Selling art online is my main focus as an artist.
When I first began selling my art in 2010, I only sold at in-person events, but even then I knew that I needed to have an online presence to capture more sales. I built my very first website later that year and used PayPal button embed code on my product pages. Though, I had no idea what I was doing with driving traffic to my site so I made no sales. That was fun *rolls eyes*, but it was a learning experience.
A lot has changed since 2010, and I have tried a variety of online tools to sell my work. Like the following:
- Paypal buttons (2010)
- Etsy (2011-2016)
- SquareUp e-commerce (They recently partnered with Weebly so my original blog post about this platform likely needs to be redone, but I believe they still have a free option.) (2016-2017)
- Weebly (2017-2021)
- Lastly: Shopify (2022-Maybe Forever)
I won’t go into detail about the first three, but here’s a quick pro and con for each:
Paypal buttons were great because I could collect payments easily and I only had to pay for transaction fees, but I had to drive all my own traffic to my site. Etsy was great because I was able to get access to their search algorithms and the fees were small and manageable, but the listing fees are kind of annoying if you upload a lot of inventory that doesn’t sell.
When my Instagram following grew and I could drive my own traffic to my site, I switched to SquareUp’s free e-commerce tool. I didn’t have to pay any listing or hosting fees, but the site was very simple and isn’t great for a lot of inventory.
As a starting point, I 100% recommend SquareUp online for your first real e-commerce store. Not only that, their POS tools are also perfect for processing in-person and event sales.
(If you want to sign up for Square you can use this link https://squareup.com/i/GOGETMESSY and I will earn free processing in return.)
Now onto the main topic.
Weebly vs Shopify
Weebly had been my ecommerce platform for over four years. It worked great in the beginning, but I outgrew it.
Both Weebly and Shopify are easy to use and pretty affordable depending on what you want from your store. Weebly is cheapest, and their high end plan is where Shopify’s low end plan starts. (Compare Prices: Weebly, Shopify)
Both stores will give you what you need for basic e-commerce. With each platform, you can create a very easy drag-and-drop store without coding abilities, create product listings, sell items, print shipping labels, and do all the order fulfillment you need. But I consider Weebly to be the basic option and Shopify to be the robust option.
I know when I first went with Weebly, I didn’t need everything that Shopify could offer, and even now, I am still not using the majority of what Shopify can do. It’s totally possible that Weebly can and will always be right for your business.
Here’s why it was right for mine:
- It does most everything you need in a basic online store.
- You can get a super cheap plan. Since they partnered with Square, it looks like they even have a free option now too for ecommerce. (Weebly Pricing)
- Drag and drop functions made designing the website a breeze.
- The plan I chose could sell digital items (and I was already making phone wallpapers at the time).
- It integrated with SquareUp (which I had already been using for years).
- Lastly, I knew someone who was already using it and they had good experiences.
Now, before I go over the cons for Weebly, just keep in mind that all of these issues stacked up over time and some of them were very small annoyances, but annoyances nonetheless. Weebly might still be the platform for you, but here is why I grew to dislike Weebly:
- Minor user issues: The shopping cart didn’t give a notification when items were added, and the checkout process was a little clunky at times. (I got a few complaints from customers.)
- Also, I couldn’t find an easy way to add discount banners across the header of my store without using third-party add-ons that for a while covered up the checkout button on mobile devices which was not ideal.
- Abandoned cart recovery wasn’t included in the old plan I had, and the upgrade price at the time was more expensive than Shopify’s plan that included that feature already.
- Limited payment options: I could integrate SquareUp and Paypal for card processing, but missed out on other payment options, and even payment plan features like Shopify’s ShopPay.
- I couldn’t integrate with Instagram and Facebook to use shoppable social media posts. This didn’t exist when I first setup my store, but I was missing out as years went by.
- Digital items and physical items could not be purchased in the same order. I didn’t learn this until the month I switched plans. I’d been offering digital add-on products in my store for years and had no idea this was a limitation.
- There was no option for customers to sort inventory and product listings in meaningful ways without making manual categories for everything.
- Old inventory stayed at the top of product categories, and new inventory was added to the end of the categories. It’s a small thing, but it made it appear as if my inventory didn’t change on first glance and forced customers to scroll to the end of the product pages for new pieces.
