Want website, will panic
January 12, 2016 10:02 AM   Subscribe

One of my new year resolutions is to set up a website I've been saying I want to set up for ages. The problem: the last time I set up a website, CSS was in its infancy and I hand-coded static HTML files. I know what I want the thing to do, and I've tried doing my research, but all the various ways of getting there are doing my head in, so I'm looking for recommendations. Please explain things like I'm an idiot, because this is absolutely making me feel like one.

I'm looking to be selling stuff - entirely digital, just files. Here's what I would ideally want the site to have:
  • A blog section (with categories and monthly archives) as well as static pages
  • A shop with the ability to:
    • Set up a sale on specific items, or shop-wide, and automatically have it go back to the pre-sale prices after a specific date
    • Set up coupons, either for a flat value or % discount
    • Users should be able to set up an account and have a place where they find all the things they've bought if they need to re-download
  • A mailing list
  • The ability to give some files away for free in return for people signing up to said mailing list (ideally, I'd like them to enter their email address on the free file's page, and then the download link gets emailed to them and they also get a "confirm your subscription to the mailing list" email if they're not already subscribed).
Ideally the layout for the whole thing should be template-based so I can just plug something in and go. I'll most likely end up building a custom template myself but if I can get started first and get lost in layout minutiae second, that's better.

Logic suggests I ought to be able to do this with a combination of WordPress and Shopify? But I'm overthinking things as per my usual and I don't want to set up the entire thing only to find out a feature is missing and have to do it all over from scratch.

Bonus points for a recommendation for a webhost that'll install all the required stuff for me (again, I can figure out how to do it myself if necessary, but it's faster if someone else does it for me, unless it turns out to be lots more expensive than setting it up by hand). Extra bonus points if said host can also handle domain registration. Keep in mind I'm in the UK and my card dings me for foreign-currency transactions, so a UK-based host would be best.
posted by sailoreagle to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Unless you really want to dig into the code yourself, I'd suggest Squarespace. I don't know for sure that it hits all your nice-to-haves under the shop section, but I do know that you'll have more time to figure that stuff out if you aren't mucking around in the code yourself (unless, again, that's really how you want to spend your time).
posted by brentajones at 10:17 AM on January 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

WordPress with the WooCommerce plugin will work for your needs.
posted by backwards guitar at 10:23 AM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Seconding Squarespace. It literally will take you minutes to an hour to get something together. After that, tweak your site to your heart's content.
posted by jbenben at 10:27 AM on January 12, 2016

Use WordPress and WooCommerce, maybe also Easy Digital Downloads for the file. You won't need to get into code at all. Only use Squarespace if you want to be frustrated and spend your life in configuritis.
posted by Meagan at 10:39 AM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Another vote for SquareSpace. I use them for my own personal portfolio website and an org I worked with that had some e-commerce going on also used it. Very user friendly, good support, beautiful templates, and easy to change between templates--we all know web design can get very dated after a couple of years so it's nice to be able to keep your site's design current.
posted by smirkette at 10:51 AM on January 12, 2016

Nthing Wordpress with the Woocommerce plugin for what you've described - I've worked on several similar sites with that combination.
posted by Blue_thing at 10:57 AM on January 12, 2016

Squarespace is the answer. I create large high traffic websites for a living, but for my personal projects its even what I use. Although I'm perfectly capable of setting things like this up from scratch, I can't do it myself for cheaper if I take into account both my time and money.

Edited to add: look around for coupons. Squarespace advertises heavily on podcasts and you can find some 10% off coupons very easily if you look.
posted by cgg at 10:59 AM on January 12, 2016

nthing WordPress and WooCommerce. Spent literally maybe 2 hours of my life setting something rather similar up for a friend, and most of that was dinking around fiddling with templates. There are tons of companies that provide specific WordPress hosting where they take care of updates (and it'll do a lot of that itself nowadays). The only one I know of specifically that's in the UK is GoDaddy; their service (at least on the US side) is good enough but they've been somewhat skeevy in the past. (Or, just setting it up on a VPS or shared host or something is good too - if you install the Jetpack plugin and connect it to Wordpress.com, it will auto-upgrade your plugins and such as well as Wordpress itself.)
posted by mrg at 11:26 AM on January 12, 2016

WordPress seems ideal. I've never used Squarespace, so I can't speak to that. But I don't see any reason that WordPress and an e-commerce plug-in like WooCommerce wouldn't work for you.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:40 PM on January 12, 2016

WordPress, WooCommerce and Stripe (since you need a payment processor.)
posted by DarlingBri at 12:54 PM on January 12, 2016

I've used both WordPress (professionally) and SquareSpace (personally) and they both can and will do what you need. The main difference is that SquareSpace really specializes in very artsyfartsy, minimalist modern themes (and not very many of them) whereas WP offers a bajillion and a half themes (some paid, some free) that have any number of different sorts of "looks." If your image is really central to your business (and that image includes the words "hip" and/or "artisinal") then SquareSpace probably wins by a hair. Otherwise? Take your pick.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:17 PM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just bear in mind that there's nothing simple about e-commerce. Prepare to be frustrated.
posted by NedKoppel at 1:54 PM on January 12, 2016

Also check into Wix. It's like Squarespace but allows you to have a login for site "members." Maybe you could offer extra perks for people who are willing to give you their email address.
posted by Joleta at 7:12 AM on January 13, 2016

I'm seconding Wix. Just got done building a web site with it. No templates--but the drag and drop feature is so dead simple, so blissfully easy to design (and free of having to deal with any code) and looks great on mobile/template apps. Has plenty of plugins for selling items, email sign-up forms, password-protected pages.
posted by caveatz at 7:27 AM on January 13, 2016

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