Storynauts – An eCommerce Experiment

As promised in our very first post, we have launched our own internal eCommerce project. Being the client ourselves has made for a very interesting learning experience and also allows us to be more open about the process, the time and costs associated and the end results. Our hope is to grow the site over the next year or two, sharing our progress along the way.

Choosing what to sell

This was fairly easy for us, half the team have children and we’re a little obsessed with childen’s books. We’ve worked in the past with a lovely company who design and make personalised books and it seems like a growing market so we thought we’d give it a go. We’ve chosen to sell something we feel we could be passionate about, perhaps something we will regret down the line as the product margins aren’t great, and the product price is pretty low. I guess only time will tell!

Building the brand

We’d been contemplating the idea for a few months before we decided to go ahead and do it, so we already had some ideas in mind before starting. Three of us sat down together, came up with literally one suggestion and just went with it. The whole naming process took less than 10 minutes. The result: Storynauts.

Similarly the logo was something that seemed fairly obvious to us. As this was an internal project, we didn’t do much in the way of brand exploration. We knew we wanted to use soft, rounded fonts throughout the site and wanted a logo to reflect this. We also thought the logo mark should be an astronaut child reading a book.

logo-evolution

Above are the fruits of our labour, beginning with a seated astronaut holding a book and ending in the final mark. We were all working from different locations that day so the whole conversation happened via Slack. I shared the initial concept at 10:50 and by 14:35 we had the final version agreed.

Building the Website

In our heads initially, part of the motivation to build this was to create a cool portfolio piece, a project where we had free reign to design and develop how we wanted. This was all well and good but unfortunately agency life got in the way and we found that we just didn’t have the time to build a custom solution. By this point we had sunk about 12 hours into a custom theme but made the call that it would be quicker to switch to a premium theme and modify it to our needs, rather than continue with our own build.

We chose to use Mr Tailor by GetBowtied, a premium theme with a lot of flexibility but not too much of the bloated and messy code that ThemeForest has a bit of a reputation for. As it turned out, Mr Tailor is an excellent and beautiful theme but isn’t the most developer-friendly theme, injecting a lot of CSS on to the page and generally making it a pain for a team who prefer hooks and filters to settings pages. So in the end, we spent a fair bit longer on the build than we had hoped and in hindsight it might have been better to stick to a custom build.

Content Population

Personalised Children’s books are a very competitive market, there are already many sites selling these products but in so many cases they use the same boilerplate copy and photography provided by the suppliers. Starting out we didn’t have budget for photography so for now we have done our best with the assets we could get, but we decided that unique and engaging copy was going to be very key to building traffic to the site. This was probably the biggest investment in terms of time on the whole project.

Post-Launch

Truth be told, we haven’t done a huge amount of ‘post-launch’ just yet, short of setting up analytics, creating a very basic ad campaign and pushing out content to social media – we’ve not yet had the time to devote too much attention to marketing the site. However, the site is now live and so we can now more easily put just a few hours into it each week and see how it grows.

So, how long did it take?

Internally, we use a lovely tool called Toggl to track out time and so we’ve actually got a pretty accurate idea of how long the project took. In total, we spent 130 hours designing, building and launching Storynauts, this was partly due to the indecision with whether to build bespoke or use a pre-built theme. In hindsight, we should have stuck with our custom theme as it wouldn’t have taken any longer but would potentially have been a better / more unique finished product.

Our time breakdown is as follows:

TasksHours
Brainstorming, supplier contact, initial set up2
Design Exploration
– Branding6
– Wireframes2
– Initial Design Ideas7
Site Development
– Workflow set up, theme creation etc1
– Design and front-end dev (bespoke theme)16
– Back end / plugin development6
Theme Customisation
– Choosing a theme2
– Theme set up4
– Child theme customisation10
Content Population
– Initial Product Set up (69 products)1
– Adding product images4
– Personalisation / variation configuration9
– Unique product copy32
– Blog posts / banner copy / static page content7
– Site graphics / banner images8
Misc
– Payment, delivery & checkout configuration3
– Testing / General bug fixes7
– Launch, analytics set up, initial marketing efforts3
130

How much did it cost?

There are two ways of looking at this; from an agency perspective and from a client perspective. If you are another agency with the inhouse skills to build this and you intend to do it as a passion project and learning experience then the time is not really a factor. Instead, or raw costs were as follows:

ItemCost
Theme – ‘Mr. Tailor’ premium theme£39.95
Hosting – SiteGround ‘Go Geek’ Account (includes SSL)£117.00
Domain – 123Reg£6.99
Plugin – GravityForms Product Add-Ons£67.49
Plugin – Google Address Autocomplete£8.00
Graphics – Scene Creator ‘kid friendly’£17.49
£256.92

We’ve not included costs such as GravityForms, Typekit or WP Rocket, as we’ve got developer licenses for all of these and would assume you have too for these (or similar) tools.

…and if you were a client look to hire us for a project like this?

Well, typically the time taken to populate the site is considerably less than it took on this project as you, the lovely client, would usually provide the content. However, to counteract this, the time taken to do the design and development is usually longer as we’ll spend more time on design exploration and go through many more iterations. So we’d end up with a similar number of hours used on the project. Our hourly rate is £50 / hour, so a total cost of approx £6500-£7000 would be appropriate.

Got that kind of budget and want to see how we can help you? Get in touch!

Want to see the finished product? Then click on this keyword-heavy link: Personalised Children’s Books!

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