Eric recently posted about a client’s handwritten thank you note for some custom ecommerce development we did. After reading his post I wanted to expand on a few items he referenced and offer some reasons for why we build custom ecommerce websites rather than using a boxed turnkey solution.
The great thing about the USIC project was that it was so much more than a one-off ecommerce store front. What we really built was a customizable, skinnable, ecommerce web engine that offers direct ERP integration. One of the goals of this project was to create an engine that could be customized with very little design time. Because this ecommerce engine is meant to serve multiple markets for closed audiences (invitation only, employees only, etc.) the client was more concerned with functionality than with creative bells and whistles. These sites are not meant to serve your traditional retail customer.
Some of the measures of success for this particular client were time to market, cost to customize for other programs, and ability for developers, not designers, to create themed sites. This will allow a greater number of developers to release a greater number of customized themes in a shorter amount of time. If all goes as planned, this ecommerce engine will support hundreds of similar sites for this client.
Compare and contrast the above with some of our recent work for B2B ecommerce clients where design was more of a factor.
Checker Distributors – Not only did we provide them with a custom ecommerce design, we built for them a color analysis tool that catalogs the entire color spectrum found in each individual fabric found on the site. (Across 30,000 fabrics that represents almost 500 billion color values!)
Schweppe – Schweppe distributes professional kitchen products and serves a wide B2B market as well as a retail market. They needed a site that was polished but not overly creative for the B2B crowd.
Toolweb – This will forever be a favorite project of mine, if for no other reason than their requirement for us to make the pages difficult to steal product data from. They basically asked us to break every SEO rule in the book to ensure bots couldn’t easily steal their product information across tens of thousands of dynamically generated pages. We complied by building real-time image watermarking, velocity controls, and rendering all product descriptions in a Flash format that renders on-the-fly. We also built an engine that allows Toolweb to outsource their data to approved third-parties and have their own real-time image watermarking applied.
This is what I love about our group. Four ecommerce projects from four different clients ended up being nothing alike yet all were accommodated in their individual needs. This is why we love building custom solutions. Flexibility up and down the chain!
In the works are nine more custom ecommerce solutions for three different clients. We’re currently in the strategy and planning phase with these clients so I can’t share any more at the moment. My hope is that I’ll be able to share some of our strategy and planning methods once we conclude these sessions. Check back for details!