ChoyBoy Solutions: 88 Monks – Why You Don’t Cheap Out on Hosting Servers

I received the login information and ready to go to town on this site. 88 Monks is a wordpress based site with a Big Cartel plugin for a shop, which is cool. There are many way to go about having an online site and this is a cheap way to go. After you get the domain and host, you get the Big Cartel shop. You can get the free version, which is good for 5 products (I think) or you can pay monthly for up to 100 products and options (again, don’t quote me on the number).

So I logged in. Much to my surprise, this site is dated. I mean, this needed more updates than Internet Explorer. I did everything I could to update the site. I tried updating WordPress itself but that didn’t work so I deactivated plugins in one at a time, then all of them, then some but not all plugins and nothing worked.

4.30 Failed Plug ins

“Download failed. Destination directory for file streaming does not exist or is not writable.” It’s a problem with the server. It has to be.

Turns out that I was right. The server is complete crap. 88 Monks was originally hosted on GoDaddy but the domain expired and eNom, a second rate host, bought it. I logged in to their back end and I thought it would be a simple WordPress install but it wasn’t.

5.05 Enom 1

I couldn’t even make a fresh install. The user interface was minimal but crap. It wasn’t functional. What you’re looking at below is the actual control panel. You can’t do anything. Not even through FTP.

 

After going back and forth with eNom customer service and 88 Monks, I decided it was best to bring 88 Monks to the present. I decided on Bluehost since it’s reliable and I’ve never had a bad experience with them.

Do you see this? This is how most hosts look like when you first log in. Its simple, it’s clean and its easy to use.

5.05 Bluehost 1

 

Moving on the cpanel, baby, look at those drop-down menus. It’s easy to use even for a novice user and its functional.

5.05 Bluehost 2

 

The next step was to move hosts domains from eNom to Bluehost. And this is the part that really ticked me off. When you work with hosts and decide to move domains, the process usually takes anywhere from 24-48 hours. For reasons unknown, eNom takes anywhere from 7-10 days. This whole process started on May 1st. I have a few more days to go. I talked to eNom’s customer service on this and they politely said they can’t do anything about it and that’s just the way it is. Now the reason why you don’t want to cheap out on hosts is specifically for three reasons: 1) Customer Service, 2) User Interface/Ease of Use and 3) Reliability and Speed. eNom is far behind the rest of the players in this game. They do have price on their side but when it comes to technology, you don’t want to cheap out on hosting servers.

Check out the previous 88 Monks related posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

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ChoyBoy Solutions: Why a Premium or Pay-To-Use eCommerce Platform is What You’re Looking For

When there are free options to running your online store, why in the world would you want to pay for eCommerce services? Sites like WordPress make it easy for you to create your online store with plugins like WP-eCommerce and WooCommerce. I’ve personally used both of these plug-ins and they worked fine for what I needed at the time since I was low-volume seller. Later on, when my store became more and more popular and as WordPress started to release more and more updates, I started to notice some problems; mainly with compatibility and customization problems. I’m sure now these plug-ins have evolved into something more powerful but plugins can never compete with a full-fledge eCommerce platform. Sites like Big Cartel and Shopify are years ahead of what simple plugins can do.

Big Cartel has an amazing free and premium storefront options, which range from $10 a month to $30 a month. The question that I’ve found that most Big Cartel users ask themselves is “will I ever need to post 25/100/300 products?” The answer is, maybe. Maybe you will. Maybe you won’t. But you will need more than 1 product image. Customers want to view different angles of product images and see how people look like when wearing your product. Stats are important but with Google Analytics, you might not need that option. You will however need customization, inventory tracking and discount codes.

The drawback with Big Cartel is that you won’t get the customization options like that of Shopify. Shopify has a whole team dedicated to assisting their clients with everything from designing to marketing to merchant services. You won’t get that with Big Cartel or WordPress. You won’t really need to learn how to code or even touch the code. If you had your store on WordPress and had a shopping cart plugin, you’ll get your hands dirty once a week at the least; coding the templates, adding in a payment gateway like PayPal, and blah blah blah.

