Shopify First Impressions

Having worked at Pro Athlete for 16 years, authored much of the E-Commerce software, and then managed the team who released code, to then starting, where everything is cloud-based and Shopify is the hub - changes everything.  

Shopify is designed like no other E-Commerce software I've ever seen.  There's no server-install, database passwords, or firewall ports to open.  There's no credit card gateways, fumbling with scripts or code (unless you want to), or web hosting.  Truest definition to Turnkey E-Commerce software that I've seen.

It seems like every week there's some new option that's being pushed out for Shopify Merchants to use.  Some I like and use, and others I do not.  That's not the point.  I'm getting great features for my website and paying a small subscription fee.  It's like there's a team of programmers working on my site 24/7.  There's is a team, but they are working on the platform that my site resides and since it's all cloud-based, new feature installs are button-clicks away.  When I engage the button and click it, I get enormous value.  I know what it takes, in some cases, to write that functionality and I just installed it in seconds.  Not to mention, I get a little jealous knowing just how simple it's gotten to start an E-Commerce Store on Shopify now.

Security is a big part of E-Commerce software.  Keeping the bad guys out and making sure all credit cards are safe requires some effort.  As the bad guys get smarter and more motivated, the effort required to protected your homegrown business assets with a quarterly PCI scan takes more resources, and can become counter-productive.  Shopify absorbs that layer of security, so as a shop owner and retailer, I don't need to worry about that and can focus on more important issues.

Integration of software can be another huge resource hog.  Especially enterprise software where specialized consulting is required and fees are charged in the hundreds per hour. Shopify offers an eco-system of apps to make installing add-on's a fun exercise. When something comes up, there's a directory of service providers all around the world that specialize in Shopify Apps / integration and are there to help.

There were a few issues that I ran into while setting up and I needed some help.  I dreaded the unknown, and potentially expensive consulting fees.  That's all I've ever known.  After reaching out to a few experts in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, I found someone to help.  Not only did they help, they recreated a copy of my entire store, inventory, and accounting system to showed how to properly solve my problems.  It was an amazing experience because the problems were fixed so fast and the cost was unbelievable.

Email templates are refreshing in Shopify.  Why?  The templates provided are for all kinds of communications. Just turn the store on and they are there.  That in itself, is a huge value.  Then, tailoring them to your needs is just as simple and straight-forward as the rest of Shopify.  It's simple to add logos, graphics and HTML to the emails, too.

Lifting the hood in Shopify reveals a mature liquid scripting engine and robust, yet simple theming system. There's a set of hotkeys or admin keyboard shortcuts to quickly move between screens in Shopify.  There's lots of liquid scripting variable cheat sheets programmers have authored.  There's a Shopify API wrapper for about every modern programming language.  Once you create a private app api key and plug it into a program, custom code can be run against your Shopify store front.  

Shopify, as a software development company, releases some amazing open-source projects, too. Vino Pair uses the dashing software as it's visualizations at the Parkville Commercial underground cave location to manage operations.  There's many pre-built widgets that can be plugged-in and integrated with outside services for real-time data flows which makes this dashboard software expandable and versatile.

Cheers shopify!

Cheers shopify!

5 Star Develops Entire Digital Marketing Presence Plus ECommerce for

The Town Mouse Logo.

The Town Mouse Logo.

I met Stacy and JD Shipman while promoting local marketing at the Weston, MO Chamber of Commerce.  Might seem old school to develop a slide deck and speak to groups, like a chamber of commerce, but there's something I've learned about business, "Sell yourself before you sell anything else." So, I would say, speaking at a Chamber of Commerce is a unique opportunity to sell yourself and I wouldn't pass them up or any other opportunity like that in a lifetime.   

When I met Stacy and JD, they had just purchased an 800 square foot retail store in Weston, MO.  It was a cute little shop on Main Street called The Town Mouse.  Since the town of Weston began promoting itself as a destination in the 70's, The Town Mouse has grown to become a well-known gift shop / boutique with all the Weston charm and character you've come to know and expect - if you've been there.  Stacy and JD had the dream and taking The Town Mouse to the next level and they entrusted 5 Star Net to help.

