Home – New Forums Tech talk To what level should Web Applications be customised?

  • This topic is empty.
Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 15 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #964097
    Heidi Price
    Member
    • Total posts: 218
    Up
    0
    ::

    Hi everyone

    Just wanted to get your thoughts on to what extent you would expect a web designer to customise applications such as oscommerce. (But no need to limit the discussion to shopping carts!)

    Just banners and basic colour schemes, or aim for a level of integration that visitors see little difference from the rest of the site?

    It may seem like a basic question, but as any code-monkey will tell you, there is a world of difference between executing the two!

    So lets see what your thoughts are…………

    #1003094
    ray_223
    Member
    • Total posts: 594
    Up
    0
    ::

    Like so many answers … “it depends”.

    It depends on
    * the application / website,
    * the target audience,
    * your competition, and
    * the business owner.

    A blue chip business won’t use web software which is easily recognised as a cheaply available web application.

    #1003095
    Heidi Price
    Member
    • Total posts: 218
    Up
    0
    ::
    ray_223, post: 2069 wrote:
    A blue chip business won’t use web software which is easily recognised as a cheaply available web application.

    Thanks Ray – in a way this is what I was getting at. Applications like oscommerce are open source, and free, but can be “tweaked” so they no longer shout oscommerce.

    Is this what business owner/operators prefer?

    #1003096
    ray_223
    Member
    • Total posts: 594
    Up
    0
    ::
    Heidi Price, post: 2074 wrote:
    Thanks Ray – in a way this is what I was getting at. Applications like oscommerce are open source, and free, but can be “tweaked” so they no longer shout oscommerce.

    Is this what business owner/operators prefer?

    Hi Heidi,

    My guess is that yes, people want to customise these standard packages to have a similar look and feel to the rest of their site. You can see this perfectly right here with vBulletin embedded in the flyingsolo website.

    So, yes. The option to re-skin/re-theme an application should exist and be as powerful as possible. If people don’t want to do that that they don’t need to.

    #1003097
    ahortin
    Member
    • Total posts: 42
    Up
    0
    ::

    Hi Heidi,

    I agree with Ray’s comments. It’s going to depend entirely on the use of the product, no matter whether it’s a shopping cart app, bulletin board/forum or something entirely different.

    Someone running a small part-time business selling homemade tshirt’s, for example, may not care if their shopping cart is easily recognisable as an OSCommerce store. A larger business on the hand, most likely would. That’s not to say they wouldn’t use the same software, they’d just be more likely to have it customised in such a way that it matches their own site look ‘n feel.

    Ray mentioned this Flying Solo forum as a good example. It’s easy to tell that it’s “powered by vBulletin” as it says so right at the bottom of the page, yet it’s been customised so that it fits in beautifully with the rest of the Flying Solo site.

    Cheers,
    Anthony.

    #1003098
    linkartist
    Member
    • Total posts: 89
    Up
    0
    ::

    Well, if you are an application developer selling custom services, you should be *able* to, and be comfortable with, completely gutting off-the-shelf software and being creative with it.

    Personally, I do judge those stores that use default OSCommerce templates etc, because it tells me that they really haven’t invested any money or time into their business, and think its OK. A standard template screams to me “I don’t take this seriously, I just did a one-click install!” type of thing. It says to me that they haven’t treated it like a business, they are treating it as a hobby.

    I liken it to walking into a store with proper fittings, to make the retail experience attractive… vs a market stall with a table for products and a checkout.

    I may sound like I am judging it harshly, but working in the web business I come across so many people who really believe that simply putting up a one-click of ZenCart is enough to have the phat internet cash roll in…. and it is SO much more than that.

    Startup costs for the web are lower than traditional retail, yes, but they still should not be treated as an afterthought and it should still cost money :). Its why so many businesses fail… because people approach online shopping with the wrong attitude.

    So to answer the question — the code basis that a store is based on is such a small component of the overall picture… but keeping original elements is a bit naff…

    #1003099
    LeelaCosgrove
    Member
    • Total posts: 634
    Up
    0
    ::
    linkartist, post: 2266 wrote:
    I may sound like I am judging it harshly, but working in the web business I come across so many people who really believe that simply putting up a one-click of ZenCart is enough to have the phat internet cash roll in…. and it is SO much more than that.

