Hello everyone.....Today's Post is a little off topic to my usual bag related one but its one which I felt I wanted to share with you!
*Please note the post does include affiliate links and this will be noted so you know before you click if you would like to choose not to support LOL.....BUT rest assured affiliate links are only for products and services which I personally have used and liked. Where I have NOT been impressed, you won't find a link, just a mention! LOL
Since migrating my website I have had so many people emailing me to 'pick my brain' with WHY I moved website and what platform I am using NOW to sell my patterns and where do I have my website hosted etc. So I thought I would share some info here for those of you who may be interested. The info will apply whether you are selling PDF's or perhaps your handcrafted bags or other craft goodies. Please note I could write a book on this topic and my process and all the details of what I have done BUT I will try and keep it reasonably short and sweet for you, covering just the basics rather than all the if, buts, maybes and how to's! LOL
Just a little background.
I made my first website in 1999 for my artist teddy bears. It was using a very basic WYSIWYG website editor. I progressed onto making websites using Dreamweaver (NOT an easy learning curve!) and also dabbled in making websites for other creatives for a while. I also tried a couple of other WYSIWYG editors because well really they were a lot easier to use than Dreamweaver and it was possible to make quite lovely looking websites MUCH easier then with Dreamweaver.
Later I gave up making websites for others so I would have more time to focus on designing my bag patterns......Anyway, I have been hanging around the internet for a long time now....I have tried many different platforms and have sold both digital and tangible items. I've also sold my patterns on other platforms such as Etsy and Craftsy, which is now Bluprint (and at the time of writing, I am NOT impressed with it) and a few other lesser known places I have tried that I no longer bother with due to the qty of sales not equalling the time or money invested.
WHY did I leave?
Well to be honest many people are thinking I left because I didn't like Shopify but that's far from the truth. Its actually a great platform, especially if you are new to making websites. Its super easy to use and you don't have to worry much about technical stuff unless you want to delve into adding more features and expanding beyond the basics and so on. The downside is the fees can really add up, especially when you have to add apps to do some of the things you may have in mind for your website, since the apps have a monthly fee which add up quickly making the seemingly reasonably cheap website platform not so cheap at all!
For me I needed several apps. Since I was selling digital downloads, I needed an App for the digital delivery. I chose SendOwl. I was very happy with their service and the fact that it also offered stamping of my PDF's which I felt may help cut down some of the inevitable file sharing that goes on in the digital world when people just don't understand that in doing that it is stealing. (Well some people do understand that BUT still do it anyway because they just don't care BUT that's a whole other story! LOL) Having their name and email address plastered onto the PDF leaves little doubt as to whom initiated the sharing should one ever decide to take on a legal pursuit.....but that aside, people just don't want to have their name and email address shared around on files so it is a great deterrent! Anyway, Sendowl was costing me $24 a month. Note this does vary depending on how many products you are selling.
I used an app called Carrytheone to sync my sales with my accounting package. This also worked well and overall I was happy with its service BUT that was another $32 a month and setup was a bit complicated. I had an accountant do it for me.
Since I was also selling video courses, I needed a way to protect the videos from sharing as well, so I used another app to password protect the page on which I was streaming the video, with a passcode. I used Locksmith. Another $9 per month. While Locksmith worked the way it was intended the whole way of video delivery was cumbersome and I spent a good deal of time sorting people's access problems because they couldn't find the passcode or because of a technical hitch which caused the code not to work!
So I left partly due to the fees I was paying, both for the apps and the Shopify subscription and transaction fees. You can reduce their transaction fees if you use their payment processor so do check that out and take it into consideration if you are thinking of going with them. BUT that's not the only reason I left. In fact the main reason I left was because Shopify currently at the time of my writing this, did not offer a good way of delivering videos. IMHO! I wanted something better because I am planing do do a lot more things with video. Its the direction I am taking so I needed to find something better.
Its a LONG story to get where I am now LOL so I won't bore you with the details but suffice to say I didn't intend on having to use two platforms to make up my website. It just evolved that way due to lack of certain features (Shopping cart related) in the video delivery platform I am using, yet I still wanted to use it because of the video delivery features themselves, so I needed to combine that with a website with separate shopping cart. I 'could' have simply retained Shopify and integrated the new platform to my website in the same way I have now BUT then I would have retained the Shopify fees. Given that the new video delivery platform is expensive on its own....even more than the total I was paying for Shopify with all the extra app fees, I needed to look at other options.
After MUCH research and umming and ahhhing I decided to go with Wordpress + Woocommerce. These are technically Opensource and hence do not have fees BUT do bear in mind that sometimes you may want to add more functionality to your website which may require you to purchase a plugin. Usually that is a one off fee....or a yearly fee if you want tech support and upgrades to be ongoing......which you usually do!
Having said that....
There are some websites around that offer you a membership to access all of the well known plugins, with updates, for a one off fee. These websites claim to be 100% legit and to be honest they sound as though they are and all the ones I've come across appear to make a similar claim to this "All WordPress items such as plugins and themes are licensed under the General Public Licence (GPL). This means that once we have purchased the item we are free to redistribute it if we choose to do so. Your membership to our site goes towards maintaining and buying the subscriptions to 3rd party theme and plugin authors. This form of crowd funding helps keep prices low and we can then pass this benefit on to you." However my legal knowledge is minimal and whether or not you choose to use one of these services is something you may or may not wish to seek legal advice on.
