A couple of years ago I browsed through the website of Lesley H Phillips and was impressed with the feel of the site - it was clear, bright and full of energy. I didn’t have to wait long for the pages to load, I was able to click and buy featured products on the very first page and the copy was written with the customer in mind. Every time I returned to the site there were new products that had been added and the site always looked fresh.

I was somewhat surprised to visit the website recently and discover that it had been completely redesigned. The clear navigation and functionality were still there, but the site now had a distinctly luxury feel about it. Knowing that Lesley is an independent jeweller, I just had to ask her how she’d done it:

JC: Why did you decide to build your first website? What was its purpose? 

LHP: About six or seven years ago I was making jewellery part-time as well as working at a bank. I wanted to approach some galleries about selling my jewellery through them and felt as if I needed to look more credible than just turning up with a few pieces of my work. I thought that a website showcasing my jewellery would be a good idea; like a virtual business card.

I have a brother who is able to code in HTML and he offered to build me a website. The site that he built was fine, but the set-up didn’t really work for me - being unable to code myself, I was unable to access the site to maintain it. Around this time I spoke with jeweller friend who had built her own website using Microsoft Office Live. The software was free and so I decided to try it myself and built my own website.

I attended a number of seminars through Business Link about websites, SEO and online marketing which proved invaluable and encouraged me to add an e-commerce capability to my site in 2009. Despite the fact that I had built it myself, I never really felt happy with the look of the site and found the software quite limiting.











JC: What didn’t you like about your website?

LHP: The main problem with my website was that when customers wanted to make a purchase the site navigated away to an external page for the transaction to take place - it seemed like an unsatisfactory shopping experience for my customers. Furthermore, there was no search facility and because the software was quite basic I had to manually build the structure of each webpage.

JC: What made you decide to build a brand new website?

LHP: About a year ago I approached the advisor that had hosted the SEO seminars, for a one-to-one consultation: I wanted some advice about further optimizing my website. He identified a number of fundamental issues with my site that were adversely affecting the SEO; issues with the hosting and the programming language.  It made me decide that I needed to build a brand new website.

I made contact with someone who was willing to build me a new website, but it became apparent that I wouldn’t be able to update the site myself and so I decided against following this path. I needed to have control over the website and so explored the idea of building the site myself using a website builder.

I wanted something that would allow me to build a site with an integrated cart, a product search facility and a customer login. After examining the details of many website builders I went back to my SEO advisor with a shortlist of 10 products and asked him to help me make the final choice. We finally chose one based on my own specific requirements: now all I had to do was to build it!

JC: How did you decide about the ‘look’ of your new website?

LHP: I did a lot of looking around at other jewellery websites. I navigated my way around all the big names and tried to work out what worked and what didn’t.  I looked at the things that made me want to stay on a site and the things that made me want to buy and then tried to incorporate those elements into my website design.











JC: What was the hardest / most time consuming aspect of building your e-commerce website?

LHP: Probably just building a separate page for each product! It’s not so bad when you’re maintaining a site and adding a new page when you make a new piece of jewellery, but putting together all of the pages for a site launch is quite intense. Implementing the SEO and carrying out online marketing is also very time consuming. Of the periods that I spend online, I would say that roughly 5% of that time is spent maintaining the pages of my website and 95% on SEO and marketing.

It took me eight months to build the new site. I spent about three hours a day on it, although over February I was working on the website full-time and didn’t manage to make it into the workshop at all!

JC: In retrospect, would you have done anything differently?

LHP: If I had known how important the SEO and the look of the site were to begin with, I would not have used the Microsoft Office Live software and I would not have spent so much time trying to make it work. I would also have built the site incorporating SEO considerations from the very beginning. I now know how critical it is to have the keywords in place at the building stage of a website. Naming the pages correctly has to be done right at the start as you can’t go back and edit a page title afterwards. 

JC: Is there any advice that you would offer someone embarking on creating their own ecommerce website?

LHP: Research and plan first – don’t just build!

If you decide to ask someone to build the site for you then still research and plan. It’s useful to know a little about SEO so that you know how it works and what you want, as well as having a clear idea about how you want the site to look and how you want it marketed. If you ask someone to build you a website without clear guidance in all of these areas, they won’t know what to build.

It is also useful at each stage to look at what you are creating from the customers’ point of view. 

If you don’t, then the whole exercise is pointless.

 

 

With thanks to Lesley H Phillips for talking to us at the GoJD

Jayne Coulson

 

 

44 Hockley Street

Hockley

Birmingham

B18 6BH

Tel: +44 (0)121 507 0994

Company number 07258309

ICO Registration No: ZA460029