Now Open: The Store

So many of our students at our webinars and workshops as well as our website visitors ask us about our Notes, Instructional Videos and Photoshop additions that it was time to make it possible to deliver them.  So we created a digital store integrated with this blog.  In fact, we’ve only had the store open for two weeks and already we have a clear bestseller:

Advanced Stacker PLUS [14E] with Online Video and Notes
Includes the even EASIER to install Advanced Photoshop action set version 14E, an unlimited viewing online video on creating star trails, notes (PDF) on creating star trails and practice files. The video is 2 hours long. This action is power. You can create star trails, cloud timestacks and stack images with a minimum of effort and a maximum of control. You can create "comets", "midgets" streaks and much more. And you can create intermediate files along the way to put interesting motion effects into your timelapse. Compatible with Photoshop CS3, CS4, CS5, CS5.5, CS6 (standard or extended), CC, CC 2014, CC 2015.
**NOTE: MAC Users with Yosemite or El Capitan and PS CC 2015 are reporting installation problems. We recommend you do NOT purchase this product until we have been able to resolve this issue.
NOT Compatible with Photoshop Elements, or Lightroom. Please specify your primary OS and Photoshop version when ordering. You will receive links to both Mac and Windows installers.

Making It So

But making it so was not a straight line path from where we were to where we wanted to go. We toyed with a variety of things to create a store. Using PayPal buttons directly – simple and maddeningly painful at the same time, using ZenCart, and looking at a few others solutions.

Ultimately we wanted something relatively simple. Something that could handle a small, but growing array of products – all digital, and that would be relatively easy to integrate into the BLOG without breaking off limbs or snapping frazzled nerves. We settled on WP E-Store. It’s neither flawless nor as spectacularly simple to get working as we would want it to be, but it is well featured and well supported.

I should probably make a note that I, Steven, am capable of twiddling with HTML, circumspect of all CSS (because I’ve never found it to be pleasant to deal with), able to write JavaScript and PHP when needed – but prefer not to. If none of that makes sense to you, that might be fine unless you decide to embark on creating a store because I’ve already learned that I have needed all those skills in some form already.

We want a store secure against theft, hacks and intrusion, that is easy to use and easy to configure. We also want to offer discounts to people who attend our Webinars and Workshops as well as repeat customers. Using PayPal directly proved unmanageable. Our store also needs to manage the digital content that gets created on an almost daily basis. We had no expectation or illusion that we would sell prints or images through this store. In fact, Steven has a well featured means for selling hard goods through ZenFolio. Interestingly most Steven’s print sales occur in the United Kingdom – likely because they see Steven’s images in the Royal Observatory. ZenFolio is great for selling prints and mounted images – even iPhone cases!

WP eStore

What we like about WP eStore is that it does handle the key things we want: digital sales through PayPal (and credit cards), and secure encrypted links for digital goods and a nice simple interface for our clients and customers.

What WP eStore lacks, however are a number of things including a simple way to process refunds (always a painful thing through PayPal), more configurability of the display of products and the shopping cart and a few gotchas in the way you configure products. For example, with WP eStore you can specify a “thumbnail” image for a product – but by default the thumbnail will be clickable and go to the thumbnail image. That’s completely silly.

Of course since we purchased WP eStore we’ve also noticed a lot of other competitors, including WooCommerce which looks snazzy, but it appears you get nickeled and dimed to death to get all the pieces together.

Biggest Obstacle

The biggest impediment to our eStore is our theme.  Theme? Yes, the page layouts are controlled by a WordPress theme. Unfortunately the theme we like is not as customizable as we’d like. That spiffy graphic at the top, for example clutters up the store so we are planning to either switch themes or hack up the Twenty-Ten theme we are using.

What is Ahead?

One day we hope to also offer free and paid Webinar registration through the store. And perhaps even workshops, too. Please check out our store. Here is another resource of interest:

>Photography with Harold Davis obviously this is Harold’s spot and covers much more than night photography.

Oh, and if you would like to see if a Webinar will work for you and your set up, you can join a FREE webinar to kick the tires on March 12, 2013. We hope to see you there!

What do you think about this?