In some ways, e-commerce sites can be a more straight forward approach than a service based or showcase website. After all, you will have probably already organised your product range, trading name and prices.
We still need supporting content to make your business and its message more accessible to new customers. Some content reflecting the history or story of how and why your business idea developed, a little about yourself if you offer a personalised product, a philosophy perhaps, something that adds personality to your site. You may want to impart a passion, belief or unique product or service. If you are entering a competitive market then this message is all the more important.
Then webal can reflect your message in the style, colour scheme and mood of the site.
The Nuts and Bolts
We will need the full information of your product range and then agree who is to add the products onto the site. The time taken to cover this stage varies depending on:
The number of products and product types ( do you offer 10 products with variations or 10's of thousands)
The information you have on each product (product descriptions, product codes (SKU), barcodes (EAN), prices) and the method in which it is currently stored (is it in printed catalogues or can we get spreadsheets from your suppliers)
If you 'make'; your product, do we have information on the constituents
Images - do you have your own product images (best) or access to a range of images form your suppliers (speeds the process) or have you yet to source images. Avoid using competitors images where possible, sometimes this is ok if they original was from a supplier, but those images may be subject to copyright. And we have seen this acted upon.
The point is to make your site more attractive, than your competitors' sites, to your audience. This is something that needs to be at the core of every decision we make towards the final build of your website.
Here at webal, once we have collected the information that we need to build the site, then we can arrange the structure of your e-commerce website. This will include product categories, manufacturers or brands, product types and this will from the basis of the navigation menu system for your e-commerce website.
Because we use a CMS to build the website, we can include, Galleries, Blogs, Youtube Videos, supporting Article content, social or community interaction, social media integration into the build. Don't worry too much about adding these from the very start if you have little or no content ready for them. It is better to add them when the time is right than to have sparsely populated pages just for the sake of it.
We will also integrate your e-commerce website with Google My Business, Analytics, Search Console, Google Structured Data (used to be called Rich Snippets) and even Google Reviews so that the circle of information is complete.
We may also need business specific information for compliance with various rules that govern aspects of your business such as registered office, points of contact, phone numbers, certain email addresses and VAT registration numbers.
webal builds all sites using Joomla! CMS. The reason for this choice is mainly because we have worked with Joomla CMS since 2008. Back then we took a look at Wordpress, which was the only other real alternative at the time, but found that it lacked a few built in 'core' elements included with Joomla!
Wordpress has evolved a huge amount since then, as as has Joomla and other Content Management Systems. Joomla just ticks the boxes on speed, reliability, template flexibility and security. It also has some other functions built in where other CMS require a 'plugin'.
Joomla also scales much more easily than Wordpress. You can use Joomla for enterprise projects (1000's of pages) but it is also nimble enough for smaller (sub 100 pages) sites whilst bringing the built in log in, secure pages, member areas and overall site security plus the flexibility required by smaller sites (up to 20 pages).
So, webal felt, that Joomla was the best answer. Allowing growth and design flexibility with peace of mind security.
All webal sites are hosted using a UK firm with years of experience in hosting single page sites up to large well known brand names.
webal hosting is also 100% environmentally friendly.
In 2017, they became one of the first hosts to be powered by 100% renewable energy - no vague carbon offsets, just a direct relationship between their datacentre and Ecotricity to power the facility with energy generated by 100% renewable sources.
webal, also uses a green energy tariff to power our services and refurbished upcycled PC's to build and maintain all of its sites.
This is not a 'statement', or virtue signalling, it is a choice that we firmly believe in. If you feel that it is important then, rest assured, so does webal.
The hosting packages all use SSD Drives and Litespeed Servers based in the UK because, vital to any site, is speed.
Google uses the quality of your website structure and performance as a metric that plays a part in how well your site will index in its Search results.
Your site also needs to be reliable. All Content Managed Sites use extensions to handle some specific areas, if these extensions are not maintained and updated, then your site can 'break' or have missing pages (called 404 or orphan links). You don't want this, your customers don't want this and as a an extra, Google will also rank your site lower.
So, Speed & Reliability, in short, are vital.
webal constantly looks at improvements in techniques to best serve your website pages with both speed and reliability. We do this through fundamental building techniques common to all of our sites. Of course, we also create and customise the site to your needs but the core elements of strong structure and lightweight advanced code is common to all webal website designs.
We reduce third party plugins and extensions to the minimum necessary in order to keep maintenance less complex, and the site more reliable, and to ensure that the site speed remains high. Joomla helps by providing some core elements not found in other CMS packages.
We mainly use PageSpeed, Lighthouse, GT Metrix and WebPageTest.org on all webal sites to ensure that they reach (and often surpass) the sped and security figures required on the modern web.
As well as building and hosting your website to the highest speed and security standards - webal aims for 'A' grade speed and security - we also move all but the smallest sites across to the Cloudflare CDN.
