Natasha Murphy’s passion is e-commerce, and she channels that passion by finding the most effective ways to showcase her clients’ products. She does this by designing their sites through her e-commerce development agency, Nicely Built, which helps clients use Shopify, a DIY platform used to sell products online and through social media.
Before leading her company, and before there were coding bootcamps and web programming workshops, Murphy taught herself how to code.
“There were no opportunities like that, even in computer science departments, to learn web programming,” says Murphy. “It was still very much traditional programming. The curriculum didn’t exist. That meant most web developers were self-taught.”
She started coding in 1999 during her middle and high school years and kept it in mind as she began a career in advocacy. After earning a Master’s in non-profit management, she decided to switch paths and put her coding skills to work in a sector that saw a need for innovation. However, e-commerce kept catching her eye as she saw the online shopping industry grow bigger — according to Shopify, g
That’s when she decided to make the jump from employee to entrepreneur and founded her e-commerce dev shop. For the first three years, Murphy grew her company solo, with the occasional designer collaboration, and focused on nailing her branding and style — clean lines with customer-friendly features, great content, and e-commerce that put the spotlight on the products.
“Branding is important because it helps make an impression and your customer can immediately get a feel for who you are as a company,” says Murphy.
“Our branding is hopefully inviting and charming, but then also not too playful, because at the end of the day we want to be taken seriously. You want to have branding that’s memorable, so that you can stay in someone’s mind and they can easily remember you.”
Putting this focus on branding early on helped her promote her agency, make her work recognizable as well as attract a certain kind of client. Nicely Built is a process-oriented agency, says Murphy. When meeting with prospective clients, which include established mid-level businesses and startups, she’s always clear about their work flow to make sure they are a right fit. The agency also offers support after the build out, which is something clients may forget to ask for.
Her main suggestion to clients as they approach a redesign? Don’t overcrowd your site.
“With e-commerce you don’t want an overly designed website,” says Murphy. “You want something that’s going to showcase your products. I’ve always been drawn to really clean, simple, designs that emphasize a nice layout. This also lends itself to better online shopping experiences.”
She also advises against adding too much content to the site as it may confuse customers and drive them away from the product.
“I see a lot of newer businesses struggle putting together their return policy and I always advise them to just say, ‘Contact us and we’ll tell you,'” says Murphy. “Rather than try to write out 300 words — don’t try to use the website to address every thing that could happen. You can’t do that. Instead set it up to be directed to you if there’s an issue.”
Following her own advice, Murphy makes her clients and prospective customers a priority by leading Shopify meetups to show attendees new ways they can use the technology. According to the company, Shopify-powered businesses generated over $1 billion in sales during Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year.
“We gear our material towards merchants and store owners that have Shopify,” says Murphy. “We decided to do it just because I’ve always liked working with Shopify, both the platform and the company since I started with them six years ago and was looking for a way to kind of share my experiences and learn more.”
“The reason we continue to do it is because it’s a lead generator so we meet a lot of new people, people that end up working for us, other partners in the community — it’s really about making those connections.”
As a developer turned CEO, Murphy has seen the Atlanta technology scene grow in the last decade from both sides. In her opinion, the increase in women represented in the sector has been one of the greatest improvements.
“The technology sector has changed so much, especially in the past five years,” says Murphy. “I’ve always had a really good experience here in Atlanta, talking to other developers, talking to other people in technology. I see more and more women coming out and being represented. I definitely don’t want to say that there’s not a problem, or that sexism doesn’t exist, but it’s a lot better than it used to be.”
Her final piece of advice? Invest in your business by hiring the right people when needed.
“If you want to create a strong brand, which is eventually going to help you succeed, you need to hire a professional and pay them. It’s an investment, of course, but you’re only shortchanging yourself if you don’t make that investment by bootstrapping the process with DIY solutions,” says Murphy.