Working closely WITH a client and not just FOR them makes the job quicker, easier and better
HCS Crafts is a long established company with a long established online shop, as well as a truly wonderful bricks and mortar establishment in Stony Stratford High Street. Add the owner, Stephen, who knows his online shop inside out - all 13,000 products!
However, as with many sites that have been around for years, unless you want to change the image every few months, it will start to look out of date, and Stephen felt his existing website was not standing up to modern scrutiny; years of changes with the back end software, and changing bits and pieces to display goods in different ways had left a bit of a patchwork affair.
The brief was therefore simple - change the look from top to bottom.
As with many other existing sites, this never proves as simple as it seems, of course. E-commerce software is notorious for over complicated templating systems that make customisation either difficult, complex or extremely limited. Sorry, you cant have that title BIG because it is hard coded as small somewhere in the core! (Note, you never touch the core if you can help it or all of your hard won changes get overwritten the next time the software is upgraded).
In fact, the system that Stephen is using is a little bit better than many others, but it still took a a lot of investigation as to what layout was being produced by which file and stored in whatever directory.
This is where close collaboration with the client is vital. By making this a bit of a team project, I was able to use Stephens knowledge of his own site to track down the right files and to take the customisation as far as possible.
After that, it was a case of coming up with a new, fresh design and adding some tools to do things like even image sizes up, stopping older parts of the software pushing the new bits out of shape and so on.
The entire project took just under a week, including making up some nice new banners, taking a few photos or the shop, and doing a final check on the site before hitting the "Go live and keep your fingers crossed" button.
But the results are worth it, and we hope that visitors to the site will find the experience that much nicer - which at the end of the day is what it should be about; the customer.