More than one blog post is required to talk about product design. There are books, blogs, courses, seminars and more all devoted to this one thing and its categories. You hear “user experience” (UX), “industrial design” and other buzzwords floating around that all point back to the same thing. Product design. Continue Reading
This week I’ve managed to finalize a new table design. It, like all of my other pieces, has a simple name – T3. It’s the third table I’ve designed and leaves out the strange Scandinavian names that we’ve all become so fond of. No offense.
Making Things that Make Things
As it turns out, designing furniture is easy. If you couple a few simple ergonomic rules with a world full of visual inspiration, anyone can have a new design in just a few hours. The tricky part for me is determining how to make the things. One isn’t so bad; two gets to be a struggle and a hundred or a thousand demands some finesse.
What I mean by finesse is making the thing that makes the thing. I designed and modeled T3 in just a few hours. The design is great and is finally looking like it will be in the price range I want to offer a side table at- around $150. It has a feature that I call “the bowl”. The bowl is a cone shaped piece that joins the legs to the table top. I spent a lot of time trying to come up with an easy way to make the cone shape.
I need a machine that can cut a shallow taper, repeatably, and then drill three holes to accept the legs. The whole thing then gets painted in a semi-gloss paint of your selection. Nobody sells a machine like that.
A few motors, gears, belts, linear rails and bearings and a bearing or two and I’m halfway through the design.
The design is a little rough and is definitely not a highly rendered masterpiece with motion controls and all that fancy stuff; but it works. More importantly, it gives me a sense of scale and an estimate of materials needed and how they will be arranged.
The red piece slides along the 20mm orange rails. Attached to the red piece will be a router with a bit spinning at about 18,000 RPMs. The yellow bit is the finished bowl which will rotate via a motor and pulley underneath the light blue base. For now I’ll move the router along the rails by hand. I estimate about two minutes per bowl. That should be plenty good, until folks start buying them by the dozen!
A hard pill to swallow when starting a business is how slow everything moves. Maybe it isn’t slow but it often feels that way. A thing to make a thing is just like creating a website, an About Us page or even sweeping the floor. You’ve got to buckle down and invent stuff sometimes – and you’re the draftsman, the engineer, the fabricator, the medic and the clerk.
Still doesn’t stop me from wanting an intern though.
Happy building. Leave a comment about the things to make the things that you’ve created!
All modeling was done using AutoCAD Fusion360. It’s free to use for people earning less that $100k!
A Page is Born
I’m pleased to announce that the new ‘About Us’ page is ready for the public. This one was tricky for me for several reasons. I don’t like to talk about myself. This might be evident and make the page be a little weak on content but we’ll find out soon, especially if you leave a comment. The page was also difficult to create because of the pressure and my lack of resources. Luckily, I think it will work for the interim – I really only want to add a short promo video of me talking a bit for about a minute so that you can get to know me, and not just the business.
This page is often touted as one of a website’s highest viewed pages. With that in mind, you want it to be great, not just good. I searched for the best pages and came up with a common theme: tell a story and have some great graphics. Fortunately I had some not-so-old photos taken by a great friend that symbolize what we do – build furniture. For reference, he used a Nikon full frame DSLR and did some editing. I’ll post his website up when he gets it built later this year. With all of that riding on a single page, I was beginning to feel the pressure.
I wanted to have a mission statement and also convey some sort of our ideals and why we think our furniture store is a great idea. I’m not knocking on the big name, 600 pound gorilla, Ikea. In fact, I love their stuff, I have three bar stools in my own home. I just tend to think that affordable furniture doesn’t have to be so cheap feeling or that quality furniture doesn’t have to be made by a bearded lumberjack using a hacksaw and a blunt rock that costs you $5,000.
Don’t be fooled, I’ve got one expensive piece in the queue. I just can’t get the price down because the design is so rad and the laser cutter wants a ton of money for it. I’m sorry in advance. You’ll know what I’m talking about soon enough.
I’m also still undecided if I should add a “Contact Us” section or just put it at the bottom of every page. I don’t feel that an entire page is needed just for an email address and a phone number. I don’t have a physical store, so no map is needed. In writing this, I think I’ve already decided not to make a dedicated page. No need for the extra clutter.
Speaking of clutter, I think having the color palette already put together has made designing the pages that much faster while reducing clutter.
Lastly, enjoy this photo taken from the banks of the Vltava River in Prague. Can’t think of a better way to put some thoughts together to finish an About Us page.
Now that my site is getting larger, yet before I add all of the eCommerce plugins and features, I’d like to mention what website tools: plugins, widgets, themes, etc. that I’m using. From this list, anyone can copy my steps and have a functioning website.
I bought my domain name, for one year, from WordPress. I paid around $20 USD for it. No complaints there.
Cost: $20 USD/yr
I host my content with BlueHost. Three years of basic service is about $40 USD. There are lots of places that offer discounts and coupons if you look for them. No real complaints other than the site is a little hard to navigate. I don’t have to do that often but the cPanel is a little slow and clunky.
Cost: $40 USD/3 yr
I’ve chosen to use a self hosted WordPress.org content manager. Definitely no complaints here, especially after the first week or two of using it.
Cost: $0 USD
I chose the Shopkeeper theme by getbowtied. It’s been easy to use, but there was a learning curve at the beginning, something that is probably true for any theme. The biggest headache is not knowing what will happen when you change a setting. It took some time to catch on to what would happen when you changed something. This is exceedingly frustrating when you are trying to get a certain look, rather than just adjusting something that’s already there.
It would be really helpful when you hover over a setting it would indicate how changes affected the theme. For instance, I fiddled for hours trying to figure out why my links were not showing up as underlined or a different color. Shopkeeper seems to think that they should follow the “main theme color” or something like that. That also influences button text colors, among other things. I don’t really want to edit them individually, a task that would prove futile at your next theme update. If you’re reading this, oh Shopkeeper admins, please provide some more clues in your theme tools or documentation.
Cost: $49 USD
Something I recently learned was to use a plugin for anything that doesn’t change the appearance of your theme. This keeps your site from breaking when your theme updates. Another tip I keep seeing out of the corner of my eye is to minimize the number of plugins that you have. They can also break your website.
- AddToAny Share Button by AddToAny v1.6.17 – I use this to add the social sharing buttons at the top of blog posts. This feature is also available in JetPack, but with less sharing options;
- Google Analytics for WordPress by praveenchauhan1984 v1.1 – This tool adds the Google Analytics tracking ID to every page. Much easier than hiding a meta tag;
- jetpack by WordPress.com by Automattic v4.0.3 – Useful for all kinds of website related tasks;
- Maintenance Mode by Muneeb v3.6 – I turn this on when making a major change to the site. It gives a nice “Under Construction” page. I think jetpack might be able to do this and I will look into it;
- MOJO Marketplace by Mike Hansen v0.8.2 – Honestly no idea why this is installed or how it’s different that just searching for a plugin or widget the normal way;
- UpdraftPLUS Backup/Restore by UpDraftPlus.com v1.12.13 – Used for auto backing up the website to Google Drive;
- Widget Importer & Exporter by Steven Gliebie v1.3.1 – Not sure why I got this either;
- WP Bakery Visual Composer by Michael M v4.12 – Comes with the ShopKeeper theme. Very useful and I would recommend it if you don’t get a theme, or if you get a free one. It’s like using Wix.com or similar website builders;
- Yoast SEO by Team Yoast v3.3.1 – The pinnacle of SEO. I’m not sure if it works, but it does have handy red, orange or green lights to help you steer towards high ranked search results.
You can find these plugins in your WordPress Admin -> Plugins tool. I included the author so that you can sort through the junk better. These folks are tricky and try to name their sorry plugins similar to the good ones to to trick us fine folks. Build a wall; stay safe.
