Shopify vs WordPress-Spanning the Bridge

Final-Whidbey-Bridge-1

As some of you know, I recently moved my sassmuffins.com website to Shopify.  I made the decision to do this so that I could better showcase my pet products.  And while I still think I made the best decision for my business, I can’t say the “switch” has been the smoothest transition.

I have had a self-hosted WordPress account, one that gave me a fair amount of flexibility with my blogging, since the summer of 2012.  As my annual renewal for this self-hosted site was due in March, I rather quickly looked at other options out there to make the best business choice.  After researching the available e-commerce venues, I decided to go with Shopify.   They had a lot of product options I did not have, and were noted for their great customer service.  And, their monthly fees were reasonable for the number of products I would be listing (limit of 100 products).

I also decided that as a short interim solution, I would move my posts to a free WordPress account.  This would give me additional time to work at my own pace on the new Shopify site.  This part actually went rather well, with a couple of very major exceptions.   Apparently 99.9% of people move from a free account to a self-hosted account, not the other way around.  And you can export/import your subscribers from a  free to a self-hosted WordPress account, NOT the other way around.  In fact if you have subscribers via email, you will simply loose them with this transition.  That’s what happened to me; I lost several hundred subscribers.  And those that had me on their feed are not longer seeing me.  Double blow!

The second major issue with moving a blog is that photos don’t actually transfer.  Meaning, they may show up on the new site – but only so long as they are linking back to the old site!  Since my self-hosted WordPress account would be closing, I knew I had to add photos from two years worth of posts into the media files of my new free WordPress account.  Since I rather love photos, this took a great deal of time.  This is also something I need to do over time with my new Shopify account, just in case this free WordPress account is ever closed.

Shopify did take a little time to learn; there are certainly differences from WordPress, but overall the setup and creation are much easier.  I think that is because you are working off of a preselected template, which really helps.  I definitely love the way my products are now showcased, and that I have a cart that is visible within any screen on the site.

So here’s the rub.  If you only want a blog, go with WordPress.  If you want a shop, go with Shopify.  If you want both – well maybe you know of a better solution, but WordPress doesn’t do a good job with products, and Shopify definitely has limitations with a blog.

With Shopify you can’t receive notices of a new post.  Everything within their system is, logically, set up for a ‘customer’ list, not a ‘subscriber’ list.  As such I have signed up with MailChimp (yep more to learn) to be able to send out regular newsletters to those that sign up to receive them on my sassmuffins.com website.  Certainly more effort on my part…create the posts and also a newsletter, although I am looking forward to creating my first one.   And once again a loss of hundreds of post subscribers!  And although there is a  Shopify app ($5 per month) that would automatically download all my WordPress posts to Shopify, to see any comments you are linked back to the WordPress account.  Ridiculous!  You end up with comments on the WordPress site, and other comments (on the same post) on the Shopify site.

My first thought was just to keep the free WordPress account as an archive of older posts, but I have since decided to put all my posts on both sites, manually.   Sometimes I may only put excerpts of full posts on my WordPress account.  This way those that want to  follow my blog may do so via this method; certainly my hope is that most will choose to sign up for the newsletter on my Shopify site.  Certainly folks are welcome to do both!  Either way, I encourage everyone to see my new sassmuffins.com website.  It showcases photography and products beautifully!

Have you found any great solutions to your shop vs blogging issues?

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Site Moved

Hello All!

I have moved my blog and shopping site to Sassmuffins.com on Shopify.  I will retain this WordPress site as an “easier to access” archive of my blogs for the past 2 1/2 years, although they are also accessible at my new site (just more difficult to search there as they only use/allow tags, unfortunately not a true archive).

I will also post here, as well as on the new website, as often as possible.  Some posts may be excerpts.

Enjoy my new site!

WordPress-Twitterpated

Hearts

Part V-Twitterpated

This is the fifth of a five-part series for newbies to WordPress.

*See Definition of Technical Terms

SOCIAL MEDIA

Are you twitterpated, or smitten, with *social media?  If so you will really love the way your new blog or website will be able to incorporate all your social connections.  Actually my first suggestion before delving into adding social media resources and links to your site is to decide on which social media resources you want to add, and if they are new to get those set up separately first.  Facebook (pages for Facebook if your site is a business site) and Twitter are the most common social media applications.  I also use Pinterest and Flickr, and have a link for my Etsy site.  It did take some time to get each of those properly set up before the information from them could be added to my website, but it was well worth the effort, so have fun and enjoy the process! (Update 4/1/14-My site is now set up differently, still learning how to integrate various forms of social media into my site is crucial.)

