MENU

Big Cartel review

Big Cartel: what is good about this website builder and for whom it is (in 2019)

Big Cartel website builder is a tool, which allows anyone to build a small and neat online store, which is perfectly suitable for merchants, which do not have many items of products to sell. This is a niche website builder, which actually is designed for and is primarily oriented at creative people: artists, bakers, photographers, content creators, musicians, painters, writers, and akin – who do not plan to scale up to hundreds and thousands of products, being limited to only tens or even less.

#1 Big Cartel

4.3
Ease Of Use StarStarStarStarStar
Features StarStarStarStarStar
Pricing StarStarStarStarStar
$9.99 – $29.99
Free trial available

If to put it simply, this website maker is a very limited version of Shopify or BigCommerce, which is designed only for essentials, with limited power of product management, customization of pages, filling the web store with applications and widgets. However, unlike the two mentioned monsters of sales, Big Cartel website builder can boast with a few appealing advantages like the absence of trade commissions in every plan, a possibility to sell a few products for free during the limitless term (trial but endless), and the ability to set up really fast (which answers people’s question of how to make a Big Cartel website fast). As the con of Big Cartel website builder, we can mention impossibility to create any other type of website but a small or medium-sized online store.

The Big Cartel review

Is this website easy to operate?

According to many big cartel reviews of users, this website builder is not an easy tool. Surely, it offers many tips and helps during the initial set up and tuning, following which, it becomes much easier for a user to make things done. However, it does not have any significant creative freedom, allowing doing pretty little in terms of personalization of pages of the selected template. It may be one of the worst website builders that we have ever tested, in terms of adjustability of its templates with standard capabilities of the interface. So, if you want to go largely beyond offered – you have to get into the HTML code and do the coding on your own (or attracting someone to this process), which is a very not user-friendly action, considering that most users don’t know how to write the code.

The frustrating part also occurs when, after the initial setup and launching it live, you want to change something or to add more. The tips no longer seem to work at this step and you are left alone, having to handle with not the simplest interface of this website builder. So, to sum up: no, it is not easy to use.

Is Big Cartel free or paid?

It has a free plan (called ‘Gold’), which is possible to use endlessly – if you can live with the set limitations compared to other plans.

If you want more – then just opt for one of its three other plans of Big Cartel cost, which give significantly more powers and control, from $9.99 a month to $29.99 a month.

The pricing model of Big Cartel 

These are the paid plans:

  • ‘Platinum’ for $9.99 a month
  • ‘Diamond’ for $19.99 a month
  • ‘Titanium’ for $29.99 a month.

All packages of subscription work only on a month-to-month basis. There is no annual subscription – which is bad because there is no financial economy on the long run in the monthly cost of packages, but which is also good because users are not tied to the Big Cartel website builder and can switch a package at any time, upgrading or downgrading.

The three names do not differ from each other in the set of functions that they allow users to do:

  • online store
  • 5 images per every product on sales
  • customization of themes
  • app store
  • stats about visitors and sales updated in real time
  • custom domain use (but buy it additionally)
  • a possibility to change HTML
  • inventory tracking
  • promos and discounts
  • bulk editing of goods on sales
  • tracking of a shipment.

The only difference that they have is the number of products one can sell in each package: 25, 100, and 300 accordingly.

The free pack named ‘Gold’ allows the following:

  • up to 5 products only inclusively with 1 image per product
  • the branded domain name (with the name of Big Cartel website builder)
  • it is only possible to select from pre-made themes, without the ability to change them
  • endless usage of the plan of subscription of this website builder.

All other features that are presented in the three other plans also present in this plan in the same fullness, as they are given there.

Minuses and pluses of Big Cartel 

Pros:

  • It is possible to sell merchandise for free (up to 5 items), which is a rare opportunity on the market of website builders.
  • The interface has hints and prompts to set up and start it running fast
  • The niche of this website creator is artists and other types of creative people and this explains that under 1 million websites only were created using this website creator.
  • Relatively nice ease of use.
  • A fine alternative to costlier website creators, which offer huge and powerful online stores, like WooCommerce or Shopify (if to consider their costliest plans).
  • There is no commission for sales.
  • It is possible to integrate with Facebook – like a tab with your online store.
  • Relatively cheap plans.
  • Bulk management – in paid plans – which allows making bulk changes to a group of goods on sales.