The thing with these eCommerce platform is that you don’t have a blogging option and that you might just need to link it to your WordPress (but that’s really easy and not all online stores want/need a blog).

I’m not endorsing Shopify nor am I hating on Big Cartel or WordPress and it’s plugins. All I’m saying is that if you want to make your life easier and have someone deal with the nitty gritty, by all means, pick an eCommerce platform that allows you to customize your site with ease and lets you process payments so that you can focus your attention to marketing your brand. $30 a month is a small fee compared to a headache that lasts for hours and hours.

ChoyBoy Solutions: You Can’t Do It All; A Strong Team is Better than a Strong Individual

People often forget that they are human. We forget that we are prone to making mistakes and that we are physically and mentally limited. We should always remember that, even though we are limited in skills and experiences, we can surround ourselves with people who can support us. We can’t do it all but we sure as hell don’t need to.

When I was working at my first startup, a flash sales site, there were only 4 people in the company. 2 of which were the owners of the company and pretty much focused on the sale end of things and 1 developer. I, an intern at the time, handled everything from logistics, sales, account management, to marketing. I learned everything hands on. I even took on extra roles and did my best to learn SQL, HTML and CSS. By the time I left the company, I’d say was well versed in running a business.

At this same time, I ran my own eCommerce site. It was first based on WordPress with WP-eCommerce plugin and then it was WordPress and Big Cartel. Keep in mind that I was the only employee. I was swamped. Every time there was a bug, I had to fix it. Every time there was a sale, I had to fulfill it. Every time, I had an idea, I had to create it. It was tiring and with that much stress, I lost my sight on the goal. I couldn’t do it all. I hired a few interns and had one running the social media, one in charge of fulfillment and logistics, and I outsourced the development problems to a third party. I was so busy with my other jobs that I even hired a brand manager who I later made partner. I built a strong team and we accomplished more together than we could as individuals. Our different sets of skills and experiences complimented each others and we developed synergy.

You can’t do it all. A strong team is better than a strong individual. A team of strong individuals is what you need to reach success.

ChoyBoy Solutions: 88 Monks – The Product Page

On the first installment of the 88 Monks saga, I critiqued the landing page.
On the second installment, I talked about the About page.

Let’s talk about the Product Page. I can’t think of a word that’ll exemplify what I’m trying to say so I’ll have to just describe it. There’s nothing more annoying than a poorly built website that has products everywhere you go. It just follows you. You can’t escape it. But I understand. You want the customers to buy what you’re selling but having it everywhere actually screams out desperation. “BUY ME! BUY ME!” It’s like how women get turned off when you show too much interest in them…but that’s a topic for another day.

Other than the second row being broken (in addition to other problems mentioned on the other post), there is a sidebar that has ALL OF THE PRODUCTS LISTED. On top of that, there is a Follow Us and Share Us section on that same sidebar that pretty much has the same information sans YouTube. This sidebar is on every page – but I guess in 88 Monk’s situation, it’s not all bad since there’s only 3 pages to this website.

5.05 88Monks Products 1

First of all, you don’t want to overwhelm the customer. As mentioned in the first installment, you don’t want a landing page with too much information. You want the customer to visit your site and browse around a bit before checking out your site. It’s all about the experience. In the second installment, I mentioned having a contact page. You need that. You need to be transparent. You want to create an open line of communication. And the lesson learned from this installment is that consistency is key and less is more.

More updates coming soon!

 

ChoyBoy Solutions: 88 Monks – The About Page

On the first installment of the 88 Monks saga, I talked about this landing page and the problems I saw with it. Now I’m going to critique his About Page. In all honesty, the About page is pretty decent. It perfectly depicts what 88 Monks is all about (growth and support of the community) and the history of where they got the name. BUT there’s no information about how I would contact you. I don’t even know your name. In addition to the not-so-professional-or-trustworthy-landing page, the lack of transparency on WHO the person behind 88 Monks is creates an impersonal barrier and MAY, (not will) drive people away.