A CDN (Content Delivery Network) is basically a secure network of servers around the world that hold a copy of your site and then serve it to the site visitor from the nearest location. It is also possible to further optimise your website through use of a good CDN. This helps speed.
It also helps with security; using a CDN, you can prevent certain region and territories from accessing your site. You can also 'firewall' bots commonly used in attacks and help prevent DDoS attacks to your site. It also prevents and logs any attempts by malicious software that attacks your site.
Many hackers do now target smaller business, assuming that their site will be an easier target. At webal, we take extra steps to prevent this from happening and use of a CDN is very much part of this. Your webal website will be protected using world class defences.
All e-commerce based sites by webal will be protected and served by Cloudflare CDN, most other sites will be too. If you are starting with a smaller site that has no login areas then you may not need to take this extra step. However, if you request it, webal will cover these sites too - whatever its size.
We cannot guarantee 100% protection - no-one can - but we do take security 100% seriously and we will do our utmost to keep your sites secure and running.
All webal websites tested on webpagetest.org will be 'A' rated on security.
Yes! All webal website designs are custom made. We don't use templates from other suppliers, at all. Never!
Why is this important? Well first of all it means that your site is unique to your business. After all you wouldn't stick your name and phone number on someone else's business card or 'Photoshop' your business name onto someone else's advert.
We do get ideas and inspiration from other designers, of course, these can help in the design part of the site. By taking some ideas you may like and applying them. This way your site is still personalised and unique.
But, no we don't buy in a template, re-colour the elements and then shoehorn your content to fit.
At webal, we take a more wholistic approach, building your site from the ground up to suit your needs.
All sites are built from scratch using a barebones optimised framework that is flexible enough to allow any combination or style of design.
We do still conform to some build techniques that help SEO, but there are ways of being creative enough with the design to ensure that your site reflects your identity and remains unique.
It's also faster. When using a purchased template you also introduce unwanted elements, and it take just as much time to remove these parts (and, not everyone out there will do this) as it does to build from scratch. There may also be built in functions that don't match with what you need. Any unused function can just sit and drag down your site speed or SEO.
Plus, because webal builds your site, we know exactly how it works! So when it comes to adding new pages functions or a new theme altogether, then you're in safe and competent hands.
You'll see this everywhere. Any good web design service will offer responsive design. But what does it mean.
Yes, it moves the bits of the page around to suit the device, whether it be Desktop, Mac, Tablet or Smart Phone, or even a Smart TV. In a nutshell that is responsive design.
But, ideally, you should serve the same information to user of any device AND ensure that the content is still presented in a pleasing manner. So, this may mean swapping an image or text size, background or foreground colour or some button positions depending on the screen size.
Some just allow the template to do the work, but with webal custom built sites, we can be a little more creative and ensure that your audience is viewing the site at it's best on any device. Also, if something needs tweaking (it always does!) then webal have the know how.
It's fair to say that the tablet audience is probably the smallest now, with Smartphone being the most popular means of viewing a website these days (our figures put the mobile audience at around 60 to 70% from some ecommerce sites) with desktop/laptop somewhere in the middle.
So, we adopt a mobile first approach, but always make sure that your site will work beautifully across them all.
Search Engine Optimisation means just that. Your website must be found by search engines to generate any interest and income for you.
There are paid avenues to do this, but be mindful that although they can work, they can also be expensive.
webal concentrates on Organic SEO, and this means using text and images that best matches what people are searching for. Although, we don't strictly specialise in SEO, all webal sites are built with the idea of being indexed and served to your audience. It's no good having a beautifully crafted website that cannot be found without specifically looking for it.
So, webal builds websites that emphasizes content - and this is the most important part of meeting up and discussing your new website build.
We still, sometimes, are asked if we can just copy some info from a similar site and paste it in. Well, no, we don't do that.
It's not going to help you, for one, Google know this old trick and your site will be penalised accordingly. They may even refuse to index your site at all - and there will not be much you can do about it. Also, it disrespects your audience. Would you deal with a company that did not provide what it advertises on a website? Probably not for long.
So, it's not just some high minded ethic; it just doesn't work and will harm your business.
Instead, we find ways of describing what you do, how you get started, why and where - the old story (Who, Where, Why, What and How) and then present this across the relevant pages of your website. Then take keywords from the content and apply these into the site's content tags. It's a successful formula.
We also add Google Structured Data format to your website, this is an extra form of structure or 'schema' that sits inside your webal site and presents Google with juicy bite-sized bits of content in a form that helps your Search Engine Ranking.
Also, legibility, or readability, is important too. Long gone are the days of Google bots milling around picking up your text. The techniques used now are much more advanced and take into account the font size, the line height, the colour/contrast and the clarity of the text. It also measures the relevancy of your content.
So, we will discuss your 5 parts (Who, Where etc.) and create a story that can be followed. We can also use some legitimate tricks to help 'fill out' some of the thinner areas.
webal will provide much more than just basic SEO, but you can also take the finished or near finished webal web site to a dedicated service and we can work with them if your needs are more specialist.