Monday, November 10, 2008

SIte Review : Shop Handmade

Folks, photographs are important if you hope to sell anything online. Please learn to use your camera and take in-focus, well-lit photos - you really don't need any special equipment. A sunny window and a careful reading of your camera manual will work wonders, I guarantee.

With that prologue, let's take a look at Shop Handmade, another entry in the online handmade marketplace race. Like many of the other similar sites, it has chosen to run new items on its front page, with no selection process. The site looks nice and clean, but nothing drags down a nice design faster than a crummy, dark, blurry photograph (or six - since people tend to list in batches, often several of their pix are on the front page at once.)

And sticking with my photo peeve temporarily, I need to remark on a feature that probably seemed like a cool idea, but doesn't really work. When you hover your mouse over an item photo at Shop Handmade, a magnifying lens appears, which enlarges a section of the picture. I suppose the idea is to give you a closer look, but as anyone who has ever tried to blow up a picture of a certain resolution into a larger size knows, it just makes it fuzzy. So what the magnifier actually does is give you a distorted look.

It's also distracting if you browse with your mouse in one hand like I do. There are other parts of the site that spring to life with a mouseover, like the menu bar on the front page, the browsing categories, and just about everything else. Running your mouse pointer across a Shop Handmade page sends boxes, pictures and menus popping up all over the page.

The search box has an interesting feature that previews results as you type. In a less jumpy atmosphere, this might be useful. The thumbnails are too small to really give much of a look, however.

Shop Handmade claims to be free if you allow sponsors to put an ad on your site. You also choose your own sales commission - even 0%. Interesting model, but it makes me wonder how serious these people are about business. There are already many people trying to break into the business of handmade who think of business as a charity operation where everyone trades oohs and ahs about your beautiful stuff and somehow money appears in your paypal account. It's not the venue's job to teach basic business, but Shop Handmade seems to be encouraging this sometimes unrealistic approach. Perhaps they are relaxed enoug about their income they can say "Hey, pay what you want..." Most of the rest of us do not have that luxury and probaby do not want our potential customers to think they can pay us whatever they feel like paying for our items.

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