The Site – Nothing But Costumes
The current site is an online web store that sells a wide variety of costumes for all occasions.
I also asked Mark the same two typical pre-review questions, so that I could understand his business needs a bit.
Q: What is your primary goal for this site?
A: We are looking for an office, so we eventually want to be a Brick and Mortar. There is always like a .05-1% visitor to sales ratio. So getting more customers AND a better sales ratio is important.
Q: What do you feel is the biggest weakness of the site at this point?
A: NothingButCostumes.com Explodes in Sept-Oct and then falls off the cliff. I have thought about a face design yet my customers tell me how much they like the site.
So in a nutshell, we need to figure out how to get more visitors and improve sales conversion by looking at the existing problems with the site. Additionally, to offset the problem of lackluster sales for the rest of the non-Halloween time of year – we need to figure out how to make the site be more year-round.
Current State of Affairs
Let’s begin by taking a look at the current Nothing But Costumes (N.B.C.) store.
While Mark mentioned the design as a minor note – I think the design is a HUGE problem. At first glance the site is overwhelming, cluttered, and unfinished looking.
Image is important, and as a consumer I know I would be very hesitant to buy from a site that looks like it isn’t complete. Thoughts that would run through my head range from “Is this a reflection of how they do business?” to “Am I safe entering my credit card information here?”
Building visitor trust is essential when selling products online. They have to be willing to take a leap of faith that the site will keep their payment information safe, that they will actually get their product in the mail, and that the business will keep theit promise of providing it on time.
From a web design standpoint – this site isn’t finished, not by any stretch of the imagination. To that end, I’m not even going to address the visual design of this site because it doesn’t have one yet. I know this is a bit harsh, but I think an honest professional opinion is needed – if the customers are saying they like the design… frankly, they’re just trying to be nice.
That said, there’s plenty of functional aspects that can go wrong even with a great design – so I want to touch on several of those.
Rebrand To Be Year-Round
One of the elements that is a big problem for this site is the peak at Halloween time and lackluster site performance for the rest of the year.
First things first – remove the elements that scream Halloween.
Keeping Up With The News
Perhaps it’s only because my daughter, her dad, and I are all planning to go to the midnight opening of the new Harry Potter movie, but I started wondering whether or not they have Harry Potter costumes. I’m sure Mark knows this, but for anyone who isn’t aware – going to a midnight movie opening in costume is very common.
Turns out, there they are, buried waaay far down on the list. Look, see that? Transformers too! If you haven’t been to a movie theater recently, go to one. You don’t have to watch a movie if you don’t want to. Go look around inside a movie theater. See what posters are hanging up. That’s what ALL those movie-goers are seeing anytime they go to see a movie. It’s pre-selling, early branding, conditioning. I can promise you that Harry Potter posters have been hanging up for months at my theater and I’ve got a note on my desk reminding me to reserve midnight showing tickets. If you can, stay and check out a movie – watch the trailer previews. It’ll show you what will be soon hanging on the walls.
Keep an eye on TV people also. Did you know that Miley Cyrus started filming a new movie this summer? She’s talking about it all over the place, including @mileycyrus on Twitter. That news is sparking an even bigger interest in what is associated with her name — Hannah Montana. NothingButCostumes has Hannah Montana costumes, and they’ll probably be extra popular this year.
How about the news? Michael Jackson died recently. I’ll wager a guess there are quite a few people who will want to dress up as MJ for Halloween this year, but even more than that… some people may have wanted to get the costumes out of a nostalgic tendency. I’m not sure if the site sells those, but the idea is simple: Sales always spike after catastrophe and death. It’s the well known morbidity factor. Look at how the sales spiked for the Batman movies when Heath Ledger died.
The point I’m getting at is simple. If you know what’s happening now, just happened, and is happening soon – you can tailor the things showcased on your site to grab those hot buyers.
Know Your Competition
I headed over to Google and typed in the one keyword phrase that should bring in the most ‘ready-to-buy’ visitors for this site: “buy costumes”
The very first site that popped up was BuyCostumes.com so I decided to check out the competition. That site is actually quite nice, although it does suffer from some clutter issues.
Since I just finished talking about keeping up with the news, I found it amusing that I landed on BuyCostumes.com and saw a showcase of all the hot new movies people might want costumes for front and center on the site.
Keep an eye on the competition. They may catch something before you do. If they do, see it, jump on it. Don’t let them have an advantage over you. How else does your business compete with them? With a strong brand people remember, trust, and recommend.
Rebrand to Be Memorable
Every business wants their customers and visitors to remember their name. They want them to talk about how great their business is, and return to it later. Branding is very very important and developing a strong brand takes time, effort, and skill.
One thing to begin with is to have the primary site branding done professionally. The Nothing But Costumes site needs a stronger brand that has nothing to do with Halloween, and an image that can go on every single piece of marketing material it has.