Together, an extensive plan with timeline and milestones was developed to create a new logo and new website on a new domain name.  Eventually, we'd go full-blown ECommerce, so let's not focus on that objective now, just know and plan for it down the road.  Also needed are Google Apps setup on that domain, content and copy written, and website photography must be captured/gathered.

Stacy and JD were committed from the beginning.  Within the first month, they had worked with 99designs and received their new logo set.  Nice work Stacy, JD and 99Designs!!

Although the 99Designs process requires lots of attention, they do great work as you can see by the quality above.

Although the 99Designs process requires lots of attention, they do great work as you can see by the quality above.

While Stacy and JD worked on the logo, I acquired  I thought it was the best domain available and secured it within a few minutes of looking.  It includes the name of the town and the name of the business, so anyone searching should not have any trouble figuring out which Town Mouse we are.  There are several out there.  There's even one in Australia which is a restaurant.  Modern day local marketing can be tricky.

Once the logo and domain were selected, we stuck with the plan to begin collecting information/content for the website.  We wanted to start with a simple site which promoted the store, location, hours, history, info about the local town, etc.  Also, the site needed to work on all types of devices - responsive design.  As we met and discussed progress, I could tell Stacy and JD wanted to move faster and wanted the online store faster than I anticipated.  I could tell because in May 2014, Stacy and JC introduced me to Harrison and Tyler - their two sons.  They were going to help us.

Shipman Family - 2013

Shipman Family - 2013

There are many reasonable platforms for small ECommerce retailers - Yahoo Stores, Squarespace, Shopify and many others.  I look at my customer's requirements when I choose a platform for them.   How many products/SKUs are they planning to sell? Do they have any specific needs?  What kinds of faceted search/navigation are required?  Special payment types? What kind of customer account needs setup?  Email marketing needs?  How techie are they?   Many business owners do not know how many different ways ECommerce transactions take place on the Internet.  For, a Yahoo Store was a better fit.  CactusCreek runs on Shopify.  Stacy and JD needed something simple to use so they could focus on adding new products and integrating shop and online inventories, so I selected SquareSpace.

During our first meeting, JD asked about product photography.  I asked about the relative size of all the products they sell.  He said they are usually small items, but they have big pillows and some apparel.  I advised them to get a simple light tent to use with their Canon 50D DSLR camera.  JD bought the light tent, and began shooting all the products in the store.  Stacy and her office staff began writing copy for each product and her kids helped organize all the information in Google Drive.  The teamwork was incredible.  The Shipman family worked together in ways I could only wish some corporations I've worked with would do.  Within a month, they had about one hundred products ready.  

Before everything was ready to turn on, the social media accounts, which were captured before the domain was purchased, needed to be setup.  I've heard horror stories of people having their social media accounts held for ransom if they do not plan well and obtain them first using a temporary email account.  I used  With all the new logo assets from 99 Designs, it was simple and easy to setup and hook up auto-posting with  

Weston Town Mouse  Twitter  Page

Weston Town Mouse Twitter Page

Weston Town Mouse  Facebook  Page

Weston Town Mouse Facebook Page

Google  Plus Local Page  With Customer URL

Google Plus Local Page With Customer URL

Turning on the final Squarespace ECommerce engine took a lot of partner setup and patience. Square is the only payment service that's offered and they hold my client's money for seven days before releasing it.  That's got to be the worst terms - ever.  SquareSpace and Square - please fix this!  Ship Station was another partner that we needed to setup and configure.  All products in SquareSpace need to have weight parameters or your customers cannot checkout.  Customers also go to to checkout, so if you want your customer experience to include customers staying on your domain, SquareSpace is not for you.  For that matter, Yahoo is not for you either.

