E-Commerce Website Development: From Business Goals to Technical Solutions
We were introduced to this family-run, small business focused on manufacturing in 2018. This customer's CEO was in the beginning stages of his dream project and looking for an e-commerce software solution to allow customers to customize one of their manufactured products fully.
This was not our customer's first pursuit of the project. In their first attempt, after investing many resources into a software vendor, they did not receive the final result they hoped for. The pressure was on for us to deliver.
Web Development, Software Quality Testing
Angular 7, .NET Core, NoSQL, Cosmos DB, Azure
San Diego, CA, United States | Cairo, Egypt
Agile Web Development: Navigating Challenges in Creating a Single-Page E-commerce Website
With any project, there are twists and turns. Although our customer was a great partner throughout this project, new discoveries or unexpected roadblocks required us to re-evaluate, change course, and manage expectations accordingly. Below are some key challenges that ultimately led to the success of this custom e-commerce website development project.
Success with E-Commerce Website Development Starts with Trust
Our customer was highly cautious--and with good reason. This was a sizable e-commerce website development project, which meant a significant investment.
Their previous experience with a software vendor was not positive and delayed bringing their dream to fruition. We needed to prove that we were different and, given the chance, our dedication to their success would be unparalleled.
Our customer had been dreaming of this e-commerce software idea and contemplating different aspects of it for a long time.
They didn't have an extensive technical team, so we dove deep into their goals and business, understood the intended functionality, and translated that for our engineers to digest easily.
At the onset, there was no clear roadmap, and several new questions and desired features came up along the way.
Computerizing Over 5 Million SKUs of Uncomputerized Data
Our technical project lead studied a phonebook-sized catalog to understand the products and the amount of data we needed to computerize. The only information available was printed or in the brains of the company's salespeople.
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Agile Methodology in Web Development: Unveiling the Innovative Solution
Our experience with Agile web development was critical for this project, which started with high-level business requirements, a large dataset, and a lot of unknowns. Here's how we tackled these challenges.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
We wanted to demonstrate to our customer that they had made a great decision by putting their eggs in Integrant's basket. We found ways to show them they could trust us with an important project that had been in the works for so long.
We were so convinced we were the right team to work on this project that we immediately had our technical lead onsite and ready to work with the client team.
During his first visit to kick off the project, our technical project lead spent time getting to know the business, building relationships with the client team, and earning their trust inch by inch.
For example, our technical project lead asked specific questions that indicated we were covering all of our bases and involving the expertise of their business in our e-commerce website development solution.
Our technical project lead knew how important this project was to the client and fully invested himself and our team to get the job done right.
He learned the business inside out, studying their product catalog and thoroughly interviewing each sales staff as needed. He amassed a mountain of information to ensure he had all the pieces to orchestrate the project successfully.
He constantly communicated with our customer throughout the project, usually touching base daily. We consistently assessed the state of the project, communicated the impact of any desired modifications, and provided solution options.
This attention to detail, understanding of the goal and business, explanation of technical options and solutions, and relationship building with all customer team members positively reinforced to our client that we were the right people to entrust with this project.
Keepin' It Agile
In our experience, more things go right when you have precise requirements. If you want to hit a home run on a project, it means rolling with the punches and providing a seamless and positive experience with change.
To hone in on those requirements, our technical project lead, who needed to put on his business analyst hat, was able to convert our customer's business requirements (read: dreams) into technical requirements that our engineering team could then execute. We identified the user story descriptions and acceptance criteria.
However, implementing Agile web development practices helped us build the best e-commerce software for our customers. We drilled down at the beginning, took feedback each sprint, showed impact analysis for newly desired features based on how the web app was shaping up, and modified as needed.
We constantly asked if our goal was still the goal. Yes? Great. We showed the impact of adding specific features related to the goal and how that would affect what was already backlogged.
If items didn't match the goal, we put those items on a "nice-to-have" list to revisit later or add to our plan once the core features were complete.
Last-minute changes or roadblocks were OK with this approach. Our technical project lead presented the impact of each decision so our customer could make the most informed choices.
For example, in the last sprint of the project, we discovered from our customer that a required tax calculation was more complicated than initially anticipated.
Our technical project lead presented the solutions with the effect of each decision, and the customer decided to complete the agreed-upon features during the project period and extend a separate contract dedicated to the tax calculation.
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E-commerce Website Development: Building a Scalable Data Architecture with NoSQL
Due to the lack of uniformity of the dataset, our team felt that a NoSQL database was the way to go. To condense five million SKUs into just 33 NoSQL documents, they used CosmosDB, a schema-agnostic document database.
Did we mention that this information was uncomputerized, so there was no digital source? Our customer had to manually catalog each item digitally.
Our technical project lead dedicated most of his first three weeks onsite interviewing the sales team to understand the attributes and identify any anomalies to understand and design the dataset.
Each of the 33 documents contained common attributes for the product.
For example, all of the products for document one have a common attribute of the material: steel. From that attribute, the remaining products on that document are all permutations based on other factors such as size, type, color, etc.
Once we had our data schema set, we needed to find out if it would hold up against the ultimate test, the experts who know the product better than anyone: the sales team.
During the validation process, they relentlessly racked their brains--and the catalog--for the most obscure and unique products.
Ultimately, our data schema prevailed, but not without trial and error. After three weeks on site and several iterations later, we were happy to report we out-customized the sales team.
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This was indeed a one-team approach that led to our successful e-commerce website development. Despite needing to build and document requirements, change requirements, and architect a whole data schema, we could stay within budget and meet our deadlines.
This single-page e-commerce web application is officially in use, and our customer couldn't be happier. Using their new data schema, a patron selected--and our customer manufactured--a product that had never been sold before!
Customizing this dataset and website allowed our customer clientele to discover products they didn't even know they had in their catalogs.
We look forward to continuing a great partnership with this incredible team.
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