New service launched: Squarespace Setup
Squarespace Setup - a new service from Style Factory

Many small businesses, photographers and musicians turn to Squarespace as a platform to build their website with. It's easy to see why: its templates are gorgeous, its monthly costs are low, its content management system is easy to use and 24/7 support is provided. 

However, not every Squarespace site turns out the way it should. This is because many Squarespace users don't quite have the web designing skills to make their Squarespace sites look as good - and function as well - as they could. The result is a lot of below-par websites.

We're pleased to launch a new service, Squarespace Setup, which aims to help new Squarespace users get the absolute best of the platform. You pick a Squarespace template, and we do the rest - it's that simple. 

You can find out more about our Squarespace Setup packages here, and if you have any queries about the service, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Shopify vs Ecwid - Comparison Review
Shopify vs Ecwid (image of shopping cart accompanying the two companies' logos).

In this article we compare Shopify vs Ecwid, two well-known tools for building an online store. Which one best meets your needs?


Deciding on the type of e-commerce solution you need

There are two main types of tool you can use to build your store: a tool that lets you build a complete e-commerce site (a whole website, basically, with a shopping cart), or a tool that lets you create a store which you then 'plug in' to an existing website.

In the case of the products we're discussing here, the general idea behind Shopify is to allow you to build a complete e-commerce site from scratch, whereas Ecwid is more for users who want to sell products on an existing site (or, indeed, a social media page).

Well, in truth, it's slightly more complicated than that, because recently Shopify introduced a new plan, 'Shopify Lite', which allows you, much like Ecwid, to sell products on an existing site...and Ecwid introduced a new 'Starter Site' feature which allows you to run an Ecwid store as a standalone site...but we'll come to all that later. 

Which approach is for you depends chiefly on whether you already have a website (that you are happy to sell from) or not.

If you don't have a website, or have a poorly designed one, you may be best off opting for Shopify (or a similar 'all-in-one' tool), as it comes with a range of free, professionally designed templates that you can use to lay out your website, as well as e-commerce and blogging functionality.

If on the other hand, you have a website that already looks fantastic and works great, then Ecwid is quite probably for you.

Let's take a look at how Shopify and Ecwid work.


How Shopify works

What is Shopify?

Although Shopify is generally perceived as an e-commerce solution, it is, technically speaking, a combination of a website builder and an online store builder: as well as letting you showcase and sell products (digital or physical) you can use it to create regular web content as well - static pages, blog posts, contact forms and so on.

Once you sign up for an account (there's a two week free trial) you can then select a 'theme', tweak the design a little, create some pages and add some products along with relevant pictures, prices, weights and so on. Shipping costs are calculated automatically by Shopify based on the information you give it about postage costs in your country, and the weights of your items.

When you are ready to publish your store, it can either live at a 'myshopify' web address, or at a domain name of your choosing (www.yoursite.com etc.). You get a lot of control over search engine optimisation (SEO), with the ability to add meta data, page descriptions and so on; it's very flexible on that front.

Shopify and payment gateways / transaction fees

A payment gateway is the software that processes credit card transactions when visitors to your site make a purchase.

With Shopify, you have the option of using either 'Shopify Payments' (Shopify's own built-in payment gateway) to process transaction, Paypal or a wide range of third party payment gateways (Shopify works with over 70 of them).

If you use Shopify Payments, there are no transaction fees to worry about - i.e., Shopify won't take a cut of your sales if you use their own card processing option (but you'll need to note that Shopify Payments is only available to merchants selling from certain countries - the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand). If you use a third-party payment gateway provider, transaction fees will apply - how much depends on the Shopify pricing plan you're on.

There are also credit card fees to consider - again, these vary by plan.

Templates

Shopify is pretty flexible when it comes to design - the templates are all very 'tweakable' using the controls provided, but with the 'Basic Shopify' plan upwards you also get full control over CSS and HTML. This makes it a good solution for both users who want edit their design without resorting to coding...or users who really want to use CSS and HTML to tweak their site design to the nth degree.

Example of a Shopify theme.

Example of a Shopify theme.

There are 10 free templates available in Shopify and around 50 paid themes (within each theme there are several variants if it, so the number of designs available is a bit higher than those figures suggest). 

How much does Shopify cost?

Shopify provides 5 plans:

  • Lite: $9 per month
  • Basic Shopify: $29 per month
  • Shopify: $79 per month
  • Advanced Shopify: $299 per month
  • Shopify Plus: pricing varies depending on requirements

With the exception of the 'Lite' plan, all the above allow you to create fully functional online stores. The Lite plan is more restrictive in that it doesn't allow users to create a standalone store but instead permits you to:

  • sell on Facebook
  • use Shopify to sell goods in physical locations (i.e., for point of sale applications)
  • make use of a Shopify 'Buy Button' which can be integrated on an existing site (this works in a similar way to Paypal but allows users to make use of a much more sophisticated back end and inventory management system).

A free trial lets you evaluate the product and get a sense of your requirements. 

It is also possible to buy 'apps' which add particular bits of functionality to your store (for example, you can buy apps that let you create social media 'coupons' for certain products, or apps that provide additional accounting information on your sales).

And as mentioned above, you are also able to purchase Shopify themes created by professional web designers. These tend to look slicker than the (perfectly usable) free templates, but they come with a one-off fee of around $140-$180.

Shopify's Buy Button

Perhaps in a bid to capture some of the users that Ecwid is appealing to - users who wish to add e-commerce functionality to an existing website - Shopify introduced a 'Buy Button' which, like Ecwid, can be embedded onto a site using a few lines of code. This lets you display individual products or collections on your site.

The Buy Button is available on all Shopify plans, but unless you intend to use Shopify to create both a standalone store and to embed products elsewhere, the $9 'Lite' plan is all you need to make use of the button.

The functionality you get with Shopify's 'Buy Button' is not as comprehensive as that provided by Ecwid: with Ecwid, you're getting a complete store on your site (one which facilitates user account creation, more comprehensive product options, product search, social media sharing of products etc.); the Shopify 'Buy Button' is more about providing basic 'add to cart' and checkout functionality.

Shopify's point-of-sale functionality

A key feature which differentiates Shopify from a lot of competing 'standalone' solutions is its point-of-sale functionality - you can use an iOS device plus various pieces of kit sold by Shopify (tills, receipt printers, barcode scanners etc.) to sell in physical locations as well as online. You can work with third party equipment - such as credit card readers - too. Ecwid can be made to work in point-of-sale contexts too (see below) but it is arguably a more limited offering.

Dropshipping in Ecwid and Shopify

Many users are drawn to solutions like Ecwid and Shopify because they want to start a dropshipping business.

Dropshipping is a way of selling goods without stocking anything - you take an order, send it to a supplier, and they fulfil the order. The advantage of this selling model is that you don't have to invest in lots of stock to set up your online business - rather, your money can go straight into marketing your business.

