There is no upper limit on what you can do to create a visually appealing e-commerce website. DIY abbreviated for Do It Yourself is a much-used e-commerce terminology you would have come across.Not only small businesses, but a lot of large businesses also try to adopt the DIY approach.
There are multiple tools available to start building an e-commerce store. E-commerce business owners have multiple choices when it comes to e-commerce platforms or shopping carts. Most of these platforms claim to be easy to use, however in most cases e-commerce store owners prefer hiring a web developer to build a perfect website to improve ecommerce site performance.
Read the Article: A Step-by-Step Guide To Launch Your Ecommerce Store
At the same time, there are several e-commerce entrepreneurs with basic knowledge of HTML or design experience who would wish to build and manage their e-commerce store all by themselves. There are few top e-commerce solutions that are dedicated to the DIY crowds.
However, before jumping into DIY, it’sbetter to get a few queries answered. Few of these are-
- Which DIY solution works best for your business?
- Why choose a DIY shopping cart or e-commerce solution?
- What is the budget to choose DIY solutions?
- Are you looking out for low-cost template designs?
- Do you want to be recognized by search engines?
- Do you want a seamless backend administration and management?
- How do you want to get engaged with customers? Is it via newsletter, email or other modes of communications
- Using the DIY tools can you create easy to manage landing pages.
- Are the page URLs clean and short to support SEO friendly behavior?
Commonly used DIY platforms are-
- Shopify: Shopify was one of the first hosted eCommerce SAAS applications. It is a popular solution among merchants who may be selling a larger variety of products. They have visually appealing templates, and while not all are free, the low-cost templates look to be well worth the cost. Shopify seems to be one of the sites to build a store of distinction, not just a storefront
- Big Commerce: Big Commerce is ideal for bigger eCommerce stores that have a high volume and large inventory as its monthly fees range from $49.95-$299.95/month. They have comparable features to the rest and excellent pricing options. A full range of templates plus design services, SEO support with advanced analytics support, drop shopping, the ability to integrate email marketing equals a great option
- Volusion: Volusion offers plans starting at $25/month and can cost up to $149/month. Volusion is an eCommerce solution that even professional eCommerce website designers use. Volusion offers a built-in newsletter feature and several third-party app integrations. It also provides skilled professional help. This has a different payment gateway policy for credit card payment which needs to be looked into.
- Big Cartel: Big Cartel claims to provide users with own independent store to sell stuff online. Prices range from $9.99 per month for 25 products to $29.99 per month for up to 300 products, with varying levels of customization with each plan. Big Cartel has a few nice perks. It only charges a monthly fee and doesn’t take a percentage of your sales revenues. It can link directly with any PayPal or bank account, meaning you won’t need an expensive merchant account or have to deal with gateway fees. For individuals and small vendors who sell a limited product inventory, this is a great option.
- Vendder: Vendder is easy to use and you can setup a storefront in a couple of hours. Vendder offers a free plan which allows you to sell up to 15 products. This would have limited customization and themes. Premium plans include a good collection of customization tools along with a great choice of templates. It does not have an additional transaction fee. This is a great choice for a small business with budget constraints.
There are more options available in the market. Based on your skills, budget and business type, you can choose a suitable platform. While with DIY we can get the right look and feel for a website, a lot of times we miss out on the performance. Irrespective of the size of business, only a website delivering the right performance can sustain the market and can be scalable.
Now that we have understood what DIY is all about let us next check a few DIY ideas to improve site performance.
1. Manage Page Size
On an average, the page load time should be less than 3 seconds unless your business demands a very rich graphics to generate revenue. It is always a trade-off between graphics rich design and fast performance.
A lot of online tools are available to measure the performance of the page. These provide a detailed breakup of different elements and the size occupied by each.
Apart from this, in most cases, you also get a performance grade for the website. These tools also provide website performance measure based on the device type such as desktop, mobiles or tablets.
Few of the tools included are-
2. Implement CDN
CDN stands for Content Delivery Network. This is an important component to improve website performance. When you use a CDN service, your website’s content exists on multiple servers around the world, making it easier to distribute that content to end users according to their geographical location. This means that each user will receive the requested content from the nearest server, which will make the entire process a lot faster.