- Customer reviews were added to individual product pages and not an aggregate page like Etsy does. When you offer a lot of single one-off products like me, the reviews on those specific pages are basically meaningless.
- Also, this really upset me one day: When I deleted products from inventory, it deleted the associated reviews without any sort of warning, and customer support was like “well, those reviews are gone forever now.” This forced me to make a separate review page where I copied and pasted reviews to be kept in one place.
- I couldn’t add notes to customer orders. I’m a Type-A record keeper and like being able to leave notes about orders and customer interactions when relevant.
- There are a bunch of little issues with bulk editing, tax collection, shipping zones, and other more nuanced complaints that are really only bothersome if you ship to many countries, ship a variety of sized and weighted items, and have a lot of inventory to manage.
Again, some of these cons are minor and might not ever be an issue for you. The deletion of customer reviews though was pretty outrageous. I hope they fix that for future users.
I switched to Shopify in December 2021
This should have happened years ago, but better late than never. I’ve only had this new store for three months, so I can’t give a full critique about Shopify’s pros and cons, but I can tell you my experience thus far, and it’s been positive.
- You can customize Shopify to no end. A lot of different kinds of businesses at larger scales use this platform, so they have built it to accommodate many changes, and there are more third-party apps that you can add to your store.
- Shopify integrates with Instagram and Facebook: I have been wanting to do shoppable Instagram posts for forever! Now, I can and I just tested my first IG post today and it appears to work quite well.
- My plan Includes Abandoned Cart Recovery. It’s a small thing, but this can be huge in encouraging sales from hesitant shoppers.
- I can sort products now! On my catalog page, you can actually sort for price, availability, and new to old inventory.
- Reviews! I was able to integrate a third-party app that will collect and aggregate reviews on a single page. Hallelujah. No more deleted reviews.
- I can put notes in orders now!
- Shipping: I can get much more nuanced with my shipping limitations and can even exclude certain items from shipping to different areas. (For example, I didn’t want to ship larger canvases internationally, but with Weebly, there was no way to prevent someone from still buying the piece. With Shopify, I have way more control over shipping.)
- Digital and physical items can be purchased in the same order!
- Payment options: I am no longer limited to accepting cards and Paypal. I can take Google Pay, Apple Pay, Facebook Pay, Shop Pay–or even Amazon payments if I feel like setting it up.
- Aesthetic: My product pages look way better than they did with Weebly. The Shopify theme I’m using allows for larger viewing that highlights the product images making my art look more appealing.
For the next section, I’m kind of grasping at straws, because I don’t have a lot of cons for Shopify yet. I’m sure I will have more eventually, but this is all I got right now:
- The Price: I paid $504 every two years for Weebly and just bought a plan for $558 for two years with Shopify. It was only a $54 difference and a whole bunch of improvements, but I still miss my free SquareUp store when renewal time comes around. You can pay monthly, of course, but I like the discount that comes with paying in full.
- Maybe too customizable at times. There are a lot of features on Shopify and it does take time to learn what is useful for your business and what isn’t.
- Coding knowledge: there are some areas on Shopify where you need to be a little comfortable with HTML coding. Like updating text on customer order emails.
- Privacy concerns: So-Instagram shoppable posts. They seem great, right? Well, with third-party integrations, comes sharing of information. When you shop through someone’s “store” on IG, Facebook/Meta/Instagram gathers a lot of data from those interactions. This isn’t really a Shopify con, but more of a general con of doing business online. After I signed up for Shopify with the intention of using this integration, I seriously considered not doing shoppable posts because of the gross data mining practices–but I had to weigh the pros and cons there.
There you have it. Only three months late, but hey, I told you I’d eventually write this post!
Weebly is a great option for e-commerce, but Shopify is a better choice for me. If you are starting small or don’t need a lot of features, try Weebly. If you are okay investing a little more money upfront for a store that can scale with you then look at Shopify.
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PS, This is not an affiliated post and I won’t earn commissions for my recommendations aside from the SquareUp free processing, BUT if you find this content helpful, consider tipping me through the Ko-Fi widget below or go to my Ko-Fi site for free/pay what you want wallpapers!