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  1. #1
    Wade C is offline Stainless
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    Default Online Presence - Opensource Website(Etomite1.1) and Online Store (OpenCart)

    Here is some of what I know about setting up your own online presence both website and online store info. Its limited to what I know, which really is limited, but as I find I need something, the two different applications I use have great community support and its fairly easy to find help or learn to do it yourself.

    I’m not a great “teacher” or “technical writer” so I ask for your forgiveness in advance. I’m sure I will miss things, explain some things poorly, or out right miss important aspects of the process. Feel free to ask any questions, correct me, or suggest things for the benefit of others. Ill do my best, but again, I’m really only familiar with the specifics of what I have done and features that I have used or needed, and learned them accordingly. I am no expert in any way, I have learned all this stuff with help from a friend and a bunch of forum reading. So if you’re at least someone computer literate, and able to teach yourself from online forums and support pages, you really can do about anything you put your mind to. Fortunately, most of the “goodies” people want on their sites are not that difficult. It’s the fancy stuff that can get little interesting.


    Here is sort of a Table of Contents that I will try and follow.

    • Web hosts, hosting, Domain names and registration
    • General theories of layout
    • CMS (Content Management System) Etomite version 1.1
    • Uploading and setup
    • General explanation of some modifications and features of Etomite
    • Online Store: OpenCart (I am currently using version 1.4.7 because I haven’t had the guts to try and upgrade to 1.4.9b – but suggest if you are starting from scratch – start with 1.4.9b)
    • Uploading and setup
    • Features, Modules, and customization
    • General thoughts on the process and things I learned “the hard way”


    I probably won’t have time to do this all in one shot, but Ill also try and avoid the Wrustle Syndrome and try and get the installments done in a timely fashion. I tried to get a good dose in this initial post so everyone has something to chew on while Im working on the rest.

    For reference, my website is www.webfootcustomcalls.com
    I am in a small niche in the hunting/sporting goods/hobby wood working world of Game call making, where I resell molded parts and call making tools. I also sell tools that I have designed and manufacture, and tools that I design and due to lack of machinery, sub out some of the work – primarily Wire EDM, Heat Treat, and Grinding.

    1. Web hosting and Domains:

    In some ways this is one of the most daunting parts of starting a website. Who to use, what features are needed, what does it cost, why do I need this feature or that feature and so on.
    I spent a lot of time looking around at web hosts. There are free ones out there with limited features, major “big deal Charlie” host that cost a ton, and about anything in between. I settled on using Webmaters.com, currently it’s about 10.00 a month (paid yearly), with a lot of features, free domain registration as long as you stay current, and the best part of all, the customer service for me has been second to none. Honestly, I think I have gotten better customer service from them, than I have been able to provide my customers, even though I pride myself in giving the best customer service I can. But I seldom need to contact Customer Support.

    You can register domains a lot of places, Go daddy, about any web host – like Webmasters, and I’m sure plenty other places that just do domains. If you’re just registering a domain, you’ll have to pay for that, and for the hosting separately. If you register the domain through the web host, many times the registration for the domain is free.

    When you are looking at a web host, I suggest you identify the way you are going to build the site, and what it will contain first, before signing up. Some software and utilities require certain features, and some hosts charge extra for some things. For example, most, if not all CMS’s and Shopping Carts require a database. Some sites have limited numbers of databases free, and charge for additional, some are unlimited, some databases are additional. Payments for online stores sometimes require additional security, SSL for example. So depending on your payment method, you may need a dedicated SSL certificate. From what I have seen, a dedicated SSL will NOT be free, and can be somewhat expensive. So be sure to check out the requirements not only on the software youll be using, but also third party services that will be integrated into the software. Many times, these are called Modules, Extensions, or Apps.

    As a general thought… do your homework on your web host/domain registrar… though you can change from one to another, it is a hassle and it will also knock your site out of commission for anywhere from a few days while the DNS updates, to much longer if you run into compatibility issues.

