Occasionally I get asked about my website and blog. What do you use? How did you set it up? Today I will answer those questions.
First, I must let you know that in a previous life, I was a computer programmer. Anyone remember COBOL? Ha! While I am not an expert, I have kept up with technology some and consider myself to be a bit of a techno-geek. I recently spent a whole day setting up and exploring my new Samsung Galaxy S4 phone. I know just enough to be dangerous. These days, I do spend more time with my glass work and look for simpler ways to get things done on my website.
In The Beginning
Originally, I used a program called CoffeeCup to set up my website. My Home page is still created using the CoffeeCup program. If you want full control of your website and you are a little tech savvy, this is a good program. To do this you will need a hosting provider and a domain name. What does all that mean? It means you pay a company about $70 a year for space on their computers to keep all of your stuff and get a website address (domain name) of your choosing – as long as no one else is using it. The hosting provider I use is ICDSoft. I researched hosting providers years ago. ICDSoft had a good track record and were reasonably priced. There are many providers out there. GoDaddy is a popular one that didn’t exist when I started. A little searching will help you find one that works for you. Once you pay for your space and domain name. You have to do some setup steps. After that, there is very little interaction with the hosting company, almost none really.
Along Came the Blog
Eventually, I started a blog. Blogs have come a long way. It is possible to create a whole website using a blog. If you are not tech saavy this is the way to go. WordPress comes in two flavors. WordPress.org and WordPress.com. The one you use depends on whether or not you are “self-hosted”. In a self-hosted blog you again need a hosting provider and domain name. But if you just want to set up a blog and have place to showcase your work, you can use WordPress.com which is free. It is a great way to get started. A Google search on “wordpress.com vs wordpress.org” will give you more information and details about the differences.
Doing it My Way
The book WordPress for Dummies was helpful for setting up my blog and understanding how WordPress works. There are a plethora of books out there on WordPress as well as YouTube videos. Once you register for a blog on WordPress you have to decide how you want it to look. The format or templates as we used to call them are called “themes” in WordPress. There are free ones and paid one. I used a free one for quite some time. Then I wanted a bit more control. I wanted to play with colors – no surprise there. I bought a theme builder called Headway. At the moment, I am not happy with this company. I won’t go into the details, but basically they promised an upgrade path that never materialized. For now, it does what I need and since I already paid for it, I will stick with it. If I was starting now, I’d check out two other theme builders: Theses and Genesis.
Selling my Work
A solution for creating an online shop was not as clear. Over the years I tried several methods. If you have just a few items, you want to sell you can use PayPal. I use that if I want to put a single item for sale in a sidebar of the blog. For an actual online shop, I use Ecwid. Ecwid stands for E-commerce Widget. Widgets are small snippets of code that you can put in your blog to do various things. For example, the box that shows my FaceBook fans is a widget. You can usually find the code for widgets on the websites. Just copy and paste it into a WordPress widget box and voila! It appears on you blog. With Ecwid you create a blog page where you drop the code and it sets up a shop for you. There is a paid and free version. I use the free version. You can’t customize very much, but for my purposes it works. I use PayPal to process payments.
When I am at shows I use a dongle on my cell phone to process credit card payments. The company that makes the dongle and provides the service is, SquareUp. They recently debuted their own market place where you can set up a shop. It still has a long way to go, but eventually this could be another option. The processing fees may be better than PayPal and there is no commission fee. Definitely something to keep an eye on.
The Bad News
One caveat on on-line shops – nobody sees them unless you drive traffic there. The online shop on my website is mostly for people I hand a business card to or friends. Occasionally I get a sale from someone who has found me through a search, but not often. Eventually, my online shop may become my shop for higher end pieces, keeping the less expensive pieces on Etsy.
Hope that answers some questions. I am not an expert in this area and there may be better ways to accomplish the same thing. But this is how I did it and what works for me. If you have any ideas or tips please share.