Designs to Shine is a dance costume design firm, with designs by Maria McGill. When I first meet the Designs to Shine team, they were having a lot of issues with their site. They had paid someone to do a redesign of the site back in March of 2013, that redesign wasn’t working for them or their business. According to their analytics, before the redesign, they had an average of 5000 visitors per month to their site. Since the launch of that design, they had dropped to about 500 per month. They needed a fix and fast.
I took a look at the design and the back in to figure out exactly what was going on with the site. We already knew that the site was running extremely slow. This I suspected was mostly an image issue as they are an image heavy site. The #1 complaint from their customers was the slowness of the site. However, after looking at the back end and the design, we figured that images were a major issue, yes, but other things were slowing the site as well. Things like too many HTTP requests, too many plugins, most of which were not needed. As designers, we need to remember that simple rule we learned in school. KISS = Keep it simple stupid. Don’t add things just because you can. In addition, to the above-named problems, the design was flawed as well. It had a “Pinterest” design, which is a current trend called infinite scroll. While this design is the latest and greatest trend and can be a very beautiful design, it shouldn’t be used for every type of site. In addition, the site was not user-friendly. Users couldn’t find things because they were not in the expected places. When designing we need to remember that the USER is the most important person to please in web design. Without your users there is no reason to have a website at all.
What I did
I redesigned the entire layout, making it very simple. We wanted the dance costumes to be the focus, we wanted the designs of the dresses to be the most important look, so we keep the site black and white. We made it very simple. There are very little fancy extras on the site so the dresses stand alone.
I taught them how to make their images web friendly and we edited and reloaded all the images. We simplified the banner slide, and yet we were able to add more images to the slideshow.
I placed things where the user expects to see them. We named things such as the navigation, with names customers would expect to see. We made the entire site as mobile friendly as possible considering it is an image heavy site. So it is responsive, clean and user-friendly.
SEO was an issue for them as well. They had virtually no text that the search engines could pick up on. Almost all their text was in image and pdf forms. So we changed that. They still are adding content as of this writing, but eventually will have far more descriptions of their dresses than they currently do, which will help them out tremendously. Their images now have “alt” descriptions, making them more SEO friendly.
We added simple sort feature for customers to sort dresses by size or color. This feature only uses the category functions that WordPress already has, I wanted the system to be simple for the Designs to Shine firm to be able to run without an in-house web person. Now they can add sort functions in the future without a web designer/developer.
I am happy to report that their visitors are returning. They have not recovered their original numbers yet, but they are halfway there. It is only a matter of time before the number of users are back in the 5000 range again. In addition, their bounce rate is back to an agreeable mid 20% range. You can see the whole site at designstoshine.com
**** UPDATE 2/6/2014 ****
As an update to the progress this site has made, I am adding this footnote. Not only has Designs to Shine regained their 5000 monthly visitors as of January analytics, they are down to an impressive 2% bounce rate overall and an equally impressive 3% bounce rate on mobile users. In addition, the company has picked up their social networking and is receiving a good amount of traffic from these sources as well.
**** Update 11/03/2017***
The site no longer reflects my design.