Creating a professional web presence requires your own Web Site, and your own Web Domain Name. The domain name is the address of your web site that starts http://www and ends in one of the Top Level Domains (TLD). The original four TLD's (.com .net .org and .gov) have been expanded to include two-letter country codes (.us .ca .tv etc). More recently several industry specific TLD's have been introduced. You want a .com address if at all possible, your customers will remember this by default. The other original TLD's are well know and fairly easy to remember, but most of the newer domains will be less well known to your audience and therefore less memorable. I registered my first domain (storey.net) in the late 90's, and I've had several since then (iDiscGolf.net, and the sub-domain mike.is-a-geek.com) all of which I eventually let go.
Finding a Domain Name
I did a simple search for "Domain Name Search Tool", and found whois.com. which is a web site that makes it easy to find a non-regersted domain. This site also allows you to offer someone cash for a domain if it's already registered, but I'm cheap so that's not an option. At 46 characters SurroundSightGigapixelPanoramicPhotography.com is a bad idea for so many reasons. No one can remember it, it wouldn't fit on a business card, and eMail addresses are going to cause problems for many systems. SurroundSight.com/net/org/us were all taken (darn). I really wanted a short name, and decided to go with the acronym ssgpp. I was able to get a .com TLD, and hopefully it was short enough to remember. I did not use the domain search service to purchase my domain as most hosting companies incorporate the cost of domain registration into the cost of the service.
Selecting a Hosting Company
- Work on all popular browsers without any content restrictions
- Adapt to mobile devices without any special work.
- Provide easy to use eCommerce features:
- A solid "Shopping Cart and Checkout" experience
- Manage an inventory, pricing and presentation
- Support for product variants (paper/canvas, small/med/large, etc.)
- Easy integration with a variety of card processing services
- Easy analytics for user and content
These requirements narrowed my focus to several "Template Based" hosting companies, so the decision came down to the appeal of the templates I would have to conform to. Most of the template based hosting companies let you setup a free page (under their Domain) to see how things work. After a brief look at several services, I found SquareSpace and was blown away by their templates, analytics, eCommerce and ease of use.
When creating content on Square Space the template you choose provides you with the framework you need. After selecting your first template, you will have a basic web site with place holders for common content. It should only take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the Square Space editing tools. It took me about 4 hours to complete my initial web site, by simply filling in content in the sample pages, and uploading pictures. I've spent a lot of time since then customizing the look and feel of my page, and I will share my experience with those efforts in a later post.
Setting up eCommerce
eCommerce was also pretty easy to setup. After selecting a card processing service, and going through their setup process it was very easy to connect that account to my web-site. Once that was done, I setup up the "Shipping" calculators and added a "Shop" page with inventory and product variants. That was all there was to setting up the store. You can find complete guides here.