This quote is the perfect one for me today.
This weekend will be a tournament for the traveling baseball team that my son Rocket plays on, the Plover 14 Nationals. Not that every game isn't important to try your best and to hopefully succeed at, but this is our final tournament...capping a record season of 21-0 and 1st place in all five of the previous tournaments this summer... and this is our home tournament. There is a lot riding on this weekend. (To put it in perspective, last year, this team, albeit with a little different blend of talent, finished the season with a record of 26-1 having taking second at only one tournament. The tournament that we won two weeks ago.) This is a talented group of young men. But they are 14 and that has me worried. I just hope that the last two weeks off hasn't softened them or made them complacent.
Also, this week, I have had a longtime goal hit me square on... to cancel my website.
I built my current website myself after spending a lot of money to watch other people do it not so well. I sunk a lot of cash when I was just starting out. And then there was the time when I had just transferred to a new company for the web development and the next day they fired my rep and shut their doors... right after they cashed my check for $500+ as a downpayment for the site. Luckily for me, my brother-in-law is a patent attorney with one of the country's largest firms and his little phone call got me all my money and files back right away. That left me with a bitter taste in my mouth for working with someone else to design my own site, and a lot wiser as to what to ask and look for in service providers.
I really just wanted a landing place to call my own, a sort of online calling card of what I do with the ability to manage it myself (I hated having to get someone else involved to fix one little line of text when I knew that I could do it). I preached weekly to the BNI chapter I was the educational coordinator of (Business Networking International) that to be taken seriously in business today you needed to have a website to make your presence known. Yet I didn't have a fully functioning one of my own. Ultimately, I chose the company Wix.com (in 2009) because I liked the fancy Flash components and I wanted to be able to moderate it all myself. And there wasn't that much out there as there is today.
But the last time I updated this website was in the fall of 2010. Gah! I cannot believe that it has been that long! So I have known for some time that something had to change.... and nothing like a deadline with money on the line that gets you motivated ;-)
I had been hearing from people that they couldn't see my website due to the Flash component, especially if they are using any Apple products (curse you Apple!). Heck, I can't even access it at my work because of that! And with the increase in mobile devices, it makes sense to have something that can translate to that arena. While I will still own the domain name (actually, I own two... www.treasuresfoundjewelry.com will redirect to www.tesoritrovati.com) I knew that I needed a different solution.
Here are the things that I want from a website:
- To have a live feed to my blog so that no matter where someone goes they can join in the conversation.
- To have a gallery of my past works, my exhibit works and my custom orders.
- To have an artist statement/resume of sorts to direct people to my credentials.
- To have the ability to link to my Etsy shop where my Simple Truths components will continue to reside.
- To have a shop dedicated to my jewelry sold from my own website.
- To have the ability to set up forms on my site for contacting and signing up for Challenges, etc.
- To have my website and all my online activities housed under one domain.
A few weeks ago I started looking around for some solutions that could help me. It is a bit overwhelming to say the least. I found a handy reference that reviewed dozens of different website creators and that was helpful to point out things to me that I wouldn't have found on my own...but also a bit overwhelming. They actually reviewed Wix.com as their top pick, but I beg to differ. As a result of reading these very thorough reviews, I heavily browsed a number of them: Volusion.com, IMCreator.com, Moonfruit.com, Weebly.com, BigCommerce.com, Shopify.com, IndieMade.com and Squarespace.com.
I set up some free trials on some...
I liked the look of IMCreator.com but I found that it was a bit quirky. I kept adding a picture but then after it saved it always reverted back to the default template picture. If a free trial cannot work like the full version it is very frustrating.
BigCommerce.com is just that. BIG. I found it to be too much. Yes, they have a lot of great bells and whistles, but it was too confusing.
I like Shopify.com and kept coming back to it, but the cost was more than I was willing to spend at 3x what I was going to spend elsewhere, and I didn't like that they take a % from the sale.
An oddball in the bunch, Moonfruit.com is a UK based firm. While I liked their style and it looked like a great solution, ultimately it is a UK company. The time zones between here and there would be prohibitive if I had a problem.
My main concern is that this is not just a storefront. It has to be my entire brand online.
I set up free trials with both IndieMade.com and Squarespace.com. I laid out some pages I would like to have and chose a template in each that I could modify. I didn't have a lot of time to play with banners and such, but at least it gave me a view into what it might look like and how it might function for me. I actually taught myself how to do things like adding in an Etsy mini, using Feedburner for putting my blog posts embedded in each site, and I am working on a utility that will allow me to have slider based jQuery slideshows for my gallery (just know that it is not Flash based so that it will be more easily accessible by the masses - as if there are masses coming to view my website!).
IndieMade has a very clean look, and I have already contacted someone I trust to help me build a cool banner for the site. I like that the ecommerce is already integrated into it. The dashboard is easy to navigate. Simple is sometimes a good thing!
Squarespace is a bit more robust, but some of the dashboard is a bit harder to follow, I thought. I spent a good deal of time choosing colors and a special fancy font that I love for the header that looks like a handwriting script. But when I look at this at my office, it translates to an ugly serif font like Times. Ugh. (This is what it should look like: http://puu.sh/LAby) There is no way around that. Apparently, things like that just won't translate to everyone. That answer makes me mad. But I like the color choices and the way I was able to manipulate the template. They have a way to import ALL my blog posts from Blogger into their system... but what if I leave? And then I have to use their system to blog. Will I lose followers? And I like that I use Blogger as that is the same place I upload to ArtBeadScene.com and Earrings Everyday. But I was able to import the feedburner, so hopefully that works. They have no built in shopping system, but they did point me in the direction of Ecwid.com and as I am reading up on that I like it more and more! I will see how challenging that add-on is over the next few days. Squarespace also just started offering v6 (I am currently using v5). The products are complete different. So I might try a free trial on the v6 just to see if I like it better.
A key issue for me is how good the support is. As a test, I asked a lot of questions of both of them and they were right there emailing me back the answers, so I feel confident that they will be responsive if I have any problems.
One of my biggest wishes is that they would be able to host my domain name and give me my own email address (I know that it appears that I have that now, with the firstname.lastname@example.org email, but I hate their user interface at my hosting company and insist that they route that to the original email@example.com email... which explains why I have two emails if you have ever received one from me!). If either one would do that (and I am okay with the charges associated with that) then I would be dropping my hosting company as well. Neither one of these will do that exactly. So I will still be paying my domain hosting service for that. The costs are comparable though to what I was paying with Wix.com: IndieMade.com will be $11.95/mo and Squarespace.com is either $8/mo or $16/mo.
I will eventually transfer over my domain name to one of these two. But I would love some feedback from you on what you are seeing so far. Keep in mind that both of these are rough and not everything is populated with content. I am feeling my way around blind (and usually in the wee hours of the night ;-), but I think you can get the drift of what I am trying to accomplish. When I settle on a new solution, I will be moving rather quickly to establish it. Like in the next 5 days. My service with Wix.com will be canceled as soon as tomorrow (you can still view it until then). I do not want to be charged for another year that I allow it to remain dormant.
Here are the two trial websites to take a peek at...
Your help will get me to keep moving forward... and hopefully stealing second on my way to scoring a run!