What Is Shopify Plus?

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The Business Owner’s Guide To Selling On Facebook

The post The Business Owner’s Guide To Selling On Facebook appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Best Website Builder For Selling Products

This post originally appeared at Best Website Builder For Selling Products via ShivarWeb

Best Website Builder For Selling Products

E-commerce is booming. And not just Amazon. With better fulfillment, COVID-19 changes, and more familiarity, buying online has become normal for everyone. As more people buy products online, the sites that businesses use to sell their items are becoming more critical for competition. 

Website builders can help small businesses make attractive and functional sites to sell their products. They not only make building a website accessible & convenient, they also bundle technically complex functionality like shopping carts, payments, and order management into a single subscription.

However, it can be overwhelming to wade through all the options. The truth is, there isn’t an absolute best website builder for selling products. 

All builders have tradeoffs, and you should pick the one with the right mix of features for your particular budget, resources, and expertise.

In this article, I’ll dive deep into what considerations you should be thinking about during your website builder search. The important thing is that you know how to choose the best option for your needs. Once you’ve got that down, knowing what to choose comes easily.

Summary – Best Website Builder for Selling Products

Based on my experience working with many website builders, there are a few that are a good fit for most people. They all have free plans available to try. They are each best if you want…

  • Simple Ecommerce
  • Square Payments
  • Focus on Simplicity
  • Small Site Appeal

Weebly

Weebly
View Plans
  • Built-in Features
  • Drag + Drop Design
  • Focus on Usability
  • Broad Appeal

Wix

Wix
View Plans
  • Lots of Options
  • Future-proofing
  • Focus on Ecommerce
  • Online Store Appeal

Shopify

View Plans

Focused on content + products?

WordPress.com is a website builder focused on publishing & content that has also has capability to sell products. View Plans.

What Are The Benefits Of Selling Products on Your Own Site?

We will start by taking a look at the benefits of having an e-commerce site for your products. 

More Money Gets Spent Online Every Year

In the first quarter of 2019 alone, consumers in the US spent over $99 billion on e-commerce. If you want your business to remain profitable as online shopping increases, having an online store is vital. More than that, you need an online store that can deliver a quality shopping experience. 

A Website Costs Less Than An Actual Store

Suppose you decide to run a brick-and-mortar store. In that case, there are plenty of costs to consider, including rent, staff salaries, licenses and permits, utility bills, maintenance bills, supplies, and design. 

Meanwhile, running a website provides savings on these costs. Sure, running an e-commerce website comes with its own set of fees, including hosting, marketing, plugins, and feature costs. However, in the long run, these expenses are lower than those of running a physical storefront. Lower costs, in turn, means that the return on investment could be much higher.

A Website Enables You To Provide Convenience To Your Customers

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. When they’re feeling a little lazy, tired, or sick, they’ll appreciate the convenience of doing their shopping without having to walk or drive to a store. 

By allowing people to find what they want faster and more easily online, you encourage them to spend more. The selling proposition is higher, and the friction is lower.

You Benefit From Online Search Traffic

Did you know that about 33 percent of people start the search for products they want on Google?

By having an e-commerce website, you put your products in front of all those eyeballs, making it easier for them to discover your merchandise. 

Assuming you have some solid SEO, which is easy with the right website builder, all the products you list on your site get indexed by Google and other search engines. This indexing drastically increases your chances of making sales, simply because you have more reach.

Primary Considerations When Choosing Selling Your Products on a Website Builder

There is a broad spectrum of online e-commerce platforms out there, and you need to choose one that fits your particular needs. Choosing a website builder is a lot like buying a car. No matter which car you buy, they will all get you from one point to another. 

However, you might want other features depending on your specific needs, such as your budget, the type of products you sell, how many shoppers you expect to have, the maintenance costs, and the number of changes you have to make during operations. 

With an e-commerce website builder, you’re getting the same core functionality across the board. You get the ability to build a platform on which you can list your products, have a shopping cart that people can add products to, and a payment processor. 

However, there may also be other considerations you might have that would ultimately influence your decision. Below are some of the most important of these:

How User-friendly Is The Website Builder? 

Some website builders are more interested in offering as many features as possible, rather than making their platform user friendly for consumers. 

A feature-packed builder isn’t necessarily wrong; it is just a trade-off that you should understand. You might not mind looking through the platform’s knowledge base or asking questions on how to solve particular problems in the forum. 

On the other hand, you might instead prefer something easy to use that lacks advanced features. It depends on how much time you want to spend building and managing your website.

This consideration is also important for selling products. Are you looking to build a full ecommerce operation with hundreds of SKUs or are you looking to selling a dozen pieces of merchandise?

For example, Shopify is far and away the most versatile ecommerce website builder. But it has a lot of ecommerce features that some website owners don’t need (like inventory management) in addition to missing some website publishing features that some website owners might need (like blog comments).

Other website builders like Wix might provide a super-simple setup with easy product integration while limiting growth into a large ecommerce operation with strong organic traffic.

How Is The Customer Service? 

A related issue is customer support. In case you’re stuck, it’s a great convenience to ask someone for help. Whether you have the technical knowledge, you should see what customer service options the website builder offers. 

Shopify-Support

Having the opportunity to ask for help via phone, email, or chat application can be valuable during the website design process, and if you have any questions during regular business operations.

Additionally, think about how you prefer to solve issues. Some platforms like Shopify and WordPress have huge numbers of freelancers available to help with any task in addition to internal support.

What Is Your Budget? 

Just like your budget helps you narrow down your list of options at a car dealership, so does it thin down your choices for website builders. 

