I have been getting a few questions recently about my online shop - how it's hosted, what I recommend, etc. - and so today I wanted to share some thoughts. I designed and coded my own website and shop from scratch. No templates. No systems. Just me, a very old version of Dreamweaver and the two HTML classes I took in college.
To be clear: my HTML knowledge is limited. I never really got the hang of frames (do people still use frames? Surely, they do, yes.). I don't understand flash (do people still use flash? Probably not as much since it doesn't work as well on mobile...). But I do know the gist of what holds HTML together and I have a good understanding of tables (which are the grids that I use to "set-up" all my pages.
So I know enough to build a site that accomplishes what I need it to do. I actually LIKE that I am limited in my abilities to code a website because instead of saying "the sky is the limit, do whatever you want" to myself I say "this is what you can do, so figure it out within these parameters" to myself. And I have found that the limits of the latter make things so much easier (and faster).
I use Typepad as a blog host (that is what you're reading now). And totally separate from that, I purchased a domain (elisejoy.com) and hosting (which allows me to actually put pages and images on my domain). I use Dreamweaver to design and code each page you see at elisejoy.com. My site is really VERY simple. (If you are a professional web-designer I imagine you think its PAINFULLY simple.) It's a home page (shown above) of 5 photo buttons and then some text links. I use it as a business landing page, a shop site and more recently to hold the episode guide and shownotes for the podcast.
Most of the pages are super simple. A block of photos and then a paragraph of text with relevant links.
The MAKE29 page is a bit more interesting because I broke the format to create two columns of text, photos and the video trailer.
And the MAKE29 shop page (to me) looks exciting, but even that is just a grid of 12 photos that rollover as the year goes on. Each product page follows the same format - two columns of text and photos. I use e.junkie as my actual shopping cart system (which means those "buy now" and "view cart" buttons are created for me and among other things, inventory is tracked and addresses are collected).
Every single decision on my website was decided by answering two questions:
- what do I know how to do?
- what will look good?
I'm not interested in anything that looks good that I can't figure out how to make happen. And obviously I don't want anything that I can do that will not look good.
I share ALL of this to tell you one thing...the site is just the window display. It matters yes, but what matters MOST is making your awesome product available for your customers in a system that functions well. As an online shopper, I am not really concerned if a product is sold through Etsy or BigCartel or Shopify or a blog (I did that for awhile!) or Instagram or just a PayPal buy-now button.
What I am concerned about is that the product is exciting, that my payment is processed correctly and that the item arrives in good shape and looks like the image I saw online. There are SO MANY really great shopping cart systems that exist now - many of them that can give you the super minimal look that I was trying to find years ago when I decided to build my own shop pages.
Don't let the "where to sell" be your hang up. I recommend making a list of what you're looking for (ability to list 100 products, many different photo angles, various shipping options, functional search bar, minimal or flat-rate fees, sense of community) and then suggest doing some research into what is available that fits most of your needs. You don't have you use Etsy because that's what everyone used to do. You don't have to use Shopify because that's what everyone seems to be doing now. But one of those might be ideal for your sort of shop and your budget.
I'd love to answer any questions you have in the comments and please note, this post is NOT sponsored by or affilated with anyone (except for MAKE29, but let's be real: the whole blog - and my family - is sponsored by MAKE29).