Designing a new

Big Cartel's new home page

I’m Michael Croxton, and I joined the design team at Big Cartel around 7 months ago. My first project was, you guessed it, redesigning A pretty daunting task for anyone, let alone someone brand new to the company. But, it ended up being a great way to get my feet wet and really learn about what makes Big Cartel tick.

The previous site had served us well, but it felt dated. It hadn’t been overhauled in close to 6 years (last time I checked, that’s about 20 years in internet time). With a 600px wide single column layout, it wasn’t very flexible and wasn’t built for our steadily growing mobile audience.

The old

In 2013, Big Cartel introduced a new logo, affectionately called “The Fletch”, as a companion to the Big Cartel word-mark. We followed that update with the first iOS app and a mobile version of the admin later that year. These were the first steps in introducing a new, clean, modern and unified design language.

Big Cartel iOS app

Our marketing site serves a couple of purposes:

  • First, it’s used to introduce artists to what Big Cartel is and how it works, and to highlight artists currently using the platform.
  • Second, it serves as a portal into the Big Cartel platform, where artists, who currently have shops, can get help, learn new skills, and login to their store admin. And when signing up, it’s the first step in introducing them to our UI.

The challenge came in making these two aspects blend seamlessly. So we kicked off the project by setting some guiding principles and goals:

1. Simplify everything

From our visual language to how we write about things. With a platform like this there is a tendency to over-explain things, so we set out to show instead of tell.

Instead of writing about how our themes are responsive, we clearly show example stores on both desktop and mobile devices. Instead of spending 3 paragraphs talking about how simple we make it to customize your shop, we show the tools. The site feels as light and easy as the actual product.

Big Cartel Tour page

2. Build a framework

Something that could be updated and added to. We need something that we can grow into over the next few years.

After some experimentation we ended up with a modular system that allowed for individual pages to feel unique and have the flexibility they needed to showcase their content. This allows for some variation, while the site still feels like a cohesive whole.

Adaptive grid

The site was in serious need of love on the mobile and touch device front. The site isn’t a traditionally responsive site, I think of it as adaptive. Certain features are brought out to feel more tappable on your iPad, for example, but it all looks as good on your laptop as it does on your phone.

3. Look and talk like Big Cartel

Surprisingly this was probably the hardest part of the project. To bring together and define how we visualize and talk about our company, into one cohesive language.

In the early stages, we tried lots of different tactics and approaches. One early concept encouraged visitors to “paint” the background of the home page. We also toyed with more asymmetrical layouts.

After rounds and rounds of exploration something started to take shape. Balancing simple, functional design, with artistic, human touches. We used big, beautiful images of products, artists, and shops, some overlaid with hand-drawn elements.

Lettering and illustrations

We fought to keep the site from being sales-y. We’re not right for everyone. You won’t be hit over the head with pop-ups and a barrage of Calls to Action begging you to sign up, because when it’s the right fit, our customers know it.

4. Highlight our artists

They are at the core of why we do what we do. Why we get up in the morning. We say we believe in the artist because we really do, and we work hard to live up to that statement. You can see this on almost every page of the new site. From the gorgeous new video on the Homepage, to the shops we know and love featured in the Tour, Examples, and Community pages, the “color” and “character” on the site comes from our community.

We collected and curated a list of our favorite shops, found big, beautiful images of their products and shops, and made them a central part of the site. What better way to encourage people to take a chance and open their own shop than to show people who are doing it already? A few of them share a bit of their story, along with links and other info that potential shop owners might find helpful.

These examples are easy to update, so we can keep the site looking fresh as new artists join the Big Cartel family.

Big Cartel Examples page

The final product isn’t perfect. It’s just a start. A launching point from which we can learn, and adapt, refine and build on. But I’m proud of it, and hope you like it.

Mini Makerville

Big Cartel has a little spot on Main Street in Salt Lake City that you may recognize as our former holiday pop-up. We’ve got a few plans for this location, and for March 2015, we invited our friend Dan Cassaro to turn it in to something new.

With a fresh coat of yellow paint and bag full of paint markers, Dan went to work creating a tiny village throughout the space, complete with words of encouragement for our Utah friends and neighbors. The miniature townsfolk just want you to know that they believe in you, and that all of that cool stuff you’ve been working on? Well, It’s turning out really great. Keep it up.

Welcome Travis Anderson

Travis Anderson

We’ve been bulking up our development team recently and have another new employee to welcome: Travis Anderson! A Ruby on Rails aficionado, this talented dev has us counting our lucky stars.

Travis’ obsession with computers began at 10 years old and hasn’t dwindled a bit since. Completely self-taught, he snagged a job at the University of Arkansas and eventually became the Director of Technology at their National Office for Research on Measurement and Evaluation Systems. After deciding to focus his efforts on programming, specifically Agile and Extreme methodologies, he made the move to Hashrocket. Travis also spent some time at Acumen Brands before settling in with the crew here at Big Cartel.

Travis and his wife and cat recently relocated to Seattle where he’s enjoying running, visiting the local record stores, and hunting for a new bike. He’s deeply passionate about the DIY ethos and music – he was in the punk and hardcore scenes of the not so distant past. He also rallies around projects for social change, like Food Not Bombs. Help us welcome Travis, he’s ready to use his developer powers to support artists, musicians, and makers.

Welcome Mollie Silva

Mollie Silva

We can’t say enough about the importance of our support team. They work hard to answer customer questions and resolve issues, and always stay friendly and helpful. New members of this crucial group are selected very carefully, and we think we found a real winner with Mollie Silva.