The more money you spend, the more feature-rich your platform. Fortunately, however, most of the essential features for a simple e-commerce website are quite affordable for most business owners.

You want to get the most that you can for your budget without wasting money on extras features that you will never use. 

Does The Platform Allow For Custom Designs?

A significant consideration you will need to make when choosing an e-commerce website building platform is whether it allows custom design. 

Wix Designs
Wix Designs

Most platforms have a range of “themes” from which you can choose. However, some of them make it especially hard to build a custom design or change existing themes. 

A simple drag-and-drop interface with lots of themes is easy to use, but you run the risk of having an e-commerce website that looks like other e-commerce websites (or struggling to make it *just right*). This is the track that Wix & Weebly take.

On the other hand, a platform that allows for custom designs might be a little harder to use, but it gives you endless options for how your website will look. This is the track that Shopify takes. They have a drag & drop builder, but really push you to buy or build your own custom design.

Shopify Theme Selection

A compromise could be a builder that allows you to alter existing themes to make them look different from competitors.

Secondary Considerations: What Else Do You Need to Think About When Choosing a Website Builder

When choosing the best website builder for selling items online, you need to consider more than the basics. Here is what else you should be thinking. 

Can You Add Extensions or Apps?

If you want to add plugins and extensions to your website, you should probably go for a platform that allows you to make such additions. 

Shopify-Apps

Note, however, that the more leeway a platform gives you to customize your site with plugins and extensions, the more complicated things will be.

Weebly Apps

It may also mean spending extra as many third-party extensions are for sale.

Will You Be Doing Content Marketing?

Is an online store all you want, or would you like to incorporate a blog or social media feed for some content marketing? Some website builders only offer pure e-commerce stores, while others provide lots of features to build marketing strategies right into your store.

WordPress.com Editor

Such content marketing tools can save time in the future because they make marketing more straightforward and cheaper. 

Does The Platform Allow For Offline Sales?

Standard e-commerce platforms allow you to manage your inventory and orders. However, some are better at managing your offline sales than others. Depending on how heavy your offline sales traffic is, you might want a platform that syncs well with this aspect of your operation.

SEO & Marketing Tools

SEO is an integral part of making your website and products easily discoverable online. Look for an e-commerce platform that employs SEO best practices and gives you as much control as you need over your website’s SEO features.

Hosting

Some e-commerce platforms will include hosting in some form while others only provide you with a website builder, leaving you to arrange the hosting. An all-in-one e-commerce platform will make your life easier, as the hosting will be taken care of as part of the package.

However, this option might be more expensive than shopping for your host on your own, and you might have less control over things like domain ownership and SEO. Some platforms like WordPress.com allow you to move to a self-hosted website easily since it runs with the same WooCommerce plugin that powers a self-hosted ecommerce store.

It is crucial to pick a platform that meets your needs in this area.

General Tips on Choosing Specific Site Builders 

What kind of options are available? There are plenty of website builders on the market, but some stand out. 

While there are plenty of options on the market, there are some examples of what you can expect from different ranges of website builders. 

Getting A Highly Customizable Builder

Some website builders offer innumerable options and plugins.

The challenge with customizable builders is that you might face a steep learning curve. Especially for beginners, navigating a website builder/content management system can be challenging. You’ll also need to explore (and possibly pay for) third-party plugins for your store.

Powerful site builders with endless options can enable you to create the ideal storefront, however. The catch could be that you have to hire someone to handle the store setup if you don’t have the time or the tech skills to do it yourself. 

Getting A Site Builder And Hosting In One Package

There are plenty of site builder plus hosting options to choose from when it comes to e-commerce.

Building a website via drag-and-drop design is simple. You get high uptime, unlimited bandwidth on many tiers, a fast content delivery network, and the ability to buy and own your domain name.

Weebly Built-in Tutorial

The flip side of bigger site builder plus hosting packages is that they are not free. There are paid plans that you need to invest in, which means you should budget to spend some money on the platform every month. You need to understand that package options are not a one-time expense and plan accordingly.

Should You Choose A Recognizable Name?

There are many recognizable names in the e-commerce industry, like BigCommerce, Shopify, GoDaddy, Squarespace, and more.

With many big-name site builders, you can expect everything to be handled for you, including shopping carts, email forwarding, and even a free domain, depending on the platform.

The great thing about bigger platforms is that they save you from the headache of trying to figure things like security and hosting all by yourself.

The flip side is that many of these site builders will cost you a monthly subscription that varies according to the features you choose to include in your store. This investment may be too significant if you are only selling a few products or focusing on marketing instead of sales. 

One other thing to note about more recognizable site builders is that it is very easy to research their services because so many people use them. Ease of research is one of the reasons to go with a recognizable name. 

Next Steps

As you can see, there are plenty of options when it comes to e-commerce website builders. You have lots of choices, but that also makes it easy to get overwhelmed. 

Based on my experience working with many website builders, there are a few that are a good fit for most people. They all have free plans available to try. They are each best if you want…

  • Simple Ecommerce
  • Simple Payments
  • Focus on Simplicity
  • Small Site Appeal

Weebly

Weebly
View Plans
  • Built-in Features
  • Drag + Drop Design
  • Focus on Usability
  • Broad Appeal

Wix

Wix
View Plans
  • Lots of Options
  • Future-proofing
  • Focus on Ecommerce
  • Online Store Appeal

Shopify

View Plans

Focused on content + products?

WordPress.com is a website builder focused on publishing & content that has also has capability to sell products. View Plans.

