Are you taking your crafting from hobby to business? Building a professional website is a big part of that process. But as someone who's focussed on crafting, how do you find the time and know-how to get your new website up and running? It's easier than you might think. Here are some starting points to consider as you get your new craft business online.
What's It For?
They say that form follows function, so before you start creating your website, you'll need to think about what you plan to use it for. Is it primarily a blog? A place to host video tutorials? These will look very different from a website that serves primarily as your online shop. Of course, a website can have more than one feature, but understanding where you want website visitors to go and what content is most important will help you plan your design and user experience.
Go Pro, or DIY?
Today, there are more options than ever for building your own website. Most of these don't require a lot of technical savvy, offering drag-and-drop building functions that make it easy to create a site that works for you. These sites do have limitations, however. You may or may not have complete control over the look and feel of the site, and ecommerce can be tricky, with steeper fees than working directly with an ecommerce processing company. The alternative is to work with a web developer and designer. This gives you the freedom to create your site to suit whatever you can imagine, but the overall costs will likely be higher. Weigh the pros and cons of each option to see what's best for you.
Plan for Ecommerce
Whether you plan to open your online shop right away, or add one later on, customers will expect to be able to make purchases through your website. That means in addition to deciding where your "Shop Now" tab is located, you'll also need to consider other aspects of ecommerce. Will it be integrated with your existing site, or outsourced to another platform like Etsy? What kinds of fees are associated with your chosen platform?
Another thing to consider about ecommerce, especially if you're integrating it into your own site, is security. If you want customers to be able to shop on your site with confidence, it's a good idea to get an experienced company to oversee all the security measures for your site. The last thing you want is customer data in the wrong hands due to a security gap!
Though we might spend a lot of time reading on the internet, a picture is still worth a thousand words, and video might be even better. Think about how your website looks. Does it match your brand? Is it clear and easy to navigate? Do your posts include fantastic photos that are just as high quality as your product images? From colors to fonts to button shape and color, all of it has an impact on where your customers look and click as they navigate through your site. Take the time to consider all the visual aspects of your site to make it a cohesive experience.
Test, Test, Test
Do you get more clicks if you put 'Shop Now' or just 'Shop' in a link? Does your call to action button gain more attention if it's blue or green? You can't know unless you test! Tests like these, called A/B tests, can be a huge benefit when you're trying to optimize your website. You can use outside companies to run tests by showing different visitors different versions of your website simultaneously, or track them yourself by making changes and comparing the results before and after.
Be Smart About SEO
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of making your content easy for search engines to identify and bring up for users looking for content like yours. You might be familiar with the concept if you've ever sold items on Etsy, where SEO also plays a big role. In previous years, the method of choice seemed to be to stuff as many search term keywords into your content as possible, but as search engines have gotten smarter, so has SEO. Now, your best bet for being found by search engines is to be as clear as possible. Write your content for your readers, using the language that makes sense for the conversation. The real magic happens in the background, in what's called the metadata.
Metadata is supplementary information your website provides to search engines and browsers. It includes everything from what a given page is about to which words constitute its title and which image should be the preview when your link is posted on Facebook! Meta tags are the short bits of code that give your site the information it needs to share. Meta tags aren't about hiding keywords so your website shows up in search more often. Rather, it's about making it abundantly clear exactly what a page is about, so it shows up in the rightsearches.
Optimize for Mobile
As of 2018, more than half of all website traffic worldwide was from a mobile device rather than a desktop computer. Even though you might be designing your site from your desktop, you should always be checking each and every page on a mobile device, or at the very least a mobile device simulator to make sure the look and feel is consistent. Most DIY websites offer mobile optimization features; make sure you take advantage of them!
Ask for Feedback
You might be surprised how helpful your own customers are when it comes to improving your web design. Don't be shy about asking what they enjoyed about your site and what they found tricky or cumbersome. You'll likely get some conflicting reports, but as you continue to gather information over time, you'll start to notice trends which can help you improve your overall design.
Have you already started up a website of your own? Got tips and tricks we ought to know? Share your story in the comments below!