Ugly eCommerce - a brief history
In the beginning, website were built with tables. Tables nested in tables on top of tables next to tables with even more tables! Using tables as the main markup structure of a webpage was a developer's defense against display inconsistencies across early web browsers. As the web evolved most content management systems (CMS) moved away from a tables in favor of more flexible and standards compliant markup structure. However most e-commerce systems took many years to follow suite. Back when Tragic first started working with e-commerce there were very low expectations for the front-end display and optimization of online shopping. Nearly all stores existed in a world of horribly nested tables that were unmanageable and very difficult to style. Even large brands that we worked with like TaylorMade adidas Golf, which used the Yahoo Store platform, had horrible management and development capabilities over their product display and checkout flow.
At best you could make a nice branded wrapper for an otherwise off-putting retail experience. Due to the terrible management and restricted developer access online shopping was not a very smooth or aesthetically pleasing process. Online shopping is about trust, and having a broken or un-intuitive purchase flow definitely caused many users to be nervous and skeptical about early online shopping.
As e-commerce grew in popularity, e-commerce systems started to develop more quickly. They became more robust and started to better adhere to modern web standards. Designers were able to push store themes to new extents and marketing professionals began to find ways to increase user conversion through changes to store layouts and checkout flows. It finally became possible to create a fully branded responsive experience from the homepage all the way through checkout. Some systems gave more control and had better output than others. Tragic Media has worked with many e-commerce platforms over the years, but we became early supporters of the Magento and Drupal platforms because they are open source, scalable, and have very robust theme capabilities.
Magento - Finally an open source solution that scales
Magento is a scalable open source php-based e-commerce platform. With Magento it is easy to build large Amazon-style storefronts that can easily scale to manage tens of thousands of products and even multiple stores from a single code-base. The theme system is extremely powerful and features a sophisticated template override system which lets developers customize as little or as much as they want. This combined with the system's table-free output allows developers to create custom responsive themes and advanced interactivity with ease.
Drupal - Robust content management + flexible commerce
Drupal broke into the e-commerce arena when the UberCart team released their module for Drupal 6. With Drupal 7 came a new e-commerce module, Commerce, which has proved to be even more scalable than its predecessor. Drupal e-commerce has had a big impact in the e-commerce arena, because finally there was an open source e-commerce solution that coupled seamlessly with a powerful and flexible CMS. Drupal makes it easy for developers to create, and for administrators to maintain, large content managed websites that also featured robust e-commerce functionality. Usually to build a large website with lots of content and e-commerce you would need to use two separate systems, a CMS and an e-commerce platform. However, with Drupal administrators are able to manage both the store and the website from one admin and developers are able to output site content and store products side-by-side on any page of the site. The other big advantage of working with Drupal is its advanced theming capabilities which gives developers maximum control over the site design. The system empowers companies to create a custom experience that is unique to their brand and products. Our client Hot Sauce Adventure Club is a perfect example of how to create a custom online shopping experience for your customers that exemplifies a brand's style and attitude.
Hosted eCommerce - setup and go
There are many new hosted e-commerce platforms popping up everyday. Each of them have benefits and drawbacks, but overall these new hosted solution have dramatically lowered the bar of entry for selling online. Platforms like BigCommerce and Shopify empower small businesses to create their stores quickly and cheaply, so that they can begin selling online faster. These platforms generally boast a large number of free or cheap themes that store owners can choose from and customize with their brand colors and logo. These new hosted solutions exemplify the move to beautify e-commerce by making it easy for small businesses to create beautiful online stores with ease. While the available themes might not be using ground-breaking designs, there are some great looking options available for businesses that want to start selling online but cannot afford the development needed to create their own custom store experience.
Beauty counts - now more than ever
Nowadays with e-commerce become more readily available and easier to implement it is important to separate your brand experience from your competitors. As a business owner you work hard to establish your brand and build your user base, the last thing you want is for someone else's website or store to be mistaken for your own. So while free themes are great for startups and small businesses, there becomes a point when any growing business needs to separate themselves from the crowd and scale their online presence to a new level. The best way to start your growth is to increase your management capabilities and create a branded user experience that works seamlessly across all devices. Mobilegeddon is fully underway, and mobile traffic in the US is at an all time high (51% as of June 2015). So now more than ever it is more important to make sure your online stores look good and are optimized for mobile and tablet.
If you are in need of an e-commerce facelift:
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