By taking stock of your specific needs and comparing them to what is available in the market, you can pick an e-commerce website builder that fits your needs. 

The good news is that the platforms listed above will meet the needs of most online store owners, so choosing from among them makes the work easier. Whichever option you go for, the important thing to remember is that having an online store is better than not having a store at all.

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How To Wow Your Customers With Your eCommerce Website Design

The post How To Wow Your Customers With Your eCommerce Website Design appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Liquid Web WordPress Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives

This post originally appeared at Liquid Web WordPress Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives via ShivarWeb

Liquid Web Review

Liquid Web is one of the largest hosting companies in the world. They were founded in 1997 and have data centers in Michigan, Arizona, and The Netherlands.

See Liquid Web’s Current Plans & Pricing

They have traditionally focused on dedicated, VPS, and cloud hosting. However, in their recent growth push, they have expanded to offer a wide variety of products, including Managed WordPress Hosting.

What is Liquid Web Hosting Managed WordPress Hosting?

Liquid Web is a large, privately-owned hosting company. They grew with a focus on enterprise and dedicated hosting. They have traditionally offered a wide range of specialized hosting products for agencies, mid-size, and growing businesses.

In 2019, they acquired Nexcess Hosting, which expanded their hosting products to include more affordable, consumer-grade plans, including Managed WordPress Hosting.

Additionally, they acquired iThemes, a WordPress theme & plugin maker, in 2018. They offer shared WordPress hosting under the iThemes brand.

Before looking at Liquid Web’s pros & cons, let’s look at a bit of background so that we can compare apples to oranges to limes.

To begin, I’ve written about how WordPress Hosting is different than Web Hosting here.

The short version is that WordPress is simply software that can run on any Linux-powered web hosting server (aka shared hosting). But many companies have customized web hosting servers to optimize for WordPress’ typical resource usage.

They call these “WordPress Hosting Plans” – even though one company’s WordPress Hosting plan can be wildly different than another company’s.

At one end of the industry are specialist WordPress Hosting companies like WP Engine and Kinsta. They *only* do hosting for WordPress with costs to affordability and versatility. On the other end are shared hosting companies that tweak their shared servers for WordPress, but still focus on affordability and versatility.

Liquid Web’s tries to split the difference with their Managed WordPress Hosting product. They want to be more affordable & versatile than specialist WordPress hosts, while also providing unique & more robust product than many shared hosting companies offer.

If most shared hosting companies are selling Toyotas, Honda & Fords; and specialist companies are selling Porsches or Teslas, then Liquid Web is trying to sell a Mercedes or BMW.

Make sense?

Ok, let’s outline how that plays out with pros, cons & use cases.

Pros of Using Liquid Web for WordPress

There are many Liquid Web Hosting reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience.

That’s fine, but I take a different approach. Like I mention in all my hosting reviews, there is no such thing as a “best” web host. It’s all about the right fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience & expertise. Here are the pros (advantages) for considering Liquid Web Hosting.

Performance & Speed

The number one job of any web host is to safely & securely store your website, and quickly deliver those files to any visitor who requests them.

There is a lot that goes into website speed. Using Liquid Web will not instantly make your website fast, but they take care of everything in their control.

Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress Hosting plans are built & managed with WordPress in mind. They aren’t just re-hashed web hosting plans.

While they do have some limits (see cons section), within those limits, Liquid Web runs WordPress well. Here’s an example speed test that I ran with no optimization or caching installed.

LiquidWeb Speed Test

Note the Time to First Byte (TTFB). While it’s best measured as a trend, it is the most straightforward & most accessible metric that you can use to measure a hosting company. Liquid Web excels on that measurement.

Additionally, Liquid Web seems to excel with large, memory-hungry plugins like WooCommerce. They allocate the right resources and provided servers that are configured & prepared for high-use ecommerce stores.

Support & Onboarding

Liquid Web’s customer support & customer onboarding is reliable. For a large company, they have still maintained a “human” approach to marketing.

Their Net Promoter Score (a standard measurement of customer satisfaction) has been consistently high for years.

Additionally, they consistently invest across multiple support channels, including phone, chat, ticket, knowledgebase, and support forum. This investment level is my usual “proxy” for judging a company’s commitment to customer service.

Additionally, Liquid Web has an great onboarding sequence for moving a new signup to a consistent customer.

LiquidWeb Human Onboarding

When I started my account, I had no issues and no confusion about what to expect or what to do next.

Hosting Features & Extras

Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress Hosting has excellent features plus extras that they don’t really promote.

Their resource allocation is solid, with no visitor caps. They have multiple data centers across the US & Europe.

They compete well with both shared hosting companies and specialist companies on raw features and allocations. But they add in a few different features as well.

LiquidWeb Managed WordPress Dashboard

They have a clean, accessible backend with both staging & development environments.

LiquidWeb Development Environments

They also provide an interesting “Visual Comparison” tool that allows you to quickly preview any WordPress plugin / theme changes without rolling it out to the staging or live server.

LiquidWeb Extra Features Visual Comparison

They also have a unique cloud autoscaling feature so that your WordPress site will never crash under user pressure.

LiquidWeb Extra Features

This feature is especially useful for high memory usage plugins like WooCommerce, BuddyPress, and bbPress that can come under high concurrent user pressure (i.e., lots of people trying to refresh their cart / feed / thread at the same time).

Comprehensive Hosting Products

Liquid Web has been a leader in the enterprise & dedicated hosting industry for quite some time. This history means that they have a whole suite of specialist hosting products for rapidly growing or unique sites.

