The Shop on the Borderlands is a brand new website, developed by Clare Associates, selling secondhand, classic and out-of-print roleplaying games* online.
We produced the site using the WordPress content management system and the WooCommerce ecommerce plugin from WooThemes. That’s a very powerful combination for an ecommerce site and also a very well-supported one. Crucially for the business owner, both WordPress and the WooCommerce plugin are very easy to maintain. Once the shop is built, you won’t need to be an expert web developer to keep your stock up to date and handle orders.
We built this site from the ground up with one key objective – we want to make it as easy as possible for visitors to the site to find what they want to and then to buy it. With several hundred different products in stock, that first point – making it easy to find what you’re looking for – is vital.
We decided early on that since this was first and foremost a shop, the home page of the website should simply be the shop page rather than an introduction to the business. We have a simple one line explanation at the top of the page (“Welcome to the UK’s best selection of second hand and out-of-print role-playing games. Wish you’d bought that boxed set, adventure or supplement that you saw in a tiny games shop in 1985 and never found again? Well, now you can.”) and a link at the bottom of the page to “About The Shop on the Borderlands”. Apart from that, what most visitors will see when they first arrive is different categories of product, arranged both as a simple list on the left of the page and as a grid of images in the centre.
The entire site – but especially this page – has been designed to be responsive, and works just as well at different resolutions and screen shapes, for example on smartphones.
Because of the shape of smartphones and their touchscreens, people are more likely to scroll down a long page than they would be on a laptop. So on a smartphone, the Shop on the Borderlands site is tall and thin and scrollable, and this is achieved without having to have a separate mobile site. (Separate mobile sites cost more to maintain, don’t perform as well in search engine rankings and make it awkward to share links with users who aren’t using mobile devices.)
The shop’s customers will mostly be enthusiasts who know what these categories mean, so we make it very easy for someone who plays ‘Call of Cthulhu’ to click through to a list of all the Call of Cthulhu products on sale.
Clicking on any of the products takes you to the detailed entry for that product complete with one or more images and more details about the item and its condition.
WooCommerce makes stock control easy. Items that are sold out can be set to show as ‘out of stock’ or hidden until new stock arrives, according to the wishes of the business owner.
Because the site was developed using WordPress – a content management system famous for its ease of use – editing individual pages is very easy for the business owner. If you can edit a Word document, you can edit a WordPress webpage. With this site, the business owner was able to do much of the site development himself – entering product details, uploading product images, writing the text on the FAQ page etc. If you hire a web developer to build you a website and you’re looking to keep costs down, this can be very effective. (Of course if you’re just starting up a new business, you might be short on both cash and time…)
A couple of other things you’ll have to think about if you’re starting a new ecommerce business, or if you’re taking your existing business online for the first time: shipping and payment.
First of all, what will you charge for shipping? Will you charge different rates for different products (heavier ones for example)? Will you ship overseas? If so, which countries? And what will your rates be to those? if you’ve never sold online before and if you’ve never exported before, those are difficult questions to answer. You will need to research this properly. You should also talk to your web developer – the more complicated the shipping costs setup, the more work there is for the developer in setting this up. Also, even using something like WooCommerce, you may have to purchase extra plugins to handle the particular distinctions in shipping costs that you want.
The Shop on the Borderlands ships worldwide. They offer free shipping to UK orders of £20 or more, with a flat rate of £2.50 below that amount. European shipping is charged at a flat rate of £12. Shipping to the rest of the world costs £15 plus £5 per item (reflecting the extra costs of worldwide shipping).
Secondly, how will you take payment online? Online shoppers will expect to pay by debit or credit card. Depending on the sort of customers you have, they may want to pay by PayPal too. To take payments online, you need a payment gateway. There are dozens of different payment gateways out there that can integrate with WooCommerce. You will need to research which one is right for you. They each charge you different amounts for each transaction. Some have a monthly fee, some don’t. We will be able to advise which is right for your business. As a rule though, avoid ones where your site handles card data. You want all of the card data handling to be done by big businesses who spend lots of money on IT security, even if it means that the customer leaves your website for a moment to enter their card details.
For The Shop on the Borderlands, we recommended PayPal Standard as the payment gateway as it offered the best combination of low fees and the ability to pay by PayPal, something which would be important for many of the shop’s customers.
One final thing that we did for The Shop on the Borderlands was to design a logo for them. The owner had a vague idea in his mind of what sort of theme he was going for – something inspired by the covers of late 70s / early 80s Dungeons & Dragons books – but not much else. So we were able to design an original logo with a similar typeface, the ‘S’ turned into a dragon, and a horned helmet at a jaunty angle perched on the ‘B’. Oh, and as a final little gimmick, the image at the top of the page changes ever so slightly every time!
* Games like Dungeons & Dragons that you play with like-minded individuals and funny-shaped dice.