Mistakes We’ve Made As An eCommerce Agency

Mistakes We’ve Made As An eCommerce Agency
Since 2008, Ballistic Agency has built, maintained, optimized, and consulted on eCommerce websites of all shapes and sizes. We’ve seen a lot of problems over the years and made our fair share of mistakes. Here are some errors we’ve made and how we now strive to live up to our core value of Systematic Excellence.  

  • Design by Committee. Having too many people in the website design process can cause a problem known as Design by Committee. If more than three people are involved in the design process, confusion, doubt, and delay creep in, making each decision slower and harder to make. We’ve found that teams of three work well at getting great work done at a good pace with the right energy and synergy level.

  • Design by HiPPO. I can’t remember where I first heard it, but HiPPO stands for Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. The highest-paid person in the room during design meetings usually gets his or her way. Design by HiPPO is how you get an ugly website or a site that doesn’t accomplish the intended goals or both. Common phrases in a Design by HiPPO meeting sound like, “Can we make the logo bigger?” “Let’s add more color and make it pop.” “Put the 16 most popular products in the side navigation.” “I like the Apple and Amazon sites. Let’s make it like that.” Design by HiPPO is poison. Avoid it at all costs. Let data decide when there’s a disagreement or concern about a direction the design is taking.

  • Opinions instead of data. Designing by opinion is similar to Design by HiPPO but generally happens at the agency. The use of an artist’s preferences, industry best practices, and any opinions, in general, don’t have the client’s best interest in mind. We’ve learned to forget opinions and use data. Data decides. If the data is inconclusive, let’s test the best ideas and guesses and go with the one that has the best data after the test.

  • Not requiring continuous improvement retainers. There’s nothing more frustrating than designing a great website, seeing it grow and solve a lot of client problems, and then fade in effectiveness because the client doesn’t put the same amount of care and data-driven improvement into the site. We now include continuous improvement retainers into every project we do.

  • Focusing too much on the design instead of function. We’ve built some great looking websites over the years. We’ve built some ugly but functional websites too. Beauty is great as long as it doesn’t take away from the functionality. We’ve found that simplicity is usually best, and form takes a back seat to function. Most shoppers will overlook a boring and straightforward looking website if it works well. However, a great looking website that’s frustrating to use is always a bad idea.

  • Allowing clients to get away with terrible navigation menus. One former client continues to add links, products, and categories to their site navigation. Currently, they have over 50 top-level links on the home page. The number one visitor action on the page is the site search. We highly suspect it’s because the navigation is entirely overwhelming. We suggested reorganizing the menu as seven to nine primary links, but the client decided against making the change, even in light of the data to the contrary. Currently, we work with our clients before we design the navigation to A/B test and survey customers on how best to organize the website menu. Also, focusing on a great on-site search adds a shortcut for shoppers who don’t want to drill down into submenus or know exactly what they want.

  • Undercharging for our work. Not long after starting the company, I worked on high-value websites for as little as $30/hour with no contract, no retainer, no assurances, or protection; nothing. It wasn’t until a year later that a friend of the business told me, “I don’t know what you’re charging, but you should triple it. You’re too busy and not making enough money.” I took that to heart and quadrupled our hourly rate. The wrong customers went away, and the right customers didn’t complain. Our work began to take on a new meaning, and we could now afford to hire talent to get us to the next level. Profit is a beautiful thing. I thought I was doing our clients a service by not charging much. Instead, I was doing them a disservice by not being able to afford to bring more knowledge, professionalism, and, ultimately, more revenue to the table. By making a healthy profit, we improve our service level and give the client a better website that achieves more of their goals. Profit creates a win-win for our clients and us.

  • Taking on work that didn’t serve our core purpose. For many years, we took any work that we could get to get ahead and increase our revenue. Instead, we accomplished tasks that kept ourselves busy with work that didn’t move the needle for our clients. We did it all in the early years, including I.T. consulting, telephone system repair, voiceover work, photography, computer networking, package design, technical writing, and more.


If you’d like to find out more about what we can do with your eCommerce website, contact us today. We’d love to help you achieve Optimized eCommerce™.


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