It's been a bit over a week since we opened Tubes For Amps. It's been a whole lot of work, and things continue to move forward.
Week in Review
We are getting trickle of a traffic at this point. Great thing is, we are getting sales which makes for stellar conversion rate.
The orders are easier to process on the new site, and shipping costs less for the customers on the new site. So the new site is even a win-win.
We added Fender Tube Set containing tube sets for over 100 different Fender Amps to the catalog. The data was added programmatically, and the tube set photos were generated programmatically. This was a lot of work but was a lot of fun.
We also switched AdWords campaigns from old site to new site. The campaigns are ramping up, and it's still settling down, but we are getting really good CTRs.
We transferred some contents from the old site, and made the old URL redirect to the new site. This moves some of the SEO mojo from old to new. Search engines are usually pretty slow to respond, so we needed to do this as early as possible.
We still got a lot of things to do.
There are still a few more features we'd like to add to the site. We also need to add more information to the site - for example, we offer free shipping anywhere in California, but we also offer free domestic shipping for orders over $100.
We still need to keep transferring content from the old site to new, and add even more content.
Oh, and we are going to add a lot more products, not just tubes. This will be coming in a week or so.
So much to do, so little time. We already had feedback form a couple of customers on the new site. It's always great hearing from our customers (who are all over the world), and it's even better getting positive feedback!
Well, we have been running around trying to get everything ready.
Software wise, we found a couple of bugs in the order processing workflow. And there's the layout and design. I am never happy with the design, and I keep twiddling little things here and there.
I can keep going on just tweaking the design.
If you are programmer, I have to tell you a secret. None of that really matters. If you are semi-decent programmer, you did at least a semi-decent job and bugs we find at this stage are small, and easy to fix.
What matters now is the people who will be using it. The customers who visit the site, and the people who run the operation.
To speak to the latter, Mari who runs the store, got a walk through of the system. It was like a final inspection, an acceptance test, so to speak.
And I'm happy to report it went over fairly well. Well, to be honest, response was lukewarm. But this is understandable. Change is never embraced openly in these situations, so lukewarm is the equivalent of a reception full of confetti and cheerleaders. At least that's how I am going to treat it.
And Here It Is
So after several walk throughs, some heated discussion, and further tweaking of little pieces, we decided to go live. We are lifting the announcement page, and going full steam ahead.
All the features we want to launch with are coded, tested and deployed behind the maintenance page.
The site shows coming soon page to the public, but we have full access to the site. That's how I'm writing this blog. Lots of construction work going on behind that Turquoise maintenance page.
Of course, there are lots of small things that can be fixed, but we are getting very anxious to launch.
One last hurdle is the content of the site. An ecommerce software by itself is just a container. You need the content to make it come to life.
For that, we are bringing over core catalog data from our old site. Now, this is not at all a straight transfer. In fact, it's more like using the old data to come up with a completely new set of catalog data.
Being a programmer that I am, I am writing a program that does this. It's purpose is to run just once, creating this new data.
The reason I'm doing it this way is because the volume of the data. Although we are bringing over just a subset of our catalog data, it's still well over 500 SKU's.
So this is a very tedious task of writing and debugging a complicated logic, but once we get this done, the site is going to be almost live.
I'd like to report I'm making a lot of progress. A lot of features, especially the ones that support back office order processing are in place.
We are also integrating with the state of the art SASS platforms to handle shipping management, email delivery and credit card processing services. Each piece does one thing very well, but put together, it's becoming a very powerful business platform.
I never would have thought this is how things are going to be 12 years ago when we started our first eCommerce business. It feels great to be in 21st century.
Design is Hard
While the software is coming together nicely, the catalog pages are proving to be difficult.
The difficulty is not technical. It's the design.
From very early on, I wanted a minimalistic design. Our site is about your music - you. We want you to be in a comfortable space when you are picking things out for your amp.
Minimalistic is Really Hard
Well, I found out the hard way, but minimalistic is really hard. I mean, really really hard. I now have tremendous respect for artists and designers who can turn out a clean, crisp and beautiful looking minimalistic design.
I ended up leaning heavily on inspirations I got by looking at many, many existing designs, but I think we now have a good, clean basic design. This is what we are going to go with for launch.
Hi. I'm the geek who created this eCommerce software.
I was working in an office in a maze of cubicles with freezing air conditioning. I developed software that wasn't terribly exciting. So much so that I often daydreamed about how I would create Skynet, just to pass the days.
Fortunately, I diverted my attention to creating this eCommerce software instead of Skynet. We all have been spared from living in the world dominated by machines.
Seriously, we have been running an eCommerce site for over 10 years and we are experts at this. A whole lot has changed during that time, however.
These days eCommerce sounds like some stuffy corporate business with buzzwords, charts and KPIs.
For us, it's never been about that. This is about that long haired guitar guy with a Marshall stack, or a young teenager starting to learn guitar with his Fender Champ.
It's about the distressed musician on tour with a broken gear. And it's about the stern looking gentleman who just bought his dream HiFi gear and hardly able to contain his silly grin.
This is about people, you and me.
So in creating this new site, we wanted to make sure we have a content that's something different.
This blog will not be a facade for promotion and marketing. Instead, it's going to be about anything related to the site.
We'll cover music and gears related vacuum tubes, of course. In addition, I'll go into eCommerce and software and all the geekish things that make this tick.