Neither Shopify nor Ecwid facilitate dropshipping 'out of the box' but the good news is that it's still really easy to dropship with both products - you just need to add an app to your store.

Dropshipping in Shopify is simply a case of adding an app like Oberlo to your store (there are many others available), picking some goods you'd like to sell, and putting your site live.

Similarly, you can also dropship with Ecwid using apps such as Inventory Source or Wholesale2B. 

It's probably fair to say though - that thanks to Shopify's significantly better stocked app-store, that there are more options available to Shopify merchants in the dropshipping department.

Shopify and product options

One thing paying close attention to with Shopify involves product options: you are limited to three per product.

For example, if you were selling a birthday card on Shopify, you could allow users to choose card size, card colour and envelope type...but if you wanted to then allow them to choose envelope colour, you wouldn't be able to. Now, there are workarounds available - you can use a third party app to facilitate more options, combine two options into one, create separate products, or do some manual coding to add more options...but it's all a bit more complicated than it should be.

Ecwid, by contrast, is more straightforward in this regard and doesn't limit product options to such a small number - I'm not sure of the exact limit, but I was easily able to create several product options when testing the app.

Another issue with Shopify's product options is that allowing your customers to provide bespoke information or items - for example, text for an engraving, or an image to be printed - is not possible without either manually adding some code to a product template, or investing in an app.

Again, Ecwid works better here, simply allowing you to capture your desired data (via text box, file upload button etc.) very easily in its product options section. Note that the 'file upload' option is only available in the 'Venture' and higher plans however.

(For many users, Shopify's three 3 options and its limitations around bespoke data capture won't really pose problems, but for users who have specific requirements and want want a standalone hosted e-commerce site, I'd suggest taking a look at Bigcommerce).

Is Shopify for me?

Utlimately Shopify offers a quick, user-friendly way to get an online store together quickly and is ideal for anyone who doesn't already have a website. It's also a good option for people who have an existing site and wish to sell a product or two on the side with a minimum of fuss. The main gripe I have with it is the options limit discussed above.

Most users who want to build a standalone e-commerce site will find Shopify to be a very robust solution, but as with any online product though, it's best to sign up for a free trial and test it out yourself before committing to it.

You might also like to read our in-depth Shopify review for a more detailed breakdown of pros and cons of the product.


How Ecwid works

What is Ecwid? 

Ecwid is a tool that is mainly focussed on giving you a store that 'plugs in' to your existing site. Although its new 'Starter Site' feature (more on which below) means you can now use it to create a basic standalone online store, it's primary purpose is still to allow you to add e-commerce functionality to an existing online presence.

As with all the leading online store building tools, Ecwid allows you to set up ‘catalogs’ of products (both physical and digital), add photos, pricing, weights for each etc. You can define shipping rates, accept card payments and so on – all the standard tasks that you’d expect to be able to perform using an e-commerce solution. You can tweak design elements using controls, or, again - if coding is your bag, you can edit the CSS stylesheets (though not HTML).

Where Ecwid differs quite fundamentally from Shopify however is that it is not really a 'standalone' hosted solution but a widget that gets placed on other sites (hence the name: Ecwid stands for ‘E-commerce Widget’). As such, you get a few lines of code to add to your existing website or social media page; your store is displayed wherever you’ve inserted this code. This is good because you can effectively host your store on multiple locations.

(As discussed above, Shopify's 'Buy Button' also allows you to sell products on an existing site, but it is a more basic affair.)

How much does Ecwid cost?

If you’ve only got a few products to sell (up to 10), Ecwid is free.

The $15 per month 'Venture' plan allows you to sell up to 100 products; the $35 per month 'Business' plan allows you to sell up to 2500 and the $99 per month 'Unlimited' plan, as the name suggests, allows you to sell an unlimited number (if you pay annually it works out cheaper).

There are no transaction fees on any plan. As you’d expect, the more you pay, the more additional features you get – discount coupons functionality, better support etc. 

One thing to watch out for with pricing: unlike some competing solutions, the price varies significantly according to where you live. So for example in the UK, Ecwid's 'Venture', 'Business' and 'Unlimited' plans are £15, £35 and £99 - considerably higher than the US costs, particularly since the Brexit-related fall in the value of Sterling.

Ecwid and payment gateways

As with Shopify, you can either use Paypal or a payment gateway (or both) with Ecwid to process credit card payments. Ecwid does not provide quite as many options with regard to payment gateways however, giving users 50+ to choose from versus Shopify's 70+. That said, it's still a considerable number (and more than you can use with competing products Bigcommerce and Squarespace, for example).

Strong features

Five features of Ecwid are particularly strong: 

  • You can use it to present your storefront in up to 45 different languages (something you can't really do out of the box with Shopify).
  • Like Shopify, it offers point of sale functionality, integrating with three POS providers, Clover, Square and Vend. However, unlike Shopify, this is only available on its most expensive plan (the $99 per month 'Unlimited' plan) - and it's limited to certain countries: US, UK, Canada, Japan and Australia.
  • It comes with a free plan that is totally usable - you can sell up to ten products with it.
  • A mobile app is automatically created for your Ecwid store which can be published to the Apple App store or Google Play (and these apps accept Apple Pay). This is useful for users who are adding Ecwid to a non-responsive website (although if your website isn't responsive yet, I'd do something about that!).
  • Ecwid integrates very neatly with Wordpress sites, thanks to a dedicated plugin.
Ecwid's card reader, powered by Paypal, allows you to carry out point-of-sale transactions.

Ecwid's card reader, powered by Paypal, allows you to carry out point-of-sale transactions.

The abandoned cart saver in Ecwid

One thing worth paying particular attention to in Ecwid is the fact that it offers abandoned cart saver functionality much cheaper than Shopify (and indeed other competing e-commerce solutions).

An abandoned cart saver allows you to send automated emails to visitors to your store who go part of the way through the sales process only to leave your store without buying any products. These sorts of emails can increase conversions and have the potential to increase your revenue significantly with little effort.

The abandoned cart saver tool is available on the cheapest Ecwid plan, meaning that you can avail of this useful functionality from just $15 per month. By contrast, you have to be on a $79+ Shopify plan to get access to an abandoned cart saver.

Ecwid's Starter Site option

A new and potentially very useful feature in Ecwid is its Starter Site option. This allows you to use Ecwid to build a one-page site feature your online store. It's by no means as comprehensive as a Shopify site, but it nonetheless allows you to use Ecwid to build a standalone site. If you're on a paid plan, you can map this to your own domain (meaning that your Ecwid site will sit at www.mystorename.com etc.).

One potentially useful application of the starter site option is using it a 'holding store' whilst your main website gets built. You could sell products successfully via an Ecwid starter site despite your full site not being 100% ready.

Is Ecwid for me?

Ecwid is ideal for anyone who already has a site and wants to add a professional online store to it. It saves you from reinventing the wheel by designing a new website, and the fact that you can plug your store into a variety of online locations is excellent - your store can live on your website, your Facebook page, anywhere you can whack a little bit of code in. As ever, try before you buy - the free Ecwid plan can be found here.

