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These Are the Secrets of Boston's Best Store Websites

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Jessica (Sutton) Maniatis' boutique identity and digital agency, JSGD, boasts an impressive design portfolio. JSGD is responsible for the web design for Boston favorites like Jeffrey Lyle Salon, Holiday, and Follain (now shoppable!).

If her work isn't evidence enough of her impeccable taste level, then her killer style, her beautiful studio in the Innovation District, and even her perfect, fluffy companion, Oscar the Wheaten terrier, seal the deal.

As many local shops take the plunge and start selling their wares online, who better to educate us on the dos and don'ts of building a great online shop than Jessica?—Janine Stafford

JSGD recently launched a new ecommerce site for natural beauty shop Follain. Tell us about it.

Follain was a dream project! We had already been developing our own cult following of Tara's amazing South End shop, so we were thrilled when she approached us to take the store online. Her goal was to make it easy for customers to shop health-conscious brands and to educate them along the way.

We designed the site so that one can quickly flow between shopping by category or by brand. We also brought her successful blog, The Natural Chemyst, to the new site so that both are housed on the same platform, eliminating the possibility of diverting traffic.

Do you have any other Boston-based ecommerce launches on the horizon?

We're in the process of designing and building a fun new shopping experience for local knitwear gals The Third Piece. Beyond their site, we've also been working on a rebrand with a sexy new logo, packaging, the works. We'll be launching them in the fall—just in time for all things warm and cozy!

There's a lot of work that goes into building and maintaining an online store. What is something clients are surprised to see when they're going through the process?

Many business owners are surprised when they realize how much day-to-day upkeep comes along with an e-commerce site, post-launch. We like to prep them by explaining they should dedicate as much energy online as they would to a brick and mortar. You can't rely on a swanky street address, as traffic is different on the web. Effort needs to put into online marketing strategies, strong SEO, a constant social media presence, email marketing—without this constant effort, your site will fall flat fast.

What are some of the elements of a good online shopping experience?

Simplicity is key. If your customer needs to go on a man-hunt for your product, you're only going to lose sales. Basically, the fewer clicks to purchase, the better. Make it not only easy for them to check out, but to create an account that saves their preferences for next time too.

Depending on your platform, there are a lot of wonderful extensions to help you stay on top of your site's activities. For example, an automated abandoned cart reminder email can recoup a potentially lost sale.

Do you have any e-commerce pet-peeves?

Bad photography. For many of your customers, this is the only chance they'll have to interact with your product. They can't pick it up and feel it, so make sure your photos show them exactly what your product is all about. Include a few different views, a detail shot, and please keep them big.

Tell us about some of your favorite websites to shop? why do they work?

I love Need Supply—they do a wonderful job of mixing a streamlined shopping experience with a sense of humor. They recently updated their homepage to weave together a masonry feed of products, tweets, and blog posts, further building themselves as a lifestyle brand—it's well done and very smart.

How do you work with retailers to separate their sites from the pack?

The beauty of designing for web is that the possibilities for customization are endless. That said, there are certain rules to follow when it comes to shopping so you don't want to do something so crazily unique that you confuse people. Our solution comes down to strong branding and a strong message. Staying true and consistent with your brand aesthetic and mission will instantly make any site stand out. And the foundation to any good brand? A strong logo.
· JSGD [Official Site]
· @JSGD [Twitter]
· @JSGD [Instagram]