Big Cartel Review Large-3-5

3.5
  • Easy style customizations.
  • Targeting artists and designers.
  • Overall: a simple, lite ecommerce option.

Big Cartel is an ecommerce website builder that has its eye on the artist. Right up front they say, “We provide clothing designers, bands, jewelry makers, crafters and other artists with their own customizable store to sell their stuff online.”

Although that still encompasses a large audience, it’s intriguing to see a company focus its service on a subset of the larger ecommerce market. The first question that came to mind was, “What features would allow Big Cartel to differentiate itself from the sea of general purpose ecommerce hosted services?” Honestly, I didn’t know. But that’s where this review can help us decide if Big Cartel does include features that are beneficial to their focused audience or if those claims are purely marketing propaganda.

Getting Started

The Dashboard. Some features here require an upgrade.

The Dashboard. Some features here require an upgrade.

The Big Cartel dashboard is where each website builder starts building her store. You’ll need to upgrade to at least the Platinum Plan in order to access three of the sections included here.

I started building my store by adding a couple of products:

Getting my store off the ground with two clothing staples.

Getting my store off the ground with two clothing staples.

Big Cartel covers the basics, and that’s a theme you’ll recognize as we proceed. I felt as though I were creating an Etsy store which might be the intention here given the focus on artists. Buttons and descriptions are minimal but clearly labeled. My only complaint surrounds the use of smaller-than-normal fonts which gave my eyes a workout. But the intuitive interface made for quick navigation from one area to another.

Website Builder

You won’t find a ton of features for creating non-ecommerce pages in Big Cartel. Like many ecommerce builders, Big Cartel keeps it to a simple WYSIWYG editor, which will work well for simple, informative pages (for example: About Us).

The website builder includes a large preview area.

The website builder includes a large preview area.

Themes

Big Cartel currently provides only five themes to choose from. Three of the five theme designs showcased t-shirts as part of their demo, and looked quite nice.

Though there’s no mention of mobile support in the documentation, I was surprised to see that most Big Cartel themes were fully responsive (meaning the design automatically “fits” mobile screen sizes”).

Big Cartel does point out they are currently working on adding an admin panel that’s mobile-friendly.

Three of the five themes included with Big Cartel.

Three of the five themes included with Big Cartel.

Customization

With only five themes to start with, you’ll probably spend time customizing your theme to give it a unique feel. Luckily, Big Cartel makes it easy to change backgrounds, body text and even button colors. Big Cartel does a good job narrowing down the items you can customize to those that make the largest impact.

You can also upload a logo for your store, change fonts and select the size of product images. In total, there are also about 50 fonts from which to choose.

Customizing your store.

Customizing your store.

Ecommerce Features

Your payment options come down to two choices.

Your payment options come down to two choices.

Unlike Shopify which has partnered with dozens of payment gateways, you’ll only have a choice between Stripe and Paypal for your Big Cartel store. As of this review, Stripe is currently being offered in beta format so it’s missing some features such as determining tax rates (Big Cartel advises building any taxes into the price of your products until then).

Simple orders screen.

Simple orders screen.

The orders screen is simple, but provides important details at a glance. I appreciate how Big Cartel has used restraint on the amount of information they provide on each screen.

Conclusion

If you have a dozen T-shirt designs you’d like to sell online, Big Cartel could handle it. If you wanted to migrate your Etsy store over to your own online store, then Big Cartel might be a good choice. I found myself liking it the more I used it because it’s well designed and doesn’t flood my senses with needless complexity.

This is a well-designed, simple-to-use ecommerce builder that will work well for small stores. While its competition often overwhelms with features and settings, Big Cartel takes the opposite approach providing the basics wrapped in a product that’s actually enjoyable to use.

Note: I also found their online help uses plain english and were, well, helpful! And Big Cartel also includes a number of field guides to assist small business owners in tasks, such as copyright or marketing, they might reside outside their comfort zone but could come in handy while running an online business.

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I think Big Cartel is good but not great.
Give to see for yourself.