Thursday, August 24, 2006

What's Your Favorite Quilting Website?

Wow! Two posts from me in one day. Do you think the earth will open up and swallow me whole?

What's your favorite quilt shop website? The reason I'm asking is a long and sordid story.

My current website for the shop is www.thequiltasylum.com. I paid someone to set it up for me a year or so ago and she did. It is functional, but not particularly sexy. I did teach myself how to update the information on it. I've never had an official logo and I have no graphics skills.

I was approached by a branding company in March. They wanted to create a cool logo and update my website to match. I signed on and we began our work. We met several times, and I was really excited to get this off the ground before the Quilt Sampler magazine was published. Around early May, I received notice that my designer was quitting the company, but the owner would take care of me. I went to Quilt Market, the magazine hit, and we were swamped. I didn't get a chance to raise my head until mid-July. I fired off an e-mail asking what was happening on my project. I got a really nasty e-mail back basically firing me as a client. What's up with that? Now what am I going to do?

After a couple of weeks, I finally looked up the designer in the phone book. I placed a call to see if he was willing to finish the work directly. He agreed! He's freelancing now and can work on my stuff in a couple of weeks. Yay!

So, I'm doing what I should have done a long time ago, but thought I wouldn't waste my time since my new website was on the way - I'm updating and creating pages on the current site in preparation for the conversion. Nothing like a learning curve that's straight up! The way I look at it - the more content work I do up front, the less money it will cost me in the end. But, oh, is it slow going.

And if I save money in one area, I can spend it in another, right? Work with me....it's woman logic. SO. If I'm going to have a "perfect world" website wish list, what should be on it? I KNOW you guys probably surf more sites than I do. And I'm asking for your help. Tell me your favorite quilting websites - I would prefer those for brick-and-mortar shops, since I am one, but will certainly look at ALL retail sites recommended- and WHY you like it. Is it navigation, is it content, is it photos and cool graphics, or is it product? If I'm going to invest in this, I'd like to get it somewhat right.

I'm off now to soak my aching head....

17 Comments:

Blogger Superstitchious said...

www.fatquartershop.com is awesome. Its purely an online store, but its great. I love all of the bundles of fatquarters and all of the charm packs and "jolly" packs. Its a great way to get a whole sample pack of a fabric line and put together a really well coordinated quilt. She packages everything really nicely also and does same day shipping! What more could i ask for. It also helps that she's only 30 minutes from me and i get my things the next day in the mail.

11:08 PM  
Blogger Hedgehog said...

I don't shop much online, but sometimes I'm looking for a specific fabric. It's nice if the name, designer, and company for a fabric are clear and easy to search. Ideally, there is more than one way to search - the details (name, company, etc.), theme (esp. for novelties), and maybe something like color or stripes, etc. I know this probably is a lot of work! Hope that's helpful!

12:41 AM  
Blogger EileenKNY said...

I like easy navigation, that's my pet peeve with many websites.
Having both present and past collections available is nice, so you have a choice. Not every fabric has to be the newest in the store.
Showing the specials on the home page is good too.

6:50 AM  
Blogger quiltpixie said...

Probably the biggest determiner of whether I return to a site repeatedly (besides having the products I want) is that I can find the products! I want web pages that load relatively quickly (I'd rather have small pictures of products that I can click on for that reasons) and navagation that makes sense -- I'm kind of odd as I'd rather go through several logic steps (say notions, cutting tools, rotary cutters) to get to the particular cutter I'd like than have thousands of categories up front.

Personally I don't really want the cute picture of all the people who came to the workshop at your store, as I don't know them and I'm not going to "gain" anything from the info (its not some product I'm going to fall in love with) and I resent using my valuable loading time for such pictures...

7:43 AM  
Blogger The Calico Cat said...

I like to be able to "search" by designer, by subject, by color... & I get irritated when I search for say "Jan Mullen" but only some of the items available (at that site) by her are listed under Jan Mullen...

Some sites theoretically have everything searchable - but if you can find it, what good is that?

Oh and if something moves from one category to another - aka going on sale, keep the generic searches still available...

7:45 AM  
Blogger The Calico Cat said...

I forgot - I really like "more like this" options - so if I am looking at a "Robyn Pandolf" print & want a coordinating background, it is easy to find.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Ama said...

I do quite a bit of shopping online, mostly from Big Horn Quilts and eQuilter because of the selection. Astectically the sites aren't all that pretty to look at and their search functions, especially eQuilter's leave a lot to be desired.

One suggestion I have is to make sure the website works in a variety of browsers instead of just IE. I use Mozilla Firefox and there is nothing more infuriating then spending the time on the site, adding things to my cart and not being able to check out because of a browser compatibility issue.

8:47 AM  
Blogger Ama said...

I do quite a bit of shopping online, mostly from Big Horn Quilts and eQuilter because of the selection. Astectically the sites aren't all that pretty to look at and their search functions, especially eQuilter's leave a lot to be desired.

One suggestion I have is to make sure the website works in a variety of browsers instead of just IE. I use Mozilla Firefox and there is nothing more infuriating then spending the time on the site, adding things to my cart and not being able to check out because of a browser compatibility issue.

8:47 AM  
Blogger Ama said...

Sorry about the double post.

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Lisa D. said...

It definitely needs to be searchable so you can find something specific if you are looking for it. Lots of GOOD pictures, not too dark and close up enough to see details. Fast shipping and reasonable shipping costs are 2 things that make me return again and again to some shops. Good luck!

