Archive for the ‘Design & Programming’ Category

Scott Sanfilippo

Introducing Responsive Website Design for Your eCommerce Store

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Responsive Website Design from Solid CactusAround this time of the year, as an eCommerce merchant, I start thinking about the upcoming holiday season.  While Christmas and Chanukah are probably the last things many of you are thinking about right now, online store owners are starting to plan for the busiest selling season of the year.

In order to capture the most sales possible in the short period that kicks off on Black Friday and ends a few weeks later, store owners have to begin preparing their websites and getting their marketing efforts in check now.

One of the hottest topics being talked about in eCommerce circles at the moment is responsive website design.  Simply put, a “responsive” website adapts to whatever the device the user is viewing the site on – desktop, tablet or smartphone.  The site will scale to fit the screen size making the experience optimum for everyone.

Prior to responsive designed websites, smartphone users had to suffer through viewing full size websites on screens not up to the task. Finger gestures to expand and contract the viewable area led to people just saying, “forget it, I’ll wait until I get home to view this site.”  And we all know that the odds of someone doing that is very slim, as we tend to forget to do things after a few minutes!  (At least I do.)

Then along came mobile optimized websites that would take content from the existing site, reformat it to fit the mobile device and often came with a URL that started off with m. or mobile.  Mobile optimized sites fit the bill fine, but they often required updating the mobile site as well as the main site adding more work onto the already busy store owner’s to-do list.  There also was the very real risk of search engines picking up duplicate content from the mobile site and the desktop site, which if caught, could create serious issues for SEO.

As responsive website design is becoming more mainstream, it’s also starting to become the standard to which websites and eCommerce stores are being built.  It only makes sense to design a website that is easy to use, is customer friendly and adapts to whatever device the visitor is using in order to provide an optimum experience across the board.

Part of preparing for the 4th quarter holiday rush usually involves a redesign to an existing eCommerce store or at least the addition of the latest and greatest conversion boosting store features.  If you’ve been on the fence about a redesign for your online store, now is the time to consider it – and more importantly, consider going responsive.

In addition to providing a seamless shopping experience across all devices, a responsive website has many benefits that a store owner should consider as part of the overall decision making process:

One website to update and maintain.  Many store owners I deal with on an ongoing basis have a mobile site for their store that they are required to maintain separately via a 3rd party provider.  This second store often gets overlooked and I encounter many that aren’t updated, don’t include current promotional messaging/imaging and is there more for just the sake of “being there” rather than being a tool to drive sales.  A responsive website eliminates the hassle of updating a mobile version as it’s one site that fits all!

Cost effective.  While a responsive design may cost a little more upfront than a non-responsive site, you won’t be paying a separate monthly fee, or revenue share for a 3rd party to provide you with a mobile version.  Mobile only sites can cost up to $399, or more, per month on top of what you’re already paying to host your eCommerce store.

Recommended by search engines.  One of the top recommendations of the major search engines to webmasters has been, “go responsive.”  A responsive website served up on a mobile device is going to get more face time in front of mobile searchers than a non-responsive version – and with the way mobile is trending, this is extremely important.  Additionally, a responsive designed website eliminates the chance of being penalized for having duplicate content on a mobile site and a desktop version.  For all SEO purposes, the experts recommend moving forward with a responsive design.

Clean and easy.  Responsive websites offer a fresh design approach that isn’t cluttered, is easy to navigate, and employs features that only work on the device that’s being used to view the website making the customer experience superior to that of non-responsive sites.  The days of “busy” websites with bells and whistles that distract and confuse rather than guide and convert are over.  Clean and easy is in and it’s what your shoppers want when it comes to shopping online.

It’s future proof.  By investing in a responsive website today, you’re on the cutting edge of web design that’s going to be around for a while.  If you’re considering a redesign now and are going to be plopping down a couple thousand dollars on a non-responsive site, chances are you’re going to be spending a couple grand more again next year because you should have gone responsive in the first place.  Responsive design is the way websites are being designed now and moving forward, so why not invest a little more now to have your site built for the future than look back next year at this time and ask yourself why you didn’t go responsive in the first place.

At Solid Cactus, we’ve been furiously working at rolling out a responsive website design solution for our customers for over a year now.  We’ve taken the time to look at what other developers are doing, how big name eCommerce merchants are building their responsive stores, and what the search engines are saying about going responsive.