    When you’re looking for your “Name”… most web hosts and domain registrars have a utility that is called “WhoIs”. This is basically a name search… sort of like looking in the phone book to see if the name you want to use is already being used. There are sites that will do just that as well, www.whois.net for example. Also, depending on operating system, you can do a WhoIs type command from the command line. I believe Linux will allow you to do a whois from the command line like this.
    [root@linux]# whois www.websitename.extension

    Remember, the longer the name, the more the customer, (and you) have to type to find it, send an email or what have you. Shorter is better, but too short can be hard to remember, confusing, or more likely to already be in use and therefore unavailable. I made that mistake when I set up my site. I opted for www.webfootcustomcalls.com instead of a more abbreviated version like WFCC.com, WEBFoot.com, or the like… some where already taken, others weren’t, but I thought, “no one knows WFCC” and thought the full name was better. I should have gone with WFCC knowing that I would “make people know who WFCC was.”



    2. Theories about the layout
    One thing that has stuck with me from my one CIS class in college was that if a page takes longer than 20 seconds to load, a high percentage of visitors will go somewhere else. So make the “home” page fairly simple, and quick to load. Remember, not everyone has a high speed internet connection. Also, remember how you feel every time you go to some website that loads some “entry” page with a flash animation that you have to sit through, just to hit the “Click here to enter the site” so you can actually go to the site itself. I hate that, and quickly go somewhere else. If they want to waste my time with their silly animation, they obviously don’t think my time is valuable.

    K.I.S.S.
    Keep it simple ______! At least the initial pages. Its fine to get down and dirty and have pages and pages of content, but make the high demand stuff simple, easy, and easy to get to. The nice thing about a CMS is that you can put pages where ever, and it automatically puts the pages into the sub category you want. So make the category pages nice and clean and simple, and the put the detailed, long, and complex stuff on a secondary page. So if people want major details and info, they can get it, but if they just want to see what you are all about… they get it from just looking at the home page, or the category page. A CMS is very handy for this, and hence its name, Content Managing System, and popularity in the web-world. A CMS automatically creates the layout, and you just manage the content. So setting up the layout once, covers the whole site. You just manipulate content as needed. The way I see a CMS, it basically allows you to set your website up sort of like a forum. You have categories, with topics in each category, and each topic contains threads, and each thread contains the information. Making it easier for the admin to control the content and layout without having to change every linking page, and the layout helps the viewer find what they want more efficiently. The way I see it, if they are there seeing what I’m about… I want it easy and obvious. They dig for details, then the gloves come off and I get long winded.

    FAQs:
    Set up a FAQ page. Here you can address the oddities of the site, tips for navigation, contacting you, how you operate and why and so on. You can head off a lot of time consuming questions by answering them here. A good FAQ page will take a lot of time to create ONCE, a bad one will take a lot of time answering the same questions over and over. Especially if you do everything via email like I do. It also gives you the option, when you get a repeat question that is answered on the FAQ, the ability to reply to the email with the link to the FAQ page, or copy paste the answer, instead of having to reply to every email asking, “What’s your phone number, I can’t find it on the site”

    Do a lot of “testing” when you are about to go live. Have friends, family, and neighbors check it out, give you feed back, grammar and spelling checks, flow, feel, ease of navigation…



    3. Etomite 1.1 (CMS)

    Start off by finding a good FTP program. You will need it. I use FireFTP as an extension to Mozilla Fire Fox. Its free and a very good program. You’ll see a pattern here… Free seems to come up a lot Also, when editing files, WordPad is nicer to deal with than Notepad, but there is a program called NotePad++ that really makes things nice if error checking. When you get errors, it usually refers to line numbers… which also includes blank lines. Notepad++ gives you line numbers to the side, so you don’t have to count lines… and when you’re looking for code on line 375, its nice to not have to count from 1.

    There are a lot of different CMS’s out there, but I am only familiar with Etomite. Being free, well developed, and fairly simple to work with are the reasons I chose it. I played with Joomla and Mambo a little, but found that though very powerful, with the power, came complexity and confusion. That is when I found out about Etomite.

    You can read up on Etomite by doing a search, or going to www.etomite.org.
    If you go to the Etomite site, they have a demo where you can log in and actually play with and change things so you can get a feel for what it is like. Demo - Etomite Demo - The Etomite Project

    If you decide to use it, install is fairly easy, but a bit time consuming if you don’t have a fast connection. The documentation pages can guide you through it quite well, assuming you have a little understanding of websites and website back of house admin. Documentation Home - Etomite Documentation Homepage - Etomite Documentation

    To be continued...

