When I last held forth on the potential merits of presentation, in relation to those tea merchant type Web sites, I focused primarily on the photos of the tea, a key part of the selling process. But of course there’s more to selling tea over the Web than just putting up some pretty pictures.
My top criticism about tea merchants is one I’ve touched on before, so I won’t dwell on it much. But my feeling is that a tea seller should focus primarily on distinguishing themselves, as opposed to gathering a seemingly haphazard array of tea and opening a store. One merchant, who happens to be from my hometown, focuses solely on Chinese tea – a rather broad category, mind you. The good people who run this very site sell English tea and related goods. That’s tea of the type that’s consumed by the English, since they only grow marginal amounts of the stuff.
But even if you’ve distinguished yourself and taken some pretty pictures, your job isn’t finished. I don’t claim any particular expertise in tea commerce, aside from the fact that I’ve written about tea for a while, and I’ve ordered my fair share of tea online, and I’ve perused at least a zillion (give or take a billion) merchant sites.
If I had to break things down further, I’d say that the most important features of a site – along with the aforementioned – is its visual appeal and its usability. Rather than turn this into a proper dissertation I’ll just share a few thoughts based on my observations.
Visual appeal is about more than those eye-catching photos and I’d say that one of the most common issues I see is with sites is that they appear to be dated and/or suffer from amateurish design. Personally, I wouldn’t hesitate to order from a vendor with a lackluster site if I knew they had great tea and good service. But if I don’t know anything about the site I can only judge by first impressions.
Then, there’s that whole usability thing. I could probably go on for a while about this one, but let’s just hit a high point. Like one of the most basic – the site that’s just plain confusing to navigate. I can think of at least one site that I order from because they have several teas I like, at reasonable prices. But that’s in spite of the fact that every time I go there I have undertake a major project to locate these teas.
Then, there’s the checkout process. I don’t feel that I’m particularly stupid when it comes to online ordering, but I don’t object if you assume that I am and design your site accordingly. Feel free to dumb it down for me. I won’t be offended.
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