9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,
I live in Europe and quilting fabric costs me around double what it does in the US - so I do most of my buying on line from the US.

Sites I use most often are Hancocks of Paducah, FabricShack and The Fat Quarter Shop.

Hancocks site is pretty and I love browsing there, but the need to register on the site and log in before you can place an order is a pain in the a**. Since they introduced this, a couple of ladies in my quilting class have stopped buying from them as they couldn't manage to successfully complete the registration process. Other problems: site slows down considerably at times of heavy use; time taken to ship order can be considerable - usually at least a week sometimes two weeks, on one occasion over three weeks to ship! As it takes another week to reach me, I don't use Hancocks if I am in a hurry for something. I don't mind having to wait a couple of weeks for something if I really want it, but if it is going to take a while then I appreciate being told that upfront. Otherwise, I think the parcel has got lost and waste the retailers time and mine enquiring about it.

FabricShack's site is basic but fast and functional, which I appreciate, and their ordering process is straightforward. Their shipping too is fast. Couple of minor gripes, I wish they would add some small basic habedashery items to their online stock. Machine needles, rotary blades, etc., cost a lot more in Europe than US, and are very cheap to ship. I would think from a site owner's perspective, these would be well worth the effort to put up as the specification rarely changes. Other gripe is that I've emailed them a couple of times with some query or other and no-one has ever responded - they lost a couple of purchases from me that way. Bottom line, their prices and efficiency with orders keeps me coming back.

Fat Quarter Shop has a nice site with good quality pictures and I like the bit at the bottom of the page that suggests other similar items I might be interested in. They send out weekly e-mails telling all about their new arrivals and sale fabrics, etc. I know this has enticed me to click through to their site a couple of times and purchase. When I'm looking for fat quarters this is my first port of call, but their yardage prices are not that competitive, so I don't tend to bother with them for larger purchases. Generally, there is a friendly feel to this site and they provide a very efficient service.

More generally
First thing I check on any new fabric shop web site is shipping information. If I can't find a link to it quickly, I move on. Ditto, if the shipping info isn't clear. So I want to know first - is international shipping available? If yes: is it global priority service; how much will it cost me; how much fabric can you fit in an evelope? Once I have all that clear in my head then I'm ready to start shopping.

I like browsing and pictures are very important to me. I like to be able to see pages with small pictures that I can click on and it takes me to a bigger image and description of the fabric. Being on a fast dsl link, I like the option to view all the fabrics on one page ... I can scroll down a page pretty quick and loading lots of pages with only a handful of pictures on each drives me mad.

I also like to know what the dimensions of the scan I am seeing are - e.g. is it a 5inch square or what ... it is very difficult to judge scale of prints just from a picture!

I really don't mind how fabrics are categorised on the site so long as it has a good search facility - I want to be able to search on just about anything.

Hope that helps
Regards
Izzi

8:55 PM  
Anonymous samantha said...

Easily searchable with excellent photos is the most important thing for me as an online only buyer. (I echo many folks above in my praise of The Fat Quarter Shop.) But, if you want your site to also be a marketing tool for the store directly, it needs to be super easy to navigate and exciting to look at... You want to lure me in. Frequent updates! I hate clicking on a site and reading about their great upcoming February sale- only, now, it's August... My LQS has a pretty decent site that I use for info but not shopping purposes, and perhaps it would give you some ideas? http://www.greatamericanquilt.com/

10:58 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

Well, fabric sites are seperate for me from site I use for ideas and patterns. For ideas and patterns, I like Quilters Cache because they have ever known pattern under the sun, anfd I also use Bonnie Hunter's site a lot too for patterns and ideas.

Now as far as fabric places...one of my fav's is Cottage Quilts. I almost always buy from them. This might sounds silly, but I like that they fold up my fabric so neatly and tie it up with a fabric strip then plastic bag it before it goes in the box/envelope. Some don't do that. They also list almost every section individually. I also buy from eQuilter alot too.

I would agree on the search functions that others mentioned. I hate putting in a name and NOT getting all the items associated with that person.

Hope it helps!

10:26 PM  
Blogger Shelina said...

Susan,
I don't shop online much, but I agree that a search feature and easy navigation are important. I went to your website and I really that you had photos of all of your class quilts, and everything you talked about as far as I could tell, and the navigation was really easy. I also liked how you had ideas about how to use the fabric kits.
Just so you know, the fourth picture on the homepage didn't show up for me. The one next to where it says location. There were several outdated pages as well, the specials page and the strip club page. You may want to make a note on paper of what date your pages "expire" so that you can be sure to update them before then.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I agree about the shipping. I always check first to see what the shipping rates are before I shop. Why waste the time shopping to see that the shipping rates are outrageous. I also like to be able to search. I shop a lot at Z & S (good prices) and cottonpatchquilts.com

12:23 PM  
Blogger Marcie said...

8-31-06 Susan, I looked at your web site and think you have it layed out very well. A good directory and great photos. To me, those are the key elements, along with cruisability. A couple shop sites that also have good features are: www.oldegreencupboard.com, www.quiltedtreasures.com, www.whatsyourstitchnstuff.com. Plus, my favorite, www.patchalotpatterns.com (mine)! Good luck with your new site!

8:59 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

Several sites I use, such as overrainbow.com, if I click on one fabric, other fabrics in that category will also come up underneath.

example: http://tinyurl.com/zobcq

12:18 AM  

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