It is only a little after 6:30 and I already scored a major victory! What a wonderful day it is going to be!
OK – so it may not be major to everyone else, but it certainly is to me. Many of you may remember that I am in the process of changing over to new software on my site. This is an enormous and complicated task, as I have over 300+ products right now and the list is growing every day. Getting things in the proper order and presenting them in an organized way is no small task. My partner has done much of the initial set up work and layout, although we both have worked on making different choices such as color, templates, fonts, etc. He is far better than I am at being consistent and organizing things so that products are not only easily accessible to customers, but also very easy to modify, as we are adding new products all the time.
One of the problems I feel that I had with my site in the past was that I began building it approximately eight years ago. Besides the fact that the software is now quite outdated, the changes that I have gone through as a company and as a designer have been profound. Much of what was important to me back then is no longer important to me now, and I must admit for several years I sorely neglected that aspect of my business. As a result, it fell woefully behind and a combination of my poor programming skills along with my general disregard left the old site messy and cluttered.
This past year, we have worked to clean things up and between the two of us have done a lot of redesigning and ‘housecleaning’ in order to make a better presentation. It has paid off quite a bit, as the figures for the site sales have gone up tremendously and it has now become a major artery in my business instead of just an afterthought. But working on antiquated software still required much more time than necessary to keep up and change. Even the smallest revision or addition of products was tedious and time consuming. The time came for us to abandon ship and upgrade the software.
Like most people, I am not always comfortable with change. We all like knowing what we are doing and knowing how to do things. Changing over meant heading out into uncharted waters and relearning an entire new program. Even though I had put this decision off, I knew in my heart that it inevitable. The final straw occurred when I attempted to add some of my customer’s pictures into the gallery and received the message that I was out of disk space. Apparently the old software only allotted a certain amount of storage and I was at my limit. This would not do if my business was to grow.
My site information was migrated to the new software a couple of weeks ago. My host company allows six months time to create and build the new site. During this period, the “old site” runs just as it has been while the “new site” is being developed behind the scenes and not yet published. I was very surprised when I found this out and having no experience in this sort of thing I didn’t even think this was possible. I think it is a very cool way to change over, as there is little or no disruption of business.
We sign into the new site and can work on that in our spare time and when it is all ready and how we want, we publish it and it takes over. It gives us a chance to work out all the kinks (well – most of them anyway) without any down time at all. So far, it has been going better than expected and after a short time, it is almost ready to present and publish.
My partner is in charge of the general set up and organization. He streamlined everything so that everything is now in a category and we can make global changes to products in each category. This will make things so much easier, as previously I had to change each product individually in regards to sales, which page it is on, etc. If something were say on a General Plaque page and also a Holiday page, I would have to go to both pages and either add or remove the same product. It was quite confusing and difficult to maintain. With the new software however, you can set attributes for each product, or a group of products in a subset. Things like that will cut down on the time needed to work on things tremendously.
The presentation of the products is beautiful also. I am allowed several images for each product, and the layout is so much nicer than before, and I have the flexibility of changing everything there too. Now when customers look at what I have to offer, they are able to really SEE the items, much like I can present them here on LJ’s. It may seem like a small thing, but previously they were only able to see small images and no detail. I think this will help with sales a great deal.
My job last night was setting up the order form and credit card processor. That is a tedious and exacting process because there are many variables that will affect how much is charged to my customers. I need to set up shipping too, and that was quite involved. Most of my customers choose PDF files delivered via the computer, as it saves both time and money, but the other options need to be there too. I also had to be completely sure that the credit card processor information is correct so that when they purchase items, the money is going to the right place (me!) This is also quite exacting because of the necessary security measures, but it is a one time set up and once it is done, it is done.
A problem we were having with the site was that the initial picture thumbnails were quite small. It was very difficult to see the product without actually clicking on the image and going to the product page. With the type of patterns I sell, it is very important to see the details in the work. I didn’t want customers coming to the site and having to click on each image to see what was going on. That would be monotonous and I think that most people would get fed up and leave. I did some research and reading of things, and I figured out how to make the thumbnails larger throughout the site by filling in a value in just one box. It was a simple answer to a big problem and will make the site overall much better. It was a great way to start the day!
We are getting anxious to finish up the new site and there is even the possibility of being able to publish it and make it live by the weekend. Initially I wouldn’t have thought it would be ready until nearly Christmas. It was a pleasant surprise that even though this software is quite complex, it is fairly well thought out and things have so far gone smoothly. When we have tapped into customer support, they have so far been there with the answers we needed to keep on going. I have heard many horror stories regarding site set ups from others and I feel very fortunate that things are working out for us so well. Overall the site will be so much better and hopefully much easier for everyone to see what we have to offer.
As for today, I am ready to cut the next tray out. I spent the day yesterday drawing up the Celtic design I wanted to and it is almost ready to go. I may draw the next one again today though, and then I can cut them both out on Saturday. That will give me Sunday to do the final photography and get the pictures to the wholesaler by Monday. It is a tight schedule, but very workable if I stay focused. I plan on taking at least part of Sunday off to visit friends and I want to have most of the work under my belt by then. It will be a nice break and I am looking forward to it a lot.
By next week I should be able to get some work done on my shoe again. I have been sorely neglecting it and saw that Jordan’s shoe is nearly done. I am happy though that we have until mid-November to unveil our work, as it does give me some time to catch up. I haven’t seen as many posts about it as I had initially, so I think many people are in the same boat as I am.
I wish you all a happy and productive day!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"