4.30 88Monks before about 1

If you’re having problem reading the image, please read below:

About
Believing that the freedom of speech is a human right, we bring to our audience an awareness to the world through our clothing. We are the trusted caretakers of the 88 Monks Philosophy: Help artists grow and society grows with them.
Mission
Who we are…
Branding ourselves as the 88 Monks was inspired by the 88 Generation who in 1988 protested against military rule in Myanmar, a country formally known as Burma.88 Monks was created and established in Sept 2009 by a group of collaborators to give the voiceless a voice to be heard. Just as the 88 Generation fight for a democratic society, we as the 88 Monks provide a platform, a temple if you will, to meditate on the creativity of artists and transmit their talents to a world wide street gallery through clothing. 88 Monks is an incubator of ideas created to foster the creative talents of the under exposed. 88 Monks seeks to inspire the struggling, create awareness and share the vision of its artists, a true representation of the 88 Monks Lifestyle.88 Monks takes pride that we are a Los Angeles based brand and are committed to share that freedom and lifestyle with the world.
Company Overview
We create exclusive looks for our clientele that reflects their lifestyle at an affordable price. The 88 Monks are dedicated to presenting the newest art available, keeping each client on the cutting edge of fashion and artistic subcultures. Believing that the freedom of speech is a human right, we bring to our audience an awareness to the world through our clothing. We are the trusted caretakers of the 88 Monks Philosophy: Help artists grow and society grows with them.

The idea is awesome. The execution is terrible.

Let’s work to improve that.

ChoyBoy Solutions: 88 Monks – The Landing Page At First Glance

A friend of mine has been having trouble with his business, 88 Monks. It’s an apparel line that has both and online “presence” and a physical store-front. The twist is that 88 Monks is an apparel line that also offers consignment, meaning that he will have other brands being sold on his shop. The reason why “presence” is in quotation is because he really doesn’t have an online nor a physical presence. His marketing tactics are guerilla, meaning that he only focuses on stickers and word-of-mouth, but they have had no real impact on the success of his physical store-front. His social media presence is also lacking. There are many problems but for now, I want to focus on the website and the problems with it before talking about his social media presence and the lack of marketing.

Below are screenshots of the before/current pictures of 88 Monks. The pics aren’t seamless (one page) because I’m writing this up at my day job and I don’t have Photoshop here.

Now, I actually like this landing page (or what I thought was a landing page).  The banner is decent, the site pages are visible and there’s a video to catch the viewer’s eye. If someone clicks on the video, bam, you got someone sitting on your page for a minute and 27 seconds and you’ve sparked their interests for more content.

4.30 88Monks before 1

 

But what do they get when they scroll down? An online shop. And an online shop that is severely lacking in quality. I’m not talking about design because I’ve seen worse sell for more but I’m talking about the layout. The second row of this shop has only one picture placed on the far right. Why? There’s no reason it should be like this.

4.30 88Monks before 2

 

Also, this shop does not have consistency, which is key to having a successful online shop. The images are mixed with stock pictures of white tee with graphics laced over it and actual product shots. There’s also one picture with a completely different background. How will you ever gain the customer’s trust with a shop looking really suspicious and low-quality?

4.30 88Monks before 3

 

Oh there’s more scrolling? An about page? On the landing page? Why? There’s a separate page for that on the first picture.

4.30 88Monks before 4

 

And then there’s random pictures? Looks like a Tumblr or Instagram feed placed right on the landing page. I’m feeling overwhelmed here!

4.30 88Monks before 5

4.30 88Monks before 6

To sum it all up, it’s clutter. It’s just too much information. Sure it may look nice at first but when you scroll down, you see a shop that’s inconsistent and has bugs, an about section that doesn’t really say much, and many many pictures that makes you feel overwhelmed. Plus, this page is not configured correctly to be picked up by any search engine.

I’ll fix this.