You can also read our full Ecwid review here.


Review conclusions

You might consider using Shopify over Ecwid if you...

  • don't already have a website or online store, and wish to set one up from scratch which contains multiple sections and pages
  • need advanced point-of-sale functionality
  • would like to choose from a wide range of payment gateways
  • are happy with the simple but effective functionality offered by Shopify's 'Buy Button' as a way to sell products on an existing site.

A free trial of Shopify is available here.

You might consider choosing Ecwid over Shopify if you...

  • already have a website that you are happy with, and wish to add a fully-featured online store to it
  • wish to offer your store in multiple languages
  • are on a budget or have basic selling requirements - its free plan may actually meet your needs
  • are happy with building a one-page online store
  • need more flexibility with product options than Shopify provides (note: Bigcommerce is also a good option here for those more interested in standalone store creation)
  • want to avail of abandoned cart saver functionality cheaply - Ecwid's offering in this department is very reasonably priced, and much cheaper than Shopify's equivalent.

A free trial of Ecwid is available here.


Alternatives to Shopify and Ecwid

Of the similar products we've reviewed, we'd probably recommend Bigcommerce as a good alternative to Shopify. You can read our Bigcommerce review here, or check out our e-commerce platform reviews for more online store reviews and comparisons.



Squarespace SEO - 12 tips on how to make a Squarespace site rank in Google
Squarespace SEO - image of a magnifying glass and the Squarespace logo

In this post we look at Squarespace SEO and provide simple tips on how to use the platform in a way that increases your site’s chances of ranking highly in search results. Remember: if you need some Squarespace web design or development, we can help - see our Squarespace Setup section for more details.


Squarespace is a great platform in many ways - its templates are gorgeous, its content management system (CMS) is easy to use, and it provides a strong and comprehensive set of features, including e-commerce functionality. 

However, when it comes to the SEO department, Squarespace occasionally comes in for a bit of criticism - not because a page or post on a Squarespace site can’t rank highly in search, but because certain aspects of optimising it to do so are not particularly straightforward. 

There are three main reasons for this: 

  • The Squarespace CMS doesn’t really use industry standard terms for some of the elements of pages which you need to optimise.
  • Editing these elements, once you find them, can be a bit of a fiddly process.
  • There are no built-in tools or plugins available to help you assess how well you’ve optimised a page for search.

The good news however is that despite these issues, Squarespace does a lot right when it comes to SEO, and it is perfectly possible to optimise a Squarespace page effectively for search and to achieve a high ranking for it. 

Below you’ll find our checklist of key things you need to do to maximise the chances of your Squarespace site appearing in search. Some tasks on the checklist apply to optimising any site, but we’ve aimed to provide advice that is as specific to Squarespace SEO as possible.


1. Create a ‘SSL’ version of your site if possible

In 2014 Google announced that they wanted to see ‘HTTPS everywhere’, and that a secure HTTPS websites (i.e., using SSL, ‘secure socket layer’) was going to be given preference over non-secure ones in search results. 

SSL as a ranking factor was initially described by Google as ‘a very lightweight signal’, but the indications are that it is becoming more significant (and, SEO aside, browsers increasingly don’t like non-secure sites). 

So it makes sense, where possible, to ensure your Squarespace site is secure - and thankfully, ensuring your site is secure is very straightforward in Squarespace. You just go to Settings > SSL and Security and switch SSL on. But before you do this, there are a couple of important things to consider.

Switching on SSL in Squarespace

Switching on SSL in Squarespace

SSL for Squarespace sites on new domains

If you are building a new Squarespace site on a brand new domain, then switching on SSL is a no-brainer. 

Not only will doing so ensure you are meeting Google’s expectations around SSL, but because Squarespace uses HTTP/2 for its secure sites, your site is likely to load faster too - this is something else which Google approves of and is considered another positive ranking signal. 

Switching your non-secure site to secure in Squarespace

If you have an existing non-secure site that you wish to make secure, you need to tread carefully before hitting the SSL button. This is because creating a ‘https’ version of your existing ‘http’ one can actually hurt you in search if you don’t ensure that every old http:// link redirects permanently to its https:// equivalent, or if you don’t register the new https:// versions in Google Search console (more on search console in a moment). 

As far as I understand it, the good news is that when you switch SSL on in Squarespace, it automatically create 301 permanent redirects from all your non-secure URLs to your new secure ones. This means that if you have an existing Squarespace site and just want to make it secure, it should generally just involve ticking a box, and after that, registering the https:// versions of your site in Google Search Console (Squarespace recommend leaving it 72 hours before you do this). 

However, if you're moving to Squarespace from a different platform, and you're making your site secure for the first time in the process, there may be some more things you need to do to ensure you don't take a hit in search - as such I would advise that you:

Ultimately, so long as you configure things correctly, I would argue that making your Squarespace site secure is generally a good move from an SEO perspective. Just be careful!

HSTS

If you are enabling SSL on your Squarespace, it’s also worth ticking the accompanying HSTS option too (without getting overly technical, this basically forces browsers to only ever load a secure version of your site - it makes the most of your https status basically). Again, check with Squarespace's support team if you have any concerns around this.


2. Register your site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools

Registering a website with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools is something all site owners should do, regardless of the solution they’re using to build it. By registering your site with these two services, you are telling the two major search engines that your website exists and are ensuring it gets crawled. 

One thing you should remember with Google Search Console is that you should register both the www and non-www version of your domain (i.e., www.yourdomain.com and yourdomain.com), and, if you’ve got a secure and non-secure version of your website, the http:// and https:// versions of each.

Registering a Squarespace site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools is very easy - but for more information please see the below resources:


3. Submit a site map to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools

Once you’ve registered your site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, it’s important to submit an XML sitemap to both services - this helps these services index your site accurately and more quickly. 

Helpfully, Squarespace generates a sitemap automatically for you - the URL for this on your Squarespace site is simply www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml - and you simply need to give Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools this link. In both services you do this by going to your site’s dashboard, and then clicking ‘sitemaps.’


4. Ensure your Squarespace site is loading as fast as it can

Page speed is a signal used by search engines to rank websites, with fast-loading sites given a preference over slower ones

Now, your options with regard to page speed are a bit limited on Squarespace - because rather than being able to buy your own hosting and code your own superfast template, you are stuck with Squarespace’s servers and their templates (which, whilst generally acceptable from a speed point of view, don’t provide the fastest experience on the block).

