In 2008 I saw an opportunity build an online art platform. In January 2012 I started with a blank page* and in mid 2013 Artfuly.com launched.
This is the story of my own start-up which I concepted, designed and funded 100% myself whilst freelancing...
True to the ideas in the book 'The Lean Startup' by Eric Ries, over time, the concept and purpose of Artfuly has shifted. Initially, I knew that the art purchasing websites I found in 2008 - 2012 for galleries, individual artists and other art sites had shockingly poor user experiences, and I could see a huge opportunity.
For example many sites showed art as thumbnails - small and cropped - it all went against of fundamentally how people buy art. In 2008 I was living in Sydney, with the financial crisis, impossible housing prices, and trapped in an unchallenging and low-paid design job for a ‘sausage factory’ website company.
Due to circumstances, I wasn't able to make a start until January 2012. I had some time between work contracts so I got going. Breaking free is never easy and starting a business takes a lot of time and money commitment. I can say that I've made huge personal and financial sacrifices to build and run Artfuly, however it's been fun to meet and interact with artists along the way and I've probably learned more than doing an MBA, though it has cost more!
I figured, if you're going to start a business, do something that you enjoy
At the time I was far less experienced in UX, in fact this project was partly undertaken due to frustration with the level of UX work I was being given in my day jobs (I believe Artfuly has leveraged me into better projects with better pay and at times even better companies), and the fact that many of the companies I worked for were failing to finalise the projects I was delivering the UX for (But that's another story) So Artfuly is also a portfolio piece though I run it as any other serious business owner and I'm also passionate about art, great UX and marketing artists.
TIME IS MONEY
I had very limited time and funds, and so this first phase was very different to how I approach clients projects... I wanted to get a decent first iteration up asap
- Competitor Review
- Devise the business offering (Strategy)
- Find a business name & register domain name
- Design, build and send live a holding page to collect leads
- Design the branding, logo and select fonts & colours for the style-guide
- Visual Designs
- Locate & interview potential development companies
- Research logistics possibilities - I needed a way for door to door delivery prices to be shown 'live' on the site and charged for at the time the buyer paid in the cart
- Sign on a dev company & project manage the build
- Register the company name, tax, do the accounts etc
- Organise, pay for and hold the launch event with 100 artists online and around 10 in venue, including shipping large artworks from all over Australia.
CHALLENGES & SOLUTIONS
- Working out the logistics of giving live delivery pricing in Australia - Solved by using Temando, a 'Courier Broker' to give users the best price to their address from the artists studio
- Working with a 'young' dev studio who folded part way through the project and then tried to claim IP despite my written confirmations at the start of the project that I was paying them by the hour and they had no claim on the business - Solved with a $400/hour lawyer
- Time & money - Unexplainable, just try to start your own business whilst working full time and spend 60+ hours at a desk, put on weight and spend all your money on development, never go out, or have any fun.... - Solved by absolute determination. In 2018 I live in an RV and wild-camp with a good internet connection so I only have to buy gas, food and petrol - I run my laptop from a solar panel
- All the people who try to tell you you should be doing things different e.g. 'Why didn't I see your last event on Facebook?', ..... um because Facebook does not show you everything, contradictory to popular belief.... - Solved by not having the time to teach a course in Marketing - and: 'Why don't you offer XYZ service or product?' - Solved by trying to diversify too much and realising that you need to concentrate on just doing 1 thing well
- Setting up a company structure and doing my own accounts, especially when considering a partner structure with shares - Solved by keeping it simple and just owning the company 100% myself
- Having a zero marketing budget - Solved by the strategy that CONTENT IS THE NEW ADVERTISING and strategising and designing the site around marketing artists properly, back to first principles, sell their story and you will sell the artist and their work.
- There are more... of course, so many more... but I have no regrets. I read that in life people only regret the things they didn't do...
- Artists can within minutes have their art online ready to buy with social media tools, a secure cart and delivery services.
- For art buyers, the filter allows fast curation of artworks by keyword, style, width, height, artist and price. This was a first in the industry, however many big companies started adding filters in 2014 onwards. Note that major 'off the shelf' e-commerce suppliers could not provide this functionality to the speed I needed for good UX, so I had it built to my design
- Buyers can have art delivered rolled or ready to hang with fully insured delivery and 7-day return guarantee.