No matter how your business changes, you can almost certainly stay with Liquid Web to solve your hosting needs. This point is especially important for web design firms or freelancers looking to find a long-term hosting partner.

My podcast co-host recently switched his marketing agency to Liquid Web for this very reason. Liquid Web’s support removed the agency’s dev maintenance workload so that they could focus on client work, while still getting the same performance as self-managed cloud hosting.

WordPress-specific Product Bundles

In addition to their Nexcess Hosting acquisition, Liquid Web also acquired iThemes – a popular WordPress plugin & theme provider.

With the iThemes brand, Liquid Web can bundle several “must-have” WordPress plugins. iThemes has always made high-quality plugins. Using Liquid Web allows WordPress users to get those otherwise paid plugins for free.

It’s a nice upside that enables customers to compare “apples to apples” with other companies such as WP Engine, InMotion, WPMU Dev, and Bluehost, who have all bundled similar premium plugins with their WordPress hosting product.

Cons / Disadvantages of Using Liquid Web for WordPress

Like any web host, Liquid Web has disadvantages. There are plenty of Liquid Web complaints online. But remember, that like the pros, these are all in the context of your goals & priorities. With that said, here are the cons that I found while using Liquid Web Hosting.

Liquid Web Pricing

Liquid Web’s pricing hits that classic “middle choice” problem.

On one hand, their pricing is great. It’s a great value. On the other hand, it’s neither affordable enough nor valuable enough.

Let’s go back to thinking about my car analogy. Imagine you just need a solid, reliable car to commute around your city. Do you need a Mercedes, or would a Honda do just fine?

Imagine you have the budget & needs for a luxury car. Do you really want a Mercedes, or would you prefer a Porsche or even a Bentley instead?

For solid, customized WordPress Hosting, there are companies with solid service, solid specs, and higher limits that are much cheaper than Liquid Web (e.g., this site uses InMotion Hosting’s WordPress Hosting).

There are WordPress services that WP Engine and Kinsta offer that Liquid Web is unlikely to roll out – because WordPress is not their main focus.

Liquid Web also limits some of their plans, especially on bandwidth, in a way that reduces their overall value.

Custom Backend

Liquid Web provides its own custom backend to manage your server instead of the standard cPanel.

LiquidWeb Managed WordPress Hosting Backend

It does provide some upsides like other companies with a custom backend (SiteGround, DreamHost, and GoDaddy). It saves cPanel licensing fees, streamlines some tasks, and allows for a more uniform product.

However, a custom backend also creates additional problems for anyone who has developed a cPanel-based workflow, multisite management, or likes to search to solve server management issues.

In other words, Liquid Web’s backend issues are unique to Liquid Web and require Liquid Web’s support and expertise. There are no quick Googling fixes. And if you are managing multiple client sites, you’ll have to use Liquid Web’s tools rather than industry-standard cPanel tools.

Limited Downgrades

Liquid Web’s WordPress plans start at $19/mo for a single site. They don’t have anything cheaper. Even iTheme’s old $4/mo beginner tier no longer exists.

$19/mo is well and fine for a growing site that needs solid resources and support. But what happens if you need to downgrade due to a loss in traffic? There’s no cheap tier to downgrade to.

The lower tier is a customer segment that Liquid Web does not work with. That’s great, but also something to consider if you are shopping around.

For example, I manage several smaller sites that I have high hopes for, but are also young & fragile. I’ve had to upgrade but also downgrade those sites to stay in budget. Liquid Web’s plans would not allow the downgrade option.

Technical Language

Liquid Web does a good job “humanizing” their support & onboarding channels. Their product & support language is friendly & welcoming. But it’s also decidedly focused on people who understand hosting jargon.

Some of their best hosting features are undersold because they are explained with hosting jargon. Part of this comes from their positioning & price point.

LiquidWeb Managed WordPress Dashboard

They are best for agencies or website owners who know what they are looking for in website hosting. However, it’s something to keep in mind if you are looking at moving from a hosting company that you’re familiar with – or are just starting.

Bundled WordPress Products

Liquid Web’s iThemes plugin / theme bundle is a solid pro, but it’s also a bit of a downside if you prefer other premium plugins.

iThemes comes as a suite of tools that work best together, especially their backup & security plugins. They are fine, but they aren’t what I prefer (I use JetPack and WPMU Dev).

If you choose to use a different suite of plugins / themes, you aren’t going to get as much value out of your plan as you normally would. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s something to keep in mind when comparison shopping.

Liquid Web Use Cases

Liquid Web is a solid host, but they work particularly well for certain customer segments. Here’s a few cases where they are the best / better choice over competitors.

Profitable, Growing Website

If you have a profitable, rapidly growing WordPress website with lots of resource usage and dependable support needs, then Liquid Web would be a good choice. Their plans have more immediate value than specialist hosts while also providing more resources than shared hosting companies. Be sure to consider the downgrade downside, and look at other WordPress hosting companies.

Web Design & Development Agency

If you have a web design / development agency, the Liquid Web would be a solid choice to consider. They have consistent hosting with helpful performance for you & your clients. You can maintain a profitable maintenance retainer by shifting support needs from your development team to Liquid Web. Be sure to consider the cPanel downside, and what hosting price you are trying to pass along to your clients.

WooCommerce Store Owner

If you are running an ecommerce store on WooCommerce, then Liquid Web would be an excellent choice. They brought in a lot of ecommerce expertise with the Nexcess acquisition (both for Magento and WooCommerce). Their plans & support team has familiarity with WooCommerce’s needs since they have such a large base of WooCommerce customers.

