26 July 2012

Scoring a Home Run with a New Website





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.
 Not much to ask, right?

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 enjoytheday@tesoritrovati.com email, but I hate their user interface at my hosting company and insist that they route that to the original simplybeadiful@inbox.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!

17 comments:

Sandra said...

The indiemade site looks great. I wasn't able to get into the squarespace. "Safari can't find the server" Could just be my computer : (

Lori Bowring Michaud said...

Erin, you need to remo9ve the %20 at the end of the squarespace link. I was able to access it after doing that.

I liked both, they both seemed to load quickly. If your heart is set on the font with SquareSpace and you can figure out the shopping cart feature with Ecwid, then I'd go with that. You shouldn't settle. Regarding what folks see depending upon which platform they're using (Mac or PC) are you sure that's what it is and not the browser? The reason I ask this, and I'm not a tekkie, is because I created a blog for the certification committee for the school district I work for. It looks different in IE than it looks in Mozilla Firefox (better in Firefox). I haven't tried Safari.

I use a PC both at home and work. I've tried my daughter's Mac and it drives me nuts even though she says I'd ultimately like it better.

Thank you for sharing all of your research. It's a step I'm hoping to take in the next year.

Rebecca said...

I hands down prefer indiemade. I think the layout is more sophisticated, the other looks to me very similar to just another blog, whereas the indiemade one looked cool, artistic (in a good and unfussy way). I like the white background - makes me look at the jewellery, not the website. But I'd also say to follow your gut - whichever one is the one you are drawn to more....

Good luck to Rocket, but whatever the outcome, I know they will play their best. WInning doesn't matter, it's giving your all and they clearly have proved that they can do that! Like mother, like son ;-)

Alice said...

I looked at both and think either would be good as far as aesthetics. I can't help you as far as the technical stuff since I'm technically challenged. I love the idea of having everything all in one place, and easy to see tabs at the top. As a customer I think less is more when it comes to websites. I clear out real fast when I see lots of 'stuff' that has no real value, with little to no 'white space' to let the eye and brain rest. I know you will come up with an amazing design and I can't wait to see the end result--whatever that may be.

Boot ~C said...

I have no knowledge of tech stuff, but I like the Infdimade the best. Pictures didn't load on the other site.(I like your key on the Indiemade site too)

sandi m said...

Hi Erin,
I have a Toshiba laptop and use Bing. Both sites loaded quickly; each tab with copy and photos loaded quickly.
My vote is the indiemade site. Visually I like the cleaner white background where your pieces just "pop"; the fonts are crisper/cleaner for reading (vs Times Roman with the serifs); font size is perfect; black is richer vs brown. As someone said above, it just looks sophisticated/classy.
(I was at a site yesterday that was soooo full of border images/clutter that I could barely read the blog post or where to click; she lost a potential customer.)
I assume your banner will have the right mix of color. Hope this helps. Thanks for sharing all your research - someday I'l need it!
Good luck to the Team this weekend!

SummersStudio said...

Oh, dear, this is just what I am going through at the moment with getting a website up and going. I totally agree that you need to have your own 'address'. I seem to be a dissenter in that I really like the looks and and navigation of the square space page. But I actually like both of them. I looked into square space and it would work for me but not as an ecommerce site given the number of products I have. As a redirect to Etsy it would be fine. I've never delved into IndieMade that much. So good luck with all of this and I'd love to hear more about your progress/development of you website.

Patti Van said...

While both sites are beautiful, I prefer the cleanness of the indiesite...it also loads just a touch faster, too. Best of luck in your choice! Oh, and best of luck to your son, too!!

carolyn said...

I couldn't see any of the photos for the second link. I use a PC.

Anonymous said...

Erin:

First of all, best of luck to the team this weekend

Melinda Abrahamson said...

I really liked the squarespace site. The other was a little too generic for me.

Cece Cormier said...

I liked the look of the indie made site. Both sites loaded quick on my iPad. And both worked.

Sally Anderson said...

I use and love all Apple products so that's what I'm writing from. When I went to the Indiemade site, there was no header (i.e., no title on the page). It could have been abc.com for all I could see. The other one is really pretty and looks great. Both that second link and the one that you cited as a bad example were exactly the same.
This sounds like such a pain in the neck job that I'm glad I only have a blog! Good luck!

Rosalynn said...

Erin, I would love to be in your predicament and know enough to solve the problem. The squarespace just looks like your website already. I checked out both sites on my Mac and I also see no header on the indiemade site from my computer. I like the consistency of your brand from website to etsy shop to blog and I think that that consistency is important.

Lynda said...

I liked the clean look of the indiemade site, but really loved the colors and layout of squarespace! Only problem with that one was no photo on the home page showed up. Closed it, reopened, refreshed...still no photo there. My computer or the site?? Don't know.

Best wishes on your hunt and thanks for sharing your research with the rest of us on this confusing, complex issue.

Francesca said...

I'm curious to know why you haven't considered a self-hosted Wordpress site? ThemeForest has dozens of really lovely themes for under $50, all of which are highly customizable. If you can use Photoshop, you can create your own banner to upload - and a self-hosted site gives you your own email. It's a much less expensive solution than these others your considering, I think.

Best wishes in making a decision!

Francesca

Shaiha said...

I really prefer the squarespace site. The graphics are better on my end and the entire site seems to flow better.

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