Heather: When I originally started down the pottery road I intended to wholesale to retail stores. However, I wasn’t thick skinned enough to shrug off the rejection of cold calling on business owners who didn’t like the product or more tactfully said it didn’t fit in with their style. So in the end, like the little red hen, I decide I would sell it myself then!
I intended to go to markets and events and sell online. Neither of those is as easy as they sound. The former because most quality markets and events won’t take us - we don’t meet their criteria of the products being made or designed by us. I’ve tried explaining that what we have is a unique, handmade product of the highest quality, but my powers of persuasion have never proven up to the task.
My business savvy friend Jasenka had made herself a free, very attractive looking website, using the Weebly platform and suggested I do the same. I foolishly dismissed this idea, saying that I needed something that was really professional.
I trawled the internet looking for businesses that built websites (I didn’t know they were called web-developers) and somehow found myself in a meeting in a trendy space in the city. I explained what I thought I was after and at the second meeting they showed me some beautiful pictures of what my website could look like. I’m sure they could tell I had no idea what I was doing and very little money. I was staggered at the quote - $22K. The kind girl who handled the administration obviously realized I was totally out of my depth and suggested I pay for their design and have someone else (recommended by her) build it for half the price. I took that suggestion, even though it was still way beyond my realistic budget.
I possibly wouldn’t have minded paying the money if the !#**xx@#$! website had worked properly. It never did. The landing page looked gorgeous but that was the extent of its appeal. It was very slow and awkward to use, it was full of glitches and there was so much we couldn’t change ourselves. However because we didn’t want to throw good money after bad trying to have it patched up, we struggled on for years.
I belatedly took Jasenka’s advice and made a couple of free websites, including thecupandmug.com so that we could have a tiny piece of cyberspace with easily up-dated information.
Tim: The moment I started building an online store for our range of Nicholas Mosse pottery - using Mum’s much loved Weebly, of course - it was obvious how much easier it was going to be to use this new website. It emphasised just how awkward the old website was both for us and for customers. We decided that it was time to cut our losses, ditch the professional website, and put the Polish Pottery on the new website too.
Snatching blocks of time here and there, within a few months we suddenly had by far the largest selection of pieces we have ever had available online. But it wasn’t published yet. The pareto principle was at play yet again - pushing on to the very end is always the hardest part.
DYI when you really don’t know what you’re doing, even if someone has tried their hardest to present you with a foolproof step-by-step process, is bound to have hiccups. More than a few choice words were uttered that I wouldn’t have even considered using in front of my lovely mother, before going into business with her. But that’s what ‘electronic bullshit’ (as a favourite author of mine calls it) will do to you!
A little knowledge can be a dangerous and frustrating thing. Too many things were just not straightforward. How to transfer the old email to the new email host but keep the old name and have no changeover gap? The same with the domain hosting. Once we published the new website there was still cause for more than a little anxiety, as things take a while to propagate through the wide expanse that is the internet.
There were times when the new website would show up, and times when the old one would, and times where an error page would show. Sometimes it would appear properly on one device but not on another. Finally, a very, very long 48 hours later, the new website was there in cyberspace, for all to see, and functioning as it should. Or so we thought.
The website’s security certificate wasn’t playing nicely with some search engines. Accessing the website directly worked fine, but not if you used a search engine and clicked the link to our site you saw a security error notification, telling you to return to safety! Not a good look when you‘re hoping to sell things on said website.
More swearing ensued, as I’m sure you can imagine. Mum tip-toed around me very carefully for days. She suggested on more than one occasion that we pay one of our IT professional friends to help sort us out. Cue my Shakespearian character flaw; independence. Asking for help isn’t something that comes easily or naturally to me. Surely I could figure out ‘the internet’. But does it need WD40, duct tape, or a bigger hammer? A very helpful Weebly support team member came to the rescue, and eventually everything was as it should be.
Finally we have a much much better website. Its front page isn’t quite as inviting as the old one, but that seems to be its only comparative failure.
In one of my more philosophical moments, I decided that with sufficient motivation, you can learn just about anything. The new website certainly felt like more trouble than it was worth at times. But persisting with the old one wasn’t an option. And paying someone to build a new one, well, we weren’t going to close our eyes and stab in the dark again. So with that in mind, I had to learn a lot about websites, domains, hosts, dns forwarding, security certificates, embedding code, and a whole lot more too. It’s still ‘electronic bullshit’, but I’d do it all again if I had to - when it works out, Do-It-Yourself feels very satisfying.
p.s. If you have feedback about using the website we'd love to hear from you.