The Making of Coverlist: Part 2

What if you had to design a logo before you could do any other work on a project? It’s funny, because I messed around in Photoshop for a day, and created something that I actually really liked. I kept it on the site for a while. But once I added a huge beautiful background image to the home page, that logo couldn’t stay. It was too cheap and the blue was too bright. 

That’s why design seems never-ending for me – as soon as one feature is updated, others that were done suddenly need to be improved as well. 

Plus, I’ve had a long list of changes anyway – to the point that it’s hard to walk away from my laptop to go to bed. 

Goals for Last Week:

I wanted to fix the design on the home page. I also wanted to change the content flow so users would see only one book at a time, then hit one of the buttons to reach the next page – and each book would be on its own permalink page (so you can share a specific book url to social media). 

I wanted to utilize a rotate feature in CSS so the book info could be on the “back” of the books. 

There were a few broken features around users – you could “like” a book more than once but there was no way to remove it from your library. I also haven’t decided whether to call it Your Library or Books You’ve Read. 

I got to thinking a lot about the Buy link. Right now I can put it in manually for each book if I want to use an Amazon affiliate link, or I can redirect to an Amazon search of the book title. But I was thinking about how the interaction on Coverlist is really made for mobile – it’s simple – and I wondered if I should actually be redirecting to iBooks or Google Play. I looked it up and those affiliate links are actually quite easy to implement. Of course, I would want to bring the device in use into it – the site would detect that someone was on desktop and send them to Amazon, or iPad and iBooks, etc. 

I’m also thinking about allowing users to add both a short review and tags to books. That way a user doesn’t need to have multiple “shelves.” I think it would be more attractive to tag a book “sad” “2013” and “beach,” for example – that would turn into better discovery for others as well. 

What I Accomplished: 

I actually did a lot! Mostly today. I got the home page redesigned, with the help of a friend I met on Angellist. He sent over CSS/HTML/Javascript. It took me some time to implement it. 

Coverlist has Twitter Bootstrap on it. That means there’s CSS I don’t need to repeat, but also CSS I need to override. Simply copy/pasting CSS from another project usually doesn’t work. Sometimes I do it just to see what happens, then remove it, go back and add things one by one as they make sense. I actually learned a lot from that exercise, though. 

I also figured out how to get the vote buttons to scroll through books. I found a StackOverflow question about Previous and Next buttons on individual articles and used the code from the Previous button. Then I had the “Begin” button on the homepage direct to Book.last. It’s not a permanent solution, but a good hack. I have no idea how to set cookies so users don’t see the same books every time they visit – but this way if I add books every week, they should see the new ones first. 

I also met up with a friend who did YC last summer. I told him a bit about the idea and it was a really helpful conversation. He actually told me to stop writing code. Startups are always asked how they know they’re building something people want. Sure, it would be great to finish making Coverlist look how I want, and then start to get users – but the business model is most likely based on working with publishers. So, I should talk to them. 

There are so many ideas from building an iPad app for local bookstores to use that would allow visitors to read  and purchase ebooks, giving the bookstore affiliate revenue. Or, providing services to writers who want to self-publish. Or, charging for placement in the book list. Of course, affiliate links to digital stores, or straight from the publishers themselves. But the one I think may be most compelling is A/B testing for book covers. It’s unique to the platform and could serve as a first step to offering publishers other support in digital. 

Lastly, I removed access to user accounts. They are still there, but you don’t need to be logged in to see the books or vote on them. That saved me from having to fix the related bugs, redesign the Library view and more. 

Oh! And I discovered a fun hack. So since the Meh, Yes. and Ooh! buttons work like a Previous button, the buttons were disappearing on the first book. I wanted to reward users and tell them they’d reached The End. I realized instead of changing the code, I could just create an image that was book cover shaped and replace the first book with it. I used Canva for that and it worked beautifully. 

Goals For This Week:

Surprisingly, my endeavor to stop coding went really well. The site looks decent on mobile (well, at least on my iPhone) and works. The one thing I do need to code is that Heroku is serving a weird error page if someone were to try to navigate to a book that doesn’t exist. I think I can change this inside Heroku. 

Otherwise, now I’m planning for promotion. I’ve done some blogging on coverlist already but there’s more original content I can do. I want to do some interviews with book cover designers and editors and take book quotes and put text overlays on photos with Studio (iPhone app) – right now I just need to do the prep work. I also want to put at least 100 books on Coverlist. Lastly, I found that the few books I pinned to my personal Pinterest when I was testing the Pin button actually resulted in traffic to the site – not much, but more than from Tumblr, which I was more active with. So I’ll be planning a fun Pinterest promo 🙂

One Thing I Learned:

Coding is fun. Too fun. It’s always a debate for me whether I like programming enough for that to be the primary thing that I do. But in this case, I think fear of success plays a part – I’m not spending all my time learning Rails because I want to always do it – it’s because if I start telling people about Coverlist they might reject it – or I might actually have to follow through with this crazy adventure.