Curating the Best of Shopify.
James Ayres

James Ayres

Senior Engineer | Red Antler

Who’s your current ecomm crush?

Teenage Engineering makes the most beautiful products and has a great site too. They really don't put much on each page but the desire to buy the products is intense - which is a very underrated quality for a website in a time where everyone is trying to squeeze as much as possible into every square inch of the screen.

Outdoor Voices is such a good Shopify site. It's a great brand (which helps) but is also very clean and very usable. They let the product shine through without bloating anything.

What’s your favourite web font?

I feel like if I answer this question in my ignorance I will be assassinated by a type designer so I am just going to make up a name of a font so no one can tell me I am right or wrong. My favorite web font is Horses-Unlimited.

Where do you go for design/development inspiration?

I would be lying if I didn't say I looked at every other website on the internet. Cannibalizing other websites is a time-honored practice and I am definitely part of that trend. However, I also look at other websites for what not to do and I think that's even more beneficial. Almost all of my interaction design comes from my art and illustration background, including looking at old animation techniques. I often reference the 12 Basic Principles of Animation for ideas.

Even looking at intros and outros for movies and tv shows can help provide some inspiration when it comes to active elements. They are extremely interesting ways to display extremely boring content - and I think that also describes a lot of websites.

What ecommerce trend do you hate?

Oh god, the list is so long.... Email signup modals are probably the worst from a user experience perspective. I think that, though not a trend, the thing about eCommerce I dislike the most is the edge-case flexibility of eCommerce platforms with regard to novel ways of selling content - things like bundles, add-on items, customization, or even methods of selling that others have thought of that engineers have shut down due to lack of viability. I think if we want to expand the eCommerce space on the web we need tools that are much more flexible with documentation that is central and readable.

What is your favourite thing about designing/developing for ecommerce?

When you get to make things that have real business implications and provide actual, immediate value to a client it definitely adds an anxiety to ensure that everything is done correctly. Anxiety is obviously not great but the motivation to do really good work is amplified (and necessary). I personally make my best work when I have some anxiety and pressure to make good work.

In some ways, eCommerce is slightly easier from a technical standpoint (assuming you're leveraging existing platforms) and allows you to spend a little more time being creative with the display of the site content and little moments of joy for the user.

James Ayres Interview Image

What’s your jam while working?

Truly anything and always depending on my mood. My current jam is the new Car Seat Headrest album (Twin Fantasy) and the latest Kero Kero Bonito EP (TOTEP). I am most proud of my playlist 'Annoying Songs for Shared Living Spaces' which I actually listen to more often than I should.

What’s your favourite Shopify app and why?

We ended up building our own metafields app (which we call Metafi and plan to release on the store eventually) which is incredibly robust and allows us to add a ton to Shopify through their API. Other than that I love Shopify's Script Editor. You have to write in Ruby but I think it's great that Shopify recognized a need and opened up a ton of functionality to developers with it.

How did you start designing Shopify sites?

Honestly? We got a client who wanted Shopify and I had to do it. Luckily we had others on our team who were pretty adept in Shopify so the learning curve was almost nothing. Now I have made.... a lot.

What’s the best design advice someone has given you?

Me? I think they said "James, please don't try to design that yourself - it looks terrible." Just kidding - I actually come from an art and design background but we happen to have some of the best (and I am not saying this lightly) digital designers who consistently make amazing work so I don't have to do much, if any, design.

What Shopify project are you most proud of?

It's like choosing your favorite child...

Porter Road is such a beautiful site and I think it shines in the right places - I am very proud of it.

Soludos has such a great style and we got to do a ton of fun stuff with it. They're a great company and I am glad we got to make a beautiful website for them.

James Ayres Interview Image

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