I’ve spent the last two weeks on two projects: rebuilding part of my front porch (which you probably don’t care about unless you’re knocking on my door), and creating a phone-friendly redesign of my Retropolis web site.
I’m not crazy about the ways that phones have affected web page design – and I really miss my old page layouts – but because I am also not actually crazy I finally caved in to peer pressure and converted the site into something that works well on phones. Mostly.
The big exception is the Business Card Construction Kit. You still need a much wider browser window to do much with that one.
But in every other respect you can now shop quite comfortably even on one of those tiny, ridiculous devices that you all use.
So go do that, please, while I dart outdoors between the rainstorms and try to get my deck boards nailed down in time for Winter.
As always, you can find the Retropolis Transit Authority T-shirts, along with posters, greeting cards, postcards, business cards, and other things that are not cards. Like, uh, coffee mugs. And books. And other stuff. Go get ’em!
I’ve been selling customizable business cards for several years now at Retropolis and The Celtic Art Works. Customers would click on a sample image and be carried over to the Zazzle site, where they could edit the text on that card design to their own specification. The system worked pretty well, and a lot of people bought their business cards that way; but I’ve always thought it could work better.
After I built the Pulp-O-Mizer I could even see how it might be better: if all the possible background images were available in menus, and the whole user interface worked a bit more like the Pulp-O-Mizer, I figured that the process would not only be more fun, but more engaging. Customers would be able to try out all sorts of possibilities… so they would. They’d be more likely to buy their cards once they’d invested their time in them. It could work out better for all of us.
But it wouldn’t be a small job, and I’d need a fair-sized block of time to work on it.
As it turns out, the job took about a month.
It’s alive! Alive, I tell you!
So today I’ve unveiled the Business Card Construction Kit at Retropolis. (It’ll show up soon at The Celtic Art Works, too; but I’ve included all the Celtic art backgrounds already.)
The Business Card Construction Kit includes much of what the Pulp-O-Mizer does, but it also does more. You can design a business card in either horizontal/landscape or vertical/portrait shapes; you can have images and text on both the front and the back of the business cards; you can select any colors you like for your text; you have over 250 background images from which to choose, along with a wide variety of typefaces; and I’ve made innumerable little improvements to the user interface and user feedback.
It’s a pretty nice system!
Over 250 background images
The background images are divided by subject and style; in addition there are separate menus of images for the front and back of the cards. (That’s because the card stocks are usually coated on just one side, so an image that works well on the front may not look as good on the back of the card.)
There are a lot of Retropolis images, of course, but I’ve included all the old Celtic card backgrounds from The Celtic Art Works, and then added a lot of new border designs and images in that style. And I can continue to add more designs and styles as time goes on.
Many text controls, typefaces, and selectable text colors
Both the front and back of your business card can have up to six different areas of text, each with their own controls.
The color selector is something that I decided to leave out of the Pulp-O-Mizer, but it makes a lot of sense here.
And because there are so many typefaces available in the Business Card Construction Kit I’ve given you a second menu, which you can use to filter the typeface list by font type: Serif, Sans Serif, Hand Lettered, or All.
Save, export, and share your card designs
In order to save, move, or share your card designs, you get the same options as you do in the Pulp-O-Mizer. You can save and load locally, or you can export your card data as a block of text that can be imported into the Construction Kit on another device or browser.
There’s also a menu of example designs that you can load, and learn from, and even use as the basis for your own business card.
So that’s what I’ve been working on. I think it’s a much improved system for buying your customized business cards, and it’s designed to grow, as well. Give it a spin!
A few days ago I put up a working online bookshop for Matthew Hughes’ Archonate web site – actually it’s the second book shop there, since I’ve been feeding his site with eBooks all year long.
This one’s different because it’s stocked with print-on-demand paperback books, printed and shipped by CreateSpace. CreateSpace allows self-publishers to sell through several sales channels; the author gets a different cut of the sales price at each one. You can buy these paperback books at Amazon – in several countries – or direct from CreateSpace. It’s not surprising that an author gets a much better percentage of the sale if it’s made through the CreateSpace “store”.
But the CreateSpace stores are primitive objects. Each one offers just a single book and there’s no way for an author to tie all those individual book pages into one single, unified storefront, which is sort of necessary if you hope to sell your books online without a middleman like Amazon.
The Archonate‘s CreateSpace store is a proof of concept for what I’m working on now – a WordPress plugin that lets you combine any number of books into any number of category pages and host them – all together, all with a single shopping cart – within your WordPress blog. All an author needs to do is to set up the shop and go back to writing promote it.
You can see a screenshot of the admin screen for the plugin below.
It’s going to take me awhile; this is my first WordPress plugin, and the past few days have been made livelier by my creative use of language while I discovered new and exciting things to yell about.
At the moment I’ve managed to create a plugin that WordPress recognizes, set up its configuration screen, and add and retrieve the plugin’s options from the WordPress database. That’s been a heck of a lot of work for a plugin that doesn’t do anything yet, but I have the working proof of concept to look at while I’m, um, swearing.
I like the way the content is pulled in from CreateSpace and modified in ways that the user can extend. So long as the WordPress blog is cached, this adds very little work for the blog’s server or for the CreateSpace server. All in all, I think it’s pretty neat.
Once it’s done I might even do a very similar thing for Amazon affiliate sales, which, of course, aren’t limited to books. I’ve used Amazon’s own AStore system (you can see an implementation right here in my blog) but having used it, I know how cumbersome and unwieldy a thing it is. Surprisingly, it looks like I can do better. So maybe I will.
I’ve just updated the Astonishing PULP-O-MIZER: I’ve given it unnatural powers of T-Shirt and Hoodie Creation that I’m pretty sure Man Was Not Meant to Wot Of. I barely wotted of them myself, if the truth be told. It was a near thing.
I’ll need to keep an eye on the server’s status. Creating the shirts – and then displaying, deleting, hiding and showing them – eats up more resources than we’ve seen with the other products. There’s the chance that shirts will go in and out of service, all depending on the server’s load and my own demented whims.
If I say so myself – which I do, you notice – it’s a pretty neat system, though. Each user gets his or her own private folder of shirts (so they can’t prowl through the shirts that other people have made); one can delete all the shirts in one grand gesture of destruction (that part was easy) or one can select a single shirt or hoodie and doom it to be fed, alone and shrieking, into the mouth of the Destructinator* (that part was hard).
It’s all brand new, so here’s your chance to break it. I’ve tested it in every browser and OS I have and I’m pretty sure it won’t explode. But you should wear those rubber gloves and goggles, just in case.
*… a name that I wish I’d invented, even though I didn’t.