ECommerce and artist websites

Artspan letaart.com storefront

I am figuring out how to set up my website so my customers could buy originals and prints right from my website. For originals I first used simple plugin (WP Simple Paypal Shopping cart) that gave me an option to add Buy button to my posts. But then I was not content with it. I wanted more features, like preview, and prints. I started to look at different options, like Shopify and other eCommerce packages. Prints would be best not to fulfill myself, but register with PODs (Print on Demand) websites. It was not clear how to integrate all of my requests.

Then I looked into services that offered artist websites; there are many of them, for example Squarespace and FASO. I liked the idea of having e-commerce part taken care by someone else. One such service in particular seamed to satisfy all my needs. (Actually ArtStoreFronts was the second, but the cost of their service was so high, that I am not ready for it. Also, ArtStoreFronts had couple of issues that paused me. One is they have separate originals and prints sections, where I was hoping to have them integrated. And second they have such an aggressive marketing trying to get new artist clients, that’s it’s quite a turnoff for me. I get one to three emails from them every day. Since they also sell their marketing strategy, I assume that’s what they will be teaching me to do: continuously spam my clients, and I cannot do that. )

Looked like Artspan.com had everything I wished for.

Artspan hosts artist websites with integrated shopping cart, augmented reality preview, and POD. I decided to try them out. If it works, I would keep this website and for purchases and prints would forward to the Artspan storefront version of my website.

Here is my experience so far with them. I read many reviews, and Artspan has many very happy customers. They offer quite a unique package of features and obviously look after their artists. Their customer service is very responsive and they try to help out and answer all your questions.

I had no problem setting up the website with them. The control panel is simple and intuitive. They have many templates, but in reality it’s just two themes to choose from and the rest you can customize, like all the background colors, fonts and sizes. You can have many galleries and I liked that you can have each image to belong to as many galleries as you’d like, for example some of my latest images could be in their series End of Summer and in the Landscape gallery.

Their augmented reality preview is nice to have. You point your camera phone on the wall you think to hand the painting or a print, indicate the distance, and the preview feature will project the correct size image on the wall to make it easier for the customer to visualize how it will look in his or her space.

I have not tried it myself, but the comments about print quality of Artspan POD are very positive. The prints are done on archival paper or canvas and optionally matted and framed. All images that are submitted for POD are reviewed and artist gets a feedback of problems are found, for example with a cropping, lighting, or quality. For example three of my images were flagged for cropping problems I did not even notice, even though I am quite careful. And indeed when I zoomed in, I noticed that I overlooked a very minor cropping issues. So I am grateful for Artspan quality control, that’s wonderful.

Now some issues I have encountered with them, most of them minor. I have bought my domain (letaart.com) to use with Artspan through Hover, the registrar I have been always using. I like to keep domain registration separate from hosting. On the dashboard of Artspan there is no place to specify domain I have, only to buy a new one. I had to contact customer service for that, and they added the domain themselves and gave me nameservers to put for my domain on Hover. I asked if I can get an email associated with this domain, and was surprised to hear that no, since I have not purchased domain through Artspan, I don’t get to have an email. That sounds strange to me, I don’t see any difference: they should just buy it from a registrar, but did not argue. I asked how much it would be to buy, and am waiting for an answer. It’s not too bad since Hover offers an email through them for a small fee.

Another minor complaint was with limitations of the design, specifically for the title and the logo. I could only specify left, center or right position for each, and if I specified left for both of them they would overlap. I put them on opposite ends, but when looking on the small screen of the phone, they would still overlap instead of flowing. The solution would be to design a logo that includes title. I understand that Artspan cannot offer limitless possibilities of WordPress and would not want to do that, since most artists prefer simplicity of setup to having all these options.

I also asked customer service to help me change favicon from default one. It should be an easy option, but I was told it’s not possible.

Their url links are not set up well. They are not “nice” and have incomprehensible numbers in them, which is not a good practice. I did not complain about it.

When submitting artwork, I frequently encountered database errors. Resubmitting seemed to fix issues, nevertheless, their back-end implementation seems to be a bit buggy.

My last question for customer service was how to have a discount coupons. There are situations when I would like to offer discounts, for example during major holidays, or for specific people, for example repeat customers. All eCommerce solutions should have such an option, and I was told Artspan does not offer it, such a bummer. This is quite a deal-breaker, as I don’t see any way around it.

Now I am inclined to go back and try wooCommerse package for my website. If I decide not to go with Artspan for this reason, nice AR preview would have to go and I’ll need to look for POD again. I’ll be thinking about it.

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