Do I like Wordpress + Woocommerce
Yes, I am very happy with it so far. I like that it has virtually NO limits. If you have something in mind that you would like to do, you can usually find a plugin to expand your site to do it AND a lot of the plugins are free too. You CAN sell/deliver digital downloads with Woocommerce BUT I currently have mine delivering on the same platform as my videos because I want the ability to add extras such as little videos, pattern hacks or helpful tips to the sale of my PDF's and this makes it easy to do so! Admittedly I am still tweaking the system to make it easier for users to use the new platform! Patience please! I'll get there! LOL
Now when you have a Wordpress website you do need hosting so bear in mind this is an additional cost. Now here I would like to mention there IS a HUGE difference between Wordpress.com and Wordpress.org so please don't confuse the two and do your research to make sure you know the differences so you get the right one for YOU! I found a good website which compares the differences is wpbeginner.com and you can find their comparison HERE.
I personally opted for setting up a Self Hosted website (Wordpress.org) because of all the freedom and control I have with a self hosted Wordpress website. Originally I chose to use GoDaddy for my hosting because it is currently housing my Domain names however during setup I had a number of technical hitches which led me to find out GoDaddy's tech support is BOTTOM of the barrel! And I mean if you think you will ever need tech support....and most of us semi website gurus do....FORGET GoDaddy! GAH!
Back to the Drawing Board
A whole lot more research later I landed on Siteground (all references to Siteground contain an affiliate link) and this is where I currently have my website hosted. MAN I cannot say enough about this hosting! Their tech support is the BEST I have EVER come across in all my years of being online and running websites etc...I've tried a number of different hosting companies over the years and NEVER have I seen tech support as good as theirs! Trust me in that I don't say that lightly!!!
I purchased their middle "GrowBig" plan (and was able to pay in my home currency) and was able to secure a really great discount by paying for it several years in advance. You can of course, pay monthly if you wish but then the fees will be higher. If you know you will be sticking around for the long term, its worth thinking about paying for a longer term. Also the middle plan came with free website migration as well as automatic daily backups and SSL included. I liked the idea of having all of these! I had already completed most of my setup by this time and it was just soooo easy to let them move it over for me! I'm lazy! LOL I paid another A$24 to have their SiteScanner for a year which scans for Malware and offers another level of protection for the website.
This is my shameless plug affiliate link banner if you want to check them out!
Now you will also need a domain name for a Wordpress.org website and maybe you have that already? If not, I recommend getting one with whichever host you choose to use. It just makes setting up a lot easier if they are also supplying you with the domain name. Mind you, Sitegrounds tech support is so good, they will help you get any current domain name you have, pointing in the right direction!
You can use a free one....and there are a number of free ones around however as with anything free, you will find they are more basic and devoid of a lot of features BUT for a first website, it may not be a bad place to start with and have a play. I personally looked around for a paid one. I looked on Etsy because my thoughts were Etsy is aimed at the creative industry so it would be a good place to find a theme suitable for my needs. I wanted something that not only looks great BUT is responsive (Meaning its display adjusts to suit whatever device it is being viewed on such as a computer or a phone.) as well as being laid out in a look and feel suitable for what I am selling.
I opted for 17th Avenue Designs because her designs appealed to me (If you choose one of hers, please pick a different one than me! LOL) BUT I ended up buying directly from her website rather than off Etsy. I like to do that where possible because I know sellers get slugged a lot with fees on Etsy. Am I happy? Yes I LOVE the theme. She has a lot of support on her website for helping with setup. I did find personal support was a bit lacking though to be honest. Mind you, Etsy feedback was quite good in that department so perhaps I was just catching her at a bad time.
With Wordpress, many people use the platform for their blogs so themes are often only for a Blog OR may include templates for both a blog layout and a website layout AND also be WooCommerce compatible. However some don't have everything included so if you want your website to look different to your blog in layout and you want to add WooCommerce, then make sure your theme includes all the options you need. In case you are wondering here, I use Typepad for my blog but I can say if I could choose over I would go with Wordpress for my blog too. ONE day when I have time I will look at moving my blog BUT I haven't got time for that right now so I have it setup to blend in as best I can for now.
What don't I like about Wordpress + Woocommerce?
Well there is not much I don't like except that you do need to login to your control panel and update plugins on a regular basis but for me I don't feel very bothered by that. I like to feel in control of my websites. Shopify is really more set and forget in this department. Wordpress + Woocommerce is IMHO more suited to someone with some website experience or at least someone who is not fearful of diving in and learning. There are Facebook groups dedicated to Wordpress and I found if I didn't know how to do something, a quick session on google and bob is your uncle LOL!
My Aussie Website
For my Aussie Website I am using Wordpress + Ecwid. I had my Aussie website with Wix BUT that wasn't cheap so I decided to move and make my two websites with Wordpress using the same theme BUT with different colours, so they pair together somewhat.
The reason I stayed with Ecwid for my shopping cart is one of laziness (Lack of time) to move and setup all my products and shipping on Woocommerce. for now I will just stay with it as I have it.....if by some small miracle I find time to spare, I will setup WooCommerce too and save the monthly Ecwid fee. Mind you, having said that, Ecwid is easy to use and easy to embed in any existing website so if you already have a website and just want to add a shopping cart, it may be worth your while to check it out!
What should you choose? Bear in mind when making the decision that Shopify is MUCH easier to use if you are not web savvy. Wordpress + WooCommerce is a learning curve BUT if you aren't frightened of the technical site of things, it may be your cheapest and most expandable option.
Well I hope this has given you a little insight into the wonderful world of websites and how I do it. I would be interested to hear if you enjoyed this post or if you would like me to talk about website related things more often? Let me know in the comments below if that is the case and what it is that YOU would like to know more about!
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