*Social Media ~ refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. Examples are Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.

Once all your social media accounts are set up, you will want to do several things.  First, as mentioned in the last WordPress article, you will probably want to add links to some of your social media sites via your widgets.  Check your available widgets to see if what you need is already there, and if not add via a new plug-in.  Two of my favorites are “Pretty_Pinterest_Pins” and “Javascript Flickr Badge”.   These are great for displaying my photos from Pinterest and Flickr.  You even have options to set these up to only display pins from particular boards or photos from select folders.

You will also want to add a social widget (again if not already installed) that will allow you to display *icons that link to your social media sites.  The social widget allows you to select a category, establish/order/limit your icons, and show icon images.  You will see these in the top-right corner of my website.  There are so many great icons available, some free and some for purchase.  I purchased my custom chalkboard social media icons via Etsy seller ShinyMagic.  Be sure when making your choice to select icons that have several sizes available, in case after installation you realize that you really needed something larger/smaller.  The icons you choose will need to be added to your *media library via your site’s dashboard.  Open your media library, select “add new”, and drag your new icons into the “drop files here” box, or select  the “upload new media” choice.

*Icons-Picture, image or other representation
*Media Library – WordPress online library for stored images/photos

And, just so you know, this is a three-part process!  After you have both your social widget and social media icons installed, you will still need to establish your links to your social media sites.  This is done via the “links” menu in your dashboard.  Click “add new” and for each social media you want linked add the name, the category “social”, the rating or order you want them in, and the actual link to your social media site.  Now double-check your actual page to make sure your social media icons are linking correctly to your external social media sites.

The last social media item you will want to include on your site is a way for any readers of your posts or pages to easily share your information within their own social media, or via a bookmark, message or email.  This can be done via an “Add to Any Sharing” widget.  This widget by Lockerz is a great all-inclusive sharing platform, and makes it easy for visitors to share your content using any service.  This results in:

  • More traffic
  • Easy distribution
  • Better rankings
  • Extended reach

“Add to Any Sharing” will show up under your “settings” section via your dashboard once installed.  It can then be accessed and configured as you choose.  Looking for another way to share?  Check out this Smashing Magazine blog with suggestions.

MEDIA

When it comes to adding media to your site, WordPress has recently made that process easier.  To add photos, simple open your “media library” site and again select “add new”, where you can drop in photos from your desktop.  Photos must be kept to a maximum size of 2MB.  Once added to the library, you can enter the photo’s title, any text, and can save to a preferred size.  When creating a new post, you will see a box to “add media”.  Photos already in your media library will pop up, and you can choose a photo already saved, or upload new files.  Via the menu on the left, you can also set a featured image or create a gallery of photos.  Practice and play with these features to get just the look you are after!

WordPress-Widgets & Whatsits

Final-Clock-Back

 

Part IV-Widgets & Whatsits

This is the fourth of a five-part series for newbies to WordPress.  Be sure to join me each Monday for the next two weeks to learn how to set up a WordPress site.

*See Definition of Technical Terms

So exactly what the heck is a widget?  Well, according to Wikipedia, in computing, a web widget is a  “software widget for the web. It’s a small application with limited functionality that can be installed and executed within a web page by an end user.  A widget occupies a portion of a webpage and does something useful with information fetched from other websites and displayed in place.”  When you are browsing the web, it’s typically the information contained in sidebars and footers that hold these widgets or small applications.

Within your own WordPress site, you can view your available widgets by selecting Appearance-Widgets from your dashboard.  Some of the available widgets will be from WordPress, and some will be via your selected theme.  Once on that screen, you can drag widgets to a sidebar on the right to activate them. Simply drag widgets back to the left side of the screen to deactivate them and delete their settings.  Drag to the bottom left of the screen to deactivate them without deleting their settings.  You may drag a widget into different sections of your sidebar, or into different sections of the footer.  Once you have dragged a widget to the right sidebar, select the drop-down menu to open that widget up and change any settings, or add text or an image.  There are many widgets to choose from, including calendars, *tag clouds, and recent posts.

