Building Shepherd - New front page is live!!! 🎉



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Shepherd is like wandering your friendly local bookstore but reimagined for the online world. Friends don’t let friends buy books like they buy toothpaste.

Summary: January 24th to February 4th
The new front page is live! 🎉
The new front page is live for at!!
It went live the evening of the 1st and it feels really good to see search, bookshelves, and the new front page working together 😄. I am already getting feedback and adding small improvements.
What am I learning about search?
I am trying something unique with search. My search feature isn’t about finding something specific it is about finding a starting point for book browsing. This is a bit different than most searches so I am going to have to train/teach users how to do this and see if they like it. This could be a failure in which case I will change iterate to success :).
Genres versus topics?
Most users think that topic means genre, so I am seeing a lot of searches for things like “historical fiction” or “cozy mysteries” or “children’s books”. I am going to add a little warning around the search box and see if that helps. By topics I mean Wikipedia topics… so things like World War 2, Dinosaurs, and grief. I am working to add genre data and that is a monster project for this year.
No click searches?
Right now ~50% of searches are resulting in no clicks (which is not what I want to see). From looking at the data it appears to be users searching for authors or books we don’t have in our database yet. Our DB is only ~15,000 authors and books, so we are still somewhat limited. With topics, the no-click searches are for genres or author names that they mistakenly type there (I hope to eventually unify search).
Searches for topics versus books/authors…
For the last 72 hours, 64% of people searched topics versus 33% for books/authors. That is cool to see! Although, topics are the first option and that is influencing that data.
I will be learning a lot about search in the coming months…
What features are coming next?
After we crush some bugs, we will be working on the following:
  1. Vetting a book metadata provider - This provider would be the one who provides us things like genre, author, age range, and publication date. We will also be researching some tech questions I have around implementation.
  2. Improved recommendation engine for the book lists - We will be adding a much-improved recommendation engine to the bottom of each book list. Learn more and see a mockup here.
  3. A big batch of little tweaks and improvements we’ve been collecting.
What am I working on?
The quick format today :)
  • I am working with the designer to finalize mockups for the individual book page and “books like” page. I hope to have something I can share soon but still playing with concepts.
  • I am working on bookshelves and improving and streamlining a ton of data that powers that.
  • I am rethinking some of my SEO tactics after I got some good advice online.
  • I am thinking a lot about what I have planned for 2022 and trying to challenge myself. I want to make sure we are only spending time on what is critical given our limited resources.
  • I am working to get a spec ready on the feature to help authors launch a new book.
What else is going on?
It has been a wild two weeks personally!
We decided that toward mid-February we are going to do a big road trip to check out six cities: four in Germany… plus Prague and Graz. We are feeling some pressure to find a more permanent home, especially now that Calico is almost school age. The rain and gray weather are intimidating to us…
My son fell on the playground and knocked out a tooth, he told me the next day it was “the most traumatic day of his life” and I am sharing a video he made telling his grandad about it :).
Calico and tooth
Calico and tooth
I also drove back to Portugal and got my booster shot today. Go science!!! I had a covid scare as well… I got a test in a lab in order to cross the border and it said positive!!! Turns out it was one of the rare inaccurate ones so I had to scramble and get an expensive high-quality one, which was negative.
Have a great weekend! :)
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Ben Fox

Follow along as I build the Shepherd book discovery platform (updates every 2 weeks).

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