Small Business Resources: Launching a Website

September 20, 2012

This month, I'm celebrating Happy Cactus Designs' one year anniversary. It's hard to believe it was just one year ago that I formally launched my small business! People often ask about the steps I took to get off the ground and running. Having quality products with appealing designs was at the top of my list, of course, but I also knew that I needed a website for my company. These days, it's next to impossible to have a company and not have a website. 

The first step I took was to purchase the domain for my website - The last thing you want is to spend a lot of time building up your company and deciding on a company name and then come to find that there isn't a related domain available. After securing the domain, I spent a lot of time researching my options when it came to creating a website and weighing the pros and cons of different platforms. I did not have the technical prowess to create my own site from scratch, so I was hoping to find an e-commerce provider that allowed for some customization and made my products the stars of the page. 

Many artists first launch their products on Etsy, an online marketplace for all things handmade and vintage. While Etsy is a great place for many, I ultimately opted not to launch Happy Cactus there for a few reasons. All of your products are listed on your own Etsy shop page, but it's not branded for your company, it's branded as Etsy. It was important for me to have a site that was fully branded as Happy Cactus Designs. Also, I found that Etsy is so oversaturated these days and felt that my products would get lost among thousands and thousands of other products.

Eventually, I chose Big Cartel, a site that caters to artists wanting to sell their products. It was simple, well-priced, and customizable. As my company grew and I decided I needed more functionality to my site, I switched to Shopify. Using a custom template, I was able to add different pages to my site, components that competitors didn't offer. I've been happy with the service so far and have found it really easy to create product listings, update this blog, etc. I've received many compliments about how easy it is to navigate my site and how cleanly everything is laid out. Down the road, I would love to have my own snazzy site with even more features!

When it comes to designing your site, think about what you want your visitors to do there. Do you want them to be able to buy your products? Do you want to share information about your services? Is it important for you to have a blog or a portfolio to showcase? This will help you pinpoint what platforms meet your needs. Then think about navigation. The biggest turn-off for a potential customer is having a site that's hard to figure out. Is it easy to list your products? Can you upload multiple product photos? Can customers easily find their shopping cart and check out without problems? Can they contact you if they have issues with shopping the site? Before you publicly launch your site, have friends and family members test out your site and make purchases. Get feedback from them and make changes accordingly. 

Next week, I'll be sharing the essential components you need for a successful website!

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