Clueless And Need Website
February 21, 2016 12:00 PM   Subscribe

So, yeah been around computers for just about since they emerged but that never gave me coding skills and wouldn't you know it - but I really do need a website that will showcase the items I make so I can sell them.

I'm a bit slow in learning (lol) and I don't think I'm in a position now to start learning how to set one up. I also, wouldn't you know it - don't have a whole bunch of money to put into hiring someone (and no Fiverr is not an option - at all - tried that route).

So, what is the absolute easiest way for me to put together a simple, professional (will do the graphics, no problem), user-friendly, easily navigational (simple menu) without any kind of fancy stuff at all. It's to be straightforward - here is the site - here are my goods - laid out nicely in rows and tables, they are all clickable which will take the buyer to my PayPal account to check out for purchase.

Am open to easy to use templates for store-front e-commerce - but again, has to be simple. I am not going with Wordpress - it will be just a regular website, with a regular server, have myself a WYSIWYG html editor so I can add, delete, tweak - whatever is needed.

It would be helpful if I could get someone to help me but I do not have a whole lot of cash at the moment to spend - am open to suggestions on how to get that help, perhaps a friendly forum or similar where assistance can be found in case I need it along the way of putting this together.

Thank you so very kindly everyone in advance.
posted by watercarrier to Computers & Internet (30 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Namecheap has hosting for $10/year, and domains for a buck. Once you got that you can install an open source CMS. You can try them out at
posted by Sophont at 12:10 PM on February 21, 2016

If every podcast I've ever listened to is to be believed, you want Squarespace. Feel free to do comedian Pete Holmes a solid and enter promo code: weird for whatever promotion they're offering.
posted by charlemangy at 12:15 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

This sounds like exactly what Squarespace is meant for.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:15 PM on February 21, 2016

What about something like Weebly, Squarespace or Wix? I believe they will host for you, and they have e-commerce store options. You can't get any simpler than these - you select a design template and then just drag and drop stuff where you want it. You do have the option to edit HTML and stuff, but it's not necessary. (I personally went with Weebly because it's the cheapest one, but I believe Squarespace and Wix are more powerful and offer some better options though. I needed something very basic.)
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:16 PM on February 21, 2016

I haven't used it myself (I'm a bit more on the techy side), but I've heard from other "non-tech" folks that SquareSpace is the sweet spot of "easy to use" and "easy to make look professional." They have an online store functionality which I think is intended for people rather like you.

On preview: wow, everybody else thinks so too.
posted by instamatic at 12:17 PM on February 21, 2016

Response by poster: What do you all think about security levels in the above mentioned environs? When you're dealing with commerce, finances, that would be one of my prime concerns.
posted by watercarrier at 12:19 PM on February 21, 2016

You said you plan on doing it through PayPal anyway, so it doesn't make a difference. And I would be surprised if they all don't use the exact same security features.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:21 PM on February 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

I came in to say Squarespace too, though I've never actually used it. All that advertising has really worked!
posted by crazy with stars at 12:21 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm just wondering about using an integrated website for hosting/content and the hacking possibility - would want to know what security they use - even if it's for PP transactions, you never know what's encoded and who is phishing for what and how.
posted by watercarrier at 12:23 PM on February 21, 2016

I'd say you're gonna be at greater risk by trying to do it all yourself - you don't know enough about internet security to have confidence that your own theoretical site is secure. (Ask me how I know...) Meanwhile, something like Squarespace has a whole team of people whose job is to make sure it's secure, because if it isn't, they'll lose a ton of business.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:25 PM on February 21, 2016 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: OK - just went to check out what the users have to say about Squarespace - just for balance sake. Can't seem to find what they use for security and they are very pricey to boot. So still open to suggestions.
posted by watercarrier at 12:28 PM on February 21, 2016

Let's just say that the major hosted solutions, e.g. Shopify or Squarespace, are infinitely safer than anything I or you can manage ourselves. These platforms are very secure to begin with and they are very limited in terms of access to source code and server settings so you can't mess things up that much from a security POV.

For instance, I would NOT recommend self-hosting Wordpress+Woocommerce (arguably the biggest e-commerce platform right now) to a beginner as it requires lots and lots of work to keep it secure and even then you might fall victim to a compromised plugins or two.