Keep The Focus
On any business site, it is important to maintain the overall focus of that site. I see a couple of things on N.B.C. that I would suggest keeping out of any new design.
I have no idea why there is a daily horoscope front and center on this site. It needs to go. So does the animated rotation of costumes. If there are photos of costumes on the front of the site in the new look (which there should be) – the rotating carousel is unnecessary.
If a business store MUST link out to another site, it’s vital that offsite links open in a new window and are not given prominence over anything that is important to the business.
Keep the focus on converting visitors to customers. People love specials and like to browse what’s ‘featured‘. This should be prominent, because those things are a huge lure to buyers. They should be a big focus. From a marketing standpoint, those things should also be things that are currently very hot right now.
A minor note. On the sidebar there is ‘Other Stuff We Sell’. For a site that says ‘Nothing But Costumes’ I think that’s going to have to go. It seems strange to go to a site that only sells costumes and find candle holder sets. The Mardi Gras masks? Can’t those just go in accessories – there are only 2 of them. I’m not sure why there are 2008 links there, but I don’t see those as necessary. Rarely does a shopper say.. hey, I want to go shop for something old. Just mix those in among all the rest and they’ll never know 🙂
Online stores are usually a de-cluttering challenge. They have a lot to say, a lot to sell, and they want everyone to see it at once. For the visitor, however, with too much stuff crammed onto a page, their eye doesn’t know where to look.. so it goes everywhere. They’re overwhelmed. Watch someone using a store site they’ve never seen before. People need to be SHOWN where to look, and what to look at.
When the site is redesigned – that ENTIRE list of things down the center needs to go. Hand select a few items that are REALLY strong and have great selling potential based on current trends, and put those on the front page.
Break things into chunks for people. Pagination is where you break content apart on to separate pages that they move through using a numbering system. Any site that has 87 items on one page in the boys costume section needs pagination. Break that list up into no more than 12 items per page.
The drop down menus are distracting and overwhelming. They need to stop being dropdowns. The same content is listed on the left, and they should link only to the primary pages not show each sub-page as well.
If I mouse over categories, I get a list so long it makes the page scroll. If I mouse over Categories -> Licensed TV Movies … the list is twice as long as the categories list. That has become too huge to be manageable for a typical user.
I should be able to click on Categories at the top (no drop downs) and see a nice, neat, listing of the categories .. organized in the group I see on the left hand sidebar. I shouldn’t see a site-wide sitemap, which is currently the result.
Build Trust – Fix Errors
One of the easiest ways to make someone not comfortable buying on a website is to have lots of system errors popping up all over the place.
Keep the software updated and get help fixing it if needed.
Several of those links (Page 2, Page 4, and the Zen Cart Dev) contain unfinished content. One page with default text still in it. One empty page, and one with an error message. Just don’t worry about putting those things back in a new site, they’re not needed. The videos – which are a great idea to help people see costumes on live people – are wonderful, but could be on an attached blog.
Horizontal scrolling isn’t good on any store. It indicates a code error in most cases unless someone is browsing with a teeny-screen resolution. In this case – it’s a code error.
Optimizing sites for search engines is a learning process, but there are a few major changes can be made easily and NOW.
The page title, meta description, and meta keywords are all way too long. It is very likely going to be seen as an attempt at keyword spamming by the search engines, and they penalize for it.
Title is 523 characters long = reduce to 70 or less.
Meta description is 1195 characters = reduce to 150 or less.
Meta keywords are 23 = reduce to 10 or so highly targeted keywords.
Make sure that on a redesign, alt text is added to all images and use correct, keyword rich, descriptions of those images. Currently 10 out of 14 images on the page don’t have alt text at all.
Big problem — there’s no WWW to non-WWW redirect set up for this site. This is probably causing a major problem.
Rather than repeat myself, I’ll direct everyone to read the previous site analysis I did on New Focal Media where I describe how a lack of redirect causes duplicate content penalties from Google. It also means splitting up of inbound links in the eyes of search engines. For instance, there are 812 links coming in to the non-WWW version of the site, and 1449 coming in to the WWW version of the site. Search engines are currently seeing those as two different sites, not one with a total of 2261 links pointing to it.
Get the word out! Put up a blog. Can’t put it any plainer than that. Make a blog on the domain, attach it and link to it from the main store, and use it to post videos and articles about costumes. Then use that blog to generate traffic for the site by listing it on social bookmarking sites and other social media sharing sites.
The site has some really great costumes and I think it could do really well if it’s given wings to fly. The business potential is strong and the customer base is out there. The site needs a serious redesign, a careful eye out watching for clutter issues, and some social promotion to get the word out. Mark, would love to have you back for another review in the future! Some before and afters would be awesome.
Interested in a Site Analysis?
Would you like to have your site reviewed on Beyond Caffeine? Drop me a line and let me know all about it! Do you have a site that you think needs a redesign? Head over to my business site and get your free consultation.