That said, there are some things you can do to make sure your Squarespace pages load as fast as they can:

  • Use compression tools like Tiny Png to reduce the size of any images you’re uploading to Squarespace.
  • Keep use of any external scripts or custom code on your site to a minimum.
  • Avoid using a large number of web fonts on your site - Squarespace suggests keeping it to two -  or even consider using web safe fonts (which load faster).
  • Use Squarespace’s SSL option if possible - this means that your site will be delivered through the faster HTTP/2 protocol (see above for more information on SSL - and some pitfalls to avoid).
  • Switch ‘AMP’ (Accelerated Mobile Web Pages) on - when enabled, this displays extremely fast-loading versions of your blog posts in mobile search result. These versions of your posts can be prioritised by Google in results (they’re more likely to appear in its ‘Top Stories’ section) and because they load so quickly on mobile devices, they’re more likely to be read (thus increasing the dwell time on your posts, a positive ranking signal).

    Switching AMP on in Squarespace is very easy - just go to Settings > Blogging and then tick the AMP checkbox - but there are a couple of things which you may need to tweak on your posts before you do so, and as such it's worth reading the Squarespace support material on AMP before doing so.
Enabling AMP in Squarespace

Enabling AMP in Squarespace


5. Ensure you’re formatting your page titles correctly

One of the most important elements of a web page is its title - search engines treat it as a key piece of information when indexing a page, and your title itself shows up as the largest component of a search result (as well as at the top of browser windows). 

You should ensure your page and post titles are never vague and ideally start with your ‘focus keyword’ - the phrase you want to rank for in search.

As a simple example, if you run Joey’s Music shop, which is located in London and specialises in vintage guitar sales, you are better off using a page title which includes the phrase ‘Vintage Guitars London’ instead of settling for a more conventional (but less SEO friendly) ‘Joey’s Music Shop’.

A good page title for the above would be ‘Vintage Guitars London - Joey’s Music Shop.’ (Note: there are various keyword research tools that can help you find out which phrases are actually searched for on search engines - you can read about a few of these tools here).

To add or edit a page title in Squarespace, simply go to the Pages section, hover over the relevant page, and click the cog icon that appears. The page settings dialog box will appear - simply enter your page title into the appropriately named ‘page title’ field.

Editing page titles in Squarespace

Editing page titles in Squarespace


6. Use headings properly

Ignoring headings is a common mistake made by non-developers who build and update their own websites using tools like Squarespace. Instead of applying headings (H1, H2, H3 etc.) to their text, they add bold or capitalised text to break up their content. 

This causes quite a few problems: first, from a aesthetics point of view it usually looks pretty awful. Second, it makes it harder for visually impaired visitors to your site using screen readers to access your content. And finally, it makes it more difficult for search engines to index your content properly. 

So make sure you read up on headings and how to apply them properly to your text before you upload content to your Squarespace site! In terms of adding them in Squarespace, it’s very easy: when editing a page, you just highlight a piece of text and then choose your desired heading from the formatting drop down menu.

Adding a heading in Squarespace


7. Add meta descriptions to your pages

Meta descriptions provide short summaries of web pages, and usually appear underneath the blue clickable links in a search engine results page.

Although Google says that they aren’t a ranking factor, a well-written meta description can encourage more clickthroughs to your website - which raises the clickthrough rate (CTR) of a page. The CTR of a page IS considered a ranking signal by Google, so getting meta descriptions right is very important.

In Squarespace, the way meta descriptions work is a bit confusing - because there’s three different places to enter them, and the term ‘meta description’ is not used in any of those places! 

To add a meta description to your home page, you’ll need to go to Settings > SEO, then populate the ‘search engine description’ field with your meta description.

Adding a home page meta description in Squarespace

Adding a home page meta description in Squarespace

To add a meta description to a static page, you’ll need to go to Pages, hover over the relevant page, click the cog and then enter your meta description into the ‘description’ box.

Adding a meta description to a static page in Squarespace

Adding a meta description to a static page in Squarespace

To add a meta description to a blog post, you’ll need to go to your post, then click ‘Edit’ followed by ‘Settings’. Once there, you need to write your meta description in the ‘excerpt’ box.

Adding a meta description to a blog post in Squarespace

Adding a meta description to a blog post in Squarespace

There is a general problem with the way Squarespace handles all the above: depending on the template you’re using, these descriptions may appear not just in search results but on your site too (for example, at the top of a page or in a summary block containing a list of your blog posts). 

This isn’t ideal really, because a well-written meta description may not lend itself to being displayed on your site - the purpose of a meta description is to encourage clickthroughs to content; it shouldn’t really be part of the content itself. 

Squarespace's slightly weird approach to meta descriptions is a frustrating feature of a generally excellent CMS, and hopefully the company will tweak things so that we end up with properly labeled, dedicated meta description fields that only display content in search engine result pages (SERPs) and not on websites themselves. For now, we’ll have to work with the various ‘descriptions’ and ‘excerpts’ as best we can, knowing that they may end up on actual pages of our site, as well as in SERPs.


8. Add alt text and optimised file names to your images

Adding alt text in Squarespace

There are three main reasons for adding ‘alternative text’ to your images:

  • Screen readers use it to provide a description of an image to visually impaired users of your website.
  • Search engines use it to categorise your context.
  • If your image fails to load, a description of it can be displayed.

You should aim to add alt text that works for both screen readers and search engines - a description that that contains your focus keywords but it is still perfectly understandable to anybody who is using a screen reader to access your content.

Adding alt text is a particularly fiddly affair in Squarespace - the method for doing so varies considerably depending on whether you are working with an image on a page, a gallery image, a product image, a cover page image or a thumbnail image. (There doesn’t seem to be an option to add alt text for a banner image - although I think the file name serves as one).

I suspect that most users will want to add alt text to images that are inserted on pages - to do this, you need to 

  • Add your image
  • Hover over the image and click ‘Edit’
  • Click ‘Design’ tab
  • Click ‘Inline’
  • Ensure that the ‘Caption Below’ is selected
  • Add a caption (which then becomes the alt text).

If you don’t want to display the caption, you need to then set the caption option to ‘Do not display caption.’ If you want to use a different image layout (for example ‘poster’ or ‘card’) you’ll need to ensure you’ve followed the above steps before using your preferred layout...or you won’t have any alt text accompanying it. 

In Squarespace, image captions double up as alt text, which makes things unnecessarily confusing from an SEO perspective.

In Squarespace, image captions double up as alt text, which makes things unnecessarily confusing from an SEO perspective.

As you can probably tell by now, all this is a very convoluted way to add alt text to your images, and why Squarespace don’t provide a simple ‘alt text’ box is beyond me. I guess when they conceived the platform they wanted to avoid making the options seem too ‘techy’ - but at the end of the day anybody serious about building a successful website will need to add and optimise alt text for search, and although you do so using the above process, it's unnecessarily complicated and a hindrance to SEO.

Because the method for adding alt text in Squarespace varies by page, product and image type, I’d recommend having a very careful read of their help page specifically on alternative text.

Optimising image file names in Squarespace

Search engines also look at file names when indexing and categorising the content of pages - and as such it certainly doesn’t hurt to optimise your image files. For example, in an article about London featuring an image of Big Ben, it would be preferable to use a file name of ‘big-ben.jpg’ rather than ‘DSC125212.jpg.’