Cost: $0 USD
I’m not using any widgets that didn’t come prepackaged with WordPress. No fancy stuff here.
Cost: $0 USD
Almost exclusively, I use free editing tools. My go-to vector creating artwork piece of software is Inkscape. Vector graphics are images that you can scale without them turning into unrecognizable pixelated cubes. Inkscape is the antagonizing opposite rival to its well-known cousin, Adobe Illustrator.
For raster based images, or those that you create with say, a camera, I use Gimp. Like Inkscape, it is a free piece of software that has an Adobe counterpart: Adobe Photoshop. I have yet, with my limited skills, not seen it to anything that Photoshop can’t do.
You can find lots of tutorials for using these pieces of software. Consider donating to the cause, especially if you earn revenue from the images you create.
Lastly, I use Cyberlink Power Director. The basic version came with my laptop, but it looks like it costs about $60 USD. I like it because I can easily load photos from my camera phone, do some basic editing, and export them for web (quality, size, etc.) in about a minute. Maybe this can be done in Gimp, but I don’t know how. My belief is that the Adobe equivalent is called “Lightroom”. I’ll most likely end up purchasing Lightroom when I start doing product photography.
That sums everything up. Total cost: $110 USD, give or take a few bucks. I expect to spend another hundred or so on credit card processing tools. This may be a low estimate.
Thanks for reading, I hope you can use this as a baseline to get started on your site!
Don’t forget the little things. You’ve got a lot to do. I need to polish up my article of incorporation and settle on a shop lease space.
I need to get an EIN and bank account.
I need to finish the website and get some actual viewers and followers.
I need to order a camera and find a bandsaw on eBay.
This is just a reminder though.
Don’t forget why you are wanting or have already left your “normal” job.
Don’t forget the little things.
Row gaps are frustrating
I spent about two hours this morning trying to remove a little gap between the rows on my front page. Now that the demo content is loaded and I’m sure you’ve started to play around inserting your own photos and text, you’ll likely start to notice changes. Not the gruesome kind occurring during your teenage years but the pesky, drive-your-OCD-crazy kind that won’t go away. Continue Reading
Two important things today: setting up a WordPress backup plugin and some free web stuff I found from Google. I really can’t think of better topics for a web entrepreneur. Maybe free ice-cream. That’s probably better.
A backup was on my list
for a long time. So far, in the behind-the-scenes world, I have configured most of the plugins that I want to have for the site along with completing the general layout and page architecture. The big thing I was lacking, to preserve that hard word, was a backup tool. WordPress.org, if you’ll recall, does not back up anything for you. Supposedly you can backup through your web host, an idea which doesn’t seem smart. Backing up to the same place where the original files are stored seems like a way to ask for trouble. I started looking for answers. Continue Reading
It’s easy to be disappointed after you purchase, download and install your newly minted WordPress theme. I certainly was. It didn’t look like the photos and the demo sites and I didn’t know why. Some old fashioned Googling was in order.
Upload the Demo Files
Sometimes these are called dummy files – probably a title for the entrepreneur trying to make a website that is starting to feel like a money pit. Turns out, it’s pretty easy to upload them and get rocking and rolling. You probably downloaded the demo files in your theme’s .zip file. If not, go to where you got the theme and download the demo files separately. Continue Reading
This will seem like
a pansy pants things to talk about, but great color schemes set the mood for a site. Who are we kidding anyways, as an entrepreneur, you’ve probably already day dreamed about logos and business cards and all of the other sexy things that CEOs worry about. Colors are just as important as the shape of your product and the font of your logo. This became really clear to me when I finally saw some great ones.
I don’t know how I got down the rabbit-hole of colors but it was probably from reading blog articles about themes. I had always assumed I would have a nice, simple white background with maybe a few colors here and there. I knew that I definitely wanted a red font for the main logo. I’m pretty sure I was wrong about all of that when I discovered this post, written by Mary Stribley: Continue Reading