Collecting reborn dolls is considered a niche hobby in the sense that it's still relatively new and not a lot of people even know about it. Going back to the history of reborn dolls, the hobby really didn't start gaining any real momentum until artists began selling their works online. This opened up a whole new territory for the hobby, as people from across the world were able to see just what these dolls were, and of course they could purchase and have them delivered directly to their home if they were interested in them. Whether you consider yourself an amateur or professional reborner, creating a storefront website for your business is almost certain to increase your visibility and overall profits. Using the same medium that essential started the reborn doll craze (the internet) will give you the upper-hand by connecting you to a clients from across the world.
But I'm No Computer Whiz!
I know what you're thinking - launching a storefront website requires years of technical experience, training, thousands of dollars and probably some computer hacking skills (joking on that last one), all of which you lack. Don't worry if you aren't a computer whiz who can magically create codes and programs on the fly. Thanks to the modern advancements in information technology (IT) and the internet in general, launching a clean and fully-functional storefront website has never been easier. Now, practically anyone can build and launch their very own storefront website in no time at all, and it can be done for a fraction of the price it used to cost 10 years ago.
Before We Begin...
If you're reading this and truly interesting in launching a storefront website, hopefully you already have some unsold reborns set aside waiting to be adopted. If you don't, I recommend focusing on your reborning hobby BEFORE trying to launch a website; otherwise, your site will be rather plain and empty with nothing on it. A good website on the other hand will be filled with pictures of your reborns, prices, as well as general information about the ones you wish to sell. Some people may hastily rush into launching their site without creating a collection of reborn first, resulting in a poorly made site that sends the wrong impression about you as an artist and your reborning business.
Choosing a Domain Name For Your Website
The first step in launching a storefront website for your reborn dolls is to choose a domain name for your site. Basically, this will be the address that clients must type into their internet browser to reach your site, so the importance in the step should be obvious. Choosing a long, confusing domain name with a combination of letters, hyphens and numbers will only make it more difficult for clients and customers to find you. Going back to the importance of branding yourself, it's generally better to use a specific brand name relating to your unique business, rather than some combination of generic words.
Here are some tips on choosing a domain name for your reborn storefront:
- There are many different domain suffixes (com, net, org, info, co, ca, etc.), but .com is usually the best all-around choice. It stands for commerce, and that's exactly what your reborn storefront will be going. Besides, people are most familiar with and used to seeing .com websites.
- Choose a name containing a specific identifier related to your reborn business. For instance, if you sell reborn dolls labeled by your personal name (which you should), then a domain such as "yournamereborns.com" would probably work well.
- You might feel tempted to add hyphens into your domain name if it's already taken. However, you should try to avoid using them and come up with a new name instead. Hyphenated domains can be confusing and difficult for people to remember, and there's a chance you could be sending traffic away to a competitor if you attempt to use it.
- As long as you have the necessary funds, go ahead and register the .net, .org and .info extensions of your .com domain. You don't have to place anything on them, but it's rather a precautionary measure to prevent other artists and companies from piggybacking off your success.
- Use an online service like Instant Domain Search to check and see if the name you've chosen is currently available.
- Once you've found an available name, don't hesitate to register it (we recommend either GoDaddy or Namecheap). It's a straightforward process that should only take you about 10 minutes to complete, and the cost of a single .com domain should run you about $7-$10 per year, which is a small price to pay for a proper storefront website.
Choosing and Setting Up a Host
Along with a domain name, you're also going to need a service known as a web host. In short, web hosting companies own, rent or otherwise operate large data centers where servers internet-connected servers are maintained. Unless you have your own server or data center (doubtful), you'll need to purchase the services of one. They will host all of the files and databases that your website is comprised of.
There are dozens of web hosting companies out there offering to provide you with 99.9% server up-time and unparalleled customer support. Unfortunately, however, only a select few make the cut of being labeled a quality host. So, which web host should you go with? Host Gator and Blue Host are two of our favorites. They are inexpensive, effective, offer excellent customer support, and they are two of the oldest and most trusted named in the web hosting industry, so you really can't go wrong with either one of them.
Web hosts generally offer the three following different types of hosting service:
- Shared hosting - With prices starting at just $4 bucks a month, shared hosting is the least expensive option available. As the name suggests, though, you will be sharing the CPU, memory and other server resources multiple accounts. This typically won't cause any problems unless your site explodes in popularity and all of a sudden starts receiving thousands of hits per day.