  2. #2
    Wade C is offline Stainless
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    Continuing a long.... (look Wrustle! TWO updates in one day - just messing with ya man. )

    4. Uploading and Setup

    I could walk you through the whole process, but the online documentation does it quite well, so no need to reinvent the wheel. But Ill give you a quick run down so you know what to sort of look for.

    Etomite requires a database, so the best thing to do, is while you are downloading Etomite, and unzipping the program files, you can pop into your admin page, go to database admin (or something named similarly) and create a database and password. Be sure to write down what you create for future reference. As well, make sure you use a good password, preferably using a mix of upper case, lower case, numbers, AND if the system allows, special characters. And best that it not be any dictionary words or at least something weird…. Like: tHisFUnky#1pW (this funky number one password)
    Also, while you’re thinking users and passwords, think of a completely different one for your host admin account (and change it), your Etomite login password, and online store if you’re going to do one. Make them all different, something you will remember, and WRITE THEM DOWN SOMEWHERE!

    Once you have a database created, you will need to make sure that your PHPadmin/MySQL version is what is required for Etomite. I cant remember, but I think it needs 4.1 or higher… I had to click the “upgrade to 5.0” on my site for my online store software (OpenCart) as it defaulted to 4.something – so I just updated to 5.0+ for everything. It should be a quick change… select the main web folder, and enable the PHP version you need for that folder. Etomite will check all these settings during it’s install and let you know if something isn’t right, so that you can correct it.

    Once you have Etomite downloaded and unzipped on your computer, your database created and are sure your PHP/MySQL is the right version… open up the folder where you unzipped Etomite and read through the README file. You’ll end up uploading all the files in the unzipped folder to the main folder on your web host via FTP. You can use the web hosts upload feature, but many won’t allow you to grab a folder, and there are A LOT of files. FTP is been my go to for uploading. In the case of Webmasters, you will be uploading the contents of the etomite1.1 folder to the main page, which is the “httpdocs” folder on the server.

    When the upload is done (and it will take a while) you will go to install by accessing your website from a browser. This is where the system will check permissions and settings to make sure things are correct and ask for the database and password you previously created.

    Once you get it installed and ready, it will look just like the DEMO on the Etomite site. And it will remind you to delete or rename the “install” folder. I rename it during the setup process, that way, should I change something, and need to rerun the install, I can just change the name back to “install” and access it. Once its all done, I will delete that folder in its entirety. Having it install with contents already is handy because it has a lot of stuff in place that you can just go in and edit for your own content. Sort of like getting a program with your new VMC so you can go in and see how they did things, and reverse engineer it for your own parts.


    5. General explanation of some modifications and features of Etomite

    Making the website look like you want it will have some challenges. Start by looking through the Etomite site for templates. You may find just what you want there, and instructions for installing the template should be contained in the readme with the download for that template. If you decide you want to do some customizations…. put on your learning/searching cap and prepare to learn some HTML and scripting language. You’ll end up editing the template files in the admin manager and .css files via your FTP program and WordPad or notepad. It takes some work to figure it out and make changes, but if I can do it… most anyone can. For reference, on my site, I used the Dark Splinter template, and did a bunch of editing of the template file in the manager page [resources – manage resources – templates tab] and the style.css file (via ftp and notepad++) to get it to look as it does. Editing a template is not for the faint at heart, but it’s also not impossible. It will just take some time and effort to understand what is going on, and then some trial and error. And worst case, if you do the template editing first, if you screw up, just reinstall it and start over. If you put a lot of content in first, then you will lose that on an reinstall. Don’t ask how I know. The Etomite forum can be of great help when trying to figure out the flow of a template and contents of a CSS file.

    As sort of a rough explanation of the template versus the .css file – I look at it like this:
    The template is “Where” things go and the .css is “what they look like” when they are places where the template tells it to be. There are a few instances where the template will handle some global formatting. In Etomite, if you alter a current template like did, I would expect the majority of changes to be done in the .css file. In contrast, in OpenCart (as we will talk about later) the changes are more complex, and the likely more editing in the template files .TPL and less in a .CSS file – if any.