As for recommendations, please check out Shopify too. It solely focuses on e-commerce whereas Squarespace is a bit more generic. Shopify's blog and resources are a goldmine on running a successful e-commerce and it's all free.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:30 PM on February 21, 2016 [9 favorites]

Also, a major benefit of sticking to a major hosted solution is that they offer GREAT support and have a huge community of like-minded people who can help you out. But then again, these platforms are so well designed that you will be able to figure out the basics by playing around the UI.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:34 PM on February 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

BlogSpot is free. I run multiple websites through it. I would be happy to answer a few questions and make a few suggestions.

You can use your own domain name with BlogSpot. Then the only cost you have is the annual domain name and it looks more professional. If you really want to downplay that it is a BlogSpot site, it would help to customize a few things that I have never bothered to customize.

I moved to BlogSpot from self hosted WordPress sites. BlogSpot handles updates, etc. I no longer have to do that stuff. It just works, which allows me to spend more time on layout, content development and monetization and less time futzing with back end stuff.

If you know a little HTML and CSS, you can easily add some customized bits. In comparison, I found trying to edit or tweak WordPress templates to be a huge frustrating headache and often could not manage to pull off what I wanted. Even if you know zero html or CSS, they have user friendly ways to tweak all kinds of stuff. And if you hate what you have done, you click "undo" or you change templates, and it is all good. You absolutely have not broken anything.

/Google's bitch for life, and happy about it
posted by Michele in California at 12:53 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

You described the ideal Squarespace use-case in your post, third paragraph.

That said, I hate the place, but everything else will require more time and energy to achieve similar "first day" results.
Depending on what you do/make, I think decoupling shopping and site can be good. There are valid reasons to want to be part of say, the tumblr ecosystem. So you could publish at (leaving it as the tumblr slug somehow is still credible), and sell at

My preferred point-and-click sitebuilding platform is Drupal Gardens. You get a lot more bang for your buck with each price tier.

But yeah, Squarespace fits the bill very well. Listen to any popular tech podcast for a promo code, you should be able to get 15% off the first year.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 12:55 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

If Shopify and Squarespace are too expensive, do you qualify for an Etsy store? The upfront fee is 20c per product.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:56 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you're using Paypal for your purchases, all the actual buying details happen on Paypal's site using Paypal's security and Paypal's API, so it's them you need to trust. If you don't, don't use them as your payment processor.

Most of these other places use Amazon for their actual drive space, but you should be able to contact support at any of these vendors and ask what their intrusion protection and security certification level is and get documentation of those things. It may not be outlined in detail on a canned part of the site because things change, and boilerplate isn't sufficient to satisfy someone's actual security audit anyway.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:56 PM on February 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

SquareSpace is using an Apache/Unix stack and SSL secure certificates for security, just like 99% of all ecommerce.

Honestly, "the absolutely easiest way..." is to hire someone. Otherwise I recommend using SquareSpace or Shopify. You will have to learn how to use whatever solution you do choose. Not the easiest thing for some people. I have clients that have shopify and other stand alone type ecommerce sites and they contact me all the time to help them get stuff done in the back-end, deal with email setups, domain registration, etc.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:01 PM on February 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Getting a better and clearer picture now - and learning stuff I wasn't even remotely aware of. Thank you very much everyone. Looking into all that have been mentioned and will weigh all the pros and cons. Re etsy - eh - It's very nice but not for my needs.
posted by watercarrier at 1:05 PM on February 21, 2016

"I'm just wondering about using an integrated website for hosting/content and the hacking possibility - would want to know what security they use - even if it's for PP transactions, you never know what's encoded and who is phishing for what and how."

Before I begin, let me say I work in web software, and I've worked on more than one ecommerce system.

Services like Shopify and Squarespace are 100% absolutely what you want to use here. here is Squarespace's statements about how they use industry-standard SSL to protect data. Security is not easy to do yourself, and more importantly, it is difficult to assure your customers that you've done it properly. After all, it's not just your peace of mind that matters here; it's the people who you expect to pay you for your products via this website.

