Custom Site or Shopping Cart Platform? Confused non-techie!

14 replies
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I decided to to take things to the next level with my little business, which started out as a free blog, so I signed up for a zaxaa account and created an ebook. I had a squeeze page created for me by a guy I hired on elance. People sign up for a free ecourse through the squeeze page and at the end of the course they are offered the ebook. I sold twenty of them over a few months, not really doing much promotion.

Now I'd like to take the next step and create a website with more to offer. I would like to sell both physical and downloadable products as well as a physical subscription product. I know there is at least some interest based on comments on my blog as well as a couple of surveys I created.

My problem is that I'm confused as to which way to go about creating the website. I'm a non-techie with zero interest in learning the tech side of things. In the past I hired a guy from freelancer to create a squeeze page for me. I don't want to go the freelance route again.

I've thought about a shopping cart platform like 1shopping cart or any of the host of others out there, which might be a good option for now given that my business isn't earning much yet. But, at some point I am planning to have a company create a website for me which is specifically geared toward my market. I already know which company I want to use, they have stellar reviews and most of the websites they create are for my type of business. The problem is they are very expensive. Pricing starts at $5,000 and goes up from there. I could use them now, but what if my business doesn't take off as I hope it will?

I'm considering using a shopping cart platform for now (one that's easy to use and hassle free), and then when my business really gets going I'll invest in the better website. But, is this a good plan? Is it better to have the more attractive site now, that specifically targets my market?

I saw someone recently posted here regarding which shopping cart platform to use, and many suggested woothemes. I looked at that, but even that was too technical for me. I didn't even understand their homepage.

Any input or advice would be greatly appreciated. I need to get off the fence and do something!

Thanks so much!
#cart #confused #custom #custom website #nontechie #platform #shopping #shopping cart #site
  • Profile picture of the author serpyre
    For you, WooCommerce and a top sales theme from Themeforest (WP is business based) on WPEngine or Shopify (also business friendly). That's all there is to say really - you'll figure out the rest with those.
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  • Profile picture of the author AnthonyCapetola
    If you want eCommerce what are you selling? How many "products"? +1 for the WooCommerce mention as its a great way to turn a wordpress site into a selling machine.

    I could put you in touch with the dev team here if you wanted another comparison quote.
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  • Profile picture of the author Imamarketer2
    Thank you both for your replies.

    Serpyre: I looked at shopify but didn't see a theme there that would work for me. Also, it appears they use their own email software. I'm using aweber with my squeeze page. Another concern is being able to charge on a monthly basis for subscriptions. I didn't see any mention of that on shopify at all. I'm not sure what goes through shopify, and what goes through paypal or whatever gateway one chooses to use. I will take another look at woocommerce and themeforest. I purchased a theme from themeforest awhile back and did manage to get it up on wordpress.

    Anthony: I won't have alot of products on my site - probably not more than twenty or so at a time. I'm a coach and these are info products. As for the company I have chosen for my future site, they don't just design a website according to your specifications. They design a website for your market. They do all the research to find out what your market responds to, and they build the website for that market. They also do branding and they consider that when the website is created. It's a very detailed and intense process, and most of the sites they create are for coaches of one kind or another. I'm familiar with several of the coaches they have created sites for and they are doing very well. Of course, I know that just putting up a site and making it seo friendly isn't all there is to it. The coaches are either doing alot of marketing or having someone do it for them. But, when my business is bringing in some solid cash on a regular basis I plan to have that same company build a site for me. I'm just not sure I want to plunk down that much cash at this stage of my business.
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  • Profile picture of the author WhitneyPeoples
    Having a shopping cart platform is better than custom site. There is so much more we can do with shopping cart, technically and visually... The quality of service is very high. There is always someone there to help us and we never have to wait for someone to get back to us.
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  • Profile picture of the author AnthonyCapetola
    Physical products deserve an eComm solution whereas downloadable ebooks IMHO do not belong in your inventory.

    There are plenty of eComm platforms that are extremely affordable and you could just have a dev team tailor your site around the shopping cart solution.

    We have clients with between 1 and 3 products and they are on some of the big name platforms simply because of the high powered inventory management.

    Best Advice: Get the Site Up and Start Marketing/Advertising the product inventory
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  • I would recommend looking into Shopify. Shopify is very easy to set up and navigate, but is still customizable with great themes to chose it's perfect for non-techies. I work for a multichannel inventory management tool, and we integrate with Shopify. From what we've heard, our customers really like them. Definitely worth a look.

    Good luck!

    Tiana with ecomdash
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    • Profile picture of the author Imamarketer2
      Thank you everyone for your replies. I really appreciate your insight.

      Tiana: I did look into shopify. It appears they don't allow recurring billing for subscriptions, which would be a problem for me.

      Anthony: You're right! I need to get this thing done. In my heart of hearts I want to go the custom route with the company I've chosen, but I'm just not sure it's a wise business move financially. I'm considering contacting the company and talking with them about my concerns. I'm also considering staying with zaxaa for now. It's got all the functions of the other shopping cart platforms I've seen. The only difference is I can't customize the look of it. But, maybe I will stick with it until I get a few more products, and then switch.

      I guess part of my problem is that I want to create a good impression, and I feel a nicer site would help me do that. It would also be nice to have everything in one location. Right now my blog is a free blog, my product is on zaxaa and my squeeze page is on in another location.

      So much to think about! And not having any real technical knowledge doesn't help.