Here's the final site.  Check out the Weston Town Mouse. E-Commerce Review



Note about review   ---  This review is the sole opinion of an E-Commerce geek who’s been in the business since 1998.  The author is not affiliated with nor conducts business with the shops reviewed here.  If this review is exposed to the elements or your boss, then you risk bodily harm and or physical injury due to your manager breaking your bones with excitement after your conversion rate increases 3X or new visitors grow by 100%.  Please take this review seriously and do not attempt recreating the recommendations listed in this review unless you are a professional or have professional guidance.

E-Commerce Website Review For

Domain Name

Domain Age

According to, has been around for 5 years.  They first appeared January 4th, 2009. Listing For Listing For

Number of pages in Google Index



Navigation on Republic Bike is as simple as it gets.  Top-level navigation is organized in a unique way. Instead of just listing About / Faqs / Gallery / 3D Bike Shop / Press / Corporate & Retail / Cart as tabs, Republic Bike uses colors and imagery from the logo to draw the user's eye to different areas of the top-level navigation.

I get the funny feeling that whoever designed the navigation wanted me to click on 3D Bike Shop, Corporate & Retail, and the Cart.  It's a great example of using color or re-using similar colors to draw the eye to the important areas of the site.  Red is powerful color.  Check all major retailers, and the price is red.  That's no accident.  It's a proven design metaphor that's simple and just works.

I'm guessing the 3D Bike Shop, Corporate and Retail, and the Cart features are the major performers for Republic Bike, too.   Ironically, while I was preparing this report, Republic Bike actually changed their main navigation header.  I was confused at first, but then realized they pushed changes to the site as I was evaluating it.  How cool is that?  Iterate baby!  It's scary to make top-level navigation changes.  Traffic could tumble.  Congratulations on having the courage to make the change.  Let's analyze the subtle differences.  Here's the new top-level navigation.

It's clear now the Custom Bike Shop area of the top-level navigation is the main emphasis. Look at the box around it.  In the top-right corner, they added social proof in the form of Facebook followers. Well done Republic Bike.  Would love to know if the amount of visitors who converted increased after this change was made.  Also included in the change, after a user mouses-over the Customer Bike Shop, a drop-down sub-navigation menu which shows illustrations of the bike so I can choose a bike for my needs quickly, the first time.  Again, nice job Republic Bike.

If you notice in the top-left, right below the logo, there's the 3D Bike Shop terminology again. Maybe a little testing is going on.  Which link drives more customers to the "bike builder" page? Do tell Republic Bike.  Inquiring minds would like to know.

Before I go on to the Custom Bike Shop, I traveled around the site and found the press page.  If I would have designed the page, it would have been boring, tabular format and would probably have a huge bounce rate.  Whoever designed Republic Bike's press page needs to be congratulated!  All I can say is WOW!  I wanted to keep scrolling down the page because the format was broken-up and kept me on the edge of my seat.  Here's a sample.  Text, magazine cover, video, etc.  The media on the page felt like a bunch of magazine clippings strewn about a coffee table.  For a brief moment, I forgot I was online, in a browser, touring a website.  

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 2.38.35 PM.png

At the top of the Press page is a major press release disguised as an advertisement.  Republic Bike outfitted Google with a fleet of crazy-colored bikes so Googlers can get around the sprawling Google Mountain View campus while burning a few calories.  Here are the two Google ads (PR) Republic Bike Shows.

Your's truly at the GooglePlex for a Think Shopper event in 2012.  Yes, I've seen the yellow, green, blue, and red bikes all over campus.  There must be hundreds of them.

Your's truly at the GooglePlex for a Think Shopper event in 2012.  Yes, I've seen the yellow, green, blue, and red bikes all over campus.  There must be hundreds of them.

One thing is certain.  Republic Bike is not like every other E-Commerce retailer.  They threw out the conventional and did it their way.  Not every shop online has ingenious press release content disguised as ads or includes a user-submitted photo gallery page for example.  Typically, a user would click on category navigation, then select a category, get faceted navigation, a product grid with quick views, and product page links all over.  Not on  It's a visual experience like no other.  That was refreshing to me.   Here's a sample category page. 

