Web design. You know the term, but do you know what it means? Fleshing out just exactly what 'web design' entails might not be as straightforward as you think - but it really is a crucial element of the success of a business.
It's no secret that a business' digital presence has never been more important, and as technology continues to improve, consumer expectations increase concurrently. This correlative relationship between the physical and digital consumer experience has created a degree of fluidity between the two, meaning a business' digital presence really is a make-or-break factor.
We sat down with the founder and CEO of online liquor subscription service Liquor Loot, Joel Hauer, to pick his brains on the web design process, and gain some insight into successfully executing the process and the things that make it so important. As an online subscription service, Liquor Loot's digital presence is fundamental to the success and growth of the business, making Hauer the perfect candidate for this topic. Whether you're in need of some advice about web design for your own business, or are simply curious about what it entails - keep reading to learn about what designing a website involves and how Hauer was able to navigate the process.
[TLSE] As an online alcohol subscription business, website design is an integral part of how your business operates. What was navigating the creation of your online platforms like?
[Hauer] After starting our first landing page campaign in 2016 and then setting up the first full website in 2017, we are now in the 3rd iteration of our website, which means we’ve been through 3 complete builds. As with anything that grows quickly, we saw that technology was holding us back, and when it comes to running a fast-growth subscription business, technology is everything. After designing the websites internally, and working with overseas developers in the early days of the business, we finally decided to bring in an experienced eCommerce design agency, which I believe aligned the look and feel of the online experience to the aspirational nature of our whisky subscription products. We focused on understanding the consumer and aligned this with the direction we are taking our business model. We finally decided to proceed with building the site using Shopify Plus, combined with our own custom-built internal apps to run our subscription engine.
If you had to pick one word to embody the designs of your websites, what would it be?
Discovery. The aim of the business is to gently guide people through a tasting experience, which doesn’t stop on the first taste, but educates and builds up your confidence as you progress.
What’s your favourite thing about the Whisky Loot and Gin Loot websites?
What we’ve really focused on is to fine-tune the user experience for subscribers. We’ve custom-built a whisky tasting dashboard, which aligns with your monthly subscription box. Each month the dashboard shows you what’s in the box, and provides tasting videos for each whisky and educational content to learn along with. The whole experience is completely bespoke, and we’ve put a lot of effort into creating high-quality videos and educational resources, which our customers are absolutely loving!
When designing the websites, did you need to make any sacrifices for functionality at the expense of aesthetics, or vice versa?
With any early-stage business, you’ll always have a laundry list of features that all seem to be a competing priority. We continually work towards improving customer experience and sometimes that means we can’t push features that customers want quick enough. An example of this occurred when we wanted to continue our old subscription model, at the same time as inviting new customers to experience our new playlist style model. We had to make sacrifices that limited some customer experience to ensure we could continue to serve existing subscribers who had signed up to a slightly different offering.
How did you decide on the websites' colour palettes?
Originally when the brand was created, each brand in our arsenal had a different colour palette which met the premium aesthetics of our target audience. As the business grew and we worked with different agencies, we decided to refine the colour palette to where it is today. Mainly, this is focused on colours you’ll see in Whiskies, along with some regal blues and pastels which together form a premium feel.
Were there any major trial and error moments when it came to refining your online platforms?
A lot of what we do is research and development, as we’ve always strived to create a unique digitally-led startup. There are probably too many trial and error moments to comment on here, but we’ve experienced that throughout the evolution of the business. Whether it’s how we communicate with customers, what type of reviews or questions we ask, or migrating subscription and billing engines to suit different business models, we’ve always been met with some form of highly-customised products, which always requires strategic direction, great QA and some form of AB testing - also known as trial and error.
What’s the biggest blunder a business can make when it comes to their web design?
Web design is about communication at the end of the day. Creating a compelling offer isn’t as easy as it sounds, as oftentimes a business owner may not fully understand the perspective of their customer. It may be that you overestimate the knowledge of your customer, which makes it difficult for them to understand the product, offering or context, and other times you may over-communicate which may make the experience boring or un-relatable. It’s very important for business owners to fully understand their customers, including why they desire to use your product or service, and their intent when visiting the website.
How have Whisky Loot and Gin Loot’s web designs contributed to their success?
It’s hard to determine the success of website designs exclusively, as we are solely an online retail business, the eCommerce experience wouldn’t exist without web design. We believe our design has contributed to the success of the business, in particular, it has helped communicate the value of the product and explain different use cases. Our conversion rate is well above average for comparable businesses, and that is partly due to the user experience of the website and the product offering itself.
Did the websites turn out as you envisioned them?
The website design has certainly turned out as expected, although we have a lot in the pipeline which will continue to be released as the business grows. Taking the whisky and gin tasting journey from a purely self-driven and time-consuming process to a streamlined online experience is quite a feat, but we are confident that our solutions will make that cumbersome process a thing of the past.
What’s the best piece of advice you would give to a business beginning the design process of their online platform?
Don’t aim for perfection. Most entrepreneurs will enter a business idea with a small problem to focus on solving, which is a great thing. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs get distracted with other problems to solve, and may have issues prioritising tasks, which results in a huge backlog, filled with problems that may not represent a balanced view of their customer. Aiming to solve all of these problems before ‘launching’ your solution is a risky move, and I would always suggest getting to know your customer, developing a scalable MVP, and optimising your solution as your business grows based on the feedback of your best customers.
If you and your business are in need of a helping hand when it comes to web design, get in touch to see how we can help you elevate your online presence and grow your business digitally.
WORDS | Brittany Ross
IMAGERY | Liquor Loot