Neat in action

We recently announced our newest theme, Neat. Artists and shop owners all over are taking advantage of this photography friendly theme, which groups products in collections that are easy to shop. We hunted down a few examples of stores using Neat well. Let them give you ideas on how to customize Neat for your own shop.

“Framing photos” on Semblance

Check out how Semblance selected their slideshow images: the products are grouped to one side to frame the welcome text, but without making it difficult to read. When planning your photoshoots, think about how images will be used in your store and plan accordingly.

  • Background color: #FFFFFF
  • Welcome text color: #FFFFFF
  • Text color: #999393
  • Link color: #CCCCCC
  • Link hover color: #4D4D4D
  • Header font: Raleway
  • Text font: Raleway

“Colorful culture” on Welcome Skateboards

Welcome’s homepage slideshow doesn’t just include styled product photos, but includes photos of their skateboards being used in the real world. They’re not just selling boards, they’re sharing skate culture. Pro-tip: If you want your logo to seamlessly fit in with the slideshow like Welcome, save a version with a transparent background, like a .png file.

  • Background color: #FFFFFF
  • Welcome text color: #FFFFFF
  • Text color: #000000
  • Link color: #000000
  • Link hover color: #F25749
  • Header font: Times New Roman
  • Text font: Helvetica

“To the point” on Bayardstown

Sometimes you just want to skip the bells and whistles and get to shopping. Bayardstown Social Club added custom code to skip the homepage so that customers go straight to the products page. They also added their own subtle background image, making their shop unique but still easy on the eyes. To make similar changes, you’ll need a paid plan to access your store’s code.

  • Background color: custom image
  • Welcome text color: #757575
  • Text color: #1B1B1B
  • Link color: #919191
  • Link hover color: #757575
  • Header font: Open Sans
  • Text font: Open Sans

Neat is all about showing off your products through large photographs in the homepage slideshow and on each product page. To fully take advantage of this theme, check out some of our tips in the Product Photography field guide. Ready to take Neat for a spin? It’s waiting for you in the Customize Design section of your admin.

New Shop Indie: spring gift guide

Ring in Spring

Big Cartel enlisted the help of friend and talented designer Erik Marinovich to curate our latest gift guide. Featuring products from some of our favorite independent artists, designers, and craftspeople, this collection of goods should do just the trick in preparing you for the exciting unpredictability of spring.

This update to shopindie.com marks a change in how we’re doing gift guides. Most importantly, we’ll be adding new collections more frequently. Each guide will center around a theme, with products curated by Big Cartel and friends. We’re excited to feature some of the over 600,000 independent business owners who use Big Cartel in such a simple and shareable way. Check shopindie.com often to see our latest selections, and join us in supporting the makers of unique, lovingly crafted items.

Get the goods for spring with our latest #ShopIndie gift guide »

New Field Guide: Customer Support

Customer Support

When you opened up shop, you likely had a handful of great products, and plans to expand into new materials, colors, or designs. You’ve worked hard to talk about your work, engage new customers, and remind existing fans why they love going to your site. In short, you’ve mastered a lot of what it takes to run a successful store.

The reality of owning a business, however, is that there’s a lot more that goes into the day-to-day of your online store. In our new field guide, we give time-saving tips for staying on top of your email, and suggestions for turning customer questions into an opportunity for excellent customer service.

Read the Customer Support field guide »

Better order notification emails

Order notifications

One of the best emails you can get is one about a new order in your shop. Someone bought something! Someone out in the world liked your work so much that they paid their hard-earned money for it. Maybe that’s a regular occurrence for you, maybe it’s not, but every time it happens - it’s awesome. And now, the email we send you about new orders is a lot more awesome too.

Our team worked hard to make our new order notification emails both useful and beautiful. You now have everything you need to fulfill the order right from the email, including what was ordered, who ordered it, and where to send it. That’s a big time-saver. Of course, if you need to dig deeper into the specifics, just click the eye icon (eyecon?) to view the order in your store’s admin area.

When issues arise

Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with an online business and electronic payments, things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes the payment just hasn’t cleared yet, sometimes the billing details are a little off, and sometimes someone is trying to do something suspicious. In any case, you need to be aware of the issue so you can wait to send out your products until it’s resolved, and our new email has your back.