CDN not only improves speed but also prevents a website from crashing owing to low bandwidth issues. Out of the top 10000 websites, only 48.3% use CDN. 47% of web users expect a website to load in under two seconds. 46% of mobile users would abandon a page if it did not load within 3 seconds. 57% of online consumers will abandon a site after waiting 3 seconds for a page to load, 80% of these will not return.
The above stats explain the negative impact of not adopting to CDN. To start using CDN, you would require registering with a CDN provider.
There are two ways of achieving this.
- Select a web hosting company that offers a CDN as an integrated part of their services, such as WP Engine.
- Choose a third-party and manually configure the connection between your regular web host and your CDN
In case you decide to use a third-party CDN provider, then CloudFlare is one of the most popular CDN providers. Others included are – MaxCDN, Amazon CloudFront, Amazon S3, and CoralCDN. Some of the hosting platforms are integrated with CDN, in most cases with CloudFlare.
Once you have integrated, you can check if the CDN is integrated properly by doing a website speed test. Check if this shows the CDN URL you used during the integration process. If not you need to re-check if the CDN integration was done properly.
3. Caching and In-memory technology
In-memory caching helps in improving the performance of a website. These technologies can temporarily store in memory a full e-commerce product catalog, all customer information, site-search indexes, and other information, which would avoid calls on the database. The technology utilizes the RAM available on a server and stores data in it. Since input-output operations are typically 10 times faster on RAM than a hard disk, this helps improve performance.
4. Data Compression
Compression techniques and software can be used to reduce the size of data transfer. One such compression technique is Gzip. The compression is done as part of the server configuration and the compressed data is transferred.
This requires changing server configuration files. While using any specific compression technique also check the browser compatibility, since certain versions of browser do not support compression. Apart from Gzip, the other popular compression technique is Deflate. This is also commonly referred to as HTTP compression.
Most web servers support compression. So, the DIY solution that you choose will be having support for certain compression techniques.
Few online tools help in checking if data is compressed. Some of these are-
To enable this, one would require web development experience and understanding. Compression can also be extended to images.
Images account for somewhere between 50% to 75% of your web pages’ total weight. The higher-quality your images and the more you host on each product page, the larger that number gets. Lossless compression minimizes image size without reducing quality. You can also try TinyJPG(https://tinyjpg.com/) or TinyPNG (https://tinypng.com/) for compression.
Each image you use on a page creates a new HTTP request. In addition to streamlining page speed, trimming the number of images helps you do more and say more with less.
Also, watch out for empty image sources such as <imgsrc = ‘ ’> – in your code. These cause an excess burden on the browser to send yet another request to your servers. A simple solution you can use is called sprites which consolidate multiple images like icons into one, limiting the server’s number of individual image requests and improving your page speed. Uploading your images to a free tool like SpritePad will quickly create sprites and render the code for you.
5. Specify Image Dimension
Predefine the image height and width. This helps the browser to create placeholders for the images, to load the page and the images simultaneously. A lot of times we often create an image without specifying the dimensions of the image on the page. This forces the browser to load the image entirely before it can start another task, which takes more time.
Simple height and width attributes for each image makes the browser understand the size of the image and it can make room for the image. Additionally, automatically alter image sizes for different types of devices such asa laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
There are few online applications which allow altering the image dimension. Some of these are–
Another most used technique is to incorporate byte encoded images. Byte encoded images are faster to transfer.
6. Reduce Round Trips
7. Platform Configuration
Most e-commerce platforms provide configurations which would improve page speed. Most platforms offer minor tweaks that can lead to significant gains. For example, the default configuration that comes with Magento supports file compression, a content delivery network, and other speed enhancements. A user’s Magento administrator can make these platform optimizations.
8. Tag Manager
It is also a time and resources burden for your dev, IT or marketing teams to deploy, test and monitor the tags throughout your Marketing Tech (MarTech) system. Adding, updating, and maintaining all those tags became cumbersome for developers, so vendors like Google created tag management systems to simplify things.
