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  1. #1
    Senior Member Alanna Baxter's Avatar
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    I have two friends who want me to build each of them an online shop. I'm trying to create a business here so I told both friends that I would build and manage the site for them and price it. Initially, I said that I could give back the sites and teach them to update it. But in order for me to develop a portfolio, I decided that I didn't want to do that. One of my friends is fine with the new arrangement. But the other friend just wants me to build the site for her then hand it back to her so she can do all the product input, put up product pics and prices, etc. I suspect that she is worried about me knowing too much about her prices. (I have bought a few things from her.) I'm not sure how we can both win here. I want to keep the sites so I can do all the updates and maintain the integrity of the sites. If I hand it back and changes are made to the design then I won't be able to use it as part of my portfolio.

    Anyone run across this before? How did you handle it?

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  3. #2
    WDF Staff mlseim's Avatar
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    Create the site, train them on how to administer it, and hand it back to them.

    Running an online "ecommerce" store requires a full-time commitment, just like operating
    a real store. Catalog photos, uploading, inventory, credit card / customer management,
    shipping, returned goods, complaints, problems, etc.

    What system you use for the online store will also be important. That determination will be
    mostly on who is processing their online credit cards ... will it be an SIM (simple integration),
    where they don't use a secure server, or AIM (advanced integration), where they are subscribing
    to a secure server and retain all customer information themselves.

    Finally, what are they selling? If it's something not unique, like jewelry, it will take a ton of
    advertising and online tricks to attract buyers. There are a gazillion online jewelry sites.
    If it's something like clothing or jewelry, where people need to touch-it in person ... selling
    online is tough. Expect a lot of returned goods (doesn't fit, or not what I expected).
    The shipping and return authorizations will be a full-time job in itself, just like a real store.

    It sounds like you (and them) think it might be easy to make an online store, upload
    some stuff and wait for the sales to come in. I hope you realize the responsibility that
    you're asking to take-on.

    I'll say this again ... online stores are exactly as much work as a real physical store.
    The only thing you don't have to do with your online store is sweep the floors.

    Do the websites for them and hand them off. Trust me on this one.


  4. #3
    Senior Member Alanna Baxter's Avatar
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    Wow! Ok, mlseim. I take your point. And you are correct. I didn't realize how much work would be involved. Both sites want to use Paypal. I hadn't thought about dealing with shipping, returns and all that. I definitely do not want to deal with that! It will completely take me away from what I'm trying to build here.

  5. #4
    WDF Staff smoseley's Avatar
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    If you build an ecommerce site properly, adding products can't ruin the integrity of the design. Even if you're using paypal, at least use Wordpress+Shopp or some combination of tools that will allow your friends to manage the site content through an interface that restricts them from breaking the design.

  6. #5
    WDF Staff smoseley's Avatar
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    FYI, I know what you mean, though. I've built freaking amazing websites in the past, and then had the clients utterly destroy them. royceintegrated.com is an example.... I actually took them out of my portfolio because of what happened to the site. I'm not sure what they did to it exactly. They kept some components of the site, but completely changed others. I think they hired an SEO firm that ripped it apart. The sick part is they didn't have to... it was perfectly SEOed as it was. Who knows. Oh well.

  7. #6
    WDF Staff mlseim's Avatar
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    Alanna ...

    PayPal falls into the SIM category (simple integration). This is where the customers fill their
    shopping cart and then click checkout. The script sends everything to PayPal, and the user
    is also sent to PayPal to enter their credit card. The customer does not need a PayPal account,
    and you should make sure the customers know that. If they do have a PayPal account, it just
    makes it easier for them. After they pay, they are returned back to the site (online store).
    At the same time, PayPal has already sent back status of the transaction, and the online store
    can automatically adjust the inventory amounts.

    One of the things PayPal does best (and other CC merchants do too, but not as well), is the
    ability to use PayPal development to fully test your online store before going "live". You use
    the PayPal development site to create a fake buyer, seller, and simulate the real PayPal
    transaction, just as though it were real. This fully tests your site without payment to a real
    credit card (they have you enter a test (fake) credit card number).

    smoseley has a really good point about destroyed design. I think that will be a necessary
    risk in your case. A website for a non-profit, or some service (like housecleaning) would be
    easy to administer and host yourself, but an online store? I don't think so. As soon as
    tangible goods are involved, that becomes a whole new animal.

    Pick your ecommerce method wisely. Whether using a pre-made script, like Magento,
    oscommerce, cube-cart, x-cart, etc. ... or creating your own (which is something you may or
    may not be able to do), is going to be your biggest challenge. Keep us posted.
    Alanna Baxter likes this.


  8. #7
    Senior Member Alanna Baxter's Avatar
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    Neither one of these clients wants to mess with merchant accounts with banks, etc. so that's why they are insisting on Paypal. You guys have given me so much to think about and consider. I am currently in the process of outlining my proposal to each of them. Neither is website savvy so I'm hoping that they will not mess with the design. If they want to change something in the design I hope they will ask me to do it. I think I may approach this as a co-op type of site where I do the design and development and they maintain the products, etc.

    I created two other Wordpress sites over the summer that the clients wanted back. So, of course, I had to give them their sites. I can't include them in my portfolio because the clients have changed the design and they look awful. I wouldn't want my name on them. That's what worries me. I could create a bunch of sites but if I have to hand them back each time, how can I build up a portfolio and prove my worth if clients keep messing them up? Yikes! Guess I might just have to take my lumps!!

    Thanks, guys. You've given me a lot of stuff to work on. I had no idea it could be this complicated.