    One nicety of Etomite, is that a lot of the developers leave bread crumbs in the .css code. Notes that are commented out of the code usually with something like /* - basically that’s their form of a note, just like (.75EM facing op) in G-code. Those comments give you a description of what that part of the code does. For example here is part of the .css file from my site. Some of the comments are my notes (telling me how to change back to original), and some are from the originator (hints about what it controls and where it is)
    Code:
     /*------------------------------------------------------------*
      **  Global
      **------------------------------------------------------------*/
      body, html { height: 100%; }
      body {
            font-family: Tahoma, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
            font-size: 76%;
            margin: 0;
            padding: 0;
            background: #000 url(../img/wf_bg5.jpg)  repeat-x 50% 0;       /* main background color black - use bg.jpg to  revert back to original image*/
            text-align: center;
            color: #A9ACB6;                                /* font color "aluminum" for page contents*/
            }
      
      /* headers  - this controls all headers in the body - not the main header*/
      h2, h3, h4, h5, h6 { color: #A9ACB6; margin: 0; font-weight: normal; }
      h2 { font-size: 2.5em; padding: 30px 0; }
      h3 { font-size: 2.1em; padding: 25px 0; }
      h4 { font-size: 1.7em; padding: 20px 0; }
      h5 { font-size: 1.4em; padding: 15px 0; } 
      h6 { font-size: 1.2em; padding: 10px 0 0; }
    I think those who are good with hand writing g-code will find this fairly straight forward, as learning this is similar to learning g-code.

    There are a lot of forums and tutorials on the web to help you learn HTML, CSS, and so on. So searching is your friend, as well as joining the forum and reading through it and posting questions.

    When youre done, BACK IT UP!!! Including backing up your database! And every time you make changes, update your backups. And keep a copy on your server in the backup area, and on your own machine/archive.

    Changing templates is probably the easiest way to alter the appearance. Beyond that, you are going to be dealing with code as talked about above.

    Features in Etomite are where things can get tricky. But a lot of power is there… The main places for adding complication… should you choose are in “snippets”, “chunks”, and API. I have little to no knowledge about these, because I have not had a need or interest in making the site any more complex or “fancy”. The site itself uses a few of each just in its standard operation… but were all part of the Template I used. So unless you are going to get “jiggy wid it” odds are, what is already there will be plenty for you to get rolling. The Etomite documentation explains it fairly well, but it takes some familiarity with code to make something from scratch. The power is there, but I have had no need for it and have not learned anything about it. I do know that Snippets are PHP, and Chunks are basically HTML.

    Another thing to contend with is SEO (Search Engine Optimization) basically making it easier for the search engine spiders or robots to catalog your site, and apply its relevance to a search by a viewer. This takes a little change in the set up, changing a file name to .htaccess so that the site itself can create a separate index of the site, so instead of referencing every page by its page number, it names the page in relation to that index to spit out a page address that is descriptive. For example… if you had a page called “Contact Us” it would be assigned a number as an index. So when you clicked “Contact Us” on the website, the address would be something like www.thewebsite.com/20.html. Which means nothing if you were looking at an index of the websites pages. But SEO enabled on the site, and it will create a secondary index, and assign “page 20” a new name based on what you specify. So you would set the SEO word to “ContactUs”, now when you click on “Contact Us” instead of going to 20.html, you would see www.thewebsite.com/contactus, which makes it easier to index the site. Adding to that, you can add tags, which include various words to help the search engines identify the contents. For example, on the contact us page, you might have tags like: “email, contact, address, call, telephone”.



    To be continued... probably in a day or three...

  3. #3
    bigskinsfan is offline Aluminum
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    Thanks for taking the time to put all of that in words. There are many people who have no idea how to build a site and, thus, are afraid to try. I personally use Joomla. Took a little time to get used to it, but found that it will let you do just about anything. And, virtually every module out there is compatible.

    Nice work. (Make sure to update your copyright dates)

  4. #4
    Wade C is offline Stainless
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    Continuing along...

    6. Online Store: OpenCart (opensource)
    I use OpenCart version 1.4.7 – but the most recent release is 1.4.9.2 and if you are using it, I suggest you start there. As of now, ver 1.5 is in process, but is a new approach, and will likely be a few versions until it’s been proven and debugged to the point of being comfortable using it. Being open source, it is constantly evolving and getting better.

