It all started on a dusty subdomain
It was more than 5 years ago that I opened the doors of The Hand Tool School. Every bit of the business was built myself on a shoestring (read: none) budget. I duct taped it onto my Renaissance Woodworker site and began cranking out lesson videos. People obviously liked what I was doing because they kept signing up. I took those funds and plugged them back into the business by investing in new hosting for the site and intelligent media servers to speed up delivery of the videos then did my first redesign of the school site (with the knowledge I gained from training) and moved it to its own domain where it lives today.
But There Comes a Time When You Have to Give Up Control
Fast forward to the summer of 2014 and I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to put out fires on a website that frankly looked a lot like a house of cards in a stiff breeze. Somehow I held it together but saw a major drop in my content production that had me falling further and further behind on my goals to not only produce great lessons, but grow the business to a point where I could focus on it full time.
I needed help!!
I had a long talk with myself about what I absolutely needed to do and it all came down to the creation of the videos. Everything else could be delegated to someone else…more importantly, something else. Software automation tools are amazing these days and I immediately began my research to figure out what tools I needed to take these other tasks off my plate. At the same time, I found a web developer who specializes in membership sites and engaged him to help me make something magical.
There is a HUGE amount of content on the site and members kept telling me they needed a better way to find it all. The back end membership software was more a hindrance than an aid to my business and needed to go. The mobile friendly nature of the site was only slightly friendlier than a junk yard dog. Finally I had spent the better part of 2 months ensconced in user interface design and user experience courses to figure out how to create a better learning environment for my site. Armed with this and visions of grandeur we set out on the quest to revolutionize The Hand Tool School. This business will always be a work in progress, that’s one of the things that makes it so much fun to run. But here are some steps in the right direction:
It is Easier to Find Stuff
Now that I have some technical help we are changing how things are organized and we have added site wide tagging that will make it very easy to find any techniques or even tools used. So if you are watching me shape a curve with a spokeshave, you just click on the spokeshave tag on the bottom of the screen and you will be whisked away to a list of content all about setting up spokeshaves, buying them, using them, etc across lessons, tool library articles, forum posts, and even live broadcasts. It should make all of this content much easier to find when the need arises in whatever you are building.
Separate the Projects and Semesters
There is a LOT of behind the scenes stuff giving me flexibility to do things I never could before with our semesters product model. First I will be doing more one off projects in addition to the semester format. This will make a nice break from the formal structure of a semester but also a great lower cost option for those not interested in the semester format
Semesters will continue as I firmly believe in the effectiveness of a lesson and applied project method of education. However I will now be able to get very specific with our themes allowing me to go into even greater detail than you have come to expect from me. There will still be lesson and applied project but less emphasis on bigger projects. That’s what the one off project products will be about.
In the future you can expect that I will break up the existing semester products to separate out their projects as well and offer a different pricing structure.
What is a School Without Community
I have made major steps forward on the community software and we now have a very slick and easy to use community forum with extended user profiles and a great achievement system designed to gamify the whole experience. And you only need to drag ‘n drop images and videos to post them right into your thread. AND there is a nifty preview window so you can see exactly what you are posting. Y’see I do listen to what my members tell me!
And speaking of the community, I’m releasing this new product called Apprenticeship. This is the single most exciting thing I have ever done with The Hand Tool School and I can’t wait to roll it out. That’s all I will say about it for now.
Yes I know, I’m a tease but I’ll be writing a separate post just to talk about Apprenticeship.
So Now What?
There will be more development and cooler, easy to use features in the future. All of which will be guided by my members as they use the new site. More importantly, there will be more new lessons and project!
So if you’re reading this and are already a member, tell me what you think.
If you’re not a member here, then what are you waiting for? Take a look around and let me know if you have questions. Or just consider joining our email list to stay up to date on new developments here. I’ll also send you a series of videos that will get to the heart of my philosophy for the school and why I think it is the most effective woodworking learning platform on the web!
We just level’ed up our business so we can help you level up your woodworking.
What do you think of the look of the new school site and the features I talk about above? What would you like to see in the future that would make you want to join in on the fun here?