Cons:

  • Very low level of customization of themes.
  • In the free subscription plan, there is no opportunity to customize templates.
  • If you want bigger freedom – opt for changes to HTML, which is not a strong side of many users.
  • Simple interface with too little features, apps, and customization ability.
  • Its templates seem too basic and not solid.
  • Limiting the number of products, which can be maximally sold at a time: 300 pieces in the catalog.
  • There are no discounts or promos possible to be created in a free plan (unless you deliberately show the old and new Big Cartel pricing on a picture only (1 for 1 product), which should reflect an old price and a new discounted price). This way of discount making may seem hard for many.
  • Limited social media integration and sharing.
  • There is no Big Cartel website search function.
  • Can’t host more than 5 images per product and there is no image hosting of separate pictures, which are not attached to products.
  • The shipping calculator is absent.
  • The tax calculator that is embedded is too limited and not flexible to be adjusted to different countries.

Big Cartel’s features

Now that we know that this website creator is designed to make online stores, it is time to review its functionality in bigger details:

  • Product pages allow upload and change pictures, set prices and discounts, and put long-text explanations about the product.
  • The dashboard of admin panel (‘My BigCartel’ account) allows easily and comprehensively see what sales you have had during the period of time, how many visitors there were, and other stats (this is allowed thanks to the paid app ‘Lucky Orange’ and a free app Google Analytics).
  • The management area is made not complex to allow users to easily see the details of sales, shipping, earnings, taxation, package slips, review orders, and do the data export.
  • There are a small number of apps inside of its store but they deliver the necessary basics. Some are free and some are paid. For custom printing, use paid ‘Art of Where’ and paid ‘Printful’. To run the website through the mobile app, install a free ‘Big Cartel for iOS’ app (which, as you can see, works only through iOS, not Android, which is another drawback). To sell your merchandise through Facebook, use free ‘Facebook Store’. A paid ‘Live Chat’ is for customer support. E-mail marketing is free with MailChimp. Sales of digital products are allowed thanks to paid ‘Pulley’. Manage your shipments through free ‘ShipRobot’ or paid ‘ShipRush’. Zapier app is free (for 5 pieces). For a number of transaction channels, use four: Square, PayPal, Apple Pay, and Stripe (which together give around 30 channels to pay, including bank cards, e-coins, and some e-money from e-wallets). 
  • Create financial and analytical reporting.
  • Design promo pop-ups, which can be shown to visitors based on some logic – like the first-time ever user or when the page is closed and you say a final word.
  • Dropshipping to all your clients is possible.
  • Fundraising is also doable through the embedded PayPal and other payment channels – but you have to make it work, spending some time on it.
  • The shipment of Big Cartel website creator is bad for some clients, as they consider it pointless – Big Cartel does not include weight in the parameters of shipment. 

Speed & security of Big Cartel 

Talking about the speed of work inside of the interface of Big Cartel website editor, most users find it nice to create a store fast at the beginning thanks to multiple hints and wizards that the tool has. But it slows down due to the absence of those helpers at the latest stages.

Talking about the technical speed of this website creator’s websites – we’ve checked the pages on an online tool of measuring speed gtmetrix.com and we found the following:

  • the taken time to fully load the page is only 2.8 seconds (which is vividly above the market’s average and extremely well for SEO)
  • the total page size on average is 1.55 Mb, which is quite good from the point of bandwidth
  • the page speed score is ‘A’ with 94% result – it is the best result amongst all website creators that we have tested and written about up to this day – no other was even 90% good. Excellent!
  • it has no indicators falling in the red zone – all of them are green, with only one in the yellow (‘leverage browser caching’), which actually gives this ultimate high score of 94%.

The security is implemented by SSL – but only for your login and admin pages. There is no possibility to ask and receive an SSL certificate for your website in general, so every payment (which requires SSL) is protected by the payment system that you choose for your website. Due to this, there may be problems sometimes in payment processing. 

Big Cartel: templates, design powers

There are no many templates to choose from – around a dozen and a half. They cannot be customized too much using the standard ways of Big Cartel website creator and you shall be prepared to the existing scarcity. Actually, poor initial design and very constrained freedom are among the huge drawbacks of Big Cartel website creator. Though the themes look neat and professional – don’t you wanna ask yourself whether tons of themes of other website creators over there are better than these ones? Wix, Shopify, uKit, Squarespace, Weebly, and many other tools are visibly more powerful in this matter. And they also deliver e-commerce possibilities, did you know that?

The way your further interaction with Big Cartel website creator is going to be organized largely depends on the selected theme and how well it fits your needs. There is no possibility to change a theme after it has been selected, not losing the previous adjustments – so carefully choose it at step one. Mistake or negligence can cost you too much time. Though themes are indeed changeable – but you will have to spend too much time to reload pictures that you’ve uploaded to the previous theme, all of them, making sure that every page looks good.

Big Cartel’s support of customers

The support is a poor topic of Big Cartel website creator too – it works only from 9 to 5 from Monday to Friday, except holidays and official days off in the US – the country of the official residence.