We’ve taken all we learned and put together what I consider to be the best responsive website design solutions for our Yahoo! Store and Monster Commerce (Network Solutions) eCommerce store owners.

Our responsive website design offerings include a responsive homepage as well as responsive item, section and checkout pages.  We’ve even gone thru and have completed an upgrade of 99% of our existing eCommerce store features, such as Scratch & Save, Click to Enlarge and more, to make them 100% responsive design compatible.

If you’re considering a redesign for the upcoming holiday season and want to discuss moving to a responsive design, give us a call.  We’ll sit down with our programmers and designers to review your existing store and lay out a plan to go responsive and present you with a proposal that we feel will best fit your needs as well as the needs of your customers.

I’m truly excited about our new responsive design offerings as this is the future of web design as we know it!  I’d love for our team to discuss with you the various ways we can make your site responsive in time for the 4th quarter.  Give your account manager a call at 1.888.361.9814 or reach out to me directly at and I’ll be happy to help you make the decision that’s right for your business.

After all, we’re in this together!  As your partner in eCommerce success, would you expect anything less?

Scott Sanfilippo is co-founder of Solid Cactus as well as one of the Internet’s first eCommerce stores, When he’s not writing articles for our blog, he’s checking the Wayback Machine and looking at how many times the web’s most popular websites have been redesigned over the years. We bet he thinks your site is ready for one!

Scott Sanfilippo

Reduce Your Abandonment Rate with our Shopping Cart Abandonment Tool

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Over the past several weeks we’ve been burning the midnight oil in the Solid Cactus Development Lab to bring you several new and updated features for your eCommerce store.

In February we introduced our Mega Top Nav for Yahoo! Store that has proven to be a winner with store owners looking to provide their customers with an easy, not to mention eye-catching, way to navigate.

In March, our Facebook fan building app, Get Me Likes, received an upgrade that allows for more screen placement options and some “under the hood” improvements. Since then, it’s quickly become one of our top-selling features and store owners are reaping the benefits.

Just a few weeks ago, a major update was introduced for our ever popular Scratch & Save feature that makes this virtual scratch-off coupon 100% compatible with mobile devices. This update allows store owners to open up this promotional tool to even more shoppers looking to buy.

Today, I’m here to introduce you to the latest conversion boosting feature to come out of the lab – our Cart Abandonment Tool. It doesn’t have a fancy name, but it does deliver results! Here’s how it works:

When a shopper visits your eCommerce store and begins to add items to their shopping cart, if they enter the checkout or shopping cart area then try to leave, by either using the “back” button or entering a URL in their browser, they’re presented with a popup. The popup entices them with a special offer, such as a percentage off their order, if they purchase within the next several minutes.

If the shopper selects the offer, a coupon code is applied to the order and they receive an instant discount. The customer saves a couple of bucks and you just saved a sale!

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 12.28.52 PM

Don Schnurr from purchased the Cart Abandonment Tool for his eCommerce store and told me that, “we have already saved 20 orders in the last 24 hours!” Would he recommend it to other store owners? Of course! He says, it’s “a great feature for all your e-commerce retailers.

If you want to start reducing your abandonment rate, our Cart Abandonment Tool is available for a one-time install fee of just $399. There are no recurring monthly or per-order charges either, making this one of the most affordable conversion boosting features available.

If you’re ready to add it to your Yahoo! Store, Monster Commerce, 1ShoppingCart or Solid Cactus eCommerce store contact your account manager or give us a call at 1.888.361.9814.

If you have an idea for a feature you’d like to see us develop or improve upon, feel free to drop me an email at, I’d love to hear from you.

Scott Sanfilippo is co-founder of Solid Cactus and an online retailer since 1994. That makes him kind of old and curmudgeonly, but he is always ready, willing and able to share his eCommerce experience with other store owners, so watch for his blog posts here and feel free to follow him on Facebook.

Scott Sanfilippo

(Re)Introducing Scratch & Save for Your eCommerce Store!

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

scratch-and-save-v2-0-13A few years ago we introduced an eCommerce store feature that I really got excited about. When our lead developer came to me with the idea for a virtual scratch-off coupon for the item page, I knew right away this was going to be something that store owners would want to have on their site for special sales and promotions.

We built a prototype and selected about a dozen store owners to be part of a beta test to gauge coupon usage, customer comments, feedback on usability, etc. We made some tweaks and released “Scratch & Save” which quickly skyrocketed to be one of our top selling features.

