At the end of 2009, I had come to the realization that many of my peers and I were swimming in a new madness called social media. We were all bumping into each other in different places, but didn't really have a way to connect in an orderly manner. There was so much to learn! Selling online had become extremely competitive and if we were going to make headway in this ocean of information, my thought was that we needed to do it as a group. "Together we can do great things!" So, I put the idea out there, started TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List using a blog format
and began navigating the web to bring in potential members who were professionals and who worked with handmade textiles and fiber art.
A year later there were almost 200 members and it was clear that we needed a new website. A bunch of us held a brainstorming session on facebook, identifying member needs and how we would use the website. In the summer of 2011 we had a fundraiser on IndieGoGo and raised $5,000 towards the new site. In August 2011, work on the site began and it took five months of hard work to reach our launch in January 2012. We have a planned Phase Two for other bling on our wish list which will take us to a $10K site. We believe that it will become a major hub for the textile and fiber art community.
Take a Tour
Navigation is not self-evident at this stage, although we believe we have some really cool tools to explore the site. An in-depth drop-down site map is planned for Phase Two, but we want to live with what we have for awhile and tweak the site as we learn how it operates. Here is a map of the front page:
Logo: Click to return home.
The List: Our member list.
Fresh Profiles: Members who have made recent changes to their member profile.
Banners: They flash and are linked to member profiles. Click to visit.
Member Stories: Features on members.
Product Talk: Features on products.
Events: List of member events.
Member Blogs: Not ready yet, but will have a stream of member blogs.
Member Map: A Google map with members pinned to their locations. Click on the pin to see the member, linked to member profiles.
The core value of the site is in finding the members and their products. The members each have a member profile page. They can each list four products (which link to their sites), one video and one event. All of these can be shared on social media sites and show up in search. They are color-coded by type of result (profiles, products, videos, etc each have a different color). Users can bookmark these in their private bookmark page for future reference. Here are some examples:
This page will be re-worked in Phase Two as it still seems awkward in how it displays, but all of the member's basic info is there: where they are in the web, on the google map, and a slideshow if they have one. In Phase Two, the member's blog will stream to the sidebar.
The search bar at the top of the site needs a keyword in order to operate. Type it in and either hit enter/return on the keyboard or click on the magnifying lens. There is a drop-down menu to narrow the search. In January 2012 we had 400 members, so with 4 products each we had an initial 1,600 potential products to look at.
Here is an example of a search result:
This was for a search on "shibori". Note that some of the boxes are brown and others are golden. The brown ones are products and the golden ones are member profiles. Click on the product and you get a full page description of the item with a link to the member site. (Top of the page in italycs,) Click on the member profile results and you will go to that profile.
You will see an image, a description (if the member entered any), a visit link (takes you the member's site), and a comment box where visitors can ask questions or say something about what they think about the product (hopefully, something nice!). The page can be shared on social media sites and saved as a bookmark on your private non-member account. We also have a green flag on product pages. This is to be used to alert us when an inappropriate image is loaded (blurry, bad photo, or culturally insensitive). We will take a look at flags and work with the members on their presentation.
Here is an example of a Product Page:
You have to log in if you want to bookmark something. Yes, non-members can have mini accounts where they can bookmark pages, leave comments and buy ads. When you are logged in you will see a red ribbon at the top right hand corner of the site. That is our dandy bookmark. Here is a video that I liked:
The orange arrow is pointing to the bookmark. I clicked on it and then checked my bookmark page:
Sure enough, there it is: the third to the right on the first row. Notice the color coding again. The videos are purple. Don't want to keep something anymore? Click on the red bookmark on the item and it goes away.
Many of our members make their living by teaching workshops or participating in competitive shows or gallery exhibits. We felt that having an event page was a huge service we could provide for them. This page still needs some tweaking and in Phase Two it will be searchable by type of event, location, and dates. For now, we have a basic Events list:
Click on the event and it has its own page which links to the member profile. The event also posts on the member's profile page, on the left sidebar:
The event has a full description along with a location map. Each member gets one free listing which can be renewed when the current event expires.
This is one of my favorite site features! We are using a Google map app to pin our members:
Click on the pin and you will see the member's logo and a link to their profile page. If there is a congested cluster, just zoom in to see them more closely. I love how diverse we are becoming and long to see the day when there is more than one lonely pin in Africa! Right now, that is Oshiwa Designs in Namibia. This is a great way for members to find each other and for buyers and students to support their local artists and businesses. I also love imagining a road trip, thinking, I can stop here and here and here and here along the way, meeting wonderful TAFA members at every step of the way!
As our name implies, we do have a list of members. There is button next to the search bar that says exactly that, "The List". Click on it and you will see our members, 100 to a page in alphabetical order:
The first two images link to the member profile: People photo and logo. The other four are products and link to their product pages. The name also links to the member profile. Below that is a one-liner that the member uses to describe themselves in a nutshell: We are all very cool!
If you love handmade textiles and fiber art, then you will love TAFA. And, many of our members also make or sell supplies and tools, so be sure to look for them as well. We have gorgeous hand-spun yarns, home-grown fleece, natural dye suppliers, hand-made spinning wheels, vintage textile stamps and much more.
Come and explore and if you like what you see, spread the word! So far, only a third of our members are up and we know that we will continue to grow and become better and better. We have come a long way in two years! It makes me excited to think of where we will be next year, the year after or when I turn 60! You can be a part of it. Sign into the site and start interacting with an incredibly talented group of people who have a world to offer! And, support them with your buying power, too.