Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Turning into an iMall - Karmani Designer Lifestyle's growth journey

I'm really excited at how well I've been able to grow the Karmani Designer Lifestyle web site. It's gone from small-but-perfectly formed (well, not quite perfectly but you get the gist...) to a small and growing bustling, boutique-filled iMall.

Here's some of my experiences of on the way. If you're thinking of doing something similar maybe they'll help some :)

Lesson 1 learned - it pays dividends to get the site navigation sorted right from the word go so that
  1. it's functional (mobile and desktop)
  2. it's natural for your visitors to use
  3. it can cope with HUGE expansion of the website
  4. it can be automaitcally generated - no exceptions or tweaks

I didn't do so great at 2), though I think I can fix it.

The overall set-up decision I took was to divide the website store (the iMall) into 'boutiques', with each boutique divided into 'booths' (each with lots of 'shelves', though that's maybe taking the analogy one step too far.)

I liked this approach because of the flexibility. It gives me the opportunity to have a boutique for a particular topic or theme (winter sports) and within have a booth for each of the sub-topics (skiing, curling, luge etc). Then within each booth you get a pile (sorry, shelf ;) ) of clothing, one for accessories, one for cases for your mobile tech and so on.

But I can also go the other way and have a boutique specific to a grouping of product lines - say women's tops - and then have booths within for t-shirts, jackets, tank tops and so on. Then the shelves are filled with biker ones, ones with funny quotes, ones for cancer survivors etc etc.

At the moment the only way I've integrated the iMall (the boutiques section) into the rest of the site is via a Boutiques Guide page. I've linked to that page from my homepage as a bit of a kludge, just to make sure the search engine spiders can find all the boutiques and their contents as they wander around the rest of the site.

Introduction to the world

Ok, so it's all very well to have a lovely web site but how do you draw in the visitors - how do you get the passing footfall?- Publicising it is part of the answer, received wisdom but also common sense - if no roads lead to your mall, how will the visitors get there?

So this is what I've been doing, now that I'm happy with it. In the last week or so I've started to pin on pinterest the image that heads each boutique's entry in the boutiques guide. The pin leads back to that very section in the guide. As I pin more boutiques over the next few weeks I'll end up with some good quality links coming in from Pinterest and, if they get re-pinned, so much the better :)

At the same time, I've used the IfThisThenThat service to post to facebook and tweet those pins as I add them.

Knowing that Google indexes links on public shares on G+ very quickly, I've been sharing some there, too. I do need to refine that in some way.


I'm not leaving it to chance, though. I'm using a site map generating tool and uploading its output to our KDL account in Google's Webmastertools.  It's worked out well, with Google about a week behind, or slightly less, on indexing the newly added pages documented in the sitemap file.

Time lag

I started all this around the 19th June and it's taken until the last couple of days (it's now 15th July)  to see the first visits to the boutiques starting to come from people using the Google search engine.

So achievements to date 

Early to mid June:

spent developing my own and using a mish-mash of tools to do:
  • Content management - manual entry into a specially-designed database
  • Boutiqe generation by automatically running the managed content through a template
    (via ZazMySite - if you're familiar with that tool?)
  • Sitemap generation (see above)
Mid to late June:  start uploading generated boutiques. Find issues. Correct tools. Regenerate. Automate more with macros.
Early July: Make tools more flexible.
July to date: Create more boutiques and get them uploaded and site-mapped.

12th July: first visitors to boutiques from peeps searching on Google. Yaay! Happy dance!

As at 15th July: 1600 pages added for the various boutiques. 1200 indexed by Google so far.

So let's see what the future brings...

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