Here’s how it works.

We install the feature on the item page and the store owner creates several different coupon codes that Scratch & Save dolls out randomly based on the ratio set by the store owner. When a shopper visits the site and goes to an item page, they can use their mouse (or their finger if they’re on a mobile device) to scratch and reveal a coupon code they can use right then and there to place an order.

Over the years I’ve heard of some creative ways store owners have been using the feature and cashing in on the sales it’s generated for them. One of my favorites is the “Mystery Discount Sale” where for a week or weekend, the store owner turns on Scratch & Save and promotes their sale via social media, email marketing, PPC and more.

Since the Scratch & Save promotion is interactive, it adds a bit of excitement to the shopping process. After all, who doesn’t like buying one of those scratch-off lottery tickets and seeing if you’re the next big winner! The same concept applies here. You use your advertising methods to attract shoppers to your store by giving them the chance to scratch away in the hopes of getting a huge discount on their purchase.

While Scratch & Save has been around for a while, it hasn’t been compatible with Apple mobile devices due to it being built in Adobe Flash. I’m very pleased to announce that we’ve just rebuilt Scratch & Save from the ground up making it 100% compatible with desktops, smart phones and tablets – including the iPhone and iPad.

If you currently have Scratch & Save on your store, now is the time to upgrade to the latest version in order to enable this store feature to be available to all your mobile and tablet shoppers.

If you don’t have it on your store, it’s time to take advantage of this money-making store feature that is designed to turn shoppers into buyers.

There are two versions available. Our standard version is available for a one-time install fee of $199 and includes standard graphics that are designed to compliment any website. Our custom version is for the store owner who wants to match Scratch & Save with the look and feel of their website by using custom graphics and is available for a one-time install/design fee of $399.

Check out the two videos below for a demo of how Scratch & Save works, then contact us at 1.888.361.9814 to have it installed or upgraded on your store today!

Scratch & Save is compatible with Yahoo! Store, Monster Commerce and 1ShoppingCart.

Scratch & Save with Custom Graphics – $399
Scratch & Save with Standard Graphics – $199

Scott Sanfilippo is the co-founder of Solid Cactus and holds the key to the secret product development lab where he and a team of crack programmers plan and build exciting eCommerce store features like Scratch & Save to help increase order value and conversions. He also holds the key to the men’s washroom, but doesn’t brag about that as much. Follow Scott on Facebook  and on Twitter.

Scott Sanfilippo

Get Me Likes Gets an Upgrade!

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

It wasn’t that long ago we released our Facebook fan building feature, Get Me Likes, for Yahoo! Store, Monster Commerce and 1ShoppingCart. Since then, eCommerce store owners have been using it to increase their fans, capture sales and build a community of loyal followers.

We’ve received valuable feedback since the first release and have incorporated many of what our users have asked for in the latest version, 1.1, including:

Multiple Placement Options: Version 1.0 only allowed Get Me Likes to be displayed along the left center side of the screen. Version 1.1 now allows for these placement locations:

Get Me Likes - Bottom Middle

Get Me Likes – Bottom Middle

Get Me Likes - Top Right

Get Me Likes – Top Right

Get Me Likes - Top Left

Get Me Likes – Top Left

Get Me Likes - Middle Right

Get Me Likes – Middle Right

Get Me Likes - Middle Left

Get Me Likes – Middle Left

Get Me Likes - Bottom Right

Get Me Likes – Bottom Right

Get Me Likes - Bottom Left

Get Me Likes – Bottom Left

Hide Window: For those customers who already “like” your page, a link is now displayed in the pop-out window that they can click on to prevent Get Me Likes from displaying again until the cookie expires in 120 days.

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 12.09.00 PM

As with version 1.0, Get Me Likes is available in a standard option for $199 and comes with three pre-designed generic themes that you can select from within your store’s control panel. If you prefer to have Get Me Likes match the branding of your website, a custom designed version is available for $399. Placement location must be chosen at the time of install as it is not changeable via the store’s control panel.

Now, current users of Get Me Likes may be asking, “Do I need the upgrade?” To be frank, unless you are looking to change the current display location, there is no need to upgrade. But if you’re like me and want the latest and greatest, we are offering a special $59 upgrade for those customers who are currently using the standard version. If you have a custom version with custom graphics, additional charges will apply, so contact your Solid Cactus account manager for more information on that.