    Startup costs for the web are lower than traditional retail, yes, but they still should not be treated as an afterthought and it should still cost money :). Its why so many businesses fail… because people approach online shopping with the wrong attitude.

    This is SO true … I see it all the time. People think that having an online business will be easy … when in actual fact, it’s just as hard as an offline business – both require the same amount of work.

    In fact, online businesses may even be MORE difficult because there are so many of them around … and unlike in the physical world, they don’t necessarily just disappear if they are mismanaged … if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can end up making less money than people who offer inferior products and services, but who understand a bit better what they are doing …

    #1003100
    ray_223
    Member
    • Total posts: 594
    Up
    0
    ::
    linkartist, post: 2266 wrote:
    Well, if you are an application developer selling custom services, you should be *able* to, and be comfortable with, completely gutting off-the-shelf software and being creative with it.

    Personally, I do judge those stores that use default OSCommerce templates etc, because it tells me that they really haven’t invested any money or time into their business, and think its OK. A standard template screams to me “I don’t take this seriously, I just did a one-click install!” type of thing. It says to me that they haven’t treated it like a business, they are treating it as a hobby.
    [snip]

    Hi LinkArtist,

    A web designer would obviously have your point of view. And in many ways I agree with you :).

    BUT

    as a business owners I believe as long as a site looks professional and works well it shouldn’t matter too much if it looks similar to others (with company name and logo).
    With the billions of websites out there it is almost impossible to be original. Pretty much every website looks like a template now (the good ones have some nice original art but I bet if you looked hard enough you would find similar sites anyway).

    The prettiest best layout out compliant web sites in the world won’t sell a product or service unless you have marketed your product really well and continue to provide a great service.

    As always if you are a web designer, have an art based business you need an amazing website.
    If you are selling cheap auto spares … then go with web templates and ease of use.

    Edit:
    I still believe web based products should be fully skinable. If someone wants to change the entire look and feel the option should be there, and depending on the audience most would only do very superficial changes (heading, logo and colours).

    #1003101
    linkartist
    Member
    • Total posts: 89
    Up
    0
    ::

    Oh for sure Ray – there are tried and true ways to layout an online store, and a lot of the variations are subtle at best.

    But I also see a LOT of sites that use the default template, and barely even change the header. I am not saying this from a web designer’s POV, but a customer’s as well… if your site looks like you don’t care, you won’t get my business :)

    Obviously there are a million shades of grey between that and a fully customised store, and you are right, there are only so many ways that you can approach e-commerce… but it really is more about the business owner’s attitude and approach, rather than the actual use of a template, if you understand my meaning?

    As a business owner, you should care enough to invest in your online storefront. This is irrespective of layout (which is pretty well established in terms of conversions etc anyway), and basic levels of customisation that most people don’t bother to do, like… colour schemes, CSS, and button graphics.

    Here’s one example: I hired my movers based on their website. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a whole lot better than their competitors – many of which didn’t put anything up at all. I am not the only person who hires on this basis – so I actually do not see your distinction between creative industries and trades etc… because standing out ALWAYS makes a difference and ALWAYS creates a better impact.

    #1003102
    ray_223
    Member
    • Total posts: 594
    Up
    0
    ::
    linkartist, post: 2291 wrote:
    Here’s one example: I hired my movers based on their website. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a whole lot better than their competitors – many of which didn’t put anything up at all.

    For me it’s more about the information.
    A website still needs to look professional obviously.

    As an example, if one of the removalist websites was beautifully designed but didn’t have basic information like prices and a competitor had a basic (but still professional template based) website which had lots of information including pricing, expected times, testimonials, insurance etc … which one would you choose?

    Running a business is always about juggling many tasks and assigning rational priorities. It’s also about estimating your return on any money you investment into it.

    I respectfully ;) believe that maybe somewhere around 95% of small businesses could use a (good) template based website with minor modifications and have results just as good as a fully customised website.

    Maybe you are confusing my use of the word “template”. I am referring to the basic layout and design and then making small modifications to suit. This should never include canned images from a stock photography site for example.

