Does your website need an all-out makeover, or are you just looking for some do’s and don’ts to update your site? At 2017 Summer NAMM, Tracy Leenman of Musical Innovations, NAMM’s 2015 Dealer of the Year, and panelists Dan Fugate of Blues Angel Music and Allen McBroom of Backstage Music shared what they’ve learned through their recent experiences with website redesigns.
McBroom and Fugate were both forced to do complete revamps when their websites crashed. Likewise, Leenman did a makeover to her site. Her advice: Do it before you have to. Here are their tips for a successful website makeover. (Watch the video for the complete session.)
How do you set up a new website?
McBroom: We researched and went with a company called Shopify. It provides us with a site that’s really good for e-commerce. They do all of the credit card processing, and you can add apps as you go. In three months’ time, we went from a website that had melted down to a functioning e-commerce site with 1,200 product items on it.
Fugate: The site started crashing, and it was down for three days at one point. Your store may as well be shuttered if someone’s trying to find you, and your site is down.
I rebuilt the site in WordPress over a weekend and made it look similar to what it looked like before. There’s a website called the Wayback Machine, which is a digital archive of the World Wide Web information created by the Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization. So I looked at older versions of our site and recreated pages from there.
McBroom: I primarily wanted an e-commerce site, and now I’m looking for a way to integrate articles and other content, so it’s not just what’s for sale. I want to give everyone a reason to come to our website, even if they’re not shopping.
Leenman: Right now, our website does not have e-commerce. It’s mostly informational. We do have online rentals, so we added a Squarespace front to the Retail Up! service on our site. It’s mobile friendly and has been moderately successful. We’re currently working on which way to go with e-commerce.
Leenman then stated website must-haves: speed and intuitiveness; a modern, clean look; arrangement of content; and mobile-friendliness.
How does your new site reach new customers and keep returning ones too?
Fugate: I suggest you have really good content, so that whenever someone is searching for something you have in your store, they can find you. Link your Facebook, Twitter and social media posts back to your site. Always make sure that the navigation on your website is clear, so visitors can get around on your site easily and see what’s there.
Leenman: We have been successful with social media. We have almost 1,600 followers on Facebook, and our nearest competitor in town has 247 followers. So, that’s been something we use successfully and link to our website.
What platforms do you use or think are beneficial in web design?
Leenman: We use Squarespace on top of Retail Up! Here are some other software and programs that are useful:
• Photoshop for images
• Excel for file manipulations
• Shopify apps for eBay and Reverb
• WordPress and Squarespace
• Retail Up!, Active-e and Pro-Active
McBroom: The most important thing you need to know about e-commerce is that you need to do it. Have a third-party platform to do your website for you and to do the heavy lifting because they keep up on code updates and technology. I use Google. I’m not any more of an expert than the average bear, but I can tell you that you don’t have to get it right the first time. Let the software do the work. If you can’t figure it out, call me. Programming codes can be written to help you export and reimport POS files and link updates across platforms to save you time and money. For instance, Shopify has a free app written by Reverb, which will take your Shopify listings in real time and post them to Reverb. InkFrog is another inexpensive app that will migrate your Shopify listings to eBay.
Leenman: AIMsi TriTech software users should know that they will write codes for you to transfer information from one site to another for a small fee.
Fugate: There are a lot of platforms available, such as Weebly and Squarespace. We use WordPress. You’re better to buy a theme because the code generally is cleaner and it will run better on the web. You have to make sure your photos and images are compressed, so they don’t eat up a lot of data using a mobile device.
How do you judge the success of your website?
Leenman: The “Ask for information” responses from our website come directly to me. I’ve seen a remarkable increase in people trying to contact us through our site, so it’s good to know that people have a way to reach us. I get a feel that more people are on our site and asking questions.
How do you design effective search engine optimization without being penalized?
Fugate: The most important thing with SEO is to have good content. What is on your page needs to be clear within the first couple of sentences of the paragraph. When you lay out the page, think of it like term paper. The H1 tag is the title of the page (what the page is about). The H2 tag is different sections of your paper (that tell your readers exactly what’s in each section). None of us likes to read big chunks of text, so use small paragraphs with just a few sentences. Make sure to utilize bullet points. All of those things are good for SEO.
Also, have alt tags for your images. (It will tell search engines what that picture is and helps when people are looking for your content.) When you upload an image to your site, label it what you want people to search for in the search engine. Name that photo, so it will catch.
What are the time and cost benefits of designing in-house versus hiring?
Leenman: I know some of you are saying, “I don’t have time and know-how.” Both of the panelists did their websites themselves. You have to balance your time and what it’s worth. Your website has to be current, quick and user-friendly. There are a lot of considerations, such as who you’re speaking to, what kind of tone you want to use, colors, site upkeep, website staff, and a budget for the website and social media.
What does it take to get started?
McBroom: One of the glories of using a third-party platform is that it’s already constructed. You pick a theme, which is basically how it looks. I got started and let the Shopify software do all the work. I took two hours a day to populate the website. I took photographs of all our products. I advise you to take your own pictures, and write your own verbiage. We’re informal and use our own language, adding to vendors’ copy. Our website is homespun.
Leenman: Put your best foot out there, and let people know what you’re offering. I want people to go on our website and say, “I can’t wait to get there.” Look at your photos, and make sure your photos are musically correct. If you work with schools, make sure you’re grammatically correct. Don’t be sloppy. Get photo releases. Also, one of the first things you have to decide is who your customers are.