Last June while I was deep in the middle of my wedding planning, I wrote about an idea for a wedding site called “Bridechilla”. I kinda dug that name, and on a whim I snapped it up over at GoDaddy. For the past year I haven’t really given it much thought, but while I was writing about a local startup for the Seattle 2.0 blog the other day, I decided to have some fun and use the app to quickly build out the Bridechilla site. The basic idea of the post was to start from scratch and see if I could build out something semi-compelling in only two hours. Here’s the post, would love to hear what you guys think!
It’s official – the economy sucks. If you’re a little short on cash, there are plenty of startups out there promising quick and easy ways to make money online. But talk, like shares of AIG, are cheap. So for this week’s startup profile I decided to put PopShops, a Freemont-based affiliate sales startup, to the test. According to PopShop’s home page, you can set up an affiliate store in just three minutes. I decided to go easy on them – my challenge was to see if I could start from scratch and have a fully featured professional-looking site live within two hours for less than $50.
5:47pm – Getting Started
Last year when my wife and I were doing the wedding thing I grabbed the domain name “bridechilla.com”, so for this challenge I decided to use that domain to build a wedding-related online store targeted at calm, laid-back brides. I headed over to PopShops to get my store started. I saw a great demo of PopShops by Jesse Jones at an STS meeting back when they were first launching, so I knew these guys were legit. But for total noobs they do a nice job of describing what they do and giving some compelling testimonials to instill confidence that this isn’t a scam. I hit the “Sign Up” button, chose the free plan, and after a simple registration form I ran into my first major roadblock.
5:50 – This Isn’t Looking Good
Before getting started, PopShops asks for the affiliate ID numbers of all the affiliate networks you’re (wait for it) affiliated with. I’m brand new to the affiliate world, and apparently “1234″ isn’t a valid number for any of them. Lucky for me, PopShops provided links to about ten major affiliate networks. I tried signing up for a few of them, but they all required manual reviews before giving out an ID, which would take a minimum of 48 hours. I almost gave up, until I tried a network called “Bridaluxe”. As luck would have it, not only did they hand over an ID prior to the manual site review, but they are 100% focused on wedding-related products! At this point, my wife called and asked if I could get dinner started, so I had to put the challenge on hold. Sorry internets – family first.
6:55 – Setting Up Shop
Once I entered my ID, I was able to get started setting up my shop. And I have to say, these guys were not kidding – you literally could get set up in about three minutes. The site has three basic steps. First, you choose from a huge selection (45 million and counting) of products from across 15K merchant datafeeds. PopShops does the hard work of converting each feed into a standardized format, and provides a simple front end for you to choose the products you want to sell. Next, you choose how you want your products to be displayed on your site. They have a selection of standard pre-set options, which you can go in and customize to fit the look and feel of your site.
7:20 – Battling the Site Builders
Now that I had my shop, I needed to find a site to pop it into. Instead of coding something up, I decided to check out one of these new WYSIWYG online site builders. I started off at Synthasite, but after fiddling around with their templates for a good 15 minutes, I gave up and headed over to Weebly. I found a template that was a nice fit for the matrimonilly-inclined and threw together a quick header and logo (using the free photoshop-clone Paint.NET). After creating a page, I put in an html element, pasted the PopShops script in, and…it worked! No fiddling required. Awesome.
8:30 – Crunch Time
Once the first page was done, I headed back over to PopShops and built out a few more product pages – comfy wedding shoes, favors, groomsmen’s gifts, and accessories. The free sites include a generous 10 separate product pages, and each one was a breeze to set up. I threw together a few snippets of copy and grabbed a cc commercially-licensed photo from Flickr to pretty up the home page, snapped in a simple forum and blog, wrote up an intro post, and published the site with about five minutes to spare.
Overall, I have to say that PopShops really blew me away. I was able to easily get a nice-looking site up basically for free in under two hours, and the majority of that was spent on finding a logo and writing copy. If you’re looking to try your hand at the whole affiliate thing and want to save yourself a gigantic headache, or you just want to see an example of how to put together an extremely usable online workflow for your users, go check out PopShops today. And if you’re in the market for a Box of 24 Classic Wedding Bubbles and a bag of Freeze Dried Burgundy Rose Petals, I just happen to know of the perfect site for you.
Yeah! PollDaddy + WordPress = <3