    The actual value of a website must be the information it contains (text, images, connections with others in the social networking world etc).

    #1003103
    Heidi Price
    Member
    • Total posts: 218
    Up
    0
    ::

    Thought as I started this, i should join in LOL

    A few replies first

    Anthony: “Someone running a small part-time business selling homemade tshirt’s, for example, may not care if their shopping cart is easily recognisable as an OSCommerce store.”
    But shouldn’t they care, or we as the site designer/developer, care on their behalf?

    Téa: “Personally, I do judge those stores that use default OSCommerce templates etc, because it tells me that they really haven’t invested any money or time into their business, and think its OK.”
    I agree! If we are being paid to produce a site, then we are being paid to find the most result-effective solution for our client.

    Leela: “People think that having an online business will be easy … “
    Reality always bites in the ummm posterior :)

    Ray: “I still believe web based products should be fully skinable. If someone wants to change the entire look and feel the option should be there, and depending on the audience most would only do very superficial changes (heading, logo and colours).”
    But should skinning be seen as enough? Shouldn’t expectations be higher?

    I began this thread after a chat with an acquaintence considering ecommerce. My default position is to fully customise oscommerce etc, but soon discovered that this wasn’t even being considered by my acquaintence.

    “Nah, I just want someone to chuck the logo on the top, it’ll do” Wha!?!

    I think I’d rather not get a contract than do what I consider to be a half-baked job……..

    Heidi

    #1003104
    linkartist
    Member
    • Total posts: 89
    Up
    0
    ::

    I respectfully disagree with you on this one Ray… but I can understand where you are coming from with it.

    People traditionally have viewed the web as an afterthought… that somehow putting in less effort for their online shopfront than their “real life” shop front is an acceptable practice. That was partially because the customer base was smaller, on dialup, etc etc.

    But I put it to you that that is actually an outdated way of thinking, and means that those who follow that advice are going to be left behind. I also think you underestimate the power of good quality design (I dont just mean pretty pictures, I mean good design) on sales.

    The web is now an integral part of many industries, even those that you might not think of as online businesses, and really should be treated as such. The internet audience is no longer just porn-surfers and trekkies… it really is as essential as having an ad in the yellow pages (moreso) and answering the phone.

    You are right though about one thing. The information is just as important — I agree with you but didnt mention it because this is a thread fundamentally about design. But noone would ever advocate good design over good content, but would instead advocate for both… (don’t get me started n businesses who write their own advertising copy and design their own logos! :)

    I dunno, I guess there will always be those guys who insist on recording their own television commercials to save on production costs, and it might work for them sometimes, but I think that bunging up a template on the whole, is doing your business as much of a disservice as leaving decor in a physical shop and not making it your own.

    #1003105
    ray_223
    Member
    • Total posts: 594
    Up
    0
    ::

    Hi Téa,

    This is one of those discussions that could continue for days. I think it’s a very interesting subject. But we both know neither of us will change the other persons opinion ;)

    all the best

    #1003106
    ahortin
    Member
    • Total posts: 42
    Up
    0
    ::

    Hi Heidi,

    I dont disagree with you there. You’d think that anyone who puts up an online store should care about what it looks like…. but then there’s reality. Also, as a designer, yep you can talk till you’re blue in the face advising your clients the benefits in customising the std OSCommerce store as opposed to using the default template. In the end though, if the client doesn’t want to pay for your services to pretty the site up, then there’s not a lot you can do, unless you’re happy doing it for nothing.

    It’s the same with a “std” website. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much “evidence” you provide to a client about the benefits of doing things a certain way. Some clients just don’t seem to understand that this is what you do for a living and that you have valid and compelling reasons for designing/developing things a certain way. In the end, it’s their money and if you want to get paid, then you need to keep them happy. That’s not to say that you should compromise on everything, but for those clients you may just need to find a solution that works for both of you.

    Cheers,
    Anthony.

    #1003107
    ahortin
    Member
    • Total posts: 42
    Up
    0
    ::
    linkartist, post: 2306 wrote:
    The internet audience is no longer just porn-surfers and trekkies…

    You mean to say that you can do other things on this Interweb thingy!!?? Crikey! Might have to look into that ;-)

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 15 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.