Simplifying the Agreement Process

We’ve been spending much of the last month taking a hard look at the internals of canvasmatch and we are realizing that we have arbitrarily added some barriers to the commissioning process. In one example, we pulled ourselves out of the code and took a high level look at the agreement process (the agreement process starts when an artist submits a bid on a canvas and it is complete when the buyer accepts that artist and submits a credit card payment).

The process was structured such that it required the artist and buyer to alternately click through a series of actions in particular order. As a result of the “Artist > Buyer > Artist > Buyer” sequence the agreement process was usually stretched over a couples days and multiple logins. Furthermore, the ‘communication page’ was locked until the agreement process was completed. This was hindering discussion about the canvas and was leading to bids that were sometimes off base. We took all of this into consideration and got out the good ol’ fashioned paper and pen. Then we sketched.

We paired the agreement process down to only those steps that are necessary and ordered them such that the waiting has been removed altogether. A graphic helps illustrate this.

 

This simple redesign results in a sequence of actions that is more fluid and involves less clicks. More specifically, we have…

    • -Enabled the artist and buyer to discuss the canvas before a bid is submitted
    • -Reduced the # of clicks required from “Bid to Payment” from 8 clicks to 3 clicks.
    • -Eliminated one page entirely (and one mysql table)
    • -Removed 3 unnecessary bottlenecks/waiting periods from the process
    • -Drastically cleaned up the PHP and MySQL  behind the scenes

On top of all that, we have a hunch that this is going to lead to more successful buyer-artist pairings due to the ability to collaborate before a bid is submitted and accepted.

The new agreement page is in testing, but it isn’t live yet. We are going to wait to release this until the rest of “Operation Simplify” is complete. We are attacking the rest of the internals of the site with the same approach: Step back and look at user’s actions, Identify unnecessary clicks and waiting periods, then streamline the pages.

In the mean time, stay up to date on our progress by following us on facebook or twitter.

Canvasmatch helps you create custom art.

That’s our new mantra. It’s intentionally much simpler than our previous message.  It can be communicated in 5 seconds which is much more conducive to word of mouth and online conversions. This new, simpler statement is what we used to guide this round of site improvements.

Our latest release includes many changes aimed at usability and user conversions. The intent is to make it easier for buyers to post their ideas. Some of the changes are:

    • -A revitalized and simplified home page (including awesome new hand drawn images)
    • -A brand spankin’ new how it works page (also including awesome new hand drawn images)
    • -Real testimonials from actual canvasmatch buyers and artists on the home page an how it works page
    • -A brand new footer which should make navigation easier
    • -A simplified artist sign up process; just two pages to get you up and running.
    • -A simplified buyer sign up process. Buyers can now submit an idea without being registered users.
    • -Organized and updated our FAQ page.
    • -We made our sign up/log in page more professional.
    • -Improved our legal page
    • -Eliminated the horrid ‘welcome page’. This was not serving much of a purpose and added 1 click to all major actions.

Stop on by and check it out!

Jake

An update: past, present, and future

It has been a few weeks since we’ve posted any news but we have been active on the site, twitter, facebook, and elsewhere on the world wild web. We also celebrated America’s birthday.  Anyway, to get you up to speed we have conveniently categorized our news.

In the near past

Over the last few weeks we fixed some broken stuff around the site, worked on some marketing, and brainstormed about the possibility of initiating an indiegogo campaign.

    • -We ran a trial Google Adwords campaign just to see how things worked. It went fairly well and we generated a decent amount of increased traffic.
    • -We repaired the ‘Bid invite’ messages that were being sent out. There were some pretty funky fields in there; sorry bout that.
    • -We made a tweak to our payment distribution process so that we don’t accidentally send messages to artists.
    • -An expressionist, jazz canvas was finished! It is an awesome mix of purple and gold, very fitting for New Orleans.
    • -We also fixed a minor issue with the Edit Canvas page.
    • -A new oil replication from the game Team Fortress 2 was started and we’re very excited to see how it turns out.
    • -And we toyed with the idea of hiring a marketing intern

 

Presently

Through user/family/friend feedback we’ve realized that our site’s message, homepage, and many other pages are a bit too cluttered. Those of you that were around back in our Alpha phase will know what we are talking about. Back then, canvasmatch wasn’t much more than a simple model with very few pages. It was obvious what canvasmatch was about and what you could use it for because there wasn’t too much content to confuse you.

Well… we’ve gotten a bit away from that simplicity as we’ve learned more about web development, as we’ve listened to user requests, and as we have become a bit more ambitious in our development. We feel that a more refined and straightforward message will help attract buyers and artists. After many sketches and some solid brainstorming we’ve come up with some new site ideas and a more effective message.

 

In the near future

Here’s what’s on the docket for the coming weeks.

