We thought it might be interesting for customers to know a little about the work we are doing behind the scenes at Gingerparts – it’s Winter after all, so no bikes on the road!
Well, we’re very busy working on our data models. You know, the stuff that makes the site show the right products in the right way. It’s a much under-rated exercise on most sites, because without good data, mistakes happen. Plus, it keeps us warm all that typing, importing, exporting, associating and checking!
For us, this has been a long drawn-out part of our migration plan from Gingerparts’ earlier e-commerce system. Truth be known, that system was full of technical problems that were holding us back so the move, whilst a complex matrix of issues and decisions, was one of the best things we have done since we started selling online in 2005. (Nick bought the site in 2007, so he’s been at the coalface for 5.5 years now!)
Due to the issues mentioned above, we weren’t able to easily check our products and categories, let alone fix them. So when we moved to our new platform (known as Magento to those in the know) we knew we had a lot of work to do. This included tidying up some issues that crept in when we migrated the site.
Many people think e-commerce is easy… well the truth is not quite that simple! Sure, it’s easy if you have a limited product range – but we have hundred’s of thousands of parts we are adding to the site.
We’ve had to rework how we were doing our product names, update all of our pricing (parts catalogues change at least every year), try to write and reformat our product descriptions, make sure products were in their correct categories, create and assign product attributes (things like ‘exhaust length’ e.g. these stubby stainless steel, round exhausts!), work out how to make useful product associations (see the bit that says “You may also be interested in the following product(s)“, and click “See more”), assign product brands, and design the site to accomodate all sorts of new features we have planned in the coming year. Jake and our content team (frequently includes Nick and Darryl too) have been VERY busy!
But the biggest part of our work has been on our Bike Finder – the bit on the site below the header that directs you to your very specific bike page e.g. the
Yamaha FZS 600 Fazer 2000 (note the lovely url /bike/yamaha-fzs-600-fazer-2000/!). Motorcycles are complex! Sometimes a part can fit (almost) every bike e.g. a universal tail tidy. Sometimes many bikes. Sometimes only one bike make. Sometimes only a range of a bike make. And sometimes only one specific bike! Easy, eh?
One of the biggest revelations in all this is the realisation that e-commerce systems are generally product based, whereas parts, by definition, are vehicle based! Seems obvious when someone points it out, but believe me, it wasn’t too obvious for a long time!
So, starting with a product-based e-commerce system, we’ve had to build, test and integrate a very sophisticated vehicle-based extension to make it work just the way we want it. Again, this sounds easy, but when you break it down to things like ’add product(s) to bike(s)’, ‘add bike(s) to product(s)’, and ‘add new bike(s)’ for all the different product/bike combinations mentioned above… well, it’s a bit of a head melter. Luckily we have a great development team at Banjax to work this stuff out with us!
Some of these things are largely invisible to customers, as it should be. For instance our Bike Finder should be fast – it is now, at least twice as fast as several months ago, and will get faster yet as we optimise our server set up. Many things are discoverable i.e. you only notice them in time as you use the site, then they should also fee, well, obvious, like they belong where they are.
The Gingerparts.com site is a work in progress. We have a very long roadmap for what we want to do to make it easy and pleasurable to buy with confidence. But we’d also like to get your suggestions on how to improve the site. We may not agree (hey, we’re opinionated SOBs!), but if we do, it will help us to add things we hadn’t thought about and prioritise our efforts.
We hope you like what we are doing – there’s a lot more to come!
Just leave a comment below if you want to talk about anything related to how our site works. We’d love to know what you think! Thanks.