2013 - 2018 SITE UPDATES
- The was site changed to be able to detect the users country which is used as the default delivery location for shipping quotes in the cart
- Shipping from AU to AU stayed with the accurate Temando quote but logistics involving any other country moved to a spreadsheet method to 'guestimate' shipping costs. This however introduced a UX issue whereby shipping on a $1000 artwork could easily be $300 due to the insurance. I later solved that in the 2018 approach.
Google Analytics Results
The launch event & some pop up events in cafe's around Sydney
A design I did in early October 2017 for the 'Sell your art' page. See it live
- Strategy to go global, and charge 52 Euros for artist membership (hosting) to create revenue to pay for site improvements
- Working with SEO & Marketing Consultant on a commission basis to find 'quick wins' to drive traffic & increase sales and revenue for dev
- New 'Sell your art' landing page supporting artists sign ups with sales funnel from site content placed on social media - funnel has been proven to lead to artist membership sales and which is responsive and utilises ‘typeform’
- My Dev is currently working on moving over to a new payment gateway to enable charging in Euros and later I’ll add USD and another currency
- Cart Design update enabling global logistics changes
- New Homepage planning
- New Artists story page planning - to support emotional connection with artist supporting sales and with ‘follow artist’ button, video and other features
- Redesign of standard emails such as the ‘your art is live’ email to encourage artists to share on all social media as per SEO strategy advice
- New Header, Footer, Main Nav and filter design to sit over page and collapse
- Set up of GA, Hotjar, Live chat, essential server updates and backup maintenance
- Implementing a 'Best practice' art marketing approach intertwined throughout the website and artists experience to encourage them to 'do it properly' i.e Share their story with copy and images regularly with us so we can create magazine content which can be social shared to drive traffic to them. Instagram is a part of this approach.
Once the new site designs are in place, my job (or my employees) will become publisher, finding the interesting stories and showcasing them and my artists artworks in beautiful and scintillating publication formats which lead art lovers to engage, follow, share, read, and eventually BUY.
I started work on a redesign of the site in 2018 encompassing strategic direction, SEO & UX site improvements and launched a magazine to drive more traffic from September. I also hired an Instagram expert who brought the followers from 100 to 5000 in Nov & Dec, however the aim initially is 10k so that we can add links to IG stories and increase our marketing reach.
As you can see, New Users (dark blue) and Page views (light blue) have been rising since I started in mid May. This have been a combination of Content Markeing & magazine launch as most of the SEO optimised site designs I've been working on aren't live yet. It wasn't until late December that images had ALT tags added with the artists name, style and artwork name, so the effect of that may yet to be seen.
Graph covers all of
The magazine has been a great referral source, and the content created for is gives us plenty of ready-made content for social media posts, and a place to send the reader where they can engage with artists and buy artworks.
The magazine is distributed on our social media, email list, website, and FB and Li groups.
The aim is to increase artist sign ups, giving more income to improve the site, improve SEO and therefore organic traffic, increase art sales, giving better return figures for artists and income, increase magazine readership (ie. our email list of art lovers), and also to add more content to pages like the art detail page to make sure users have somewhere else to go to keep browsing around the site other than just the main nav.
e.issuu.com has high avgSessionDuration
Dec 1 – 31, 2018
18.52% of your site traffic is from the Referral channel. Check out the table below to see how e.issuu.com performs compared to all of your other referral sources.
ISSUU Avg. SessionDuration 00:09:14
Bounce Rate 21.74%
Other [Referral] traffic 00:02:49
Bounce Rate 52.81%
So ISSUU is creating an engaged audience with low bounce rates
*Based on Dec 2018
WEBSITE - Artfuly.com
4397 monthly page views
1333 unique monthly visitors
95.5% new visitors
70% direct visits
15% Organic search
5% From social media (Facebook, Pinterest & Instagram) & paid ads
5k instagram followers with AVG. 3 posts per day
7500 Pinterest average monthly viewers