This is thankfully quite straightforward in Squarespace - you just hover over your image, click ‘Edit’ and you can enter a desired file name in the ‘Filename’ box.


9. Use a simple URL structure

Using ‘clean’ URLs with a simple structure is encouraged by Google. Clean URLs are short, simple and intelligible: as an example, if you were selling red guitars, it would be advisable to use a URL of www.yourdomain.com/red-guitars rather than www.yourdomain.com/prd/p223.php?ref=1456_red_gtr

Squarespace generates clean URLs for you automatically - certainly for static pages - but when it comes to certain types of blog posts, you might want to consider editing the post format so that you don’t include date information in it. Including date information can make the URL unnecessarily long and, particularly if you intend on updating your blog post in future, irrelevant. (That said, if you’re publishing news articles which are related to specific points in time, it does make sense to keep them in).

It's easy to change a blog post slug in Squarespace - you just go to the post, click Edit and then navigate to to the Options tab:

Editing a blog post's URL in Squarespace

Editing a blog post's URL in Squarespace

To save you a bit of time with this, and to keep your blog post consistent, you can set global settings for blog posts in Squarespace by going to Settings > Blogging and then editing the 'post URL format' so that it only contains the title (%t in the below example).

Editing the post URL format in Squarespace

Editing the post URL format in Squarespace

You’ll find more information from Google on simple URL structures here, but the key takeaways are:

  • Always use short URLs that contain relevant keywords
  • Break up your URLs with punctutation if necessary to make keywords more obvious to both Google and users (i.e., www.yoursite.com/green-shoes is better than www.yoursite.com/greenshoes)
  • Use hyphens rather than underscores to denote spaces (i.e., www.yoursite.com/green-shoes is preferred to www.yoursite.com/green_shoes)

10. Add rich snippets to your Squarespace site

Rich snippets - data that can be added to your site to help both searchers and search engines understand what a page is about - are an important part of how your website behaves in search results (check out this Search Engine Journal article about rich snippets to find out why).

Rich snippets typically feature visual clues about the content of a page or post - for example, star ratings, author, prices and so on - which appear just below the page/post title and before the meta description:

Example of a rich snippet

Example of a rich snippet

They are typically generated through the addition of 'Schema Markup' - HTML code featuring tags defined by Schema.org (a collaborative project between Google, Yahoo!, Bing and Yandex aimed at helping webmasters provide more accurate information to search engines).

I've tried unsuccessfully in the past to use code blocks to add Schema.org data to Squarespace sites - after not having much joy, I contacted Squarespace's support team for advice. Their solution was to use Google's Open Data Highlighter instead. This allows you to load up a page, highlight information on it, and send Google the necessary markup. 

It only works if Google has a crawled your site and has a cached copy of the page you want to mark up - as such you may need to wait a few days until your content has been crawled and tags can be added.


11. Focus on creating great content and building backlinks to it

This goes for all sites, not just Squarespace ones. Sites that feature in-depth, informative posts on topics that people are genuinely interested in tend to perform well in search - and particularly so if there are lots of external links (or ‘backlinks’) pointing to them.

You’ll find some more resources on how to go about creating strong content and building links to it below:

One thing worth remembering is that before you invest time in writing great content and building backlinks to it, some keyword research is always a good idea. This helps you get a strong understanding of the niche topics that people are actively searching for, as well as how hard it will be to rank for a particular niche.

You can find out more about keyword research here.


12. Assess the quality of your on-page SEO

One particular advantage of using Wordpress over Squarespace is that you can add plugins to help you with your SEO efforts. The best-known of these is arguably Yoast, which aids you in real time as you optimise your page and gives you a report on how successful you’ve ultimately been in doing so.

Although you can’t add plugins to Squarespace - and there’s no built in equivalent to Yoast - there are still many third party tools you can use outside of Squarespace to run checks on your SEO efforts. Hubspot provides a useful list of some of the leading ones here.


Any thoughts on Squarespace SEO?

We hope you’ve found these Squarespace SEO tips useful - do feel free to add your own in the comments section below (note: mobile users reading an AMP version of this article may need to view the full version of this post to add a comment). Also, if you’ve enjoyed the article we’d be really grateful if you could share it on social media - or if you run your own blog or site, it’d be great if you could consider linking to it :)

If you need help with a Squarespace project, you can find out about our Squarespace web design services here.


Bigcommerce Review 2017 - Key Pros and Cons of a Leading Online Store Builder
Bigcommerce review (image of a shopping trolley)

In this Bigcommerce review we take a look at one of the most popular e-commerce solutions currently available. Like Shopify and Volusion, it regularly features in ‘top five’ lists of online store builders. 

In this post I'll walk you through some key Bigcommerce features. You'll learn all about the Bigcommerce pros and cons, and by the end of the article should hopefully have a better idea of whether Bigcommerce is the right e-commerce solution for you and your business.

Our overall rating: 4/5


What is Bigcommerce?

Bigcommerce is a paid-for 'hosted' e-commerce solution that allows business owners to set up an online store and sell their products online. It comes with a range of customisable templates to help you design your store; you can use it to sell either physical or digital goods; and there are also some tools provided to help you market your store.

The product is aimed primarily at people without much in the way of web design skills, but it also allows more tech-savvy users to tweak the HTML and CSS of their sites too.

As with all hosted store products (Shopify, Volusion, Squarespace etc.), if Bigcommerce were to shut down or change its feature set radically, you might find yourself in a position where you needed to migrate your store to another platform (Magento Go users can tell you all about that!).

But unless you are in a position to develop your own online store (an expensive and laborious undertaking) you are in all likelihood going to end up using a hosted tool like Bigcommerce anyway to run your store, and the good news is that it's one of the more established products of its kind out there, with a client roster that includes Toyota, Gibson Guitars and Travelpro.


Bigcommerce pricing and plans

Bigcommerce follows a software as a service (SaaS) model - meaning you pay a monthly fee to use it. There are four monthly pricing plans, which are as follows:

  • Bigcommerce Standard: $29.95 per month
  • Bigcommerce Plus: $79.95 per month
  • Bigcommerce Pro: $249.95 per month*
  • Bigcommerce Enterprise: pricing varies, depending on your business requirements

A 10% discount is available if you pay annually for your Bigcommerce plan.

The 'standard', 'plus' and 'pro' plans are aimed at individuals and small businesses; the Enterprise plan is geared more towards large businesses and corporates (users with very high bandwidth / advanced functionality requirements). 

* This fee increases depending on what your annual sales figures are like - these sales limits are discussed in more depth below.