      Thank you for your input! I am considering every suggestion.
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      • Profile picture of the author serpyre
        Originally Posted by Imamarketer2 View Post

        So much to think about! And not having any real technical knowledge doesn't help.
        And therein lies your problem - you can have a read of this but in the end is makes no difference so need to follow linear progression - how lovely they deleted the thread -
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  • Profile picture of the author Action Man
    Magneto is open source unless you buy enterprise edition

    I think this is one of the best carts on the internet, if you go with Hostgator you have a one click install

    Have a try, see the reviews, this is the big boy

    Ecommerce Software & Ecommerce Platform Solutions | Magento



    "Love conquers all things except poverty and toothache" (Mae West)

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  • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
    Woocommerce would do the physical, digital and subscription products all from the same site with no problem. If that is too technical for you, then the other platforms most certainly will be. Hire someone to add the products to woocommerce. You already have a blog, so it's already Woocommerce ready. In addition, you pay for the extensions you want and the theme you want and that's it. No monthly fees, so there's less financial risk when you want to try a store out.
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    • Profile picture of the author Imamarketer2
      Serpyre: I will look at the link. Thank you! I think my biggest problem is not knowing the difference or whether there is any between the hosted sites and the ones you host yourself. It seems to me that they all have the same basic functions, some have the added function of recurring billing, and hosted sites have the monthly fees attached whereas with a site you host via hostgator, you only have those fees and whatever fees your payment processor charges. Am I missing something or is that pretty much it?

      Action Man: I've looked at Magento but I'll take another look. I need something that is braindead simple to use, no fuss no muss, not only because of my lack of technical skill, but also because I don't want to spend hours trying to figure something out. I've tried putting up a simple wordpress site with, and my biggest problem with that was that it took me a few hours to decide on a template for the blog. Seriously, I'm one of those people who could spend days and days on minutia like this. And in the end what does it matter? There's no telling whether my market will respond to it or not until I try it anyway. So, I have misgivings about Magento for me, but I will take another look. And, I already have a hostgator account so that's done.

      Sbucciarel: My blog is on, so I don't think I can use woocommerce with that and I don't want to expand that blog into a website. I'd rather move that blog to a website. My squeeze page is on, and that could probably work with woocommerce, but that squeeze page needs a complete redesign and if I'm going to do that I might as well just do an entire site. One question. Is woocommerce something I need to download to be able to see? There didn't seem to be much information on the website.

      I'm looking for something that I don't have to spend hours and hours trying to figure out, and that will work on its own with little attention from me other than adding products, writing blog posts, and that type of stuff. I will also want a way to measure the success of the website - how many visitors I'm getting, what people are responding to.

      I don't mind a small monthly fee, though no monthly fee is good too. Sbucciarel hit the nail right on the head when she said I want to try out a store. That's exactly it. I want to see if this thing will really fly before I go whole hog and plunk down alot of money for a big website.

      Thanks so much to each of you!
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      • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
        Originally Posted by Imamarketer2 View Post

        One question. Is woocommerce something I need to download to be able to see? There didn't seem to be much information on the website.
        Woocommerce is a plugin for Wordpress that turns your blog into an ecommerce store, along with a Woocommerce theme, but you're right ... don't think that would work on
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  • Profile picture of the author AnthonyCapetola
    Definitely WooCommerce for ease of use and relatively active support. Magento is probably the #1 platform from a perspective of extras and extensions. Shopify is easy to use however the support is kind of not so good. Bigcommerce has a good support team but not the best. 3dcart is really easy to use, affordable and is great for beginners.

    Volusion is awful IMHO. Then there are the actual shopping cart solutions such as zencart and pinnaclecart but you'd be better off with a Bigcommerce or Shopify for inventory management. Magento gets confusing and clunky for inexperienced users.

    I love WordPress as it is and WooCommerce just makes it that much more better. We are partnered with every single top eCommerce solution and we have an internal dev team to build select client websites. A good number of our more recent clients went from solely eComm solutions to WordPress sites for more content control and ease of use.

    Although I personally enjoy working in Magento, I generally like to recommend either Shopify or 3dcart for beginners.
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    • Profile picture of the author Imamarketer2
      Anthony: Thank you again for your thoughtful reply. I'm currently looking at 3D cart. My main concern with them right now is whether their platform is setup for recurring billing. That is something I am going to need.

      Here's another question. If I were to go with one of the hosted solutions such as 3D cart or 1shoppingcart, would my customers' information be more secure than if I hosted my site on hostgator and used paypal? I've read in a few places that this is the case, but it seems to me that if any information were stored it would be stored on the paypal server and would be their responsibility if something happened. My site would just be the portal they start the purchase through, but they would complete the purchase with paypal or whatever payment processor I used. Is this correct or am I missing something?

      Also, I've been thinking more about what I need with this website. It's not just a store in the sense that Target or Macy's are stores. It's a way for me to connect with my customers, not just a way for them to discover products they need and buy them. I will need a blog on the site, which is something that many of the turn-key website creators don't offer. And I need to be able to email customers. I've already got Aweber, and I would like to be able to use that. And, as I mentioned, I need recurring billing capabilities.

      Another concern I have - with the turn-key hosted solution - is the quality of design with their website templates. They all have such a cold, corporate type feel. I know it's possible to make changes to many of them, but you can make any major changes without knowing some code and if I were going to hire someone to help me with that I might as well go with the company I've chosen and do the completely custom website.
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