Is Liquid Web Managed WordPress Hosting Good?

Liquid Web is a solid hosting company with an excellent managed WordPress hosting plan. They aren’t the right choice for every customer.

But if you value support, performance, and a solid price point for manage WordPress hosting, they are a good choice.

See Liquid Web’s Current Plans & Pricing

For other Liquid Web alternatives, explore my Best WordPress Hosting post.

Liquid Web WordPress Hosting

Liquid Web is a longstanding, respected hosting company. Their new Managed WordPress Hosting product is well-executed and worthwhile, if it’s within budget & meets your website’s needs.

Price: 19

Price Currency: USD

Application Category: Managed WordPress Hosting

Editor's Rating:
4

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Shoploop: Google’s New eCommerce Platform Targets Buyers Through Authenticity & Entertainment

The post Shoploop: Google’s New eCommerce Platform Targets Buyers Through Authenticity & Entertainment appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Create A Return Policy For Your eCommerce Store In 5 Easy Steps

The post How To Create A Return Policy For Your eCommerce Store In 5 Easy Steps appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How to Build a Minimally Viable Website

This post originally appeared at How to Build a Minimally Viable Website via ShivarWeb

How to Build a Minimally Viable Website

So you want to get your product/service/thoughts in front of an audience, and you need a website. Time to buckle down and create a massive, beautiful site, right?

Wrong.

When you’re launching anything, the most important goal is to get data. Without data, you can’t possibly make something as good as it can be — and that applies to your website, too.

You need data on what it takes to build & run the site of your dreams. You need data on who actually visits your site and what they do. You need data to decide what to do next.

One of the biggest mistakes business owners make when launching a website is starting too big and too well-designed (especially eCommerce sites).

You don’t need pages and pages of content or a fancy design. What you do need is a minimally viable website.

Here’s how to build one…

Define Your Goals

Before you do anything, you need to decide what you want to achieve with your website. What do you want people to do once they’re there? If you’re looking to make sales, what are your revenue goals?

This part of the process may seem counterintuitive — after all, this article is about creating the minimally viable product — but it’s key to building your site on the right foot.

Defining your goals upfront will help you know what to look for in the data you get and whether or not you’re on the right path, so don’t skip this step.

Choose Your Platform & Domain

Most business owners feel like their website has to use fancy tools and platforms to get the job done. Not so. In fact, a simple HTML template can be all you need (you can even host it for free with a Dropbox hack if that’s your thing).

If you’re into WordPress or some other website builder and can churn out a quick website, then go that route. Weebly and Wix both offer free plans on their subdomain.

The point here is to get your content somewhere quickly and simply but to also keep your options open for when you’re ready to make changes (and to track data).

Some companies like InMotion Hosting have a specific quick start setup service for $99 + hosting (which you need anyway). Companies like NameCheap will also bundle it with your domain.

A custom domain can be important – but remember that you can always change it. Your goal right now is data – not perfection. Go get a cheap domain from NameCheap or GoDaddy.

Set Up Analytics + Goals

Speaking of tracking data… the whole point of an MVP (or MVW in this case) is to capture data so you can find what works and what doesn’t. In order to be able to capture this information, you need to set up analytics and goal tracking.

There are a lot of options, but Google Analytics is the go-to solution (it’s also free).

The key is to make sure you have goals set up based on whatever action you want people to take. If you’re an eCommerce store, you need to be sure you have an eCommerce checkout set up. Make sure it’s a goal. Make sure the whole package is working correctly because you have to accurately track conversions (aka sales) – if you are using a minimally viable payment solution like PayPal or Gumroad – this might mean simply setting the thank you page redirect.

If you’re looking for email opt-ins, make that a goal. Set up any action you’re looking at as a conversion in Google Analytics for tracking. And like eCommerce sales, you don’t have to get fancy. This might mean setting your MailChimp thank you page redirect as the sign-up goal.

If you plan on marketing your website (which you should), you should also link Google Analytics to Google Ads and set up a retargeting audience with Google Analytics.

And lastly, you should set up a Facebook Ads account and place a retargeting (audience pixel) cookie on your website. And learn what exactly Google Analytics does.

Set Up Focus Pages

As I’ve already mentioned, you don’t need a 100+ page website on your first launch. When you’re creating a minimally viable website, you should focus on setting up a few landing pages where you can send traffic for conversion.

In some cases, this can actually be done with a single page.

Take this website: Fix the Electoral College. I built this with a single HTML file hosted on a Google Cloud account. I never wanted to build an entire website dedicated to the structure of American politics with all the security updates and information architecture needs — just a single, shareable resource. This single page website got clicks and shares from hundreds of key state legislators in a very targeted Twitter / Facebook campaign. Mission accomplished!

The goal is to create very specific pages (or a page) that visitors can land on and take action. If you can do that in one page — awesome! Do that. If you need more than one, then take that route. Just remember that this should be as simple and clear as possible and focused around whatever conversion you’re looking to measure.

Test, Test, Test

Once you’ve got your website up, it’s time to start testing and optimizing. The goal here is to keep what works and get rid of what doesn’t.

Keep in mind that everything you do will conform to the 80/20 Principle. I’ve seen lots of analytics profiles across a wide range of industries. In every single one, every metric conforms to 80/20.

  • 20% of the products make up 80% of sales.
  • 20% of content drives 80% of organic traffic.
  • 20% of ad spend drives 80% of revenue.

When evaluating your website, keep your focus on the 20% that matters, and keep expanding the overall amount of opportunity. If you’ve never read much about the concept, check out the original 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch AND the follow-up 80/20 for Sales & Marketing by Perry Marshall.

