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omfitnessstore.com

omfitnessstore

Yes, one dedicated designer can build an entire E-commerce store using Drupal 7, Drupal Commerce, and a small group of smart little modules!

Without any PHP or HTML coding knowledge, or an understanding of hooks, or the ability to create custom code changes (beyond a daunting amount of CSS customizations), it's possible for one person to create a CMS-driven online, custom-themed store that actually generates revenue! That's the power of Drupal.

Bikes, Gear & More was built by Thrive Multimedia (a.k.a. Jeff Houde), which partnered up with a Vancouver-based cycling store called The Bike Gallery. The website is dedicated to providing cyclists with access to high-end Bikes, Gear, Parts and Wear at Sale and Clearance prices, and boasts a selection of high-quality, brand-name equipment and clothing.

Why Drupal was chosen: 

I chose Drupal 7 after having had a positive experience with Drupal 6 and wanting to take my first shot at implementing the new Drupal Commerce package (having used Ubercart in the past with mixed results). I spent several weeks designing the features, planning out the structure of the website and coming up with content mock-ups before confirming that Drupal Commerce had the necessary modules - either in release or development versions - to fulfill the design.

Given that this was to be a fairly large e-commerce site, with between 1000-2000 product variations, it seemed clear that a CMS was required. But, more than just a CMS, Drupal was the natural choice because it was evident early on that I would need four different product displays and four different product variation types (one for each display type) to allow for the customization of specs, videos, and information that one encounters when selling products as varied as high-end bikes, baskets, chains, and jerseys - all in one store.

Describe the project (goals, requirements and outcome): 

The development mission was clear - create an easy to navigate, simple, and mobile-friendly website that cyclists of all skill levels would embrace for their online shopping.

The design mission was a little more difficult, as the website needed to have the bright colors and vibrant approach of a "deals"/"clearance" site, but maintain the elegance and polish associated with the brands that we carry (which includes bikes up to $15,000). With those two elements clearly in mind, I embraced a four-color design scheme, crafted a relatively bright logo, repeatedly used an orange gradient as a highlight color, but kept the navigation and buttons more reserved with a simple black and beige combination for a hint of luxury and classic style.

Early on I made the decision, based on the expected inventory, to classify the products into four categories - Bikes, Gear, Parts and Wear. To facilitate all four, not only was a basic Taxonomy set up, but four different product variation and product display types were created. The result was a clear way to differentiate the displays for different product types, although the design required all of the products to share the same basic visual presentation.

To cut down on the sheer number of products offered (and reduce the need for duplicate product entries based on size, color, etc), a rather complex series of Product Attributes were used (thanks to Commerce Product Attributes and Commerce Fancy Attributes) that not only allowed for the presentation of bike sizes, clothing sizes, and parts dimensions, but also allow for color options across all product types. Using custom fields in each of the product variations, the "rendered term" selection of the attribute field settings and a large number of custom graphics created in Photoshop, this was achieved visually with the use of small thumbnails that shoppers can easily spot next to the add to cart button.


Modules/Themes/Distributions
Why these modules/theme/distribution were chosen: 

Commerce Kickstart was chosen as a stepping off point, as I knew I wanted to work off the Omega theme, and there were enough supporting Commerce modules in place before I began to ensure that the project's basic needs were met (including a Moneris Payment Gateway and UPS/Canada Post Shipping Service).

The Omega Kickstart theme was the natural choice as it was designed to work specifically with Drupal Commerce, and offered the power of Omega for creating a responsive version of the site, which is now a necessity with any e-commerce website. The theme visible on the site is not a sub-theme, but rather the Omega Kickstart base theme, with a significant amount of custom CSS used to allow for the fulfillment of the design. