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Building Shepherd - Refined 2022 plans...

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: February 7th to February 21st
Are my 2022 plans the right ones?
I’ve spent the last 2 weeks questioning my 2022 plans and making sure I am working on the right things given the ambitious traffic goals I have for 2022. I received some good advice from a few individuals as well.
My goal this year is to hit 20,000 unique visitors a day (that is ambitious). I plan to do this by shipping a lot of great features for readers and maximizing the SEO channel. And, it has helped me prioritize the upcoming features given what we can build.
Refined 2022 plans...
Between now and mid-March…
Right now we are working to improve server speed and our base infrastructure. This was something we needed to do as the site has grown.
Then, we will start testing book data APIs and planning how we can start integrating book genre data. This research will help us pick a partner to license that data from and help us understand the challenges adding this data will bring.
After mid-March…
I am considering two features for after Mid-March
  1. Once we finish the above research, we might proceed to immediately integrating the genre data into the platform. The first feature we would focus on is shipping genre filters to the bookshelves. The idea is you can go to the WW2 bookshelf page and filter it down to only history books, only books for kids age 8, or only historical fiction. Or, if you are on the vampire bookshelf you can filter that down to only romance, history books, or urban fantasy.
  2. Or, we might focus on shipping some SEO tools and UX improvements to the book lists and bookshelves (including the improved recommendation engine for the book lists). This includes some fixes to the bookshelves to better highlight the author who is recommending that specific book (among many other things).
I won’t know which will come first until we finish the current research on the book data APIs. And, I need to finish more research around SEO and talk to a few experts to make sure I am on the right path.
What is coming after that?
After that, it gets a bit blurry, as I want to see what things look like.
Feature to help with new book launches…
This feature will help highlight new books on bookshelf pages, but I am hesitant to do that without more traffic to the bookshelf pages. It takes a good 6+ months to start getting traffic to those pages, and that puts them more ready toward July. I don’t want to ship a feature that doesn’t help authors with traffic, and I might need to delay this one slightly. We shall see…
A lot of additional pages that readers want, such as…
  • Genre sub-pages for bookshelves (to help get readers to exactly what they are looking for, i.e. children’s books about kindness, novels about World War 2, etc…)
  • Genre pages, so that readers can browse through historical fiction based on topics and other cool tools.
  • Pages around individual books and why our community of authors recommends them.
  • Pages to help readers who liked book x to find books like that one.
  • Pages to help readers find books for a specific child’s age.
And, we will need some time to improve how we work on the backend at some point, and that is a good month or more of work I believe. I will update as we get further along.
What am I working on?
The quick format today as it has been an intense few weeks on the personal side.
  • I am working with the designer to finalize mockups for the individual book page and “books like” page. We are closer but still playing. I hope I can share something in a few weeks :).
  • I am working on a spec for the designer/developer around some SEO tools I need. Plus UX improvements for the bookshelf and book list page. Many thanks to the authors and readers who gave me helpful feedback.
  • I am putting together a doc sketching out some plans so that I can talk to some SEO experts and make sure I am on the right path.
  • A ton of grunt work to fix on-page issues and ship pending bookshelf pages. I think this will be a lot of what I am doing for the next 4 weeks.
What else is going on?
It has been a rough two weeks personally. We’ve been dealing with some medical issues and this pending trip (not a fun mix). We are doing well now.
I plan to take off most of this coming week for some downtime. I will be eating some French pastries, time with my family, and enjoying some long bike rides in the sun.
Have a great weekend! :)
Ben
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Ben Fox

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