Also, the time changes based on the time zones of the US, as the support specialists located all over the States – in the following ones: WA, IL, LA, UT, AZ, MI, and TX. This actually gives some preferences broadening the support hours – and that’s why many requests that were sent in a working day are usually answered in the same day (by e-mail) – but following the specified time zones’ working time.

Marketing & SEO power in Big Cartel 

From marketing powers, there are:

  • Facebook integration (through creating a tab with your store to sell things directly on Facebook)
  • MailChimp is allowing you to send personalized letters after the sales occur and to send periodic newsletters

SEO is not quite powerful – obviously, it does allow you only to generate the website map to upload it to Google for fuller indexing. This basic functionality can be expanded by installing a separate SEO app from its store.

Integration capabilities provided by Big Cartel 

  1. There is integration with the Facebook website – by adding a tab of your store to your FB business page so people can buy directly from Facebook. There is an update of stock of products on your website after a person buys on Facebook (done automatically) and you don’t have to rebuild the same store on Facebook, which saves the time of both, a seller and a buyer. 
  2. When a visitor buys from you, it is possible to set up a personalized e-mail about the purchase with your logo and information about the purchase details, which is supported by MailChimp.
  3. Google Analytics – in addition to its internal admin panel on the website, which lacks features that Google Analytics offer.
  4. The paid Zapier allows you to have access to over a thousand tools, add-ons, and widgets but it is only possible to install five any – in a free run. The number above this is not allowed for free and you shall opt for paid installations. Having Zapier, it is not necessary to hire a programmer to smoothly integrate the apps and add-ons – as the shell of Zapier is ready to do it for you.
  5. Google Domains allow you buying a custom website’s domain – for additional money, certainly. Bear in mind that despite the fact that Big Cartel website creator allows you to pay month-to-month, the domain name is purchased minimum for one year.
  6. ‘Socialphotos’ service allows putting the customer’s images to your products on the website.
  7. API – to integrate your website more powerfully (but you do need to hire a programmer to do it if you are not a programmer yourself).
  8. Payment gateways for a website (PayPal, Apple Pay, Stripe, Square).

Possible payment options of the Big Cartel platform

  1. Square, PayPal, Stripe, and Apple Pay are four payment gateways for websites, which give many payment channels combined. Though adding them is free, you are not deprived of commissions for transactions, which these gateways may charge you (as an example, 2.2% + some fixed amount in cents is charged when a person pays with own credit/debit card on your website). BigCartel fees for transactions of purchase are not taken by this tool.
  2. The biggest hustle is that Big Cartel website creator is not a PCI compliant tool, which will result in the additional work in the setup of payments and sometimes, this cannot be done with your own powers (hiring a programmer to do the job), which is the largest drawback. This only makes a lot of users of Big Cartel website creator ponder about migration to other online store making tools. And at that point, it becomes clear why Big Cartel website creator does not tie up its users to annual plans – so they can migrate any time. If you aren’t able to set up, you can’t have sales using bank cards, as all such transactions have to be PCI compliant.

Are there any promo codes & coupons in Big Cartel?

  1. You can do promo through Facebook (and sell through it as well)
  2. Promo pop-ups with custom logic to be shown on the page inside of your website (not as a separate window).
  3. The discounts are not created in a free subscription (you won’t be able to send them the promo codes or coupons, the same as they won’t be able to enter them on your site) – the same as you can’t enter the HTML editing in a free plan to change this situation manually bypassing the restriction.

Concluding

Big Cartel website creator is a tool that we can estimate at 3 stars out of 5. It definitely does not boast with power. By the way, the BigCartel pricing in it’s costliest plan is comparable with the cheapest plan of Shopify – but Shopify even in its initial plan gives insane power of an online store, which is way better than what Big Cartel website creator can offer anyone today. Also – Shopify is not so constraints-built and you can breathe really freer when creating a store, changing templates, managing pieces of merchandise in bulk, and set up the sales power. If this goes for the same money, it’s really a quiz to choose Big Cartel website creator over some bigger and more powerful tool.

So, what is Big Cartel in a few words? We haven’t seen anything so special about how does BigCartel work to advise people to use it in 2019. 

Big Cartel reviews

  1. Nathaniel from Adana, Turkey, about Big Cartel website builder: The power of this tool wasn’t enough for me.
  2. Silas from Cairo, Egypt, about Big Cartel: Nothing powerful, nothing spectacular. BigCommerce is largely better for comparable money.
  3. Amir from UAE about Big Cartel: I didn’t like SEO and the need to dance around SSL to start my sales – these and a few other smaller things really distract me from my main work.
  4. Calvin from Muscat, Oman, about Big Cartel: The website-creating tool should be a helper, not a constraints-pusher. Unfortunately, Big Cartel is exactly the latter. I didn’t like the support, the hardness of use, the impossibility to download the website to migrate it, and the need to buy a custom name elsewhere.