I really don't care the black and white bike, first row second one from the left, has a funny wheel or got cropped by an intern.  I love looking at the imagery.

Below the impressive visuals of all the different bikes, is photo collage of customer submitted photos. Again, this could have been "just another gallery," but the layout is fun and playful.  See for yourself.  Feels like photos on a coffee table.  

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 2.59.33 PM.png

Product Page

I found the product page for the Plato Step Thru bike.  See below.  Republic Bike does not let you get too far from the notion of customizing your bike.  You can even create a random bike or select from popular builds.  Nice touch.  As I sit on the page and read the content, my eye is focused on the shifting frame, chain case, grip, saddle, tires, skirt, bell, and housing colors, sizes, and shapes that are constantly rotating independently of each other.  There was a lot of painstaking graphic design work to make this page "come to life."  I'm impressed by their efforts even though I'm a bit dizzy from how fast the content is rotating. Could you slow it down a bit.

Right below the customization section on the page, is a banner which I would call the conversion maximizer. If you sell a product, and it's made in the USA, why not list that in BIG BOLD LETTERS on your product pages?  Republic Bike thumbs its nose to the norm again by using design elements from the logo and colors to decorate the fact Republic Bikes are "Assembled In The USA."  Where are the parts made Republic Bike - China?  At this point - I don't care.  I see USA and want to buy.  Republic Bike sets an expectation with customers how long it will take to get one of these bikes.  7 business days for the Plato Step-Thru.  But because that is listed in the Made-In-USA section - I don't care.  All I see is America!  Win!

Directly below the "Assembled In The USA" section, includes all the bike details.  Very small font and technical specs are also listed here.  Again, the number of days to create this bike is clearly listed with the price - in black not red.  Since red and black are the only colors Republic Bike uses, using red for the price might not be the best option.  So instead, they choose to increase the font and make the price the dominate item on the page.  Nice work.

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 3.17.25 PM.png

I love assisted navigation.  Ever heard of it?  I think it's the wave of the future.  In fact, here on CPC Strategy and here on Quora, it was mentioned in the context of UX Design as the future of E-Commerce. Think of assisted navigation as a personal butler who assists with every unique customer in a personal way. Yoyo’s Toy Finder, Target’s Gift Finder, and the JustBats Bat Coach are examples of pages setup to assist the customer in navigating to products they have a higher probability of purchasing. It’s not new, but very effective and there needs to be more of this.  In fact, Republic Bike was selected by me because of the Custom Bike Shop tool they've built.  I've already made some comments about the speed of the content rotation when customizing a bike, but I'll dig-in more and start with a blank slate then share my experience. Hold on for the ride folks.

I navigate to the Republic Bike Aristotle and begin the customization process.  This is what I see.

I could click the boxes next to each option to see which colors and options exists, but that's boring.  I'd rather click on the bike image itself.  To my surprise, clicking on the frame worked. It also brings up the color options in a semi-transparent context menu with name and color swatch. Very cool Republic Bike.  See below.

And after a few minutes of tweaking, here's my super-duper awesome bike!


After I add the customer Republic Bike Aristotle to my cart, I'm presented with a standard shopping cart page, but again Republic Bike finds a way to do it their way.  This time I was not as excited about the uniqueness.  Sometimes, using non-standard design metaphors is confusing and required thinking.  There are red buttons and black buttons. Some of them do the same thing, some are unique.  It does not feel like there's any rhyme or reason for varying the black and red buttons.  Take a look for yourself.

Where's the image of my super-duper awesome bike in the cart?  Want to see it again, but it's not here.

What I like about the cart is the shipment date is estimated.  I wish the shipping cost, $59.00, was listed somewhere else on the site so I was not so surprised by the cost.  I know shipping a big bicycle might be expensive, but I didn't expect it to cost $59.  Call me cheap.  It's quite possible it was there and I just missed it, too.  There are some other items being up-sold on the cart, but this could be made easier for the customer in my opinion.  For example, I would like to add an accessory to the cart without going to the product page for the accessory and adding it. Change the up-selling section from this.  

