Searching for the best website builder for artists and handmade sellers shouldn’t be so overwhelming. I know there are so many options, it can make your head spin. Let’s dive in to see if we can help you out.
What are the Best Online Store Platforms for handmade sellers and small businesses?
This is by far one of the most common questions I see pop up when Etsy sellers and handmade business owners are considering selling on Etsy vs their own website. Once you know that you’re ready to expand beyond Etsy to your own site, the next question is which is the best website for handmade products?
How to choose a website builder: Your Ideal Website Platform
One of the most important steps when creating your own website is to choose the right website platform. When I say ‘platform,’ I’m talking about the builder or software you use to create your website. If you make a hasty decision on which builder to use, you might choose one that won’t work for your needs.
I have seen people spend so much time designing and building a website and pulling their hair out because they can’t figure out how to add one specific certain feature…. Then they find out it’s not possible and they are back to square one and have to start all over on a different website builder Learn how to compare the best website builders for handmade sellers available and choose the right option for your unique business based on your goals. Every business is different – what you need for your site is not what someone else needs. Save yourself time and money by doing it right the first time.
This post contains affiliate links – more info
But first in order to know which platform to choose, you need to know which features are going to be the most important for you. Don’t waste your time building a website only to realize that the website builder you paid for doesn’t have the features you need and expected. So let’s run down the most common website features and see which ones you’re going to need.
Common Website Features to Consider
The best website builder for artists will need to have many of the following features so you can reach your business goals.
Domain Name – your custom .com URL
In order to look professional you’re going to need your own domain name rather than being on a website company’s subdomain. (Example of what you want to avoid: ‘yourbiz.weebly.com’ or ‘username.wix.com/sitename’) What this means is you have your own address that is simply like ‘yourbusiness.com’. This is pretty standard and most paid website platforms will allow you to do this. Look out for FREE website builders because this is one feature they tend to withhold on free plans. Also, FYI you can register a domain independently from your website hosting provider. I use NameCheap to register my domains!
Mobile-Friendly (Responsive Web Design)
This is 100% essential. People browse the web using their phone or tablet more than using a computer. “Mobile devices drove 61% of visits to U.S. websites in 2020“ This has been the case since at least 2015 when Google announced that more searches take place on mobile than desktop in the USA and 9 other countries. And 2 weeks before that announcement, Google rolled out a new search algorithm which gave favor to websites that were considered to be mobile friendly. (Tip: You can check all your pages with the Google Mobile Friendly Test Tool.) When choosing a website platform, it is crucial to ensure that you will have template options that are optimized for all devices.
A Great Theme & Ability to customize
You want to have a website that is beautiful, looks up-to-date, and matches your brand. Imagine what you want your website to look like in terms of overall layout. When searching for a website platform, you want to make sure there is a theme or template design option that will work for your brand. To me, the even more important factor is the ability to customize your design. Some themes are more customizable than others so you’ll want to know what can and cannot be changed within the certain theme you’re looking at.
If you want to establish professionalism around your brand, you’re going to want email accounts set up on your own domain. (So no more operating as email@example.com!) You should be able to set up a few email accounts with your own domain name. Set this up within your hosting account if you’re self-hosted. Some website providers don’t offer email and you’ll need to use a separate (paid) service.
Self-Hosted vs Hosted Solution
You’re probably wondering what the heck I’m talking about. Hosting refers to how and where the website files are hosted (stored) on the internet.
Self-hosted: You set up a hosting account with your choice of hosting company, and then install your website platform within it. This means that you are in control of your website files. You can download or back up your files and switch to a different web hosting company at any time if necessary; you are not tied to a single web host.
On the other hand, when you opt for a hosted solution, then you have no control over where or how you are site files are stored. That platform dictates how and where the files are and they control the backups.
WordPress or Weebly based websites can be self-hosted. You install the platform software on your hosting account. Shopify or Squarespace, on the other hand, are hosted by the respective company. You cannot download your website and take it anywhere else; you are bound to their servers.
I’m sure that you are concerned about costs and wanna to compare pricing. Knowing if your platform is a hosted service or self-hosted will help determine your costs. Many platforms are hosted and have a monthly fee to power your website. Some platforms are independent software (self hosted) and possibly even “free,” which means you will need to pay for general web hosting which can range from $10-25 per month on average.
Not co-branded / no ads
Some free website builders are supported by advertisements or co-branded with the logo of the platform on which your building. For example, a free or low-cost Wix site will have the Wix logo and “powered by Wix” on your website. This is not professional looking at all.
Number of users or logins
Are you the only person who will need to log into your website? Or do you have assistants, employees, or a web designer that will need their own login? Some platforms only allow you to have one user.
E-commerce / shopping cart
If you want to sell your products with your own online shop, ensure you choose a website builder that has a robust e-commerce functionality and any features you want or need. The best website builder for artists will have all the ecommerce features you need built in or easily added-on (such as WooCommerce for WordPress).