    I chose OpenCart because it was free, had a strong community for help and modification, and seem to be driven by people who are after a strong end product, and not motivated by how many licenses they can sell. I had played with a few demos of “paid” carts, and some free ones. What I saw was either lots of confusing approaches, hard to manipulate features, lacking features for what I needed to do, and surprisingly a feeling of “indifference” from the support lines on the paid versions. They didn’t care to talk or work with me about seeing if the product would work for what I needed, they wanted me to buy it first, THEN see if they could make it do what I wanted.

    I’m also a bit of a computer guy, and enjoy learning stuff… and digging into this kind of thing. So I had a natural affinity for this kind of software… rather than a pay, plug and play, then fight customer service for help later.

    Opencart’s site is similar to Etomite in that they have a demo version on the main site so you can play and dink to see if its to your liking. OpenCart - Open Source Shopping Cart Solution
    They also have a great forum where you can get help, and also research current issues to see if they might affect you. OpenCart Community • Index page

    I will be the first to admit, if you don’t like learning new things, and don’t have a handle on how to learn some coding… Opencart may not be for you, unless the default features and appearance fits your needs. Really, I could have used it as it is, but my constant need to tinker and change got me into changing appearances, adding modules, and toying with things.

    I think EVERY Cart program out there has advantages and disadvantages… its just a matter of identifying what you need, what you can’t live without, and what you can live with. Spend some time researching… because starting over in a new cart… can be a time consuming event. This is coming from someone who started with one, found a problem that I couldn’t overcome, changed carts, found another problem that made it unusable for my needs, and then started yet again, with OC.

    Here are some things to think about (that I didn’t realize when I first started – and caused a few re-dos and cart changes)

    How your items are listed: Just one big list of products? Categories with products? Subcategories? Thumbnail pictures and then a detail page with bigger pictures and more info?

    What else do you want with your pictures: Reviews? Popularity rating? Downloads (manuals)? Feed back for customers to read?

    Are you going to run sales? How will you manage the pricing? One item? All items in a category? Quantity discounts?

    What kind of options do you have? Different colors? Sizes? Part number scheme for these options? Same items, different quantity packs?

    Custom work that can be paid for on the site?

    Shipping (this is a biggie): what shipper will you use? Module available for that shipper? Pricing? Free shipping at a certain point? International?

    Payments (another biggie): Paypal? AlertPay? Credit card via one of the various processors? Cash/Check? Wire transfers? Be aware that once you get into some of the CC processing, if the actual info for the transaction is handled on your site, instead of an external site… odds are you will be looking at a SSL (https://) requirement… which will add to the cost of the hosting. If the transaction happens on an external site, you can negate the need for the SSL. (like paypal, alertpat, etc…)

    Coupons, Credits, Returns, RMAs, customer categories/price levels… all stuff to think about, and pay attention to how the cart you are thinking about using handles those things.

    Some customers don’t like going to another site to handle the payment… most don’t care because they are familiar with the process. What you choose is up to you. I avoided PalPal like the plague because of their “anti-gun/2nd amendment” attitude. For my niche, which revolves around hunting, which uses guns … I felt it irresponsible to give pay pal money – even though all my products are okay by PPs standard. That’s why I went with AlertPay. Everyone has their own ideas and loyalties… just do your homework on the payment processor first. And I suggest no one uses Gpal until there are some positive things reported, as that company owes a lot of people a lot of money, and has for a long time.

    7. Uploading and setup
    Similar to Etomite… download the files, unzip them, read the README, create a separate database and password, check your PHP/MySQL version, upload to its own folder in the main sites directory, read/write permissions on the created folders and files… It will take a while. It’s a small zip file, but A LOT of files after unzipping. Im on a 768k DLS line and I think it took 30 minutes to upload everything. Youll go to your websites cart directory. For example, if your site is www.thewebsite.com , you may opt for a folder named “store”, so you would navigate to www.thewebsite.com/store and that would start the install process. Same thing as Etomite… itll check for proper settings, ask for the database info, user info and so on. WRITE THAT INFO DOWN AND SAVE IT!

    OpenCart installs with products by default, which will help you getting the feel for what info is what, and where it shows up. If you want to start from scratch, its plenty easy to delete all the products and categories.