To this instead.  Simple and easy for the customer.

When I head over the the checkout page, I'm presented with the most normal-looking page ever found on RepublicBike.  At the top of the page, is the breadcrumb trail for checkout which shows me three steps.  Very nice, normal, checkout metaphor.  

I would like to pay with PayPal but cannot.  That would be a cool option to have.  The last thing I would like to point out about Republic Bike is My Republic.  See below.

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 3.37.55 PM.png

Republic Bike is turning its customers into a marketing team.  Look at all this user-generated content Republic is getting just by asking for it.  I would like to see these photos on the product page in the form of "action shots" or some way I can see customer using the product.  The gallery is cool but I think the images would be powerful conversion agents for the product page.


First thing I noticed as I looked for the social links on the site is that they were missing.  Then, I realized I was on still looking at my shopping cart from the previous steps.  Once I clicked the logo and was taken back to, and scrolled down, I saw the social links.  These were share links, which required login.  On the gallery page, there are links to Republic Bike's social properties which don't require login.  WooHoo.  I found them. I would make the footer on the same as the footer on When I click on the social icons, I was not taken to their Facebook or Twitter accounts, but was asked to login to those services and share from  Not bad, but not really my use case of choice.

Here's the Facebook page.  Only a few posts in April 2014.  Lots of followers, but not a lot of activity here.  Daily posting would classify as normal activity.

Twitter account exists, but not very active with tweets.  The last tweet was 36 days ago.

Customer Service

Love the fact the phone number is present in the header on every page.  Republic Bike is not hiding from anyone.  Love the "Built by us and You" tagline they feature on the site.  Gives me the feeling of being involved with a greater deed when I buy a Republic Bike.  Finally, to tie it up and put a bow on it.  Do you notice the common design elements from the logo used here.  Well done!  Way to create a great brand experience that builds my curb-appeal-confidence.  Feeling like I'm going to have a good experience if I order.

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Under The Hood

Page Speed




On page SEO is better than average.  Republic Bike has boilerplate titles.  Here's one for example.  Republic Bike | About | track bikes, fixed gear bicycles, fixies, Dutch bikes | built by us and you.  I would simply change it to About Republic Bike Company.  The blog is located in two places. and  I would go with the latter of the two.  That way all your SEO eggs are in one domain basket.  Using sub-domains spreads the Google Juice instead of stacking it all under your .com. 

Built With

Want to learn about what is running on their site?  Check out their BuiltWith details.  In the last few months, Republic Bike has removed AppNexus, Google Adsense,, and the Facebook Exchange FBX.  I can only guess these mechanisms were not working for them.  


  1. When checking the build status of a bike, why not drop the captcha and use information only the customer would know like the combination of order number and billing zip code.
  2. Add PayPal to increase conversions.
  3. Add Chat so customers can communicate their way.
  4. Improve page load speeds.  Use Google insights page load speed tool to validate.
  5. Keep in touch info from the gallery page should be on the footer page of every page.  
  6. Since Republic Bike uses AdWords, why not also turn on Google Trusted Stores.  With that, Republic Bike's customers will get questionnaires that Google facilitates and captures, processes, and displays the results next to your ads.  Having stars and reviews improves CTR.
  7. Update Up-sell widget on cart page that can up-sell in-place.
  8. Show image of custom bike in cart for extra awesomeness.
  9. Add gallery images to product pages as "action shots."

E-Commerce Ideas Provided By For All To Steal

  • No fear!  Taking a creative vision (online bike builder) and making it a webpage requires boatloads of trial and error.  Don't be afraid to try.  
  • KISS - Keep it simple stupid.  Some sites have color schemes and graphics that complicate tasks.  
  • Show passion for your work.  The pages on demonstrate, to me, a passionate company centered around creating a great product and delivering a unique customer buying experience.  Don't quit.
  • Ask your users for content.  Images, text, whatever they will give.  Future customers love it.