I’m no stranger to adding content to the back end of a website, and I consider myself fairly technically astute in this effort. When I launched my first start up years ago, the outsourced web team I hired handed over content management to me on Dreamweaver. At that time, my only connection to Dreamweaver was a song from the 70’s! I had no idea what I was getting into (sometimes it’s better not to know.) Now, with all the new widgets and plug-ins, I was more optimistic about launching our site in this new age where content and design were said to be so much easier.
Before I share our pain points, I will say that the best decision we’ve made was to invest time and money into our website. It has paid off in spades, especially since we’re an online business, no physical store front. The first place our customers and artists look is here, on our site, to see how “real” we are. And the results have been solid!
If you’re struggling with decisions around a new business website, here are four points to consider:
First, the question you have to ask yourself, even if you can figure out the technical piece, is how long will it take you and where else should you be applying your true talents – assuming you’re not a coder? For us, I choose to contact a former colleague and have him lead the effort to integrate the technical elements, such as Stripe and Mailchimp, with our website platform, Squarespace. I only have so much patience for the technical details, and then I’m done. Although I was actively involved, he researched and helped implement all of the technical elements – from financial processes to product pages. This allowed us internally to work on gift box designs, identify artists, plan content, marketing outreach. Remember, once the site is up, you have to be consistently adding content, this is just the beginning. When this stage was completed, the content management was handed back over to me to fully manage.
Next, let me just say that the idea of “plug-ins” is quite the misnomer. Don’t buy into that myth if web content isn’t a world you’ve lived in before. For example, Mailchimp is more complicated than it might first appear. It always seemed like the marketing pop-ups that started on Squarespace administrative pages, somehow mysteriously ended up over in Mailchimp for editing. It was a game of hide-and-go-seek for a while. And newsletters are a whole other topic.
As user friendly as Squarespace is, product pages have several parts to them in terms of details, pricing, forms. Figuring out the content for each takes thoughtful persistence (the nicest way I can say it). I lost track of the number of calls I had with our very patient tech guy, when I blurted out, “my brain is full!” I just couldn’t absorb anymore information that evening. Knowing your limits is important. And because we had allowed enough planning time, I really did hang up the phone and try again another day.
It is true that the financial processes, including customer orders and transferring funds, is much easier and less expensive than the old days of renting machines and uploading daily sales (am I dating myself here?). That said, you still need to understand how invoicing, third party apps like PayPal, Square, and an online payment system (Stripe, for us) all connect into your bank account. It’s not rocket science; however, it takes time to figure it out.
You see the trend I hope, that "time" is mentioned in multiple places here. My best advice is to allow at least a month of consistent planning around how the site will work: What are the main navigation headers? Where do they link? What’s the flow of the site? What content will be where? Then allow 3+ months to roll up your sleeves, get the pages up and running, content added and tested, (prior to going live) - and then another month to find and fix bugs, post launch. Yes, this is in addition to all the other tasks on your plate. (I talk about other pre-launch challenges here. And specifically about prep for photo shoots here.) Persist, friend, and give your website priority attention! In the end, it will be an incredibly valuable tool when customers come calling.