Look out for limitations such as:
- Limits on the number of products allowed (or need to upgrade plan to have more listings)
- Limits on the number of Attributes / drop down options for variants
- Lacking upsell or cross-selling capabilities
- Inability to have sub-categories
- Doesn’t integrate with your current tools or workflow (shipping, print on demand)
- No ability to back up your site and all your customer data, order data, etc.
Most platforms don’t have everything you need built right in. You will likely need to add on apps or plugins to extend the functionality of your store to meet your needs. Bear in mind that some apps or plugins will add to your monthly or annual expenses.
Here are things to consider while comparing platforms:
- Number of products you have and
- Digital or physical products, bundles, and/or subscriptions
- Payment Gateway options
- Inventory Management
- Integration with Point of Sale system (POS)
- Low or no transaction fees
- Shipping options
- Shipping calculator
- Real-time carrier shipping pricing/integration
- Supports Multiple Currencies / International Transactions
- Search, Sort, and Filter
- Product Tags
- Categories, Sub-Categories (multiple levels)
- Related products (up-sells and cross-sell suggestions)
- Product ratings and reviews
- Sales tax calculations
- Coupon codes
- Gift cards
- Customer loyalty programs
- Dashboard and Sales Reports
- Integration with Google technologies
Hot Tip: WordPress and Shopify can basically do anything you could imagine and if they can’t, a developer can code it and build it for you.
Embedded video or maps
Consider if you will want to embed video, maps, or any other special media on to your website. Typically this will involve a code snippet to embed from a third party and your platform needs to have the ability for you to add those code snippets onto your website.
Do you want a photo gallery for your business website? You may want to include a portfolio on your website or examples of your work. Take this into consideration when you are shopping around for your website platform.
Do you want to include a contact form on your site? Enable your website visitors to send you a message via form; they’ll fill out their name and information and you will receive the message in your email account? The benefit of a contact form over listing your email address on your site, is that it can greatly reduce the amount of spam from automated web bots crawling your site and sending junk emails.
Do you really struggle with technology and computers? If you lack searching skills when it comes to finding answers, you might want to consider a platform or hosting provider that provides phone support, email support, or live chat support.
Google Tools Integration
The best website builders for artists provide your website stats or are you able to integrate to Google Analytics, Search Console, Merchant Center. If you want to keep track of how much traffic you’re getting, where the people are coming from, which social media outlets and ads are most effective, and how users are interacting with your site, you want Google Analytics and Search Console! Merchant Center enables your site’s product listings to show up in Google search shopping results.
If you want people to easily search your site for information you will need to have a search function on your website. If this is important to you make sure that you choose a platform that will enable you to add this feature.
A blog can be a great way to post announcements, news, or articles for your business. If you have ever heard the phrase, “Content is King,” this is what you need. Blogs are also great for search engine optimization (SEO) because Google takes into account freshness and content when deciding if your website is pertinent to a user’s search query. Speaking of….
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Choose a platform that caters to search engines. Rank in search and earn traffic from search results, your site must be optimized for the search bots to crawl and index! WordPress allows you to easily manage the basics such as permalinks, titles, headings, alt text on images, and content of each page. You can also install a free plugin called Yoast to further assist you with optimizing your website.
So think about which of these features are important to you and your business. Some of these might not be important to you at all.
Identifying your needs is the first step to making a smart decision on the website platform for your business. There is no one-size-fits-all best website builder for artists – but more than likely you’ll find yourself narrowing down to compare between Shopify and WordPress.
Need more help getting started on your website and choosing the right builder for your site? Join me March 15-17, 2022 for the Website Jumpstart Bootcamp! ➡ Register Now
Best Website Builder for Artists – Website Builder Options
Here are some of the most common website builders and content management systems (CMS) for you to research and compare. I tend to recommend WordPress (.ORG!) and Shopify most often, but this is your decision to make, not mine! I also have quite a bit of experience with other platforms such as Shopify, Wix, Weebly, Magento, Drupal, DotNetNuke, etc.
Most Popular Website Builders: Overall Market Share (March 2022)
Common eCommerce Website Builders for Etsy Shop Owners
- WordPress w/ WooCommerce
Okay, so you have a lot to think about. My suggestion is to make a list of your “must-have” features and then a secondary wish list of “would-be-ideal” features. Identify which website builders fit your business needs after comparing several different platform options. During your research you may notice that some services seem very shiny with lots of bells and whistles, but be aware of clever marketing and what subscription level you must have for all the features you want and need.
If you need more help choosing the best website builder as an artist or handmade seller, please reach out to me or join me March 15-17 for the Website Jumpstart Bootcamp.
Originally published September 20, 2016
Post Last Updated: March 6, 2022