I wanted a website. There are a million options for how to build one. Having worked in web stuff since y2k I researched before committing; I could hand code it on bootstrap or skel or some other framework, use Squarespace, Wordpress.com, self-hosted Wordpress.org, Ghost, Big Commerce and even (shudder at the thought) Wix. There are tons more, but nothing I knew about that I wanted to research further.
I settled on Shopify.
Numbo and Monstews are the two main focuses of this site.
I have been back and forth in my mind trying to decide if each should have its own site or there should be one site with both. I decided the latter for now as I think it'll be easier to update and keep cost down.
I did have a very simple single page Monstews site with grand ideas of a whole bunch of stuff like a gallery with a before/after slidey thing, video speed draws, competitions, collaborations, mash-ups etc.
Ideas are great, but bringing them into reality takes time. Sometimes you need to draw a line.
I also toyed with the idea of a Numbo Community site and built around 8 versions of Numbo sites - each trying different layouts and styles - all self-hosted. Ultimately none of them were right for where I wanted to head and were far too slow to load on mobile devices.
Shopify is a self hosted proprietary platform. You have probably heard of it and already know about it. Its focus is online shopping, but also includes the other stuff you need for a website - a decent CMS, a blog and mobile friendliness out of the box. It's very reasonably priced for what you get.
My single main reason for choosing Shopify was that it has heavy duty servers (and a CDN) that will send your HTML down the internet pipes (or across the internet air waves) at a decent speed. Something I had always found a challenge with using my mediocre web host.
It's also secure - and you know how Google feels about non-secure sites - a nice little warning telling you to beware. No one wants to lose visitors because of that.
The most basic Shopify template is sufficient for my needs - I'm a firm believer that the content of the site is what will set it apart from the crowd. Every website in the world could use the same template but would look and read differently due to content. So it doesn't worry me that this style is probably used by others, I figure why re-invent the wheel - focus on filling the site with good stuff.
I set about building the site according to how I think it will best solve customer's needs. Numbo solves the problem of helping kids to learn their times tables.
In order to sell decks of Numbo I need to find the audience of people who want their kids or students to learn the times tables. So I've created a lot of free content to attract the kind of visitor who is already looking for solutions to that problem.
Once they find the site they can download my free resources in exchange for their email address. Once they are added to my mailing list I can contact them if I want to - and since I already know they're interested in the times tables, I would expect that they would have some interest in what I'm saying.
This is an entirely different kettle of fish. No one is searching for Monstews. It's more the kind of thing one stumbles across and either finds interesting (and possibly shares with friends), or does not find interesting.
I enjoy the process of making Monstews. It's fun to decide how the pictures should look based on the original images from the remarkable imaginations of children.
I would happily create Monstews without being paid to do so. I decided to open it up to a larger audience beyond friends and family to see if others would be willing to pay for this product. This helps validate whether or not Monstews is in fact a good idea.
Since shopify is a shopping platform it makes sense to sell products and make the most of what is available to me. I've added the Numbo Cards and Monstews as items, then earlier this week added 2 x t-shirts.
The Numbo Cards I have in limited quantity in stock and can ship as soon as they are ordered. Adding them was easy through the Shopify backend, I formatted my pictures before upload but everything was a cinch.
Monstews take a little longer since there is an element of my time required before these are ready.
The t-shirts are printed and shipped by a third party - hence I've included a note to say that an allowance of 28 working days for delivery. I'd say they will probably turn up much sooner than that, but since this aspect is out of my hands I don't want to over promise and under deliver.
I'm really please with how the site has turned out. I'm sure I've made the right decision regarding platform. From here I need to find more ways to promote the site and what it offers. If you have the best website in the world - but no one knows it's there - what use is that? Here's to promoting the site.