Bigcommerce Standard

Bigcommerce's cheapest offering, the 'standard' plan, costs $29.95 per month and as such is a significantly more expensive than the equivalent starter plans offered by competitors Shopify and Volusion ($9 and $15 respectively) - but that said it is a much more comprehensive starter plan than either of those plans, providing

  • a fully functional online store
  • the ability to sell an unlimited number of products
  • unlimited bandwidth
  • unlimited file storage
  • gift cards
  • ratings and reviews functionality
  • professional reporting

In short, you get an awful lot of e-commerce bang for your buck - this is arguably Bigcommerce's USP - its key competitors usually require you to be on a more expensive plan or make use of apps to get a similar feature set out of the box.

By comparison, the Shopify 'Lite' plan doesn't actually let you build a fully functional website - it is geared towards users who want to either set up a store on Facebook or use the Shopify backend in conjunction with a simple 'buy now' button or point-of-sale applications. 

Volusion’s 'Mini' starter plan comes with monthly limits on data transfer (1GB) and limits you to selling 100 products.

A fairer comparison would be to stack the Bigcommerce 'standard' plan up against Volusion's 'plus' plan or Shopify’s ‘basic’ plan - see our Bigcommerce vs Shopify comparison for more details on the latter.

There is an annual sales limit for Bigcommerce Standard of $50,000.

Bigcommerce Plus

As you move up the pricing structure ladder, you encounter 'Bigcommerce Plus'. This plan provides more functionality than the standard plan, including, crucially, their abandoned cart saver tool (more on that later).

Other key differences between this plan and 'Bigcommerce Standard' include pricing rules for customer groups (this allows you to provide discounts to specific customers) and advanced pricing rules. 

The annual sales limit for Bigcommerce Plus is $150,000.

Bigcommerce Pro

The next plan up in the mix is 'Bigcommerce Pro'. With this plan, you don't get a huge amount of extra functionality over Bigcommerce Plus - but you do get increased sales limits. This permits up to $400,000 in online sales, with an additional fee of $150 per month per $200k in sales, up to a maximum of $1m. 

The extra features that come with this plan inlcude listings on Google Trusted Stores, faceted search (advanced product filtering) and custom SSL via a third party.

Bigcommerce Enterprise

Finally, there's Bigcommerce's "Enterprise" plan to consider. This is really geared towards businesses that have very high volumes of sales (over $1,000,000), and advanced requirements. Its advanced features - that are not available on the cheaper plans - include:

  • advanced product filtering (this lets your visitors search your store using your own custom fields)
  • uptime service level agreement (SLA)
  • staging environment
  • unlimited API calls
  • Bigcommerce consulting
  • priority support.

If you're interested in the Enterprise plan you will need to discuss your requirements with Bigcommerce to establish pricing - the costs will reflect your business needs. You can generally expect a lot more support from Bigcommerce if you purchase an Enterprise plan - data migration, setup, account management and much more in-depth support can all be facilitated.

The annuals sales limit with Bigcommerce Enterprise is negotiable.


Core selling features

As discussed above the exact features you get with Bigcommerce depend on the plan you opt for, but important features include:

  • a choice of 7 free templates

  • the ability to sell a wide range of either physical or digital goods, in categories of your choosing and using shipping rates of your choosing

  • integration with Paypal and a wide range of payment gateways

  • full content management (CMS) functionality

  • good search engine optimisation (SEO) options – it’s very easy to add appropriate keywords to your products and site pages

  • integration with several e-mail marketing services: Constant Contact, iContact, Mailchimp and Interspire

  • automated reminder emails to people who abandoned their carts at checkout

  • discount coupons and gift vouchers as standard

  • product review functionality - this is particularly welcome: not all e-commerce platforms offer this as standard, and usually require you to fiddle about with third-party apps or services to enable it. 

  • the ability to tweak CSS and HTML as desired

  • professional reporting.

Not all of the above features are available on the Bigcommerce entry-level plan, but most of them are, meaning - and as touched on above - that Bigcommerce arguably offers considerably more bang for the buck than some competing products at the $29 monthly plan price point.

With some alternative e-commerce platforms, you'll find yourself having to be on a pretty expensive plan to access some of the above features, or paying for apps to provide the additional functionality you need.

As such, I'd say that the main strength of Bigcommerce is that it provides good value for money and serves as a good 'all-rounder' e-commerce platform out of the box. 

To put this in context, Bigcommerce's $29.95 starter plan compares pretty favourably to Shopify's equivalent in that it offers 4 key features at this level that Shopify doesn't, namely professional reporting, gift cards, a built in ratings and review system and real-time carrier shipping quotes. 


Transaction fees and sales limits

A question which many potential Bigcommerce users asks is "how much of a cut of my sales are they going to take?" Well, the good news is that there are no transaction fees on any Bigcommerce plan.

You will, of course, pay credit card transaction fees and these will depend on the payment gateway you use (see below), but unlike some if its competitors (notably Shopify) you don't have to worry about Bigcommerce taking a cut of your sales.

The bad news, and as mentioned above, is that Bigcommerce places a limits on your annual online sales. These limits are as follows:

  • Bigcommerce Standard: $50,000
  • Bigcommerce Plus: $150,000
  • Bigcommerce Pro: $400,000
  • Bigcommerce Enterprise: negotiable

(If you're on the Bigcommerce Pro plan, you can increase the sales limit by paying $150 per month for every additional $200k in sales, up to $1m).

I contacted Bigcommerce to see what happens if you breach these limits and the response was:

"There is an additional 1,000-2,000 order limit per plan that users be able to go over before being forced to upgrade. During this time users will receive notifications about upgrading their plan as they are over the limit. But we will not prevent additional orders from coming through until they exceed the additional 1,000-2,000 overage order provided."

I expect the limits issue won't be a showstopper for most merchants - if your store is bringing in $400,000 a year you probably won't be quibbling too much about having to pay an extra $150 per month for breaching the limit...but they are a bit of an annoyance.  I have yet to come across these sorts of limits on competing products like Shopify or Volusion, so it's a bit of a 'could do better' here for Bigcommerce.


Payment gateways

With all the plans referred to above it is worth pointing out that additional charges apply for use of a ‘payment gateway’ (software provided by a third party to process credit cards) – depending on what you plump for you are looking at a percentage of a transaction fee, or a monthly fee (or both). These fees are not applied by Bigcommerce but by the payment gateway provider you use.

Integrating a payment gateway with a hosted e-commerce solution like Bigcommerce can occasionally be bit of a lengthy process, which involves setting up 'merchant accounts' with your chosen gateway provider and configuring them so that they work with your store.

If you want to avoid doing this, you can use Paypal powered by Braintree as the payment gateway. Doing so makes for a very easy payment gateway setup and gives you preferential Paypal rates for credit card transactions (which decrease as you go up Bigcommerce's pricing ladder):

Payment gateways in Bigcommerce

Payment gateways in Bigcommerce

  • Bigcommerce Standard: 2.9% + 30c
  • Bigcommerce Plus: 2.5% + 30c
  • Bigcommerce Pro: 2.2% + 30c
  • Bigcommerce Enterprise: 2.2% + 30c

It's worth looking at the various fees involved with other payment gateway providers though: depending on what you sell and how much of it, using a different payment gateway to Paypal powered by Braintree may still be the best route for you to go down, even if it involves a bit more setup time.