    As far as setup… the cart is every bit as entailed as the website… and a lot of it is redundant… but since the store is basically a website within a website, it needs all that information. The online documentation will cover the setup, but its really fairly intuitive. The parts that aren’t as intuitive are stickies on the forum – just for that reason.

    Generally, after you have setup, and access the admin page, you start setting up details. Who, address, contact, terms of service, about us, and such… much of which you may be able to copy/paste from your main site if you have already created it. I could spend a week typing about the variables, but probably not worth my time typing and your time reading, since its well covered on the forum, and Im always happy to answer questions on what I know. If you have any once you get in, let me know.

    The main thing to learn a little about is modules/extensions/add ons – they can be a little more entailed to install than just “click to install” but it really isn’t bad, and the read me files usually walk you right through it. One place that offers some “paid” modules (professionally designed and maintained” is from one of the main guys at OpenCart. Forum name Qphoria. His website is www.unbannable.com He not only offers add ons, and offers a lot of free help on the forum, but he also offers the services of setup, upgrade, ect of open cart. He is a great guy, and has helped me tons, and I have happily bought many of his modules. If you like Don (Milacron), PM and the way it runs… I think you will see a lot of familiarity with the OC forum. It can be a bit daunting for the beginner, but definitely a great site.

    The benefit of the modules is you don’t bulk up the install with stuff you wont use or don’t need. Install what you need, and forget the rest. Its that much less stuff to have cause issues and saves that much more space on the server.

    Once your online store is ready to run, put a link to it on your main page so they have a way to get to it. But also keep in mind, while you are “designing” search engines can and will find it. So, be sure to note that you are NOT ready for orders yet on the main page, or leave the store in maint mode until you are ready. Never underestimate the ability of the public to NOT READ what you have on the site.


    8. Features, Modules, and customization

    The main thing to learn a little about is modules/extensions/add ons – they can be a little more entailed to install than just “click to install” but it really isn’t bad, and the read me files usually walk you right through it. One place that offers some “paid” modules (professionally designed and maintained” is from one of the main guys at OpenCart. Forum name Qphoria. His website is www.unbannable.com He not only offers add ons, and offers a lot of free help on the forum, but he also offers the services of setup, upgrade, ect of open cart. He is a great guy, and has helped me tons, and I have happily bought many of his modules. If you like Don (Milacron), PM and the way it runs… I think you will see a lot of familiarity with the OC forum. It can be a bit daunting for the beginner, but definitely a great site.

    The benefit of the modules is you don’t bulk up the install with stuff you wont use or don’t need. Install what you need, and forget the rest. It’s that much less stuff to have because issues and saves that much more space on the server.

    OC has a lot of features as it sits – bare bones. So you may not need any additions. But if you have a large product list, I do suggest looking for (in OpenCart) the module by JNeuhoff, Import/Export. It allows you to make an excel spreadsheet of your items and info, so you can work in a list format and upload it. The best thing to do, if you use the import/export is to install the module, and then export the default info. That way you have a reference for the data contained in the spread sheet for each item. It also helps you with the format. Just hop in and edit what is there, and add new as you go.

    Customizing the looks of OC is more detailed than Etomite. There aren’t as many notes and bread crumbs in the code. As well, OC uses template files .TPL to handle various pages… so you will end up having to chase around a lot of files and editing to change the appearance. This is something that I think they are addressing with the newer versions. But really, for the cart, you don’t need a lot… its only if you want/need the continuity between your home page and the cart – that you will have to contend with this kind of stuff. If you are going to change the looks… prepare for some research.

    9. General thoughts and ramblings:
    A few things I see in day to day activities with other vendors and customers on the web that I think should be mentioned and avoided or changed…

