I'm guessing that none of you reading this today remember our very first website back in 2005. Yes, it really was 2005 when I started this little business venture, initially selling on eBay but, then very introducing our own website.
Now, back in those days, e-commerce was in its infancy, nearly all the big stores were sitting on the sidelines - or hadn't yet cottoned on - and selling online was the realm of Amazon, eBay and small independent retailers such as us. Whilst this was a great business opportunity, it also wasn't going to be an easy task setting up our own website, no 'over the counter' 'out of the box' 'all in one' solutions back then.
I entrusted - at a four-figure sum - the building of our website to a professional website developer who, to be fair, whilst talented at building traditional websites was still, like me, a relative newbie to e-commerce. I had a vision of how I wanted our site to look, what I wanted it to do and what features it should have to achieve that. Sadly, the implementation of these features was a pain, maybe my vision was a bit ahead of its time, and ultimately it led to a compromise having to be made. It didn't even end up looking the way I wanted as the developer became less enthusiastic to make changes as time went on and eventually after several stressful weeks I stupidly signed off on a site that I was far from happy with.
I really do wish I had waited now, for just around the corner was the emergence of pre-built shopping websites at a fraction of the cost of what I had just spent and so easy to set up by comparison. I soldiered on with our lacklustre website for around eighteen months before finally admitting to myself that I had made a big mistake and accepting that I had lost a lot of money - at least it was tax deductible :).
Sometimes it is better to cut your losses and move on for the greater good. And, this was our big change, moving to a pre-built shopping website. I chose BigCommerce, a hybrid Australian/American company providing most of what I was looking for in a shopping website at that time. Back then, it was before monthly subscriptions and not quite an integrated solution. I bought the software but, still had to find someone to host and integrate the software - who naturally charged a monthly maintenance fee on top of the hosting.
The BigCommerce solution worked really well for us. It was easy to use, both for us and for customers. And, as time went on, I self taught myself to edit the templates and CSS in order to make minor design changes and thus have greater control and freedom over how our site looked. This was great for me, I found that I really enjoyed tinkering around making changes but, it did have its downsides. One was that I became so embroiled in the look of the site, down to it being pixel perfect, that I took my eye off the ball of the business itself. Another, was that I was always seeing something else that I liked on other websites and would try to implement it on ours; in the end the website was so far off the professional built template that it was just just a mismatch of styles resulting in what can only be described as a mess.
Along the way, BigCommerce started offering their e-commerce solutions on a monthly subscription basis which included the hosting. At first, I was not in favour of this. I much preferred paying up-front for the software and besides, the monthly subscriptions restricted access to some of the files I had been editing. In the end though, my hand was forced by BigCommerce who were concentrating all their efforts into subscriptions and dropping support for software purchased outright.
In mid 2014, due to personal circumstances, I took the decision to remove our site presence for the World Wide Web and operate on a much smaller scale just on eBay.
Fast forward to 2018 and I felt that I was ready to once again commit to having an online shopping site. Although I still had all the template files from our BigCommerce site, it was still a lot like starting anew. Things had moved on so much in four years that the files I had were mostly not compatible with the newer e-commerce solutions. Also, there were more options to consider other than BigCommerce. I did kinda favour BigCommerce because it still retained a fair degree of familiarity but, I put that aside and for a number of reasons decided that Shopify was the best solution for us.
Starting fresh with Shopify, it was tempting to buy one of their pre-built templates but, common-sense prevailed and I decided to make do with a free template until I had a better understanding of Shopify and of the style in which I wanted to portray our business going forward.
So, what this has all been about is, we are launching a new design to our website, a complete new look, new colours, new style and even a new logo to go with it. Our new website will be going live over the course of the next few days and although most things are ready to roll there are some areas which can only be worked on once the site is live so please bear with us during this period and let us know if anything is broken. You will also notice a loss of functionality to our current site, areas affected will be the search box, main menu, currency converter and Collect Rewards scheme.
I hope that you will like the new design and features, your comments either way would be great. In the meantime here's just a little teaser of part of our new Home page.