*tag clouds – a display of the most common tags used in your posts

Let’s suppose you have seen a widget on another website that you really like, but don’t see it available within your choices.  You will also see a section called “Plugins” on your dashboard.  View your installed plugins to see what is currently active.  This is also where you can select “add new” and do a search for the type of plugin you would like to add to your site.  For example, I wanted an image plugin to display the large “Visit My Etsy Shop” circular banner displayed in my sidebar.  So I simply did a search for “image widget” and then looked at the ratings and reviews of the plugins produced from my search to decide which widget I wanted to install.

One important note here is that if there is anything that will “break” the code on your website, it will probably be a plugin.  So do your research before installing, and install additional plugins one at a time, checking to make sure with each individual install that your site looks/works correctly.  You can also easily deactivate, or delete, a previously installed plugin from this page.  Once installed, your new plugin will be available on the widget page, or in some cases, directly available on the plugins drop-down menu within your dashboard.

Join me next week for a review of using social media and images on your WordPress site!

 

 

WordPress-Be a Nerd

 

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Part III-Be A Nerd

This is the third of a five-part series for newbies to WordPress.  Be sure to join me each Monday for the next three weeks to learn how to set up a WordPress site.

*See Definition of Technical Terms

So now that you have chosen a domain name and host provider, and have selected a theme, it’s time to become a nerd and get that website or blog started! I don’t know about you, but for the most part I am a firm believer in reading instructions, particularly when stepping into unknown territory. That definitely being the case with WordPress, my best recommendation is to thoroughly read the WordPress.org site’s “Getting Started with WordPress” section for Beginners. Bookmark this site, create a new tab in your browser, and login to the “administration area” of your newly created WordPress site. You do this by adding “wp-admin” after your domain name (e.g. http://example.com/wp-admin). You can also place “login” after your domain name in more current versions of WordPress. Now you will be able to go back and forth between the two sites as you are learning. Be sure to also bookmark your WordPress login page for future use.

Once logged in, you will see your *dashboard; this is the place where all the creating happens! As the WordPress.org site says, this is where you will be spending a lot of time over the next few hours, weeks, months – so take the time to go through the sections and set your site up the way you want it. Take a sheet of plain paper and make notes of other websites that you admire when setting up the structure for your own site. What do you like about them? Not like? Do you like the look of the backgrounds used, how the footer sections look, how photography is presented, the types of information provided in the sidebar? How are links used for *social media on other sites? Think about the different names/types of pages you might like to have. Time invested now will mean fewer changes to your new site later.

*Dashboard ~ a collection of information and data about the activities and actions on your WordPress site.
*Social Media ~ refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. Examples are Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.

While in your dashboard you will be able to quickly toggle back and forth to see the changes you are making to your site by clicking on your website name in the top left corner, directly above “dashboard”. Your main navigation menu runs along the left side of the dashboard, and will allow you to create posts, insert media (photos, videos), apply links for your social media, and set up your pages. Your chosen theme will also have an entire set of choices for you, allowing you to further customize your site. You will be working in “settings” a great deal as you begin. As you work through the WordPress.org instructions, be sure to open up suggested links as they appear to focus on setting up specific areas of your site.

One of the first *plug-ins you might want to install is Askimet, which helps protect your site from spam. This plug-in is available free for personal sites, with a low monthly subscription cost for business sites. There will be many types of free plug-ins that can be added once your basic site is set up.

*Plug-Ins ~ Plugins add function and sometimes fun to your site. There are hundreds of different plugins from adding custom links like related articles to your sidebar to adding weather reports.

If you run into issues with the way your pages or posts look, you can often find help in the WordPress forums, or in your chosen theme’s online forum pages. This is where your earlier selection of a theme with great customer support is invaluable. In the past they have helped me with specific code that needed to be placed either into my theme, or added to the page or post I was working on to make it look the way I wanted it to. Be sure, when creating your first post, to click on the “text” box tab next to the “visual” box default tab in the top-right corner of the post. You may not have any desire to learn *hyper-text markup language (html) coding, but it helps to see the language that web pages are written in. And after some time, you will want to know how to go into this “text” box tab on your posts to make specific alterations. Here are several sources that might help with your website terminology along the way:
Glossary of Blogging
Computer Technical Terms
HTML Quick Codes

*Hyper-Text Markup Language (html) ~ the language web pages are written in.

Just remember, this is a constant learning adventure. The solutions are out there if you are persistent, and lots of help is available online or perhaps through your more tech savvy friends. Next week I will discuss the importance of widgets to your site – much more fun than the basic setup – I promise!