Next Steps

Now that you’ve got your minimally viable website, it’s time to take some concrete next steps. Remember, this isn’t about more planning. It’s about action. The whole point of launching your MVP site is to get feedback so that you know what to do next.

Check out InMotion’s Quick Start service or NameCheap’s one-pager that will bundle with a domain purchase.

To get that feedback, you’ll need to get people to your site and taking action. Check out this guide to promoting your website (for free) to get started.

Once you’ve gathered data – you’ll need to set up a more permanent website with more options. You’ll want to explore my essential guide to eCommerce platforms or my WordPress website guide or my guide to website builders.

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Tailor Brands Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives

This post originally appeared at Tailor Brands Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives via ShivarWeb

Tailor Brands Review

Tailor Brands is a suite of branding & design tools powered by machine learning for non-technical users.

They allow businesses, organizations, and individuals to create an entire “brand identity” with logos, typography, color patterns, and other elements across the web & print.

See Tailor Brands’ Current Plans & Pricing

In other words, Tailor Brands a toolset that makes your project “look good” everywhere from your Facebook page to business cards to website.

There are plenty of Tailor Brands reviews on the Internet – some good, some bad. This Tailor Brands review will look at how the software works, the upsides, downsides, and ideal use cases for the product based on my experience as a digital marketing consultant.

What is Tailor Brands?

Tailor Brands is a suite of tools to help you create & manage your business designs everywhere that your brand appears. They were founded in 2014.

They use software & artificial intelligence to not only create your business’ look and feel but also maintain that look and feel everywhere that you want.

Their main tool is their logo maker. Rather than use templates or quiz questions like traditional automated logo makers, they have you answer whether you like or dislike styles. Their AI does a version of NetFlix’s recommendation algorithm but with design styles.

Once you approve a certain design style, their software creates an entire brand identity and uses rules to apply it to applications ranging from a stand-alone logo to Instagram profiles to website headers to presentation headers.

Background on Tailor Brands

There has always been a plethora of DIY design tools on the Internet. I use Stencil for my Featured Images. I’ve used Canva for social images. I’ve used native tools with Buffer & social networks to customize my logos & images. I had a guy from Fiverr help edit my website CSS to match with my logo colors. I had a professional graphic designer on UpWork create a custom blog image for me. I’ve run contests for clients on 99designs.

In other words, the world of DIY design has been here for a while. You don’t need a Mad Men-esque setup of paying $$$ for graphic designers to create a pitch deck.

But the world of DIY design is also a bit of a frustratingly hot mess. It’s a world that’s good enough to be dangerous.

In other words, it’s accessible enough to let non-designers think they are designing a nice brand…when it’s a jumble of mismatched fonts, misaligned layouts, and conflicting colors.

It’s the difference between “Yeah, that’s nice” and “Damn, that is right on! How’d you do that?”.

Tailor Brands is an interesting product that is trying to use software, AI, and automation to take those details away from humans and just automatically apply it wherever you need it – to create a “brand identity with a stylebook” as it were.

How Tailor Brands Works

Tailor Brands works by moving you through its logo maker, which doubles as a brand identity developer. You are given options…and you can run the software as many times as you want.

Once you’ve approved your design, you’re taken to a studio with mockups & style guidelines. You then have a choice of 3 pricing plans*.

First, the $3.99/mo plan provides access to your logo, social media tools, and graphic design library. You can also connect your domain to a basic landing page builder.

Second, the $11.98/mo plans provide access to EPS vectors (for outdoor and print use) in addition to a full website builder and advanced design tools.

Third, the $25.98/mo plan provides access to social media schedulers and analytics so that you can bring your social media management under a single platform. You can also accept payments and run an online store.

*Note – you can cancel and keep all your design assets. So technically, if you just need a logo – you can get that for less than $50 (the $3.99 is billed for 12 months).

The plans all provide ongoing access to tools to manage your brand designs. You retain full ownership of all brand designs & assets even after you cancel.

Pros of Using Tailor Brands

For a relatively new product, Tailor Brands’ actual product is well-executed. There are few bugs or real complaints that I found with the actual core product.

Their real advantage (and disadvantage) is their unique positioning as a tool suite. Here are some of the main pros of using Tailor Brands not only for logos but as a design management tool suite.

Product Focus on Branding over Assets

As mentioned in the introduction, one big issue with the DIY design tool world is the focus on design assets. It’s easy to create a Facebook post on Canva or bulk generate Google Ads with Display Ad Planner. Those tools are easy and usually free. But they are inherently separate. *You* have to manage your images across different tools.

A huge pro for Tailor Brands is that they have an entire tool suite that focuses on unifying your entire brand everywhere. They focus on keeping that brand identity right on, rather than focusing on giving you the best kerning tool or biggest font library or the most intuitive CSS editor.

If you look at some of their design tools one on one with direct tool competitors, they may or may not be “the best”. But Tailor Brands can keep everything looking good everywhere, which is their main pitch to customers who would benefit from their product.

In my experience especially with small and local businesses, it’s a consistent brand identity (paired with a good product / service) that allows them to compete with established big name brands.

If you can just remove the infamous pixelated cover photo, you’ll probably beat your competition. And if you can ensure that your new assistant can quickly handle good looking Instagram posts…all the better.

That outcome is Tailor Brands’ main focus, and it comes off well in the product.

Pricing Structure & Cross-Sells

Every software as a service (SaaS) struggles with business models and pricing. You want your service to be accessible, but also profitable.

