How To Guide - Creating a website

by Lewis Warren on May 11, 2020
As Takona is all about talking and communicating, and is itself an exploration into the unknown for me, I feel it is good practice to share the story and ideas clearly and openly, there have been several learning experiences and stories along the way and there might even be some useful advice for others like me who want to start something but don’t know how.
Original Takona Site design
The original Takona Site

Plain and simple

This is a long post, so in summary:
If you want a simple site with functionality and scaleable payment plans use bigcartel
For the next step up in terms of customisability but keeping the intuitive feel and great functionality use Wix (what I use). Can also be used for finding and hosting domain names, which may be free in some bundles.
For a similar service but with a limited time free trial paying with the same kind of feel and features as Wix use Squarespace.
If you're established and know what you are doing, use Shopify or Wordpress, but if you fall into this box, why are you reading a how to blog written by a novice?
For domains most site will help you find and implement one, Google domains is where I got mine and also how I got my email addresses, you pay an annual fee for the domain and a monthly fee per email address.
for the full story, please keep reading.

The Website

The most cost effective way to launch a small business these days is with a website, it's possible to set up a basic site for free using a wide variety of hosting sites and templates, no longer do you need to understand code or programing to make something that looks professional and has functionality.
The inherent downside to this is, if you can do it, so can everyone else. This means that everyone and their mum has a website and you are entering into a competitive marketplace of search engine optimisation, social media advertising, and fighting to be seen in the sea of others shouting out to be heard.
Notepad next to laptop with cup of coffee.

Where to start

When I was looking to find a way to start Takona online I sat in a cafe with a notepad, a cup of coffee, and went directly to a place I'd been before, Wordpress. Wordpress is great if you know what you are doing and what you want everything to look and feel like, there is so much functionality and choice, plus you can get up and running for free and launch a domain later. The downside to wordpress for me was, I didn't know what I was doing or how I wanted it to look, there wasn't a built in store feature or product manager, but the blogging capabilities were brilliant.
I had looked into utilising both Squarespace and Shopify, they are big names in the market and have all the advertisements on all the social platforms, I had heard of squarespace predominantly through podcasts. What I found was there isn't a way to utilise these services for free, which when you are starting an idea off your own back can be a huge impacting factor, every penny saved is essential.
They do allow you to create a site using a free trial before hitting any sort of pay wall, however if you aren't ready to be spending money on your site it is effectively time down the drain.
A friend of mine who I had originally looked into starting the gentleman's racing club brand with came across Big Cartel, a platform focusing on creating independent web stores, this was perfect. Big cartel allows you to set up a basic store with 5 products and a free hosted domain, it is "bigcartel.yournamehere" however it is a starting platform and it's functional. There are several basic themes to choose from and there is a reasonable amount of customisability, anyone looking to start a plain and simple shop with good foundations for processing orders should start here in my opinion.
There are several tiers available on big cartel each one unlocking a new feature such as more products featured, or multiple levels of product options, however the basic 5 product free tier transfers up as the budget grows.
Close up of Coding on a screen

Domain Name

Plain and simple, go to google domains, you can search the availability of your name, pay the annual fee to buy the domain, and get access to the google suite where you can create email addresses using your purchased domain. There is a monthly cost per email address so utilise one as efficiently as possible for as long as you can to save those pennies!
What I have recently discovered is that Wix will allow you to do the same kind of things as google domains, and include the costs into your website plan cost.
Design Charts on a desk


New Heights

Having had the site live for a few months and being happy with its basic set up and functionality, I was looking to explore a completely different idea I was working on. I of course started with Big Cartel as it was what I knew however this new idea wasn't a product lead business and needed some different features like monthly plans and button links which big cartels tailored style couldn't easily offer.
This lead me to Wix, I'd heard about Wix from a friend and product collaborator, Petrol-Gauge, and so started to explore the capabilities, the huge draw for me was I could create a full site without paying for hosting or being limited to a small free trial period, the downside thus far is that the price plans are advertised as x amount per month, but that only applies if you pay for a certain number of months in one go. It is possible to pay monthly but the price rises quite sharply, unlike big cartel you get all the features for your site without any pay walls. So in the new year Takona will be hosted on Wix
Wix is the perfect step up from big cartel in my opinion, after learning the basics of design and functionality on the simpler platform big cartel offers. Wix has a step up ease of access in terms of creating the look and feel of the site, you go through two main stages of site creation; setting up the fundamentals, and then playing around with everything and anything you want.
Firstly you start off with getting the basic theme and style selected, choosing a colour scheme and creating some basic pages. You have a limited range of customisablitiy to get your initial feel and style set up. It would be possible to stop here, there is more capabilities than big cartel has at this point in customisability and you can build a nice looking and useable site.
Then you enter into the full site editor, and everything becomes adjustable, from the corner radius of the buttons, to the location and number of products featured in a scrollable bar. This isn't to say it's hard to use, or there's too much, it feels intuitive and user friendly. So much so that I built two sites from scratch in a weekend.
2020 Takona Site

2020 Update

Takona is now on Shopify, this marks the next level up from the previous Wix style, it also marks a new challenge.

One of the biggest challenges with moving to shopify is the change in layout and customisation. Wix has a drag and drop style for the elements of your site, want a picture on the home page that links to another page, drag it, drop it, link it. Want to add an product slider in a certain place, there's a button to add items and sections. This makes for a very simple user interface, perfect for starting out and getting going. This isn't the case with shopify.

For shopify you utilise pre-existing themes, there are a small selection of free themes provided by shopify, these provide a quick and functional set up, the adjustments to style and colour are all done through a series of menus. This allows you to set precedent colours, fonts, etc. for items that make a consistent colour scheme throughout the site and give a routine professional look. 

For more independent looking pages you are going to have to learn a certain degree of html or potentially liquid, which is shopify's combination of html and css. This is a daunting challenge, fortunately shopify's support forums and teams are very supportive, help simplify issues, and work quickly to help. 

For those (me included) that can't easily code and create complex items for their site, the easiest way to implement new items to your site, such as contact forms, you'll need to utilise the shopify app store, there are a lot of free options, however they take a bit of digging to find, most have free plans for limited ranges of capabilities with the majority then having a scale of monthly plans.

It's the back end of shopify that is the main attractor for me, this allows my manufacturers to connect directly with my store allowing them to fulfil orders as they come in, it allows for a more seamless integration to google domains and advertising, making setting up services like google shopping and facebook dynamic ads much easier, smoother, and less time consuming. Once the front end of the store is set up, these integrations are the key to the efficiency of making it maintainable and efficient as things begin to scale.