    1. I have always been a little uneasy when I go to www.someonessite.com and go to send them an email and their email address is someguy@yahoo, or gmail, or something. To me, if you are spending the money for a website and domain, why would you not have an email address that matches? someguy@someonessite.com just makes me feel a bit more confident that I am really getting a hold of that company, and someone who works at that company.
    2. Make it stupid proof… well as stupid proof as you can. There will always be someone out there who will break it, mess it up, ask questions that have obvious answers… If you know one of these people, put them on your beta test team. My dad is the king of breaking things, not understanding the obvious, over cautious, meticulous, sort of a pain in the butt customer type… I relied a lot on him for flow checking, and my mother, an ex-English teacher for grammar/spell checking.
    3. Be ready for some of the most ridiculous questions from your customers. They will be coming.
    4. Test EVERYTHING! Anything you don’t test, will cause you a problem, and most likely the problem will happen to one of your most important customers.
    5. Think long and hard about shipping and how you will charge for it.
    6. Plan your layout, and then lay out your plan… flying by the seat of your pants will cause you issues down the road.
    7. You don’t have to have every feature and bell and whistle at the start… you can make it a work in progress, just be damn sure what you do have up DOES work.
    8. Ask for feed back and suggestions. Some of the best changes to my site came in the form of suggestions from my customers… things I would have never thought of.
    9. Keep the initial info short and sweet. Make it fast and easy for those that already know what they want. They want to get in, order, and get out fast. And for the customers that want to learn about stuff, try and make the extra detail easy to get to. It will save you a lot of emails. But don’t force those that know what they want to have to sift through stuff to get to what they want.
    10. Should your customers need help choosing an item, make a page to help them. Otherwise you will have constant emails about “what one should I get”. Unless your item(s) requires your expertise in selecting the best fit.
    11. Online stores are great for specific things… the more options or varieties in products, the more complicated things become. Keep it as simple as you can to start out. As you learn, you can change things. For example, if you’re selling end mills, you might be best off to have a category for each: HSS, Carbide, Double End HSS, Double End Carbide. And then in each category… each size end mill is its own item. Once you get a better feel, and depending on how the system you choose works, later look at one item and add the option of size. Or each size is an item, and the option would be the type of end mill. In a sea of options, it’s easy to get confused and/or order the wrong thing accidentally. If you are looking at my website, you can see an example of this by looking at the variety of short reed goose guts versus how one would order the different sizes of “Gutserts” or Acrylic Drills.
    12. People like real pictures… for example, if they want to order a 1” drill bit, they don’t want to see the picture of a 1/4” or 2” drill bit. As well, one thing that makes people uneasy about buying something… is “no image available”
    13. Continuity: try and maintain the same flow/methodology/mentality through out the site and store. If everything "operates" and "flows" the same... it will be easier for people to navigate.

    ........

  5. #5
    Wade C is offline Stainless
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    I hope this helps someone, anyone, and everyone that is thinking about online sales. If you have any questions, ideas, or interjections… post up, email me, or what ever. I’m happy to help if I can. But my knowledge really only revolves around Etomite, OpenCart, and general theory. Im no guru… just another guy that likes to think I know what I’m doing

    The end...

    Wade

  6. #6
    rj newbould's Avatar
    rj newbould is online now Diamond
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    Thanks, Wade..

    That's a very comprehensive set of posts. I believe it will be a big help to those who need it.

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    Jon Bohlander's Avatar
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    Thanks for that Wade.

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    Jason H is offline Stainless
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    Thanks Wade! I am dealing with a site upgrade right now and I have a question. I had a very specific list of requirements. I put it out to bid with three firms here and two overseas. All of the domestic came in at $14K to $20K and the two overseas were $900 to $1200. Why such the big gap? I know the design and features that I want to include, and I am the one that is going ot have to put in most of the copy.

    What am I missing?

    Thanks

    Jason

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    Wade C is offline Stainless
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    Not sure what to think on cost variance... If I were guessing, probably some has to do with software/licenses used and the like. Or a misunderstanding on what all you were after (leading to not quoting for as complicated as it may be?)

    Another think you might find is in getting a quote from a "firm" may lead you to a place with high over head and an over inflated ego to match the price tag? Or maybe they were anticipating handling all the content input, where as the others did not?

    If I were to make a suggestion... do a little searching for some forums based around website design, and keep your eyes open for names of members who do it as a job, and have a good reputation... you might just find some brainiac college kid working out of his dorm room, or big company guy who got laid off and is working from home... I think with tech stuff, just like CNC repair... it seems more difficult that it is in a lot of cases, and therefore, those that know the tricks can charge a large amount. Some are egos in a sack of water called a body. Some are really that good and offer the service to warrant the price. Thats one of the reasons I got into doing so much my self. You never know what kind of person youre dealing with, til you get to know them... and likely give them money to get to know them.... on the other hand, I know what kind of person I am... and I know I can learn.

