Australian Gifts Online is an Australian family business, owned by Paul and Jill Leach who have been selling online since February 2006. Last year, they decided to move their storefront to join the Magento Community. However, since they are constantly moving forward to keep up with the latest e-commerce trends, Paul approached Inchoo Australia’s office in Sydney looking towards improving the overall user experience, Magento design and performance.
The project was assigned to our Chiba Team (located in Novi Sad, Serbia). I was the project leader and front-end developer, while Nikola Stojiljkovic was responsible for all back-end tasks and Lyssandro Reis was providing support and facilitating the communication. Our design partner for this project was Zorin Radovancevic, we worked together to provide a fresh new look for Australian Gifts Online.
The project had a strict deadline; Paul wanted the website live before the busy sales period that starts in October and goes all the way to Christmas. We accepted the challenge and intensified communication and validation of every step with the client so that we make the best use of time.
We began by performing a website assessment where we found a lot of third-party extensions that were not compatible with each other. Paul also had some bad experience with those extensions, so we agreed that we needed to concentrate on functionality and only use extensions that are well known and proven to work properly. We started everything from scratch and ended up with fewer extensions and some custom code.
Although the previous website was also built with Magento, it was relatively new to Paul. He needed an easy way of filtering products on the storefront so, we introduced the attribute and layered navigation functionality. Paul is always planning ahead, so we made attributes and guidelines for filters that are yet to be created. Planning ahead for scalability is a must; we always work towards instructing our clients on how to make things easier to manage as they add more products and categories.
During the development phase, we worked towards understanding the client’s needs from the functionality standpoint. This process takes into consideration the project’s budget, performance and stability of the system. In order to do that, we carefully evaluated third-party extensions and decided what would be achieved using custom coding.
The time spent choosing the right solution will save a lot of headaches when upgrading the system and maintaining the store.
Since we had previous experience with integrating similar functionalities, we managed to do it within the budget while covering all of the key functionalities. However, it would not be possible without Paul’s active collaboration and understanding of the daily Magento maintenance and operation tasks, in view of his business’ internal processes.
Before going live with the newly developed website, everything needed to be transferred to our local and development servers; while the live website was still taking orders, accepting payments and daily product inclusions. The database migration was one of the most complex tasks of this project.
In an open-source environment such as the Magento Community – with several different core versions along with the modifications made by the extensions that were in use, the database structure was quite different from what we would expect. For this reason, the database migration involved a detailed and careful work.
In order to adapt the structure and perform the database transfer, Nikola created scripts and used an migration method that is very specific for this project. While we were still drawing the new wire-frames, Nikola was already assessing the database and planning for this migration.
When the development kicked into high-gear he adapted the database for our new project environment and finally upgraded and merged the database with the live data for preparing the site to deployment.
The launch of the new website was successful and we had minimal outage. Some minor problems with transactional emails were sorted in able time and we handled the project to our consulting team.
Words from the client
As per our tradition, we put together a couple of questions and asked Paul to give us his thoughts on how the project went.
Paul, could you provide a few words about our methodology and how the project developed itself?
I felt that the methodology used to complete the project worked very well. From the start I had a clear idea of what needed to be done, in which order it was going to be done and how long each task was going to take. The team worked very hard to stick to my budget, time-frame expected and kept me updated with the progress at all times.
We are huge advocates of removing the middleman and closing the gap between clients, developers and designers. We believe that at the end, you will have learnt more about Magento and will be empowered to manage and utilise your online store. In your opinion could you explain why this approach was/was not beneficial to you?
I enjoyed the way that I worked directly with the team members. The ability to communicate through Active Collab and Skype meant that we were able to move the project forward much quicker. I felt that I learnt a lot about not only my store but also the overall Magento system.
Would you provide some feedback/ideas about what you felt worked or what could be improved upon which may help us to provide better service to our clients?
The only thing I would say is that Active Collab is not that user friendly. It seems almost outdated and a bit clumsy.
We are looking forward to measuring the results of the overhaul and a long lasting relationship with Australian Gifts Online!