Get Me Likes is an exciting feature, especially for those stores looking to build a community of Facebook followers. Check out our demo video for more info.

Scott Sanfilippo is the co-founder of Solid Cactus and works with our development team to come up with great eCommerce store features like Get Me Likes that merchants can use to turn visits into sales.  When he’s not working with our development team, he’s chatting with merchants learning what cool features they would like to see us build for their store.

Scott Sanfilippo

Introducing Mega Top Nav for Yahoo! Store

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

A wise man once said, “a good website begins with good navigation.” You can have a stunning design and all the latest bells-and-whistles, but if your navigation is complex, cumbersome and doesn’t allow your customer to find the information or product they need quickly, your site won’t convert.

When a customer visits your website, they expect good navigation that gets them to what they’re looking for in the least amount of clicks. The last thing a shopper wants to do is waste time clicking all over the place trying to find the item they’re looking for.

Over the years, not much has changed as far as navigation bars are concerned. When I started my first online store in 1994, it had a left nav bar. The majority of sites today still follow that format, mainly because we read from left to right. The second most popular form of navigation is a top nav bar, used mainly on sites with a few sections where a left nav bar wouldn’t be feasible.

Recently, the top nav bar has become a popular form of secondary navigation on sites that employ a left nav. Store owners looking to feature their more popular sections are using a top nav to call attention and make it easier for shoppers to find them right away.

Today, I’m excited to announce the latest Yahoo! Store feature to come out of our development lab – Mega Top Nav. Over the past few weeks our team has worked with a select group of eCommerce store owners to develop and fine-tune what we feel is the best form of top navigation available.

Mega Top Nav is more than just a navigation bar, it’s also a marketing tool. It allows the store owner to provide shoppers with an easy-to-use form of navigation along with the ability to feature products and special promotions to help drive sales and information to help drive customer satisfaction.

There are several key areas of the Mega Top Nav that I’d like to point out. The first is the navigation area itself which is the top portion. This area can accommodate up to five sub sections and each is identified by a name and a graphic making it easy for the customer to tell exactly what that section contains.

Mega Top Nav for Yahoo Store from Solid Cactus

The second consists of two text areas that can be used to provide shoppers with key information or guides to help them make an informed purchase. In this example, we have a “Helpful Guides” section that contains links to pages on our store that shoppers may want to visit to help them select the right item (and also minimize the risk of a return!). The second text area is where we put our “Shopping Assistance” links to give customers one-click access to customer service information right from the nav bar.

You can choose the titles for these two text areas, as well as what pages from within your store you want to display, by populating variables. If the variables are not populated, the areas will not be displayed.

Mega Top Nav for Yahoo Store from Solid Cactus
Mega Top Nav for Yahoo Store from Solid Cactus

The third area is designed to showcase featured products. This is great for giving exposure to items you may be overstocked on and want to promote, or items that you recently added to your store that you want customers to see. The title of the area can be changed and all it takes to populate is to simply enter the item IDs into a variable. If the variable isn’t populated, the section will not display.

Mega Top Nav for Yahoo Store from Solid Cactus

The final area is a free form HTML area where you can insert your own graphics, stylized text, banner ads… whatever! In this example, we put in a graphic promoting a free shipping offer to help stimulate sales. To activate this area, all you need to do is enter HTML into the variable. If nothing is entered, the area will not display.

Mega Top Nav for Yahoo Store from Solid Cactus

I’m excited about Mega Top Nav because it can be used on any site! It’s an obvious choice for store owners who already employ a top navigation structure and want to get rid of their boring, text-only nav bar. For the store owner with a left nav, this is an excellent form of secondary navigation to promote special sections I mentioned earlier.

Take a few minutes to watch the short video I put together highlighting the features of Mega Top Nav and if you’re ready to take your navigation to the next level, give us a call at 1.888.361.9814 to discuss how we can install this on your Yahoo! Store.

If you have any questions or comments about Mega Top Nav, feel free to drop me an email at I’d love to hear what you think! I’m also “all ears” when it comes to learning about what features we can develop to better enhance your store and your customer’s shopping experience.

Scott Sanfilippo is co-founder of Solid Cactus and holds the key to both the men’s washroom and the “top secret” development lab where great features like Get Me Likes and Mega Top Nav are built.