Now that I’ve had a few days to calm down from everything, I’m not really sure how I feel about it. Weird is the best word to describe it. This wasn’t a “typical” project for me/us. Usually there’s the hope that a project will hit it big and make us a ton of money. While I’ve always thought this had the potential to be huge, that wasn’t really what I set out to do.
First and foremost, I just wanted to better capitalize on the traffic we were getting. That’s why I put everything else aside and took on this job. I thought the old site did a crappy job of that – I felt like we were leaving free money on the table. Immediately it looks like my fixes worked: it’s been over a week since the site got up (albeit not complete until the last few days) and right away page views and time spent on the site essentially doubled per visitor. We cleaned up our ads, getting rid of AdSense and using almost exclusively higher paying and more relevant eBay ads. Ad clicks are way up too. So in this sense it’s been a success.
My second goal was to learn. SportsLizard has always been my playground for learning how to design and develop a site. It was my first site, and ever since then there’s been a major update every year or two. Each time I’m trying to push the boundaries a bit more. In doing so, I’ve taken my programming skills a bit further. On this revamp, I’m most pleased with my improvements as a designer. My graphics skills and CSS skills are a lot better than they were a few months ago. I upped my PHP skills as well. I’m really happy with how the new-and-improved Price Guide came out. So again, in this sense the project has been a success.
My third and final goal was to provide something more useful to the card collecting community. This is a tough one to evaluate. The really hardcore community, the collectors that spend time and money in the hobby every day, the ones that could make SL HUGE, have not fully embraced it. I can hypothesize why, but if I knew for sure I’d make the changes necessary. On an individual level, I can get influential bloggers behind me (they already kind of are). But the guy who spends all day on the card message boards seems to have no use for what we provide, even the Price Guide tool. This makes me scratch my head and quite frankly pisses me off. Part of me thinks it will just never happen with SL – we have our audience, our niche, and I should leave it at that. Part of me wants to keep pushing and make it finally pull through. Another part of me wants to take everything I learned with SL and start another unrelated cards site and focus on that (a side project I’ve been toying with for a while, one that I think the hardcore collectors would eat up, which would bring me my vindication in a totally different way).
The project also took a whole lot longer to finish than I anticipated, which kind of pisses me off because I feel “behind” even if I’m really not.
It pretty much comes down to this: I badly want to see it become a bigger success, so it’s tempting to try to make SL my entire focus for a while. But that would be a bad move. From a strictly business standpoint, SportsLizard accounts for a very small part of Pure Adapt – it has no expenses, so the revenue is all profit, but that’s still only about 10% of our profit as a company. E-commerce is what drives us and will continue to drive us. I’m a firm believer in all of the benefits of working on side projects like SportsLizard and Music-Alerts, but they are just that: side projects. Until some other project forces us to divert attention away from e-commerce I am going to try to get back to limiting myself to 5-10 hours a week max on those types of projects. They’re great learning experiences, they make a little cash, they bring some pub to our company, but at the end of the day they can be a distraction if you don’t cap your time and return focus to more important tasks.