    What kinds of stuff are you looking for for your site (if you dont mind sharing publicly)? Maybe the cost differences reside there... as in the overseas people are planning you pay for all the hosting/blah blah... and the US people are thinking you are paying them and they pay the hosting/software etc...

    Or, could be just a case of a HF lathe vs a Rockwell or Hardinge? Both in labor costs and in quality? Just thinking out loud. Having always done my own stuff, I cant really speak from a vantage point of knowledge with how the business side of the industry works.

    Wade

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    Jason H is offline Stainless
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    www. drapes .com ( don't want the competition picking up on the talk )

    I did this site on my own with Adobe CS4 package and it is a HF Lathe job. I have no training, just what I learned from lynda.com and a few other sites. With business picking up for me I don't have time to keep it up so I wanted something with an admin control panel to make it look right.

    The requests were pretty specific in terms of numbers of totally designed pages, types of menus, layout, features, etc. With the admin control panel they know that I will be doing all the copy and photos. I also told them my hosting company Domain Names & Web Hosting : 1&1 Internet Inc. so that they could plan the site accordingly.

    I am thinking it is because of overhead differences, cost of living, but I think the major part is ego. The US companies selling it on perceived value versus actual cost.

    Jason

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    Wade C is offline Stainless
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    Looking at what you have... and what you've used (which from what I hear, the later versions of Adobe are very CMS like - just a little different in the building/admin - as in working on it on a local machine and then uploading - instead of working on it on the server directly) - really looks like Etomite would work well for you, and be nice and easy to add/change/remove things....

    And since youre going to all of the content anyway... the only problem you have is getting a layout you like. Might be worth sorting through the templates on the etomite site... Im not saying it would be worth your time for 900-1200 bucks, but it would for SURE be worth your time for 14k +

    ANother thought would be fish around on the etomite forum for someone who might be interested in building it for you.

    The appearance will be the hardest part... I think the content and pics and stuff... will be super easy to do, as well as super easy to maintain and update from anywhere.

    Wade

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    Jason H is offline Stainless
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    it took me 6 months to find the one I have now. I went to Premium WordPress Themes and Web Templates - ThemeForest after searching high and low elsewhere.

    Really at the end of the day, the stuff I am asking for is not out of the ordinary so I am sure that a lot of it is already written. It just sucks to feel like a company is looking to take advantage.

    Thanks again for taking the time to do that write up.


    Jason

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    Wade C is offline Stainless
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    Yeah, it seems that is almost getting to be the norm... higher prices than what it actually takes to do. Guess too many people want to be like bill gates and have more money than they could ever use.

    If you decide to jump into it, let me know and Ill try and help if I can.

    Here is the link to the main template topic in the forum. Might be worth a little looking... just in case something you like is right there handy and ready to go.
    Completed Templates - Etomite Community Forums
    Wade

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    Insert is offline Cast Iron
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    Jason H,

    I just spoke to my friend who does web development, regarding your wide price gap. He said it seems a little wide, but understandable. He said the main thing it that the cost of living is lower so people charge less. Also said to use caution because many times it will not come out as expected. He said if you know exactly what you want, and you understand whats going on, it can sometimes be ok, but if you don't to stay away from them.

    I'll pm you his email address and website, if your still looking for someone to build your site he can definitely help.

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    Jason H is offline Stainless
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    Thanks but I put my deposit down today for the other firm to start. We will see how it goes. They gave me a 45-60 day lead time, and are doing mock ups for a few of the pages to make sure we are on the right track. I have everything spelled out but who knows what I will get.

    I deal in textiles and it reminds me of a job a few years back. Customer wanted their fabric to match their paint, they painted a 6" X 6" swatch of carboard a yellowish color during their construction. Long story short - 6 weeks later I open a container to find card board colored product, they matched the wrong side of the paint swatch.

    Jason

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    rj newbould's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason H View Post
    ------------

    I deal in textiles and it reminds me of a job a few years back. Customer wanted their fabric to match their paint, they painted a 6" X 6" swatch of carboard a yellowish color during their construction. Long story short - 6 weeks later I open a container to find card board colored product, they matched the wrong side of the paint swatch.

    Jason
    That's a good lesson in communication....

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