February 11, 2010, 12:00 AM

Web retailers can avoid unexpected problems by keeping vendors in the know

Keeping expectations real with solid business performance objectives spelled out before a web design project begins will help web retailers deal more effectively with their design firm, says Diapers.com director of e-commerce solutions Josh Himwich.

Keeping expectations real and having solid business performance objectives spelled out before the project even begins will help web retailers undergoing a web site redesign deal more effectively with their design firm.

That’s one of the main points Diapers.com director of e-commerce solutions Josh Himwich will tell attendees at the Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability Conference, Feb. 15-17 in Orlando, FL, in a session entitled You`ve found the right web designer-now what?.

Himwich says good design firm management begins with having specific business goals and expectations in place even during preliminary meetings. “It’s key to manage your internal team and the agency,” says Himwich. “There needs to be a process to identify and manage expectations.”

Diapers.com, No. 140 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, (a PDF version of the company’s financial and operating profile can be ordered by clicking on its name), worked with San Francisco web site design firm Fluid Inc. to completely rebuild Diapers.com in 2008. “Everything had to be rebuilt,” says Himwich. "What was important for us working with our design firm was to avoid project scope creep and concentrate on the changes that would generate the most business.”

To keep both their internal design team and outside agency focused and hitting key deadlines, Diapers.com and Fluid designers looked closely at key metrics and customer feedback. “You and your design firm should build the project around what elements will improve conversion, average order value, items per order and yearly order volume,” says Himwich. “Knowing what registers with the customer and studying that feedback keeps everyone focused.”

Web retailers also have to be realistic about taking on a major design project-even when using a stellar design firm. “Sometimes things do go wrong in the design process, so everyone’s expectations need to be realistic and manageable,” says Himwich. “How any design improvement will help drive more customers and business to the web site should be top of mind as the project moves through the various stages of completion.”

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