In late January of this year, I stood in a room with a projector, in front of the founders of Pixel Dreams, a well established small digital design and strategy agency based in Toronto. I had selected Pixel Dreams after searching for the right team for nearly a year. Overhauling and redesigning A Better Lemonade Stand wasn’t a choice I was prepared to hastily make. I was looking for the right team. A team that understood my own vision better than I did. These guys got it.
In that room, I explained the humble beginnings of A Better Lemonade Stand, beginning as a way for me to journal my experience in ecommerce, to what it is today, a resource that 100,000 entrepreneurs read each month for inspiration, ideas, resources, and reviews.
We then spent several hours discussing the vision for A Better Lemonade Stand in painstaking detail. It was dozens, if not a hundred unconnected dots that we needed to start making sense of so that we could understand exactly how to build a rock-solid foundation that we could continue to build on for the coming years.
That kickoff meeting was the beginning of a 5-month project that would also have me bring on a marketing assistant from London, and an illustrator from New York to help pull everything together.
We had a major few goals for the new site. It had to look, function, and perform better. Most importantly, it had to be scalable so that we could continue adding new resources in the future, without it looking like a Frankenstein.
Interested to see what we did? Here are some highlights:
Design & Branding Updates
It was time for a major design and branding change. The old design and brand were feeling really dated and dark. It was time to brighten up the brand.
First, here’s what it previously looked like:
Here are some of the highlights of the new design and brand:
Over a year ago I began calling A Better Lemonade Stand an “Online Ecommerce Incubator”. In reality, it was just a blog. Was I delusional? The truth was that calling it an online ecommerce incubator was a branding decision and direction I choose to keep me focused. It forced me to think differently and bigger than I likely would have if I just continued to call it a blog. It also was a way to begin differentiating myself from other ecommerce blogs. The notion of A Better Lemonade Stand being an “online ecommerce incubator” has now started to take shape with the new Ecommerce Resources section. This is just the beginning.
We ditched the old color palette (Off-Black/Yellow) which was dated and difficult to work with and inject other colors into it. We wanted to use more modern tones and shades that worked better with other colors. In turn, we selected a dark/navy blue, a teal for accent and kept the pale yellow as a contrasting secondary accent color and to pay homage to the old design that has served A Better Lemonade Stand well for many years.
While we weren’t ready to completely toss out the old logo, it needed to be updated. By removing the curve and framing it, it helped modernize the logo slightly.
A consistent visual style is important when developing a brand and the previous blog post feature images weren’t doing the site any favors. A mishmash of photos, icons, clip art, and text made it feel extremely messy.
To correct this, I hired an illustrator from New York to help create a consistent visual style for all images. Now, if you poke around the blog and the rest of the site, you’ll see his artwork everywhere. It’s all beautifully consistent.
How visitors find what they’re looking for and move around the site is important for the visitor, but also Google. With the new site design, I want to make things as simple as possible for you to find the resource, blog post or page you need, as fast as possible. We made several key changes to the overall strategy and structure to achieve this.
Here are some of the major things we did:
The old menu was atrocious. With no real strategy for organizing all the resources, tools and information, it was all just bolted on. You needed a Ph.D. just to find your way around the old site. Awful. The team at Pixel Dreams helped do a content audit to really understand what content/resources/tools A Better Lemonade Stand had, and what was planned for the future.
By doing this audit we were able to start distilling everything into buckets. The end result is the new Ecommerce Resources section which will change and continue to grow but keeps everything nice and tidy. Because of the new resource page, we were able to clean up the menu — taking it from seven menu items with another dozen sub-menu items to just four. Much better.
As mentioned above, the content audit allowed us to group resources into buckets, allowing us to build out a clean Ecommerce Resources section that can be used to beautifully organize all current resources, while also allowing us to add more in the future.
Community Focused Footer
Have you seen the footer? It’s huge and it’s focused on conversations and building the community. Previously, it was hard to know what community channels A Better Lemonade Stand was even on… as evident by this Tweet.
@RichardABLS Ah, so you *are* on Twitter. You make it kind of challenging for a blog fan to find you. Is that by design?
— Diane Ellis Scalisi (@DianeEllis) April 15, 2016
Why yes Diane. It was by design. Really, really, bad design. But the new one is much better, right?
In general, we will be working much harder on building a community of passionate ecommerce entrepreneurs this year so make sure you follow A Better Lemonade Stand on each channel and join our Private Facebook Group.