9. Periodically Monitor
At regular intervals monitor the website performance and resolve problematic pages. If a page takes more than 3 seconds to load, then it’s worth re-checking the page for any optimizations. There are many tools to measure and diagnose site speed. These include Pingdom, Yahoo’s YSlow, and Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
10. Reduce Redirects and remove broken links
Too many redirects can impact the performance. While redirects are helpful to send visitors to new URLs, they should be used sparingly. 302 redirects, which indicate a page has been moved temporarily, can hurt your SEO, trigger additional HTTP requests and delay data transfers.
Though redirects are obvious solutions and easy to use, it should be used sparsely. Instead, use a cacheable redirect or DIY solutions such as Shopify’s built-in redirects function.
Broken links or the wrong links for page elements like images, CSS and JS files increase HTTP requests and sting your site speed. Removing them is easy with a tool like Broken Link Checker.It’s also a best practice to create a custom 404 error page to assist visitors who accidentally enter an incorrect URL for your site.
11. Minify the code
Few DIY solutions such as Shopify handle SCSS.liquid minification automatically. It also offers whitespace controlling tags to help remove bloats in the rendered HTML.
12. Equally focus on Mobile Performance
A lot of times we fail to optimize mobile performance. However, most of the business happens over mobile. Slow loading over mobile can hamper your prospects to get a customer. Having mobile-first technology has become even more crucial.
13. Reduce usage of Pop-up quick view windows
A lot of e-commerce websites add a pop-up quick window to showcase their products. In theory, it should save user’s time to decide if they are really interested in a product.
However, this has a few challenges such as-
- It adds an extra step to the customer’s journey
- It can be clicked on by accident which is frustrating to the user
- It can be mistaken for a product page which is confusing
While it has few issues, the main issue is its impact on load times. One can test to see if your customers are even using the Quick View window via click mapping.
Some apps that can help you to do so include:
- Lucky Orange
If this is not being helpful to customers, then it is best to remove it.
14. Hosting Provider
While you can host your e-commerce store with the DIY solution such as Shopify, you can also use another hosting provider for such and connect your Shopify store to your hosting provider. Choice of hosting provider is equally important. Choose a hosting provider which guarantees a good uptime. More the downtime more would be the impact on your business.
Along with uptime, also ensure it has a good performance and response time. This also includes first-byte response time. Online applications such as WebPageTest allows you to measure the response time and the first-byte response time.
While we speak about response time and uptimes, we should also consider how reliable are the services along with its security features. A thorough review of the web host should be done before choosing any specific hosting platform. Not all web hosts support all DIY solutions. So you need to check what fits your requirement along with the budget.
Few of these are 1and1, Bluehost, GoDaddy, HostGator.
15. Multi-Image Slide Shows
Multi-Image slideshow seems to be extremely appealing. However, carefully consider them before adding to the website. The size and quality required for a hero slider to look good can quickly increase load times, especially if you have four to five slides.
The simplest way to resolve this issue is to cut down the number of homepage slides or eliminate them entirely.
If you absolutely must use a slider, then be sure to follow UX best practices to get as much benefit out of them as possible, keep it to a maximum of two to three slides.
Above mentioned points do help to improve e-commerce site performance. Few tips include-
- Understand your customer. Be customer centric
- Provide clear and well-defined goals for your e-commerce website
- Design a website with easy navigation and seamless customer experience
- Re-evaluate periodically to optimize your website performance
- Focus on having a strong online presence by focusing on SEO and best practices
- Use high-resolution images with compression wherever applicable
- Use high quality and precise product description
- Plan multiple marketing strategies
- Build a strong customer relationship through social media presence
DIY has few benefits over hiring a web developer. This definitely requires you to know the technical whereabouts of the solution you choose. You can customize based on your requirements.
This is quicker as compared to hiring a web developer or outsourcing website development. Most DIY solutions are flexible and provide ample third-party application support. This makes website development seamless. A lot of these solutions offer features which can be incorporated to improve your site performance.
Building a DIY e-commerce website seems to be interesting and appealing to many entrepreneurs. This is not just restricted to small businesses, but also several big businesses explore DIY based website options.
A lot of DIY solutions make development simpler and can reduce the complexity of developing the website. While this is true, equally true is a fact that you should also focus on the performance of the website.
As a developer, we usually focus more on the technical aspects and the designing. However, certain basic tips can help you improve the performance of your e-commerce website.
Watch the Video: Video – 5 Common Pitfalls While Designing a Ecommerce Websites