Sunday, September 08, 2013

Bookdealers Web Site Goes Live

There was much excitement this weekend at home because: firstly, Penny's web site www.bookdealers.co.za went live; and secondly, our first sale was over R500. This made all the effort seem finally worthwhile. We had fretted all Friday while the domain transfer was taking place, and while we waited for Google to find the web pages and index them. In all it has taken 6 weeks from scratch. Given how complicated and fiddly second hand books are to describe, we think this is quite an achievement.
By the end of the weekend she managed to increase the number of titles to 80 books. The problem now is to load books faster than they are being sold, or so it seems. Fortunately Penny will have the help of another staff member who will return from a well deserved holiday this week.
Coincidentally, my brother Charles and his wife Sharon have been busy setting up their own Shopify web site, www.lavenderlime.co.za. I only learnt about their site when I asked them for feedback on ours. They too have found it easy to set up and use, without any of the tweaking that I have done for the Bookdealers web site.
Update Monday 16 Sept: The site has grown to around 100 books, and sales are beginning to trickle in. It takes time to gain a reputation on the internet, so Penny continues to load new titles as quickly as possible.
Meanwhile, I have found and reported some bugs with Shopify, most of which have already been attended to and fixed. One particularly pedantic "support" agent insisted that what I described as a bug was by definition unfixable. At which point I lost my temper and figured out a workaround. It turns out that Shopify has one particularly annoying weak point: no individual shop may have its own SSL certificate. This is purely a policy decision, because there is no overwhelming technical reason why it should be so. What annoys me further is that Shopify doesn't overtly say so: they just skip around the edges by saying that SSL certificates are not needed, and the payment gateways already have them.
The bug i reported relates to this problem: despite the setting that states that ALL traffic should be redirected to the specified domain (in this case www.bookdealers.co.za instead of bookdealers.myshopify.com), only HTTP traffic is thus redirected, but HTTPS traffic is not. There is a workaround for this. Modify the theme.liquid template to include the following:
This causes the page to be automatically redirected by the browser after 2 seconds, and the search engines do not add the https entries to their search indexes.
Update 21 October 2013: There are now 217 book titles loaded. Each title takes a lot of effort to get it "just right". I had another brainwave: to put the book blurb in the image title, so when you are browning through titles you can find out more about the book without having to click its product page. Hopefully this will make the site more user-friendly. I'm also displaying the category tags as part of the page title.

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