Monday, August 27, 2012

Painful Birth of a New Website

I just launched a new completely rebuilt website.

For some time I’ve envisioned a site I could use to manage my entire art inventory.  It had been getting more and more complicated to track paintings out at galleries and shows.  It had been almost impossible for collectors to find paintings of the appropriate size on my website.  It had been impossible to post multiple images of paintings (with and without frames).  My site just wasn’t scaling.

I imagined an “amazon-like” website with clickable filters to find paintings by size, subject, media, cost and/or location.

If figured that I have lots of experience given my high-tech background, and that I l could leverage this brave new outsourced world to find someone to efficiently (and economically) build me a new site.  In high-tech I’ve developed huge projects using teams from different countries.  How hard could it be to build a new website?  Trick is – I don’t have the same kind of budget in my art business that I’ve had in the past with venture capital backed startups.

Knowing how important it is to carefully document what one wants to build if you’re working with people who are far away and for whom English is a second language, I carefully specified what I wanted.  Then I put the project out to bid on www.odesk.com, an outsourcing website that lets employers find contractors from around the world.

I had bids come in from literally everywhere – India, China, Africa, Russia.  At least 20 people replied to my post within 24 hours.  Wow I thought.  This might really work.

I interviewed and picked someone from St. Petersburg to do the site.  He got the new site half way built, but when I paid him for 50% of the work he apparently decided to cut and run.  He left the site in an unusable state, and I had to throw out all that work and start over.

On my second try, I again put it out to bid and got someone from Romania to build the site.  He really did a great job, but when he was 80% done he too cut and run.  Said he had an emergency come up, and he stopped replying to emails.  At least he left me with some working code, and I was smarter this time and had insisted up front that I’d only pay once it was done.

For the third phase I decided to work on it myself.  This is a big complicated site with lots of backend code do this the advanced filtering that I wanted.  I have a software background (somewhat dated at this point), but I’m happy to say that I was able to get in there and fix the worst of the problems.  Good news is that I proved to myself that I could figure it out and support the site.  Bad news – it was going to talk way too much of my time to get it launched.

Forth phase – back out to bid.  This time I figured I had a very specific list tasks I needed done, and this might be better suited for an odesk contractor.  I found someone in India who seemed to have a strong background, but once he started I realized that much of what I was doing was out of his league.  He fixed a few things, but there was still more to do.

So this last weekend I just buckled down to see if I could get this done myself.  Two very long days later, and I have the site launched.

That was a painful birth four months in the making.  It was much harder than I had imagined when I started, but I’m really thankful that I’m there now.  Let’s just hope it doesn’t blow up this week J

You can find the new site at:       www.timonsloane.com

Check it out, and drop me a note if you find any problems or if you have some feedback.

6 comments:

  1. Pretty cool, Timon, and after taking a brief tour, it seems like it was worth the effort! You should market this as a template.

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  2. Michael - I was asked about this when I described the goal to an artist friend. This did make me think about it.

    After the pain of getting this launched, I'm not sure I could do it cost effectively enough. Might work as a custom solution for higher-end professionals with a sufficiently complex art business. Who knows.

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  3. Very worth the struggles....it's a great site. Kudos to you! As for marketing it as a template....good idea, but when would you have time to paint? I struggle to keep up with my two sites, which I do not, as regularly as I should...and yes I am painting a lot more than tending to internet stuff which is OK in my book! I am not "famous" like you guys, ;-) , but dealing with these things seems to be a major part of our reality now. Happy painting!

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  4. Drusilla - how right you are. It's just essential to not let too much get in the way of painting.

    Famous you say? If only that were so :-)

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  5. congrats for your hard work !

    one thing that happened for me was that
    if i was looking at a specific painting
    on , let's say , page 4 ,
    and i clicked " back " at the upper left ,
    i was sent to page 1 , not page 4 .

    enlarging is very good/clean ,
    even up to the max size .

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