This balance is especially hard to strike with design assets where it’s usually a one-and-done proposition.

Tailor Brands runs on a subscription business model. But the subscriptions focus on the design tools rather than the design assets.

Tailor-Brands-Pricing

This structure creates a couple of of useful incentives.

First, it means that there’s no question of ownership of design assets. You own your brand, period.

In fact, it means that you can get a really cheap logo if that’s all you want. You can pay for one month, download your assets, and cancel. You’ve got a high-quality logo in a range of file types for less than $50.

Second, it means that while Tailor Brands has to keep optimizing their logo maker to bring in more customers, they also have to keep developing better design tools to keep customers around. There’s no disincentive to extort customers over their design assets or to drag their feet over product development.

Third, the subscription encourages use from customers rather than a one and done download. The real productivity boost for businesses is having a go-to design tool with everything in one place where you (or a new team member) can quickly create new designs & assets on an ongoing basis. And usually, the more you use a tool, the better you can get.*

*also you’ve got software that will adapt to frequent social media image requirements.

Ideally, there’s a virtuous cycle for everyone involved. Tailor Brands is one of the few companies where I think the cross-sells and upsells are not annoying, and generally useful.**

**also, small quibble, but do note that the prices are billed annually – so you are purchasing a full 12 months of access, even if you only pay monthly.

Turnaround Speed & Feature Versatility

Since Tailor Brands is fully automated, there are no constraints on time, speed, revisions, requests, or redos.

If you want to try graphic design a 2 AM Eastern, you can. If you want to completely redo your design, you can. If you need a mockup right now, you can get it. There’s no delay in turnaround or schedule to meet.

There’s no back and forth or waiting for your designer or virtual assistant. There’s just the software that is working 24/7/365. That’s a huge advantage for Tailor Brands. It works on your timeline.

And if you are trying to actually run a business, working on design any time means that it will get done. If you are running your business full-time, you likely don’t have time during business hours. And if you are working on a side project…you have to work on it outside business hours.

Additionally, since Tailor Brands has a whole suite of design tools, there’s no downloading or cropping or exporting or importing. Everything is just there to use.

Convenience generally beats everything. And when it comes to branding, Tailor Brands makes brand design convenient above all else.

Backend Quality & Usability

Even though Tailor Brands focuses on the branding aspect of design across their suite of tools, the tools themselves are high-quality and rock-solid.

They’ve built some tools in-house, but others they’ve high-quality 3rd party tools and customized them. For example, their website builder is built on top of the Duda website builder, which is one of the best website builders that I’ve used.

Same with their social media tools. It looks like they’ve white-labeled a 3rd party tool. But whatever it is, it’s legit and high-quality. Same with the design editor and others.

Each tool is solid & highly-usable on its own. But when they are all bundled within Tailor Brands’ suite, it makes each tool even more useful than it would be on its own.

Cons / Disadvantages of Using Tailor Brands

Every product has disadvantages, but especially a relatively new product like Tailor Brands.

Here are a few tradeoffs & complaints that I found with Tailor Brands. Some are simply the flip side of an advantage, but some are inherent to their approach.

Branding Process & Revisions

Tailor Brands’ fully automated, AI-powered design process leaves humans out of the process deliberately. That choice cuts costs, increases efficiency, increases choice, and makes the platform what it is.

But the tradeoff with this choice is that…it leaves out humans.

And humans are still critical to produce truly unique or truly outstanding brands. Brands are built on stories, and stories are what makes us human.

Humans can also ask pertinent questions, push-back on scope, implement creative deadlines, and invent completely new concepts.

Tailor Brands’s software can create a brand design and a brand style guide, but it cannot assign meaning or purpose of symbolism or even provide a reason why a certain design works over another – it only knows what “works” based on other user data.

The story / meaning part of branding is either your job or a job for another human. If you assign it to another human, that’s going to cost time & money.

And if you take on the job yourself, it’s something to be aware of and learn about.

Either way, it’s something to keep in mind when using Tailor Brands. There’s no process of “brand discovery” or mapping your customer’s psychographic persona. There are no revisions based on client feedback.

All that is for better and for worse. Before online design tools, agencies gave away the process and sold the assets. Now, you can get the assets affordably, but you still have to understand a bit about branding.

And that leads to the next tradeoff.

Customer Education & Brand Identity

Even though Tailor Brands does a lot of the branding & design work for the customer, they still leave a lot of creative work up to the customer.

The tradeoff of any service that claims to do “everything” for you is that the customer’s expectations are not set correctly. When it turns out that there is *some* work to be done, it’s easy to bail instead of figuring the work out.

A Tailor Brands customer still needs to be prepared to think through where, when, how they’ll need to use designs. The logo maker sequence is great, but after creating the logo, there’s very little guidance for a new customer.

Tailor-Brands-Dashboard

There’s a ton of options with no real onboarding guidance or customer examples. Their welcome email series is limited to deals & coupons rather than “here are common next steps” or “here are some common use cases”.

I can imagine that customers who don’t have a strong sense of direction would churn quickly after getting a logo idea.

If you do end up using Tailor Brands, do note that you should have an idea of what *you* need to get out of it, rather than just using it for using a new tool’s sake.

Platform Product Lock-in

Tailor Brands is a hosted platform that focuses on convenience. And there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control on the Web.

The more convenient a product is…the less control you have. And the more control you have…the less convenient the product is. Think about RSS vs. Twitter. Think about hosted website builders vs. self-hosted CMS’. Think about an Amazon Seller listing vs. your own ecommerce store.

Tailor Brands makes everything downloadable. And they ensure that you truly own all your intellectual property.