In terms of the number of payment gateways that you can integrate with Bigcommerce, there are around available (note however that whether or not you can work with a particular payment gateway will depend on the country you are selling from).

This compares pretty favourably with competing products - it's much better than Squarespace (which only offers integration with 2 payment gateways, Stripe and Paypal) but not as good as Shopify (which works with 70+).


    Bigcommerce templates

    Bigcommerce offers a good selection of responsive templates that you can use for the design of your online store.

    There are 7 free themes and around 90 paid themes (ranging in price from $145 to $235) - and each theme contains a number of different variants, so there quite is a lot to choose from.

    Example of a free Bigcommerce theme

    The free themes on offer are contemporary, professional in appearance and provide a good starting point for building an online store. However, a few of them are very similar to each other. This is a particular issue with the free themes: although there are technically 7 available, if you ask me it's more a case of there being 2 themes with different colours. This means that in the theme department, Bigcommerce doesn't provide quite so much bang for buck as other solutions, like Shopify or Squarespace.

    To extend your options in the theme department, you can consider purchasing a paid theme. These are fairly reasonably priced, starting out at $145 and going up to $235 in price.


    Bigcommerce’s abandoned cart saver feature

    One feature worth drawing particular attention to is Bigcommerce’s abandoned cart feature – it’s one of the best out there. The tool allows you to create up to three automated emails to site visitors who go part of the way through the sales process only to leave your store without buying anything. This has the potential to dramatically increase your revenue with little effort – other than the 'one-off' time investment in setting up the automated messages – being involved.

    Other online store building tools provide similar functionality, but Bigcommerce’s is in my view better than those offered by its key competitors because it is more flexible and allows you to program in more reminder emails (you can use three active autoresponders).

    It’s important to note that the abandoned cart saver functionality only comes with Bigcommerce’s 'Plus', 'Pro' and 'Enterprise' plans, but it's one of the strongest reasons why you might use one of these plans over the entry-level 'Standard' plan.


    Product variants and categories

    Another particularly strong feature of Bigcommerce is the way it handles product variants. Unlike rival Shopify, which only allows you to present users with three product variants without resorting to workarounds, Bigcommerce's 'product options' and 'product rules' allow you to create a large number of product options (I'm not sure of the exact upper limit, but in tests, I created 10 easily). So if you are selling products that come in a lot of different formats, Bigcommerce may be a particularly good option. See accompanying video for more detail on how it all works.

    A bit less impressive is the way that Bigcommerce handles categories - whilst creating and editing them is straightforward enough, you have to assign them to individual products in quite a manual fashion. It would be better - as is the case with some other leading online store builders, notably Shopify - if you could automatically categorise products based on product name or tags. 


    Dropshipping with Bigcommerce

    Many prospective Bigcommerce users will be interested to learn how it handles dropshipping.

    Dropshipping is a selling model where you don't keep what you're selling in stock. Instead, you take an order, send it the details a supplier, and they send the goods to your customer. The advantage of this model is that you don't need much start-up capital as there's no need to purchase any stock before you start selling. 

    Dropshipping is perfectly possible with Bigcommerce, but you'll need to install a third-party app to facilitate it.

    There are six apps such apps available to help you dropship:

    • Alibaba
    • Inventory Source
    • Sunrise
    • E-product plug
    • Ali-Express Dropshipping
    • Wholesale 2B

    These apps vary in price - depending on your needs you may be able to avail of a free plan; others cost between $29 and $55 per month.


    Interface

    Bigcommerce’s interface is straightforward and intuitive; similar in quality to Shopify's. It's not entirely dissimilar to a Wordpress dashboard either.

    A vertical menu on the left hand side of the screen gives you easy access to the key features - and the labels ('orders', 'storefront design', 'analytics' etc.) make it obvious where you'll find all the key features.

    In a nutshell, I've found it a very easy product to use - it stands up well in terms of usability by comparison to Shopify and Squarespace, and trounces Volusion.

    The below video gives you a quick overview of the Bigcommerce interface.


    Point of sale functionality in Bigcommerce

    A nice feature of Bigcommerce is that it doesn't just let you run an online store - it can facilitate selling at 'point of sale' (POS) too.

    Thanks to some integrations with four POS providers - Square, Shopkeep, Springboard Retail and Hike - you can take payment and sync inventory when selling from a physical location (such as a store, market stall, event etc.). You'll need to research each of these providers carefully to ensure you find the right one for your needs, but it's good that Bigcommerce offers so many options on this frton. Other competing e-commerce solutions either don't offer POS at all (Squarespace being a case in point) or are more restrictive in terms of what hardware and software you can use.


    Enhancing your Bigcommerce store's functionality via the app store

    If the standard set of features provided by Bigcommerce isn't sufficient for your needs, then you might want to consider purchasing some apps from Bigcommerce's app store. These beef up the functionality of your store, and a pretty wide range of integrations is available. 

    You can add apps that deal with lots of different aspects of of running an online business - app categories include accounting, CRM, marketing shipping and so on. Integrations are available with many well-known business SaaS apps - for example, you'll find apps for Mailchimp, Zendesk, Xero and Salesforce.

    In terms of how the Bigcommerce apps offering compares with competing online store builders, it beats Squarespace's offering hands down (Squarespace doesn't provide any app store at all) but is somewhat eclipsed by Shopify's (there are 2000 or so apps available in the Shopify app store).


    iOS and Android apps for Bigcommerce

    One area where Bigcommerce doesn't score highly for me is mobile apps. Unlike some other e-commerce solutions, no iOS or Android apps are available for store owners to use to manage their stores on the go. There was previously an app available...but it's been discontinued.

    Obviously you can still be notified of sales etc. using a mobile device via email, but that seems a bit low-tech in this day and age. Additionally, there do seem to be some third-party Bigcommerce mobile apps floating about the place - but you won't be able to get support from Bigcommerce when using them. 


    Something to bear in mind if you are selling digital products: VAT MOSS

    If you want to sell digital products - downloadable music, videos, books etc. - to EU customers with Bigcommerce, you'll need to familiarise yourself with something called VAT MOSS (short for 'VAT Mini One Stop Shop'). VAT MOSS requires you to apply country-specific rates of VAT to digital products - even if yours is a business that is based outside of the EU. 

    With Bigcommerce, you'll need to set up individual tax rules to cover each country in Europe - a boring manual process which is likely to take you a while. To be fair to Bigcommerce, many of its competitors don't cater well for VAT MOSS either. But I'd like to see a similar approach to Shopify's being implemented here, where VAT MOSS is applied automatically to digital products.


    Bigcommerce support

    When you start a Bigcommerce free trial, you are provided with various support emails and resources aimed at helping you with the 'onboarding' process. There's a fair amount of hand-holding available if you want it, which should make it easy enough to get your store up and running.

