First impressions count for everything, especially in ecommerce. No matter the page you first land on, one thing will always stand-out first - the site design. That immediate visual impact sets the tone for the rest of your experience; it tells you about the brand’s tone and personality, and the kind of customers it hopes to appeal to. It can even inform your perceptions of its quality before you’ve even seen a product. That’s why design is so crucial to the process of building a Shopify store. When combined with functionality and user experience, it turns a good store into a great one.
So today we’re sitting down with Megan Leonard - one of our amazing Designers.
Megan was raised amongst the farms and cows of Sykesville, which sits just 20 miles west of Baltimore, MD, where she currently lives. Always a creative, she graduated from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania with a degree majoring in Studio Art and minors in Business and Art History. She carried that through to her career, where she has been working as a web designer since day one.
Hi Megan! Tell us, what experience do you have in your career so far?
I have always been a web designer in the agency world, coming from past experience working on a number of eCommerce brands in the fashion, beauty, athletic and food industries to name a few! My career has evolved into the B2B space, but I have the amazing opportunity to still pursue my eComm interest at The Taproom, while also working full time as a Design Director.
And what were you hired to do at The Taproom?
I started at The Taproom in 2018, working with Kelly and Victoria on any design needs, most often web design and branding. While I connected immediately and saw the vision along with their talent from the start, it’s been so amazing to see the team grow to this scale! From full website builds, to UX/UI improvements from audits and branding, I collaborate with our Project Managers, Developers and clients to bring their storefronts to life.
What interested you about working with us?
Meeting with Kelly, I was drawn to her passion and real approach to building out a team that will truly change the eCommerce space and shopping experience. The ability to pursue a passion in design, work with unique brands and a team that is passionate about ever-evolving was impossible to turn away from!
Every role in an agency like ours plays their part in building a new site, coming in at different points in the process, coming up with solutions and new ideas, and facing challenges head on. Megan’s role as designer sees her closely collaborating with both the client and everyone on our team, to capture the essence of a brand and bring it to life through design.
Describe what you do day-to-day in your role?
In my role, I lead design kickoffs with clients to determine art direction of the brand and our approach to be applied to the overall strategy and shopping experience. I then work with the internal team to determine requirements, estimates and timelines for delivering design compositions of key pages. Apart from designing brand assets and key pages, a day can also include internal reviews to ensure that all requirements are met and up to the Taproom standard. Outside of that, various check-ins with development team members as storefronts are being built to discuss animation, page flow and overall QA.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?
It’s fantastic to say that I rarely feel challenges within my role here. The Taproom has an excellent onboarding process for new clients, where we dive into branding and preferences 1:1 with the client to best fuel the art direction and approach. In general, it’s tough as a designer to balance imposter syndrome! However, our clients are so unique that each project is a fresh, new challenge that pushes me to carve a unique look in their space.
What do you find the most rewarding about your role?
The most rewarding moment in my role is when all of the upfront discussions, audits and strategy come together in that first design presentation. The internal team is always excited, hyping up the designs and to see the client’s reaction is a moment I will always look forward to. I feel as if the rest of the team makes my role easy and the designs are a true reflection of the entire depth of talent.
What's challenging about working in ecommerce?
Again, just how different it is from B2B. Our clients don’t set it and forget it. Their websites are changing almost daily to align with their industry, product catalogue and seasonal trends, which means the design does too! While it’s fun, it can be a challenge to adjust and align in an efficient manner that attempts to predict those shifts to design the best possible experience.
Are there any trends in ecommerce piqued your interest recently? Do these trends influence your design work?
I feel like minimalism is always a go-to answer here, but it really does fascinate me how minimal minimalism gets year after year. As it relates to eCommerce, I think it’s entirely applicable as a lot of brands are opting to cut the noise and be very intentional with paths to conversion and how design fuels that.
What are the most important factors in that client-agency relationship to ensure the design process goes smoothly?
I believe in fostering an open environment from the start. Having a design discovery at the top of the relationship opens the client up to sharing their preferences, what has/hasn’t worked in the past and gets to the root of expectations so that the first deliverable is as on-point as it can be. Clearly communicating expectations on both ends and balancing our expertise with the brand is key to a smooth design process.
What would be your number one tip for a merchant thinking of redesigning their store?
I’d first ask if it’s the branding or the store itself. Oftentimes, it may be that the brand does not reflect who the company is today and will be in 3-5 years. Whether it’s a full redesign, or updating the color palette, or a new lifestyle photoshoot, these changes can go a long way to converting users as they immediately feel the essence of the brand on the storefront.
Then, take a look at how the storefront flow is constructed to compliment the brand. Are your top products easily accessible? Is your story digestible at key touch points? These are just two of many important questions to look at from an experience perspective to determine if a redesign is needed.
What are your favorite design projects to work on?
I appreciate all types of projects to keep things fresh, but my favorite is a brand redesign and website build. To see the total transformation, work with new assets and show a client the first iteration of that new brand is such a moment!
And finally, we’re going to go even further behind the scenes - after all, just as every role is unique, so too is each person who fills each one. Megan’s sensibility for design and eye for detail carries through even to her personal interests.
Who do you live with currently? Any pets?
I live with my husband, Greg and my 1 year old Golden Retriever Sollie (@solliethegolden).
What do you like doing in your spare time?
I love working on creating content for my home decor & lifestyle blog. Sharing and connecting with others has always been a passion of mine, and designing homes and brands for other creators is a woven intersection of all of my passions that I never thought would be possible. Outside of that, I love to find a charming bar to post up and down oysters, crab and lobster with friends and family. In the Fall, you can catch me at the Baltimore Ravens games!
What are some of your favorite sites to spend time on?
With passions in the home space, I love not only the products but the sites done by Jenni Kayne, McGee & Co., and Amber Interiors. Outside of those, too many clothing to list!
If you could learn any skill, what would it be?
I would love to learn to code - I am always amazed at how much is stored in dev’s brains and their ability to figure out all of my ideas!
Where would you most like to travel to one day?
My husband and I were supposed to honeymoon in South Africa for two weeks in 2019 after our wedding, but unfortunately got hit with the pandemic. It’s on our list for our 5 year anniversary!