You're clearly not very familiar with encryption, modern web development, and all the things that go into it. That's fine - not everybody has to be. But if you want a secure, modern web storefront, somebody has to be, and if I may be blunt - if you say things like "you never know what's encoded" you are absolutely not qualified to roll your own site for these purposes. Etsy, Squarespace, Shopify - there are lots of options, at varying price points, but "I'll just do it all myself" is not a path I can recommend.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:07 PM on February 21, 2016 [8 favorites]

If you go with BlogSpot, you can set it up in private mode and Futz with it until you like it, then make it public. If you are okay with putting in some time and that is more acceptable than putting in money, then this allows you to get some things right before publication so it doesn't have to be good from day one.

Having spent a lot of years making little websites, if you aren't super clear what you are doing, this is probably the better route. I am gradually figuring out how to get traction etc, but I spent a lot of time clueless as to how to turn interest in what I had to offer into traffic and money. I still don't make much (yet), but I am much clearer how this stuff works.
posted by Michele in California at 1:17 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Mod note: water carrier, Ask isn't the place for a back-and-forth; you've given adequate information for people to answer the question; you can take a step back now unless someone asks for specific clarification.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 1:27 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I made my site with Weebly -- can't speak to the security, except that I haven't had a problem. Building it is like buildilng Legos. The pieces are there, you just have to put them together.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:34 PM on February 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'd go with Wix or Squarespace, this exactly what they're designed for and they have great e-commerce imtegration, as easy to use and look great when finished. Also they use standard security measures on the site and during purchases,the benefit of usin these seviyes is that you'd have to worry about these things, which require a lot of knowledge about Internet security. As for the price, without any knowlegldge of code, security or how to set up e-commerce the price is totally worth it.
posted by CosmicSeeker42 at 3:56 PM on February 21, 2016

GIve Etsy another thought. It does exactly what you want, plus has the enormous advantage of users who know it exists. They do not know about your products or your site. How do you plan to get customers? Will you be spending on advertising? Depending on search results? How will you get people to want your product if they aren't explicitly searching for something they don't already know about? How much do you know about SEO, and the effort required to keep on top of it? That's all in addition to the hosting and processing you already have questions about. Seriously, at least try Etsy.
posted by sageleaf at 4:10 PM on February 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'd go with Wix or Squarespace

Whatever you do, just don't go with Wix. Wix sites are not responsive, so do not work to a modern standard on phones and tablets. Also I can state with authority that GeoCities had a better builder. It's a dreadful, dreadful thing.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:17 PM on February 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

I actually pulled the trigger on a Squarespace site this past week. It's fiddly to set everything up, but no where near as fiddly as trying to build from the ground up. Everything that wasn't at first glance intuitive could be googled up. I used a podcast code (TANIS) to get a discount and picked up the free (for the first year) domain name as well. I'm not using the shop portion - just including a link to my Etsy shop and tumblr.

I'd say I'm 80% done at the moment. Most of my work remaining is tweaking the pictures of my stuff and getting the rest of the images uploaded.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:13 PM on February 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Either use Squarespace or hire someone. (Professional web designer here...MANY people come to us after wasting a lot of time and energy trying to do it themselves. Of course, a lot of people come to us after messing around with Squarespace as well, but YMMV!)
posted by nosila at 8:50 AM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

So there are three types of attacks you might be concerned about as a website owner.

1) Someone 'man-in-the-middle' intercepts and modifies your content between your server and your customer. Typically this is handled by appropriate use of SSL.

2) Someone modifies your site to serve content you didn't intend to, either from your server, or elsewhere on the internet.

3) Someone uses your site to obtain any information stored on your server - such as your customer database - which you did not intend to be public.

>would want to know what security they use

This is an interesting statement - you suppose that there's a particular thing that 'has' to be used. Outside of SSL, which should be used by just about every CMS worth thinking about, attacks of type (2) and (3) are not something you can mitigate with a single preventative measure. They're inherent to the design of the CMS itself, and can be as little as a single line of code with a mistake.

In general, too, the more people who've used a particular product (like, say, Squarespace) the more of these issues will have been fixed if they exist. So, go with one of the big, well-used solutions out there over building it yourself.

And if you're worried about security - which is good - the best recommendation is to make sure you update whatever you use frequently (or it auto-updates.)
posted by Ashlyth at 10:09 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I use Square Space. It was easy-ish to set up I guess. Some bits of the set up seem less intuitive than others. I had a significant problem crop up that flummoxed the help folks, but they persisted until we got it figured out. I can reccomend them, but not glowingly.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:35 PM on February 22, 2016

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