    For those who have purchased a Bigcommerce plan, the company provides 24-hour 'live agent' support. It's not hugely clear on their site what exactly this covers - phone, chat or email, and before you get access to relevant contact details you are encouraged to try to resolve the issue by searching for an answer to your query via the Bigcommerce help pages first (see accompanying screengrab). This will annoy some users a bit, although you do get presented with fairly easy-to-digest contact details once you've completed your search and ignored the help articles! 

    The Bigcommerce contact page - packed with lots of useful resources yes, but finding contact details is trickier than it should be.

    The Bigcommerce contact page - packed with lots of useful resources yes, but finding contact details is trickier than it should be.

    BUT - and here's a handy tip if you need to contact Bigcommerce support - if you want to bypass the 'search for an answer first' routine, you can. To do this, you click the 'contact' link on the Bigcommerce site, and scroll down the page past the 'common questions.' Underneath all these you'll find - ta da - links to live chat and email, along with a list of phone numbers.

    For those who are more inclined towards trying to sort the issue out themselves first, there is a large range of video and text resources available from Bigcommerce, and a community forum.


    Bigcommerce analytics

    Bigcommerce analytics

    Bigcommerce analytics

    Bigcommerce provides users with several types of reports as standard:

    • customer reports (where your customers come from, the percentage of new vs returning customers, their overall spend and when they last made an order)
    • marketing reports (how you acquired your customers)
    • search data reports (the phrases customers used when searching for products in your online store) 
    • finance reports (sales, tax reports etc.)
    • abandoned cart reports.

    For an additional fee you can also gain access to an 'Insights' report, which provides you with more detailed information on your customers, products and abandoned carts. 

    In short, the Bigcommerce analytics offering is pretty strong - and the best thing about it is that the bulk of the reporting functionality comes as standard on all plans. This is not the case with its key competitor Shopify, which requires you to be on its more expensive $79 plan before you get access to in-depth reports.

    Of course in addition to using the built-in Bigcommerce reporting tools, you could also supplement your analytics arsenal by integrating Google Analytics into your site and using goals to measure conversions.


    Bigcommerce review conclusions

    Bigcommerce is one of the strongest hosted online store builders I’ve tested.

    Above all else, it is very easy to use – it’s one of the most user friendly products of its kind I've used. The standout aspect of it is arguably the comprehensive feature set you get on its entry-level plan, which provides significantly more bang for the buck than many competing products.

    Other things I particularly like about Bigcommerce are the quality of its abandoned cart saver and the flexible approach to product options (in a Bigcommerce vs Shopify shootout, I suspect that this might sway quite a few users Bigcommerce's way).

    The main things that would dissuade me from using it would probably be price (the entry level plan is more expensive than those offered by some competing products); the imposition of sales limits on store owners; and the support process (contacting support is not as straightforward as it should be).

    I hope this Bigcommerce review has helped give you a sense of this product and whether it's suitable for your needs - but as usual, always best to try before you buy: you can avail of a free Bigcommerce trial here.

    Finally, below you will find my summary of the positive and negative aspects of Bigcommerce.  

    Pros of Bigcommerce

    • Bigcommerce is one of the easiest-to-use online store builder I’ve come across to date, with a very intuitive interface / CMS. My favourite aspect of the whole product is this user-friendliness – many users of online store builders are small business owners, not web developers, and interfaces should not get in the way of building the store.

    • The overall feature set on entry-level Bigcommerce plans is comprehensive by comparison to competing products.

    • You get a good set of reporting tools on all plans - again, this is not the case with all competing products.

    • It comes with built-in product review functionality.

    • There are no transaction fees.

    • Its marketing features are very strong: it’s really easy to use several leading e-newsletter services with Bigcommerce, and the tool’s approach to SEO is very straightforward too.

    • The automated emails that are sent to visitors who abandon their carts are an excellent idea and likely to boost revenue from your store considerably. Their 'abandoned cart saver' tools are more comprehensive than similar offerings by competitors (including Shopify and Volusion).

    • It comes with a wide range of discounting / coupon tools out of the box.

    • It comes with a built-in blog. This is extremely important because it allows you to use inbound marketing techniques directly from your store, without having to make use of a third party tool like Wordpress (or set up a subdomain for your blog etc.).

    • You can avail of cheaper-than-usual Paypal card transaction fees with Bigcommerce, thanks to its preferential arrangement with Braintree.

    • Bigcommerce is a very flexible solution for vendors with a lot of different product variants.

    • You can try the product free for 14 days

    Cons of Bigcommerce

    • Limits are placed on annual online sales - and if you exceed them, you'll need to upgrade to a more expensive monthly plan.

    • The price of the Bigcommerce starter plan is on the high side by comparison to other solutions, although the plan itself is more feature-rich than entry-level products by other leading e-commerce solution providers.

    • VAT MOSS rates could be better catered for.

    • There are no mobile apps available to manage your store on the go.

    • Although support is 24/7, it's not clear what level of support you receive with Bigcommerce across individual channels (phone, chat or email).

    • It's hard to find contact details on the Bigcommerce website for support - before you get to a phone number, you have to search for an answer to your problem on their site.

    • There are not as many apps available in its app store as there are in Shopify's.


    Alternatives to Bigcommerce

    As far as hosted solutions go, Bigcommerce's main competitor is probably Shopify, which is similarly priced and comes with a similar range of features. You can read our Bigcommerce vs Shopify review here. 

    Another option when it comes to building an online store is to use Wordpress in conjunction with an e-commerce tool such as Ecwid or Woocommerce. (Obligatory plug: we can help you with a Wordpress e-commerce project - contact us for more info).

    You might also wish to investigate Squarespace, which whilst not as feature-packed from an e-commerce point of view, is a good product for those who wish to combine impressive visuals or content with the ability to sell products. Our full Squarespace review is here.

    If you already have a website that you're happy with, and wish to add e-commerce functionality to it, you could do worse than check out Ecwid.

    Finally, other well-known solutions for building online stores include Jimdo, Weebly and Wix but it's probably fair to say that these are more 'prosumer' products; Bigcommerce is aimed at a more professional audience.


    Got any thoughts on Bigcommerce?

    If you have any thoughts or queries on Bigcommerce, we'd love to hear them - feel free to express yourself in the comments section below!  

    Note: if you're viewing this on a mobile device, you may be reading a streamlined "AMP" version of the post which doesn't feature the comments section - in which case please just click here to view a version of the post for mobiles which includes commenting.


    Our latest client: Yelobric

    We're pleased to have recently completed a website design project for Yelobric. Yelobric are a new printing company in Essex, who also provide graphic design and print consultancy services. Their website was built in Squarespace.

    If you've got a Squarespace website design project that you need some help with, you might be interested in checking out our Squarespace web development services. (We also provide Wordpress web design services too).

    If you have any queries about web design in general, don't hesitate to contact us.