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Sunday, 17 July 2016

Building an E-Commerce Site

The last few months, I have really wanted to build my own e-commerce store, through which I can offer my designs and photography on print on demand home decor, clothing, and other select products. The reason for me wanting to branch out from just relying on sales through the print on demand sites themselves is basically 3 fold: I want to give my designed products and photo prints a better chance of being found through search engines, I can control the SEO and ranking of my own site, and I will not be hidden in the print on demand site's marketplace in place of other favoured shops many of which offer the typical, trendy designs.

It's been a rough go, with lots of "thought we had it" attempts in getting this store site actually born.

The biggest stopping block to the store idea was that I did not want to take the financial risk of paying hefty monthly fees for a store on Shopify, Big Cartel, nor any of the other  popular e-commerce platforms out there. The monthly fee to allow me to build the store I want, plus have the variations for products I need, as well as allow for Paypal integrated payments for customers was MINIMUM $29 up to $99 a month. No, just no, no canne do right now, that is far too financially speculative and akin to gambling, and that is in US$ too so $1.27 CDN to every US $1. Therefore, I had to find a way to do it less financially burdening wise.

Thanks bunches to my husband, I was able to procure a domain name for around $17 through his Host Papa (you need your own domain first). We are building my store from the ground up, all by ourselves, no monthly fees, and buyers go through Paypal, to make secure payments for products. I store no buyer data on my site at all. Through his research, he came upon Wordpress which can be used successfully to build a store. Originally, he had set up Woocommerce, but soon discovered there are issues here and there with it and that the Paypal integration side is complicated, more for a developer who is skilled. We ended up goign with Wordpress Simple Shopping Cart plugin in stead.

However, you need a Business Paypal account (fees are the same as a personal) that allows for a larger amount $ wise in selling transactions and has different legalities than a Personal Paypal account.

Shopp came next, and we go pretty far, but then he discovered something else that set up a permanent roadblock to that being successful, something about 2 Home pages that cannot be changed, one through Shopp and one through WP, if I even have that right.

One thing we did discover is the wonderful free plug ins and themes by Siteorigin. The guy who created them, he is terrific and so are his Youtube tutorials!

I have so much gratitude to my husband, who with his ability to understand CSS, html, and SEO, meta descriptions, etc., for making this shop even possible for me. I just could not ever learn this fast enough to be able to get it created and up in under 3 or more years, and on top of that, Looking professional and aesthetically pleasing, clean and organized! He has been a godsend!

It has been said, and read, by me, on many occasions and through many avenues, that it takes 15 Minutes to set up a store. Sadly, this is far from true. My store banner took me 4 times that amount of time alone. We have spent hours building and tweaking pages, me writing content, designing and building the pages as close to 100% compatible with device browsing ability as possible, him designing buttons and a shopping cart icon that we like, me researching what has to be on an e-commerce site legally, deciding on what products will be offered from my print on demand items, and the list goes on.

One wonderful tool that John was able to find was an SEO help plug in. It tells you exactly on each page where it is lacking in SEO compatible content and scores you when you correct it in a green yellow red button stop light bullet point list. It's awesome! I wish I could apply it to Every venue I work with on line! Yoast is a plugin designed for Wordpress, to help you with SEO friendly content on your site. It is recommended to read about it before working from it. Not every page has to be a perfect GREEN score (you'll understand this if you've used the plugin :-)

My store is still in the building stages, but the URL for it is below. Right now, I have it linking to Zazzle for products off the Home page, as no product pages, or very little, are available yet. My shipping has yet to be worked out, this is the most Challenging aspect for me since my product orders can conceivably be fulfilled from 3 different manufacturing partners.

Natural Design by Jocelyn

There are still some little issues with how certain things present on a mobile, which have to be corrected in the CSS code, but it can wait for a bit.

On top of that, getting the products in, and the category image icons done, is the biggest time consumption, and may talk a few months. However, purchases can be made!

UPDATE: Still working on this. Had to pull a couple products since the beginning, for different reasons, and am adding different ones.
It's tedious creating the listings, so this will probably be an ongoing project.
I have not really done any marketing of it at all.

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