  9. #8
    Senior Member krystof's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mlseim, post: 223523
    Pick your ecommerce method wisely. Whether using a pre-made script, like Magento,
    oscommerce, cube-cart, x-cart, etc. ... or creating your own (which is something you may or
    may not be able to do), is going to be your biggest challenge. Keep us posted.
    I also am building a few ecommerce sites for friends. And I am not a webdesign specialist.

    For clients with money (already making income online, or wanting to expand from offline to online, or with significant startup capital) find a reputable Shopsite specialist. They take care of everything for about $100 monthly, hosting included. You can get commissions.

    As for shoestring startups, a year ago, after significant browsing and discussing, I decided X-cart is the best low-cost ecommerce CMS.

    But that was before I discovered there are ecommerce plug-ins for Wordpress. Also WooThemes has WooCommerce themes. Does this make it unnecessary to deal with X-cart? I like to learn as few things as possible.

    But with X-cart, I can import a spreadsheet to set up or update an entire catalog. I.e., once I develop a general-purpose design set up with X-cart, I believe I can have any client or data-input person fill out a spreadsheet, and then quickly have a passable ecommerce site, and easily update the prices etc. which is a real nuisance.

    To clarify: a retailer not only must sell products, but also must order from the distributors. To order within 1 hour instead of 1 day, they need to keep a spreadsheet of all their stock items. As they order, they will find that prices have changed. This means, if they sell online, they must maintain BOTH spreadsheet database + online database. It saves 1/2 the trouble if these are one and the same. Then when prices change, they just delete the wholesale order columns, and voila, they are ready to update the website. Spreadsheet imports not needed for 12-24 produts, but a must for ecommerce with over 100 products.

    Also with X-cart, after the client generates some income, they can go to Webdesignforums and find a really good designer who can customize X-cart nicely. Not so sure about "WooCommerce."

    Is it feasible to use WooCommerce instead of X-cart? Any opinions welcome.

    PS. WooCommerce does offer a CSV Import Extension for $50. And it claims to be highly customizable. And so long as you provide support, one license is sufficient for unlimited client sites. After everything is done the client may buy a Wucommerce licence for $70 for direct support, if desired. $70 gives you GPL llicense for 3 highly flexible themes, mix-and-match regular or ecommerce, or $140 if you want original photoshop files. I am inclined to try Woo. It would be nice not to have to learn another CMS. Also ecommerce sites should have blog capability, meaning Wordpress. Nice if they can be one and the same. With WooCommerce the ecommerce webmasters might be able to do all they want within a minimal learning curve. (But I'm not the expert. Ask the other guys.)

  10. #9
    Unpaid WDF Intern TheGAME1264's Avatar
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    PayPal is definitely the way to go if you want quick and easy. You can set it up in about 15 minutes if you do it right.

    As far as what to do about clients who want to maintain their own stuff...frankly, you don't have a choice. You do the work, they pay you to do it, it's theirs to destroy as they see fit. If they want to put a pink elephant kicking the snot out of a shark on the home page, it's their right to do so, and you have to allow for that.

    This is actually one of the problems with CMSes in general...they don't do a very good job of protecting clients from their biggest problem i.e. themselves. Sometimes you have to lock things down and sometimes you have to open them up, and this really depends on the client, their knowledge, and your knowledge of them as a client.

    I had a similar situation to Steven...I built a site in 2005, and it worked well, generated all sorts of sales, until about 2010 when the client themselves got into a business deal with a major paranational. The paranational wanted certain things, the male co-owner got all upset without thinking, and he screwed up the deal as a result. Then the male owner got overly emotional and paranoid, started emailing the customers arrogant letters, the customers got upset and started talking to other customers on discussion boards and review sites, and the site started to tank.

    At that point, it was due for a redesign anyway since it had been five years...no matter how well a site is built, sometimes you just need to adjust things and things such as copy (which the client wrote) needed to be rethought. The client began writing 1000-word articles on the home page, long product descriptions, all sorts of stuff, and got me all upset trying to figure out how to fix the problem when it really wasn't mine. Eventually in mid-December, the male owner accused me of sabotaging the site and implementing something I hadn't that messed with his search engine rankings (even if I had implemented it, it would have had zero impact because what was alleged to have been implemented was Javascript-based anyway).

    So I stopped working for them, sent them final bills on Christmas Eve, and then a whole firestorm ensued, where he claimed they had paid in full (they hadn't, and he knew it), that I was ripping them off, and my personal favorite, that I had sabotaged their email client (which I couldn't have done since I hadn't physically been in their office since mid-October, so that was impossible). They ended up running a bot on my server, which I found out about after the fact, to acquire their content...of course, that doesn't work when you have an e-commerce cart. They completely destroyed their site, had it rebuilt by another company, and what the other company rebuilt was so bad they ended up using a screen capture of the old site that I built 6 years ago in their portfolio as opposed to what they built themselves!

    In the end, stopping the work for them was the best thing I could have done, though. Their business is basically hanging on by a thread, stands almost no chance at ever recovering, and now I can't be blamed because I haven't been involved in any capacity for almost a year. Sometimes you just have to let it go.
    Alanna Baxter likes this.
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  11. #10
    Senior Member krystof's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheGAME1264, post: 224122
    PayPal is definitely the way to go if you want quick and easy. You can set it up in about 15 minutes if you do it right.
    Good to meet you again "TheGame."

    Do you mean PayPal premium Shopping Carts? I forgot about that option. Are you saying Paypal premium shopping carts are much faster to setup than X-cart for 100 products?

    Or are you talking about using Paypal "buy now" buttons for only a few products? I take that for granted as the way to go when just selling a few items, no need for a shopping cart.

    (In case someone doesn't know: any shopping cart can be setup to use Paypal processing. So that's not what we're talking about here.)


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