- Virtual Private Server (VPS) - A step up from shared hosting is a virtual private server, or VPS for short. While you don't have your own physical server dedicated strictly to your website and account, the hosting companies allocated a virtual portion of the server specifically for you, hence the name virtual private server. As you can expect, VPS services tend to cost a bit more than shared hosting, but it's a smart investment that's usually worth the additional money.
- Dedicated Server - If you're looking to get top of the line hosting, there's no better choice than a dedicated server. After signing up for the service, the hosting company will dedicate an entire server just for you. Since there's no other accounts or people using it, you'll notice faster speeds, and it's less likely to come under attack by a virus or hacker. The only downside, however, is the expensive price that can cost upwards of $100-$200 per month.
By now you should have already registered a domain name and signed up for a web hosting service. If not, read back over the previous information and get on it! Once you've done these two things, the next step is to connect your domain name to your web host. This is done through unique identifiers specified by your web host (known as name servers). Check the email account you used to sign up for your new hosting account to see what name servers they provided you with (should be 2). Now log in to the domain registrar where your domain was set up and launch your account. You should see an option to change the name servers for your domain. Click the button, replace the default name servers with the ones given to you by your web host and click continue.
In order to send files to your web host, you'll need to download a file transfer protocol (FTP) program. We recommend using File Zilla, as it's free and simple to use. Just enter in the ip address or domain name associated with your web host along with your username and password. After clicking connect, you'll be taken to your portion of the server's directory where you can add, delete and even files. Depending on your web host, you'll usually want to start with the public_html folder and ignore the other ones on the root directory.
You might be surprised to learn that websites can be built in the basic Microsoft Notepad found in your OS accessories folder (assuming you're running windows). In fact, I've seen some pretty amazing websites built entirely like this. While they can be built like this, an easier and more beginner-friendly method is to install and use the content management system (CMS) known as WordPress. It's oftentimes described as the most effective and efficient blogging platform available, but it can also be used to create a storefront website for your reborn doll business. Once you're done, no one will even be able to tell that it's a blog.
Here are the steps to setting up WordPress on your web host:
- Download the latest copy of WordPress to your computer's hard drive (it's completely free).
- Log into your sites cPanel by typing yourdomain.com/cpanel and entering in your user name and password.
- From this menu, you'll need to click on the appropriate icon to create a new MySQL database. Give it a name associated with your domain and then add a new user with all privileges to it.
- Fire up the FTP program on your computer to access your web host, and then move upload all of the files and folder from the WordPress install onto your web host.
- Leave the FTP program open and look for a file named wp-config-sample.php. Open the file in a real-time editor and modify the database name, user name and password to the ones you previously used to set up your database with.
- Close the file and rename it to wp-config,php.
- Visit your website by typing the domain name into your web browser. It should prompt you to finish the installation by choosing a username, email, etc.
Building Your Site
Now it's time for the real fun to begin - building your site. To access your website, simply type yourdomainname.com/wp-admin and enter in the username and password used to create the WordPress install. If this is your first time using WordPress, you might feel a little lost an uneasy as you try to make your way around. Don't worry, though, as it's easy to use and most people catch on quick. On the left-hand side of the admin area you'll have options like posts, pages, media, tools, plugins, etc. Take a few minutes to go through all of these to see what functions they perform.
With your reborn doll website is up and running, click the setting tab from the admin area. From there, you should change the title to the specific name chosen for your reborn doll business. This will not only help customers find your site, but it will also help search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing rank your website. You can then go one step further by modifying the permalinks on you site so they are more user-friendly through settings-permalinks. Some webmasters may have different opinions of what the best permalink structure is, but it's almost possible to go wrong with "post name."
Here are some tips for building a storefront reborn doll website:
- Create a static page and set it as your homepage through settings-reading.
- Download and install the the e-commerce plugin to create clean listings with descriptions, pictures and prices.
- Sign up for a Paypal account and integrate the buy button into your website. Note: the e-commerce plugin previously mentioned also offers Paypal integration.
- Install different themes to instantly change the appearance and function of your reborn doll website (see reference below for link to themes).
- You can choose to either create your listings on pages or posts, both of which can be effectively used to create a functional reborn storefront website.