Probablepossible’s ecommerce odyssey

As DragonMother magic Wand Works, I started selling my magic wands back in ummm… 1999 maybe? on ebay, and i purchased my first domain back when that was expensive… I hand built a store using hand-coded paypal buttons. It meant that when someone bought a wand, I had to jump on and delete the wand from my site, also by hand.

Eventually, I figured out that computers ought to be able to do some of that for me. I downloaded OSCommerce, the Open Source cart– first time I had heard that term! and jumped right into php coding. Luckily for me, php at that time was still pretty primitive, so I could bash it with rocks and make caveman grunts at it and still make something sort of happen. 😀

But PHP got more sfirstsiteophisticated, and my server hosts went down a few times to many, and the commerce sites I had so carefully modified degraded until they were just about useless. I was spending more time trying to fix the sites than I was producing my wares. A few years ago the problem was so great– and my time so limited– that I simply disabled my site and concentrated on my day job while I searched in a desultory way for newer software.


There are two kinds of internet commerce. One is folks like me and my sister– solo artists and craftsfolk, who make one or a limited number of an item and offer it up. We want;

  • a yummy way to present to our customers,

secondsiteUs craftsfolk, and artists, and designers… we have strong views about how we want our shop to look, I bet most of us have had dreams since childhood about the front door with a bell over it, and the pale lavender paint on the waslls and the pretty antique table upon which our beaded jewelry is laid out… I know I did. And even if my shop is now going to be virtual, I still want my lavender walls. Only not actually lavender.

  • easy navigation that funnels into sales.

I learned this the hard way, with I love to categorise and arrange things– by Dewy Decimal system, if possible. Which can make browsing a chore. Categories are all right, but tags are one of the best inventions of web.2.

We want,

  • An uncluttered backend.

In my backend I want to know who my client is, what she purchased, how she paid, and where to send it to. On this site– probablepossible– I might want a reminder of what the item cost me in materials. But my materials costs are so very negligible on my woodturning sites, it’s hardly worth cataloguing them per item.

  • an easy way to enter our goods.

This has never been more apparent to me since I got spoiled by the interface on More thirdsiteon backend issues in a few minutes, but etsy really does make it easy to enter new items.

Most commerce software is set up for resalers, which of course is the other internet commerce model. The back end has fields for manufacturers (There’s only me, guys! And we’ll get back to this in a minute, or possibly in another post) for wholesale, gross, and net, ways to promote BIG SALE! type things, inventory capabilities for thousands of items, an earnestly worried email that comes when your inventory gets below a certain point. And so many more fancy features– that really don’t apply to some solo hippie arteest like what I are.

  • easy upload of images.

Oddly enough, something that many carts don’t supply– second and third images per product. OSCommerce had an incredibly laborious way to add extra images. Fine when you want to create a product page once to sell a hundred fifty hummingbird feeders. Not so great when you have made one hummingbird sculpture to sell– and the next hummingbird sculpture will be completely different and you’ll need new pictures.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to review the carts I’ve tried out– strictly from the Point Of View of a crafter.

And I’ll be talking about the one that I think is most promising. I’m very excited about it because it bolts onto wordpress, so I can have my blog and my goods on the same page. That’s about as close to the bell on the door and the lavender walls as i think an ecommerce store can get! Plus wordpress takes care of somethign very important,

  • powerful SEO tools.

Part of Etsy’s claim to fame is the way Google and yahoo search engines recieve your data so quickly. WordPress can do this for you as well.

What are some of the other things that we want?


One comment

  1. CR

    Have you considered html based shopping carts as an alternative to the php catalog based systems you were referring to? It’s an inexpensive way to have a complete back end system while you retain ALL creative and SEO control. You have everything from Mals (free) to 1shoppingcart, ultracart, etc. I find the back end very user friendly, while all the advanced options exist, you don’t have to use any of them. Mals (free) is VERY simple, hundreds of handcrafters I know use this system.

    If you want creative control, you have it without having to touch php, just stick to simple htm/css if php isn’t your forte. You should absolutely have your dream store, even if it’s a virtual one. Don’t settle for less than the shop of your dreams!

    If you want to build your dream store yourself there are so many ways, you can do the html/css mentioned above or you could buy a custom template for volusion or bigcommerce, two terrific very user friendly (etsyish) platforms. It all depends on your budget, coding experience and how much you enjoy designing and coding a page.

    Yes, wordpress and etsy deliver content quickly to search engines but search engine success still relies entirely on your content. If you don’t use keywords people are searching for people still wouldn’t be able to find you.

    Just my food for thought, on someone who’s obsessed with ecommerce platforms. I’ve tried every single one that exists over the years and I’m still waiting for that perfect system. It doesn’t exist yet, but I have high hopes. :>)

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