    • -Finalize and launch our new simple message
    • -Pump out a revitalized home page (designed around the aforementioned simple message)
    • -Develop two distinct entry channels for artists and buyers.
    • -Testimonials from artists and buyers
    • -A possible site-wide facelift
    • -We’re going to do a bit more research and planning for a possible fundraising campaign.
    • -And just for kicks I’m working on an article that helps explain who owns the copyrights to commissioned artwork, the artist or the buyer

And that, folks, is all the canvasmatch news that’s fit to (digitally) print.

 

Have a good night,

Jake

 

 

A night of simplification

We continue on our mission to make the site easy to use. Tonight we spent a good deal of time simplifying things…

  1. New Canvas Page– We revamped the new canvas page to make it more concise, and more helpful. You will now see tips next to the input fields. It looks better too.
  2. Uploader Bug – We were having issues with uploads that were >1mb. It had to do with a simple memory setting. This is now repaired and we are once again accepting images up to 5mb successfully.
  3. No more ‘Content’ – We completely removed the notion of categorizing canvases by ‘content’. At one point we thought this would help buyers find artists that painted specific subject matter but we realized it just wasn’t that necessary. It added more buttons and decisions to all of our forms and sort bars. So we killed it. We updated about 8 pages along the way.

Hop on over to www.canvasmatch.com to check out the changes. And when you’re done, send us some feedback (now located in the lower right corner of the footer).

Jake

 

Flashmob Results and Site Improvements

Whoa. For seventeen hours yesterday the world wide web was swamped with canvasmatch. Thank you, Thank you!

The tidal wave began with a single facebook post at 7am and it immediately rippled over to twitter, pinterest, youtube, the blogsphere, reddit, adwords, and beyond. There were so many posts on facebook yesterday that status updates mentioning canvasmatch were getting rejected as “spammy.” That’s awesome. In the end it accomplished exactly what we wanted… it helped get a few new canvases on the site so our artists can start earning money.

 

Flashmob results:

  • -3 brand new canvases! We now have a lakeside landscape, a greek goddess, and a surrealist octopus open for bidding.
  • -Visits from users in 10 different countries and 27 US States.
  • -More site visits in a single day than any other in canvasmatch history, see below.

Site Improvements:

  • -A simplified sign up page. Should reduce confusion and we also removed the zip code requirement.
  • -Revamped the artist database page. We wanted to provide more of a focus on our awesome artists. We’re now showing their gallery images more prominently.
  • -We uber-simplified the activity page. We also changed the title of it to ‘Your Canvases’ so it was a bit more explicit.
  • -Tightened up the footer.
  • -Fixed a few minor bugs around the site.
  • -We are going to add a few more updates to the market place.
  • -And Walker is currently working on a brand new, simple, new canvas page.

 

Thank you so much for your support yesterday and through out the past few months. It is great to see our friends, family, and strangers come together to help us spread the work. We hope this is just the beginning.

As always, feel free to give us feedback on the site.

Jake

 

Canvasmatch Flashmob on Monday, June 11th

We want to kick the summer off right by spreading the word about canvasmatch. We think canvasmatch is an awesome way to commission artwork. We also think that canvasmatch provides a great service to artists that want to make some money doing what they love.

We want to tell the WORLD, but we can’t do this alone. Starting at 7am on Monday, June 11th we’re going to bombard the web with canvasmatch.

Here’s how you can help:
-Tweet about us
-Post about us on your facebook status
-Blog about us
-Email your long lost relatives about us
-Email your congressman
-Put a link to canvasmatch on your website
-Post a message on your favorite forum
-etc

Not sure what to say? Here are some examples:

“Hey check out this super-awesome site where you can commission unique art:www.canvasmatch.com

“Looking for a unique gift? Get some personalize artwork at www.canvasmatch.com

“I love www.canvasmatch.com and you will too!”

“Like art? You’ll love www.canvasmatch.com

“Canvasmatch is neat. See for yourself at www.canvasmatch.com

“Awesome art here → www.canvasmatch.com ←”

“Take 1m 25sec and check out this nifty video: http://youtu.be/L6ayvHLqee4

—-

Won’t you join us? We would be forever grateful for any small mention, link, or post.

 

Thanks!

 

Some Search Engine Optimization

The past few weeks we have been focused on helping people find us. We attended an ‘arts and crafts fair’ in Chicago a few weeks ago. Unfortunately it turned out to be tons of crafts and barely any art but we handed out over 200 cards nonetheless. We also posted canvasmatch on builtwithbootstrap.com which gave us a nice bump in traffic from the techie world.

Our site visits have been increasing steadily and day by day the community grows. We’ve seen some progress but not enough to keep our artists at happy. Therefore, we’re going to make sure we are doing what we can so that the internet robots can find us. Here is what we’ve done in the SEO realm over the past few weeks:

1. KEYWORDS – We’ve been using the awesome Google Keyword Tool to see which keywords pertain to canvasmatch and how often they are searched out in the world wild web.

2. TITLES – I updated the html <title> </title> on every single page throughout the site. We previously were using one generic title for every page. Now each page has a unique title made up of relevant keywords.

