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Friday, September 30, 2011

Websites and the Whatnot

Last week I introduced our new business, CopperDog Studio, to my blog readers and to the world of facebook.  I also put some tags up for sale on etsy.  We have sold two tags on etsy... to a friend, but still, our first sales, so yay!

This week I have been focused on building a proper website.  A friend suggested Big Cartel as a good host for artists as a selling platform, so I tried it out.  They have several levels of involvement: the "gold" level is free, is somewhat customizable, but only lets you have 5 products.  I went with the next level, the "platinum" level, which is $9.99/month and lets you have up to 25 products, "full" customization, and several other better features.  However, the "full" customization is really only for people who know HTML and CSS coding language.  I do not.  In fact, I'll be honest, I had never even heard of CSS until this week.  Now you might think I'm a web dummy.  Yep, I'll admit it.  I took a computer art class in college, and that was only 10 years ago, but CSS was not very widely used if it was even around at all back then, and we just barely touched on HTML after we played with Photoshop and Illustrator for most of the semester.  (I do love me some Photoshop!)  Well, after doing some research, I was able to learn enough to be able to embed a mailing list sign up form directly onto a page of my website, and I considered this a major breakthrough.  However, I have yet to figure out how to do it on facebook.  But speaking of facebook, Big Cartel has a facebook app that allows you to link directly to your store from your facebook fan page.  Major points for BC there.  I'll get to the points thing here in a minute.  I was really frustrated with all this CSS business, knowing that every time I wanted to change something beyond the super basic stuff, I would have to mess with that again.

So I was considering other options.  I use Other People's Pixels to host my CopperTide website, so I'm familiar with their control panel, and it's really user-friendly.  OPP is great as portfolio display site, but not so great with the sales.  They also offer lots of customization options that you don't have to know coding language for.  So I thought I would build a website there, too, and see which one I like better.  They also offer a 14 day free trial (after which, if I decided to keep it, it would cost $16/month or $160/year).  A little more expensive, but I didn't have anything to lose by setting up a trial.  On my end, OPP is much easier to use, but there are also some things I don't like about their set-up.

So I made a list comparing the two:

Big Cartel
- home page = product views
- when you open a product view, there can be up to 3 images for the same product which you scroll through
- product description is displayed in a narrow column that makes it seem incredibly long and tedious - even though it's all important info
- clear about "add to cart" on each product
- you can add as many items to your cart as you like
- allows me to add shipping costs for one piece and then for additional pieces
- weird format for links -they're all tiny over on the right side
- i was able to embed an email list sign up form, but you have to follow a tiny link on the right side to get there
Other People's Pixels   <----- this would change to the above address if I chose to go with this host (this is a free trial)
- no product views on home page, just 1 image of my choice
- when you open a product view (from the nav bar) you only get one image per product
- product description is still a narrow column, but not as narrow; uses a scroll bar on the screen rather than scrolls the whole screen down, so you see the image the whole time
- not so clear on how to "add to cart" (by clicking on the different color price link)
- you can only buy one item at a time
- does not allow me to add  shipping costs, I would have to send the customer a revised paypal invoice
- good nav bar at top of page, clear on what is where
- i was not able to embed an email sign up form, but i was able to add links to do so on both the home page and the contact page

As I had spent hours and hours immersed in website business, I felt like I had lost a little bit of my objectivity, so I asked a few friends with some marketing savvy their opinions from both a marketing standpoint and a customer's viewpoint. All but one said they preferred the Big Cartel site.  Pretty much, I knew BC was the way to go after reviewing my list, but it's always nice to have some feedback.  If this was just a place to display the work, I would probably stick with OPP, but as this is a business and the focus is driving sales, we're going with Big Cartel.  One of my friends even said that from a customer standpoint, everything was clear on the BC site, but he would probably get frustrated and leave the OPP site and buy his tag elsewhere.  Not what you want.  That was just the kind of feedback I needed - thanks, Paul. 

So I have a lot to learn about CSS code, but I would rather have to work more on my end than lose sales because the site is not user-friendly to buyers.  It might not look quite as pretty right now, but the more I can learn about CSS, the more I'll be able to customize it and make it awesome!

I would love to hear your opinion, too!  Check out both sites -

Big Cartel :
Other People's Pixels :

Let me know what you like and what you don't - the more you comment, the more information is out there and can help other people trying to figure out what to do with their websites.
I found another article comparing Big Cartel with Etsy and Storenvy.  I've never used Storenvy, but it might be worth checking out, too - since it's free!

Who do you use to host your site?  Is your focus on sales or display?  Are you happy with your website?

Check back soon for more updates!  Thanks for reading!

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