Vincent Holt, commercial director at Salford-based 11 Out Of 10 web development agency , got into working with the web after years of project managing IT systems in what became engineering giant, GEC-Alstom.After seeing a gap in the market for providing a blend of technical web design and sound business advice, he launched 11 Out Of 10 more than a decade ago. Now with 10 staff, the company provides highly specialised design for bespoke websites and e-commerce systems, aimed at companies “wanting an edge over the competition and prepared to pay a bit more to get it“. Clients have included Walls Refrigeration and PureGym - the latter taken from an initial concept to a multi-million pound business in 3 years.My Parcel Delivery grabbed a few minutes with Vince to sample the secrets of web design for successful e-commerce businesses:HOW FAR HAS E-COMMERCE WEB DESIGN ADVANCED IN RECENT YEARS?What was expert knowledge 10 years ago is now more widely understood. Off-the-shelf, template systems have improved and can offer a wide range of functionality. But templates aren't great if you want to create a bespoke e-commerce site. This is important, as marketing is now 10 times more sophisticated than it was and companies need to be better equipped and reactive to compete for online shoppers.WHAT ARE THE MOST CRITICAL LESSONS FOR BUSINESSES SELLING ONLINE?The reality is this: it's becoming winner takes all. That means being able to occupy online the top three spots in your market is becoming more critical. Anything that gives you an edge in the e-commerce environment can make the difference between going broke and making a fortune.As a guide, SMEs getting into e-commerce need to understand they have to match their web development spend on marketing spend in the first year in order to play the game. That comes as a shock to many, but without capital or innovative marketing it's difficult to grab the attention needed.WHAT SHOULD ASPIRING E-COMMERCE BUSINESSES BE THINKING BEFORE LAUNCHING ONLINE?Be clear about who your audience is. Once that's established, be sure about what your competitive edge is and what you can offer over and above the rest. As well as retailers, manufacturers are now realising the potential in selling online, which can even involve trade websites for their channel partners to buy from them. More and more manufacturers are now realising they can sell directly to the consumers and increase their margins, by using drop shippers to manage the logistics - which by-passes what was traditionally the role of the wholesaler and distributors.WHAT ARE THE TYPICAL MISTAKES E-COMMERCE BUSINESSES SHOULD AVOID WHEN THEY START?Trying to sell everything! It's better to go for a small, niche range of products. As a starting point it's easier and lower cost to market a specialism rather than trying to compete with the bigger, more established companies. Aim to attract an audience with your niche product area and build on that.WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND FOR MORE ESTABLISHED E-COMMERCE BUSINESSES?Companies can get complacent. After investing money when the site is built, they tend to think that's “job done“ and squeeze every penny they can out of the site. But they need a longer-term view and strategy. Management might be suspicious because it's difficult to keep up with the advance of technology but, ideally, a site needs to be reviewed every 2-3 years and investment is needed to keep up with newer technology, such as ensuring their website is mobile device friendly. If a business selling products online is not converting mobile traffic, then creating a mobile site will help sell and this is usually a healthy contribution towards the price of the website overhaul in its own right.HOW HAS CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR IN E-COMMERCE CHANGED?Consumers used to be more tolerant of websites and would accept making their way slowly through a transaction process. Today, they are both intolerant and impatient and won't put up with substandard sites. More than that, the process now has to engage the customer with subtle touches that people will enjoy.International e-commerce sales are becoming more and more important - in fact, the UK is the biggest exporter via e-commerce - so showing your prices in other currencies is helpful to show overseas customers how much it's going to cost them.And consumers are very aware of online customer reviews - 60% of people check out reviews before buying. Reviews are also important also for SEO on the site itself as Google sees them as a nice thing to have.WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE NEXT BIG THING?E-commerce is becoming more joined up. For example - at the bigger end of retail - you buy online and pick up your purchase in a shop at your convenience. Add to that drop-off points for click and collect. Shops are going to function more as showrooms, with shopping for entertainment as much as requirement. Shops may be fewer in number, but they will be more interactive.While there will be more mobile payment via phone it needs to be slicker process, such as being able to make a mobile purchase without entering card details at check-out.And there'll be a complete intolerance of hidden charges when buying online. It's one of the biggest turn-offs in the process, which currently results in about 70% of shoppers abandoning the cart altogether.