3. DESCRIPTIONS – Similarly, every page was using a standard <META NAME=”Description” CONTENT=” … ” >. We have also updated this on every page so that it will help guide visitors to us from search engines.

4. HEADERS – We added headers (<h1> </h1>) to every page. We were using these inconsistently and it was likely hurting our chances of being found.

5. SITEMAP – It’s true, we didn’t have a site map. But we do now. We created a basic html sitemap for users and bots alike. We also rigged up a standard xml sitemap and submitted it to google.

6. CONTENT – We are also going to be creating a lot of useful content for the community. This should also serve as a venue for attracting some new users. Our first article was a guide on How to price a painting.

…and much more to come.

We’ll have to wait a few weeks for these changes to infiltrate the internet machines but hopefully we see some results. Until next time…

Jake

 

 

canvasmatch News

Soooo, how have you been? We’ve been pretty good as well. Recently we have been really focused on spreading the word about canvasmatch. We’ve also been fixing some odds ‘n ends around the site mostly based on user feedback. AND, we’ve hit another milestone, finished a canvas, and started another. But enough babble, here’s what’s been going on the past week(ish)…

1. PRESS– In case you missed the headlines, last week we were featured in an awesome article in the arts section of The Badger Herald, “New Site Matches Artists, Patrons.” It’s a good overview of what we’re all about and where we came from. We’re pretty excited about it, though this is just the beginning of our marketing and publicity efforts.

2. NEW FEATURE– We are now setup to automatically convert urls to clickable links (www.canvasmatch.com -> www.canvasmatch.com). This should be really useful for artists that want to link to their web pages and for buyers that want to link to images or examples for their canvases.

3. IMPROVEMENT- Removed some redundant messages that users were getting. If an artist uploaded an image on the communication page, the buyer would get an email and canvasmatch message notification. Users will now only receive the email.

4. IMPROVEMENT- We have rearranged the elements of the homepage, added examples and explanations, and tried to clean up a few areas.

5. FINISHED CANVAS– We’ve got another finished canvas under our belt. The artist, Seina Fowler, did an amazing job of combining a blonde nude, eel, skull, flames, … well you’ll just have to check it out. Here’s a glimpse:

6. MILESTONE- Thanks to the awesome community that we have, $3205.35 has been put into the pockets of our artists. Ok, we didn’t actually have a milestone set for $3,200 but we think it’s significant and we’re pretty sure the artists would agree.

7. IMPROVEMENT- We made the address fields optional for new artists. We realized that this may have been a turn-off and we don’t want to send you away before you get started. At some point though, your address will be required if you want to get paid (it will still be completely confidential).

8. NEW FEATURE– We created a nifty, new legal page to give you a better glimpse of our privacy policy, our security standards, and how we protect your data. We kept it fairly readable too.

9. IMPROVEMENT– Straightened up few usability items within the agreement and payment pages.

10. NEW CANVAS– Lastly, but not least, there is a brand new canvas this week. “Live Jazz at Preservation Hall” is an expressionist painting depicting a classic New Orleans jazz venue. We’re excited to see what Cat Pope can do with this one.

 

This weekend we’ll be hitting an art fair in Villa Park, IL with our club cards. If you see two dashing gentlemen mingling in the booths and passing out cards, throw a ‘high five’ their way.

Jake

 

Recent Canvas: House in the Woods

Art makes the perfect gift. It is unique, personalized, and it lasts. Our most recent canvas is a gift for the buyer’s parents. It was born on February 23rd, just days after the launch of canvasmatch Beta.

It was a very straightforward request: the buyer, Walker, wanted a realistic replication of his parents house. He outlined…

“I’m looking for someone to put together a semi-realistic painting of my parent’s house so I can give it to them as a gift. It does not need to be an exact replica, or photo-realist by any means. I want it to be…”

He then uploaded seven pictures of the house which gave any interested artist plenty to think about. And then he invited a bunch of artists that specialize in realism. Six artists bid on the “House in the Woods” with prices ranging from $160 to $350. One artist, Katherine, also included a sketch and she was ultimately chosen by Walker for a nice well rounded price of $300.

After agreeing to the terms of the commission, the two were taken to the communication page to collaborate. The artist uploaded the first layer of paint.

Walker gave feedback as the painting progressed:

“Awesome! Off to a great start. I can say with confidence that you’ve nailed the perspective I had in my head. And the spacing on the sides is perfect as well. Rock on.”

Katherine:

“Glad you like it so far!”

After she uploaded another version, Walker suggested a final tweak:

“…that looks awesome! The only feedback I have is to give the driveway a little more definition. This was pretty hard to see from the pictures but I tried to sketch in a little patch of grass just to the right of the East side of the house.”

He then uploaded his own sketch so she could get a visual. One more iteration and the buyer was satisfied:

“I think it looks great.”

Four weeks after it was born, the canvas was complete. The final payment for “House in the Woods” was submitted to the artist on March 26th.

It will make an awesome and unique anniversary gift. But shhh, he hasn’t given it to his parents yet.