A southwesterner through and through, Mollie was raised in Arizona, and settling in Tucson six years ago to attend the University of Arizona. She completed her degree in Philosophy while simultaneously working at her local Apple store. During her time at Apple she wore many hats, including positions as Campus Rep, Mobile Technician, and Creative. These days, when she’s not busy holding it down in support, she’s spending time with her boyfriend and two German Shepherds, cruising around on her motorcycle, and doing some freelance graphic design.

Mollie has loads of experience in customer service, she’s friendly as hell and well, she’s an excellent addition to our Big Cartel family. Welcome, Mollie!

New field guide: Pop-up Shop

Pop-up Shop Guide

For 3 weeks in December 2014, Big Cartel opened a holiday pop-up shop just a short walk away from our headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. We filled the small space with goods from 37 different Big Cartel artists, almost half of them from our very own hometown. After an excited and supportive response from friends, family, and locals, we were able to send 100% of the sales — over $14,000 — back to the participating designers, artists, makers, and curators.

This was our first pop-up shop (or brick and mortar retail experience of any kind), so there were many successes and failures along the way. We took notes as we learned the ins and outs of a retail location so we could pass all the information on to you. In our new Pop-up Shop field guide, we share what we learned. If you’ve ever considered opening a pop-up shop, or even a permanent brick and mortar store, this guide will help you get started.

Read the Pop-up Shop field guide »

Living Room Show: Rocky Votolato

Rocky Votolato

It’s high time for Big Cartel’s first Living Room Show of 2015, and we’re happy to open up our doors for Rocky Votolato. Rocky will be playing songs from his upcoming album Hospital Handshakes, so grab a friend and a ticket and join us for an intimate, acoustic set at Big Cartel HQ.

Saturday Night Paint Mixer

Neat theme

Dan Cassaro is taking over the Big Cartel shop space in downtown SLC this week. He’s creating a wall-to-wall installation, filling the space with a tiny village to cheer you on as you create. Join Dan and the Big Cartel crew on Saturday evening, Feb. 28, to see the mural in progress and hang out with other BC artists.

Drinks are on us, and Dan will be there to answer questions about art, inspiration, and coo over that cute photo of your dog on your phone.

Can’t make it to our little shindig? Stop by the shop some other time to check out what Dan’s created. You can view the installation for all of March 2015.

New theme: Neat

Neat theme

Everyone, say hello to Neat, a brand-new theme from our favorite designer / Muay Thai master, Carl, here at Big Cartel. Carl, a maker himself, envisioned a shop design that would work well for fashion brands, by focusing on photography and easily grouping products into collections. Neat isn’t limited to fashion brands, however, and will compliment any shop with high-quality images. It’s a versatile theme with features that encourage beautiful customization.

Some of our favorites include:

  • Welcome message that hovers over a slideshow on your homepage, an easy way to share announcements with your customers.
  • Automated homepage slideshow where you can share images: ideal for a lookbook or mood-setting detail shots.
  • Collections (determined by product categories), to keep your products organized and help shoppers find what they’re looking for.
  • Responsive design ensures that your images and text look great on any screen size, by automatically resizing for phone, tablet, or desktop.
  • Secondary images are displayed full screen below each product description, so your high-res photos are put to good use.
  • Social integration with share buttons for Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Easily add links to your own social media accounts in the footer.

Take a stroll around the test store, then make your way to to try out Neat in your own shop.

Welcome Anna Dickinson

Anna Dickinson

With our continued focus on helping shop owners run their business from the road, we’ve been on the hunt for exceptional iOS developers. Luckily, Anna Dickinson has just joined our team to help keep our mobile app in tip-top, user-friendly form.

Born and raised on the East Coast, Anna has spent countless years honing her development skills. After receiving her undergraduate degree in Computer and Systems Engineering, she made her way to the west coast to get her Masters in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. Once she’d had her fill of schooling, Anna spent time developing logic and circuits for supercomputer hardware and then delved into creating visual effects for variety of films (her most-loved film creation was for “The Mist”). A constant learner, Anna also created the photo editing tool, Motion Paint, and taught herself the ins and outs of iOS programming.

In addition to being a highly proficient developer, she’s also a karaoke-lover, a beer-appreciator, and, above all else, an enthusiastic and nimble dancer of the Lindy Hop.

It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyways) - we’re thrilled to welcome Anna to our team!

The new

We’re proud to introduce the all-new Seeing the work of artists and designers in our community, we felt challenged to keep up with the amazing shops and brands we see every day. We took all that inspiration, and put it into a whole new site and experience for our community.

Screenshot of

When visiting the new site, you’ll see that Big Cartel is more than just an e-commerce platform: we’re a launchpad for independent, artistic businesses, we’re an army of artists, working hard to make money doing what we love. With our redesigned site, we’ve focused more specifically on that mission, and updated our content to be more flexible as we grow.

This redesign went beyond cosmetic changes as our team re-thought each page. For existing shop owners, we’ve simplified the login process making it easy as pie to get into your shop and get to work. The tour is more thorough, with previews of each customizable theme before you ever signup or in to your admin. We’re sharing new example stores and rebuilt our community page to focus on you and the work you create.

We still offer a completely free plan, and streamlined the features in our paid plans to make the choice simply about the number of products your business needs, all while staying incredibly affordable. So yeah, we’re excited for the new look (and, oh yeah, new blog!), and the great new tools still to come this year. We hope this shows how sincerely we believe in what you do, and thank you for believing in us right back.

Visit the new site »