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Switching from sprint to marathon pace...
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Every two weeks, I share my notes on building Shepherd.com.
It will include struggles, frustrations, and moods.
I have a polished newsletter for authors here (it is focused on how we help authors + sharing data that helps them + business updates).
Shepherd is like wandering around your favorite bookstore. We make exploring and discovering your next book magical (while helping authors get their books in front of the most likely readers). Please join us as a founding member and support our mission.
June 5th to June 15th
Switching from sprint to marathon pace…
I am exhausted 🤪.
I’ve been going at a hard sprint since November. And generally, the last 2.5 years of booting up Shepherd have been intense.
I am switching to a marathon pace and working to rebuild my energy levels.
Mostly this means taking my foot off the gas and spending more time outside, reading, and on vacation. This doesn’t change our roadmap or anything like that.
For July, my family and I are headed to rural France. I will be working at a 25% pace and just doing what is needed to keep the design and dev team moving forward (plus keeping up on emails). I am super excited and looking forward to delicious food, swimming, and exploring this part of France.
For August, I am doing a huge 1,400km bike tour through France while my wife and son visit family in the U.S.A. I am super excited as bike tours are a massive recharge for me. I will be off for the entire month and just working the time I need to keep design and dev moving forward on the roadmap + checking emails every 2 to 5 days.
We’ve been working to improve the visuals on the front page.
Plus, this integrates genres, age, new books, and more.
So far, the reaction to the mockups has been very positive.
What do you think?
We’ve also improved navigation.
We’ve added basic navigation to the fiction, nonfiction, kids, and YA sections.
And we updated the hamburger menu to have similar navigation.
And here is a rough idea of what we are considering for improving search.
I want to have everything searched in one spot, and we are looking at creating a results page to get us out of the modal results window.
This is a rough sketch; we will know more as we dig in to determine what is possible within money/time constraints.
Improved visuals for the bookshelves…
We are also using this design motif to update the Bookshelf pages. I think this improves them visually and will help us as we add supporting pages. We are still playing with this one though.
What about the business?
We are in a weird traffic plateau with Google; that is frustrating.
I expect this to improve, but I am not sure when. So… my focus is on improving the experience for readers, improving data on the backend, improving UX, and fixing some technical SEO issues (same as always).
I need to hit ~1.2 million visitors a month to get the website to financial sustainability while keeping this same pace for new feature development. Right now, we are stuck at ~400,000.
After a good think over the last few months, I realized this situation doesn’t change the business roadmap too much.
My plan is to:
Continue to invest in our search engine traffic channel. It isn’t abnormal to be stuck on a plateau for a while, and with our amazing content, I expect traffic to start growing again soon.
Build an email channel as soon as possible. I want to deliver a personalized book recommendation newsletter based on what a reader loves (genre, topics, books, authors). This also builds a direct relationship with readers and grow traffic that way. Plus, it gives us a great platform to help authors.
Launch our “new book” launch program for authors as soon as possible. This is our first paid product and will help us financially while helping authors launch their new books (and get them in front of the perfect audience).
The only thing I might speed up are some social media tests.
They might be good traffic channels to connect with readers, but I am wary, given how badly social media has screwed content creators in the past. Once we have our email channel open, I think I will roll out a few test campaigns to learn.
I am also considering going toward audio/video sooner as well. I’ve been playing with audio lightly and really love the humanizing effect of hearing the emotion in someone’s voice. As I play with some ideas and how the roadmap looks, we shall see.
What is going on outside of Shepherd?
A lot of bike training to prep for my big month-long bike tour in August.
My bike had a broken rear axle, which has taken a few weeks to fix and figure out. I got it back today, and I think it is finally back in good health :).
What am I reading?
I just finished Thief of Souls and loved it. It is a detective book about a rural police detective in China (I just started book 2 in the series). The author is Brian Klingborg, and I found it on his list on the best books about international crime, both fiction and nonfiction.
Savage Peace - I need to finish this one, put it down, and haven’t picked it up in a few weeks, even though I love it. It is about the year right after WW1.
I just finished Good Omens, as I haven’t read it before. It was good, and I think if I had read it in my 20s, I would adore it.
P.S. Camping with my son in rural Spain :)
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