Classy E-Commerce: Crown Miniatures Site Build

After literally months of false starts and ideas that went nowhere, a random meeting over coffee one morning was the catalyst. #webdesign #mobiledesign #digitalcontent #ecommerce #wordpress

For those who follow this blog even semi-regularly, you know that I had been working with an old friend, Josef Buschel, on a new website build for him. It wasn’t going well: we seemingly could not decide on a new visual direction. His last site, at his insistence, was dark green and gold, with a lot of white text. Very heavy, and very hard to read.

I did the best I could with it, which was a lot, but I could not get it to be as mobile friendly as I wanted. This new site would rectify that altogether. He pretty much left me in charge of the design completely, and no matter what new and bold direction I went in, it just didn’t feel right.

One of the many concepts we both initially liked, but I could not pull off in relation to his products.

The basic structure of the site was complete, right down to new API for Facebook, Mailchimp for his newsletter, auto tax calculator, writing his privacy policy pages, a beautiful new WooCommerce layout with a clean design that worked well with WordPress, etc. Now, to make it pretty, engage the customer, feel natural and right to the end user with his products, which are 1/12th scale miniatures, all handmade.

A screenshot of one of the product pages. I had set the text from the last incarnation of his site, just more legible, believing I would change it later. Ron Smith and I took the photos, and I created all the descriptions and other detail, such as dimensions and weight.

He was adamant on keeping the logo I designed for him years ago, which I had no problem with. It’s ultra classy, and most importantly, the client loved it and used it in all his promotional material. Attempting to give the site a ultra modern look that meshed with it was another story altogether.

The logo I designed for him years ago, with a slight effect added to create a button image on his site.

Josef invited me to coffee one morning a little while ago. We were randomly talking about goals and whatnot, and I expressed my frustration at not coming up with a solid idea. He loved all the comps. As I was going on about concepts, I told him in passing I had been working on colored jewels.

The random idea rough that set our direction.

Bingo. He loved the idea of jewels. It was elegant, worked well with his logo and business name and didn’t distract from the products, which is the primary reason anyone would shop with him.

From there, it all fell into place fairly easily. I repeated some elements from his previous site, like the fleur-de-lis, and limited the number of items on his home page. I was able to create realistic gemstones that didn’t look tacky or cheap.

Simple changes in color to repeating buttons gave the site a sense of unity and implied a sense of fun. The background pattern is also repeated through the site in either black, green or gold.

Using easy to read typography that wasn’t a Helvetica or Futura knock-off gave the site a sense of distinction as well. As you can see in this blog page image below, there is a relaxed feeling, with nothing really screaming at you like what you see on far too many other e-commerce sites.

One of Josef’s blog pages. Yes, I even helped him write his bio and other business text, which I included as part of the contract.

Once I stripped down the numerous elements on his home page, Josef really started to become excited. I was able to successfully convey his greatest hits on the home page as well, right down to some amazing customer feedback. (Josef used to sell at a great many trade shows, and already had a large following that would purchase his creations.) From there, I was also able to create stylized buttons in green and gold as well, as you can see below.

There are seven different sections, all held together with similar design elements, a great deal of negative space, a limited color palette and simple touches.

From there, each of the pages also were unified as well. Header Image, easy to follow major talking points and clean layout. There are a hundred different ways this could have gone, and some might say that the design is too simple and not “2020” enough.

To that end, it comes down to one thing: Josef, the client loved it, and at my suggestion, we demoed the site for his fans online. Every single one of them had wonderful things to say, especially about the easy-to-use mobile layout. At the end of the day, your customers drive your sales. Making them feel at home and wanting to be on the site and purchase your goods and services is what matters the most.

This header was probably the most elaborate thing I created for the site. Josef wanted something with heraldry in it, so used it here.

What did take more time than expected was working on all of the truly boring but legally necessary items: the terms of service, privacy policy and whatnot. Helping all of this is the fact that I already had done this before with other sites I built, not to mention the large-scale E-Commerce experience I have with Goodwill Industries as their Training Specialist. Once I was able to get Josef to review them and I explained why end users actually need to know, he understood much better why they were needed.

The moral of the story: when you can, have that face to face, and never think your work isn’t worth looking at. You just never know where that random idea will take you.

You can visit the Crown Miniatures of Portland website here.

Love to you all.

Ben “Daddy Ben Bear” Brown Jr.

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