As the blog portion of A Better Lemonade Stand grows, we wanted to make it easier to find old, but still highly relevant blog posts. After carefully considering what information entrepreneurs need, we realized the best way to organize all blog posts was with two sorting options.
Phase of Business: The first and broadest way to organize all the information was based on the phase of business it’s related to. We wanted to keep this simple so we used:
- Build: I’m still trying to find a product and build my online store.
- Launch: I’m about to launch, or just launched my business.
- Grow: My business is active. I’m trying to grow it now!
Topics: Furthermore, we needed a way to also organize all the information based on more specific topics around the process of building, launching, and growing your business. After some strategy sessions, we came up with the following topics:
- Product & Niche Selection
- Sourcing Suppliers
- Branding & Design
- Getting Traffic
- Conversion Optimization
- Shipping & Fulfillment
- Operations & Customer Service
- Strategy & Analytics
- Accounting, Finance & Legal
- Interviews & Inspiration
- Personal Development
- Resources & Tools
Based on these two new ways to sort, I’m confident you’ll be able to find exactly what you’re looking for, no matter the phase of business you’re in or the topics you need to know more about.
Here’s what the new filters look like on the blog:
Contextual Signup Forms
This was a bold initiative that I’m hoping doesn’t collapse on itself like a dying star. In order to help entrepreneurs better, it’s important to understand exactly what information they need/want, when they need and want it. There’s no point in sending information on selecting a product to sell online to someone that already has a business up and running, right?
The new design features signup forms that begin to tag the phase of business you’re in (building, launching, growing) as well as the topics you want to learn more about based on the page and category you subscribe from. Based on this information, we can start sending you better information, more relevant to your situation.
Here’s an example of the contextual signup form on the Build category page with “Build” pre-selected:
To make this better, the first email new subscribers receive is a request to update their profile and select this business phase and topics of interest. Even though this has only been active for a few days, nearly 70% of new signups immediately personalize their profile. (Yes!)
Added SSL Security
One of the first tasks in this whole project was securing the site and adding an SSL certificate to encrypt all information going to and leaving this site. This helps to protect the website and all visitors.
The old hosting provider couldn’t handle A Better Lemonade Stand’s traffic. It wasn’t unusual to have to wait 10+ seconds for a page to load. Unequivocally unacceptable. I was even finding myself avoiding going to my own blog to grab an image or link because of the painfully slow load times.
To fix this, A Better Lemonade Stand has been upgraded to WPX Hosting, a top tier hosting provider. Page load speeds have decreased to around 1 second from 10.
Added a Content Delivery Network
The server that hosts this site is based in Chicago. But when someone from Europe or Asia visits A Better Lemonade Stand, all the content needs to literally travel across the world to get to their computer. Depending on exactly where they live, this can add a few seconds to every page they try to load.
To fix this, I added KeyCDN as my content delivery network. My content delivery network stores a copy of this site on 22 different servers located all around the world. Now when someone tries to load this site from another country, the server closest to them will deliver the files, shaving off seconds from their entire experience. It makes a big difference.
DNS is the backbone of the internet. It translates www.abetterlemonadestand.com into computer-friendly addresses (126.96.36.199). When you type in www.abetterlemonadestand.com, your computer is actually asking my DNS host, “Hey! What’s the real address for this site?”, and my DNS host will reply with the computer-friendly address. This conversation takes time to happen. A slow DNS means a slow response, which means it takes longer for your browser to actually know where to go. We’re talking about fractions of a second, but it all counts.
I wanted to have the fastest DNS in the world. So… I got the fastest DNS in the world. DNS Made Easy is the number one DNS in nearly every test.
Here’s the before and after based on computers from different cities around the world looking up abetterlemonadestand.com:
It’s all very technical and took a while to set everything up, but basically this:
The Future of A Better Lemonade Stand
What you see right now is just the beginning.
A Better Lemonade Stand exists to inspire, educate, and support entrepreneurs like you, in the early stages of your entrepreneurial journey. By providing comprehensive and reliable advice, resources, and tools, along with a supportive community, we’ll help you build, launch, and grow your ecommerce business.
So welcome to a better, Better Lemonade Stand, I’m excited to be part of your journey. To begin, subscribe to our emails, dive into the content and resources, get engaged within the community and most importantly: Start something.