However, like a hosted website builder, your work is inherently tied to their platform in many ways. The longer you commit to their platform, the harder it becomes to leave.

That’s not a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just a disadvantage that’s the flip side of their big advantage.

But it’s an important tradeoff to understand. If you use the Tailor Brands’ platform over your own copy of Adobe Illustrator, email or Paint, do ensure that you are downloading and backing up *all* of your brand assets on your own computer for the sake of preserving your own intellectual property.

Company Structure, Age & Competition

Tailor Brands has been around since 2014. They are still considered an “early-stage venture-funded” startup. In other words, they are privately held and using investor money to focus on the product rather than profit or market share.

Like the platform lock-in tradeoff, this disadvantage is more of a consideration. Right now they are still at a stage where pricing & product can change rapidly. They also probably have a small team with limited resources. They also will have copycat competition from publicly held competitors like Wix, Fiverr, Squarespace, Vistaprint, and others.

The upside to being a customer at a young venture-funded company is that you can count on more resources going into a better product. The downside is that there’s still a risk that they could get bought or “pivot” in the future.

Tailor Brand Alternatives & Use Cases

A product / service is only as good as its customer fit. Tailor Brands is not for everyone. But for some, it would be amazing.

Here’s 3 use cases where I think they’d be a really good it.

New Business or Organization w/ No Brand Assets

If you have a new business or organization with no brand assets and no large budget for a human-led design process, Tailor Brands would be a perfect fit.

Now, I would think through which features & tools that you’ll need from them. If you need a more robust website presence and/or email with lots of features, you might want to look at a dedicated website builder, ecommerce platform, or even shared hosting. You could use Tailor Brands strictly for design tools and social media. Either way, a new small business is their bread & butter. You can get try out their logo maker for free here.

Personal but Online Project w/ No Brand Assets

If you have a small personal project that you want to look just right – think resume site, hobby site, non-profit idea, family project, etc – Tailor Brands would be a solid fit. You can get try out their logo maker for free here.

Existing Business or Organization w/ Redesign

If you have an existing business or organization and you want to refresh your look without committing to a design firm or outsourcing to several providers, Tailor Brands would be a good fit. You can use what tools you need. You can also download & use the EPS file to get any signage or custom assets made offline.

Now, Tailor Brands is not for everyone. If you feel comfortable coordinating designs and brand assets across different platforms or if you have the budget to pay a human for graphic design, then something else might be a better fit.

Here are a few direct competitors to Tailor Brands and how they compare.

Tailor Brands vs. 99designs

99designs is a contest-led marketplace for graphic design. You set a budget and run a “contest” among human designers based on your design briefing. I wrote a 99designs review here. But in short, 99designs is sort of the halfway human point between Tailor Brands and an agency. 99designs is much more expensive than Tailor Brands, but you do get human ideas based on a design brief. 99designs also has a huge range of design contest options…but not the design management tools of Tailor Brands. Technically, you could (and should) check out both. See Tailor Brands here and 99designs here.

Tailor Brands vs. Fiverr

Fiverr is a huge marketplace for humans working on “gigs”. You think of a task that you need to be done, find a person to hire, and quickly get it done for you within Fiverr’s platform. Fiverr is also a halfway human point between Tailor Brands and an agency. The price ranges depending on skills and reputation. While you can great design assets from Fiverr, you are also in charge of managing all your design assets. You also have to expect to pay for several logos / designs before coming away with a good one. Tailor Brands would be a simpler, more affordable, and versatile fit.

Tailor Brands vs. Wix Logo Maker

Wix is the big brand name in the website builder world. I wrote a Wix review here. Technically Wix competes directly with Tailor Brands, even if they have a different focus. Tailor Brands focuses on how your brand designs are presented *everywhere*. Wix has similar tools, but really focuses their tool on website applications. In other words, Tailor Brands is a design tool with a website builder and Wix is a website builder with a design tool. Check out Tailor Brands here and check out Wix’s logo maker here.

Tailor Brands vs. DIY Tools

Between Canva, Stencil, and every other random logo generator on the Internet, Tailor Brands has plenty of competition for DIYers. If you have the time and wherewithal, you could get everything that Tailor Brands offers for free. The issue would be that all your designs would be dispersed among a bunch of tools…and you would be relying on your own design taste rather than a professionally built tool. In the end, I think that Tailor Brands is worth the money for the convenience and the designs. But for a quick sketch up of something you have in your head, Stencil is the simplest.

Next Steps & Conclusion

Tailor Brands is a unique and useful addition to the design world. In fact, for many businesses, it could do a full end around the traditional “upload your logo to a website builder” model.

By bundling design management tools, including a social media editor and quality website builder with an automated logo & brand designer, Tailor Brands has figured out something new & different.

If you are a non-designer trying to build a consistent brand identity across the Web & offline, Tailor Brands is worth a try.

See Tailor Brand’s Current Plans & Pricing

You might also be interested in my review of 99designs, my post on layouts, and my post on color palettes, and my post on hiring a web designer.

Good luck with your project!

Tailor Brands Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives

Tailor Brands is a suite of branding & design tools powered by machine learning for non-technical users. They allow businesses, organizations, and indi

Price: 3.99

Price Currency: USD

Application Category: Logo Design

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Square For Nonprofits: Everything You Need To Know About Seamlessly Accepting Donations, Running Events, & Selling Merch With Square’s Platform

The post Square For Nonprofits: Everything You Need To Know About Seamlessly Accepting Donations, Running Events, & Selling Merch With Square’s Platform appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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