Order notifications

Now you’ll be warned about any potential issues with your order, with a link to learn more about what may have happened and what you can do about it.

Ready to roll

These new emails started trickling out over the last few weeks, and at this point they’re available for all shops. You may have one in your inbox already! If not, you can make sure you have them enabled in the Store > Settings > Notifications section of your admin, under Email me when I receive a new order. Hopefully you’ll be staring at one the next time your computer dings and your phone buzzes.

Tips & Tricks: Subdomains

Subdomains

What’s in a subdomain? A custom domain is a great way to brand your shop and let your customers know they’ve arrived at your little place on the internet.

But what if you do more than sell goods online? Say you’re a freelance illustrator or full-time photographer, and you just sell prints on the side. In that case, a subdomain might be perfect for you.

Take a look at Shed Labs, a design and illustration studio based in South Carolina. Wellington, Robbie, and Beau started screen-printing posters (sometimes working in a real shed), but soon morphed into a full-service design studio. Fans wanted their very own Shed Labs’ goodies, so they eventually opened up a Big Cartel store. Because they still have a design business to run, shedlabs.com is their home base. Using a subdomain, shop.shedlabs.com takes you right to their store, while still keeping their own brand in the spotlight.

Setting up a custom subdomain is a pretty painless process, but it’s a little different depending on who you’re using as your domain provider. We know that remembering where all the settings and switches are can be more than you want to deal with, so we’ve put together instructions for the most popular domain providers right here.

Don’t be afraid to be clever with your domain, either. Jessica Hische has a playful subdomain that you won’t forget: buystufffrom.jessicahische.com

Whatever you do, just remember that domains, like a great logo or product photography, are all about making your work stand out. Memorable names are better than a long string of characters. Typically, shorter is better. Take advantage of subdomains to extend your brand across the internet.

Downtime: we were attacked

Attack!

As most of you know, we had a really tough weekend. We were attacked, in the most real sense of the word. Someone conspired against Big Cartel and intentionally attacked our servers. No sensitive information was ever at risk, but shops were offline, sales were blocked, and there were some very frustrated store owners. For that, we want to deeply apologize.

We’re incredibly sorry for the outage this weekend. We know your business is important to you, and the time you lost was precious. Your passion for your business keeps us going, and we hate that this may have put a damper on that.

So what happened exactly?

We were hit by what’s called a DDoS attack. Essentially, it’s an incredibly malicious program that slams our servers with fake traffic to prevent any real traffic from getting through. Each time we fight back to prevent the attack, they come back with a different variation that attacks in a new way. Again, these attacks aren’t designed to access sensitive data, only to make the site inaccessible. It’s quite a common headache for websites like ours, in fact our pals at GitHub are currently fighting a massive DDoS attack you may have read about.

We have to deal with these types of attacks all the time, and we have a number of systems in place that fight off the attack so that most of the time no one ever notices. Unfortunately, this time our defenses weren’t strong enough, and the attack was successful. We threw everything we had at this one, with our team working around the clock, and it ultimately took us chartering a private flight carrying in even more security hardware to finally bring it down. It was rough, as you can imagine.

What if this happens again?

Attacks like this will happen again, but our goal is to eliminate their impact. In fact, just yesterday the attacker tried again and our system was able to fight it off without a blip. Why people want to attack Big Cartel or one of our stores is anyone’s guess, but we’re investing heavily in additional security resources to be ready for it. In the coming weeks we’ll be adding even more capacity and redundancy to our system, so that we’re always bringing as much firepower to these fights as possible.

And of course, if there ever is an issue with Big Cartel that may affect your shop, we’ll continue to be transparent and detailed with you by posting frequent updates via status.bigcartel.com, Twitter, and email.

Is everything good now?

Yep. Everything is stable, strong, and shops are selling like mad again. We’re looking back through all of the communication we received from so many of you during the attack, and we can’t thank you enough for the kind words and encouragement. Here’s to the small battles we face growing our company while you grow yours. We believe in you, and this weekend you showed how much you believe in us. Thanks.

Designing a new bigcartel.com

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 bigcartel.com. 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 bigcartel.com

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!