs contact us, about us, shipping information, returns, terms of service, and privacy content pages. Make sure the branding agency has designed and built a solid static page theme and integrated it into the Shopify Plus CMS.
#4: Are the fonts licensed?
Branding agencies love using custom fonts to contribute to the overall brand voice and positioning. Check to see that the fonts they are using are properly licensed and that you control the integration platform (meaning the login for TypeKit or Fonts.com, or whatever is used is in your name).
#5: Is SSL properly integrated?
In 2018, the best practice is for every website, whether commercial or otherwise, is to serve all pages securely over SSL (meaning the URL starts with “https”, not “http”). The good news is that you can get an SSL certificate that works just fine for commerce without adding cost by using a tool like Cloudflare. Cloudflare even includes a host of additional security and DDoS protection for your site, for free.
#6: Are the notification templates themed?
The new standard in customer experience in commerce is making sure that every touchpoint is frictionless, on brand, and converts well. The absolute bare minimum for this is to have your branding agency theme your email notifications.
Bonus tip: Use a tool like Conversio to take your customer email communication to a whole new level of conversion.
#7: Is the design fully responsive?
This one is a no-brainer nowadays, but check that every experience designed by the branding agency works well on mobile. Higher-touch design exercises often forget the value of testing the mobile UX before the site launches.
#8: Ensure good defaults for SEO
Technical SEO, the process of making sure that the code structure of landing pages and PDPs is easily indexable by search engines, is not branding agencies’ area of expertise. Check that underlying themes built for critical pages follow SEO best practices by running few pages through a free tool like the SEO Spider tool or Moz’s (paid) crawl too.
Bonus tip: Make sure the product details page and key landing pages have really freaking awesome page titles by default.
#9: Check the site in Google PageSpeed Insights
Most branding agencies don’t stay current on the front end software best practices that are crucial to making a page load quickly and making it easy to use on a mobile device. Be sure to run your site through the Google PageSpeed Insights tool to find issues, and press your branding agency to address the reported findings.
Don’t worry, it will be fine
Shopify Plus is an amazing platform for quickly launching a feature-rich commerce experience for far less money than alternatives like Magento, Hybris, or Salesforce Commerce Cloud. But do not let the ease of deployment make you forget that there are many subtle but crucial steps necessary to get the most out of your Shopify Plus platform.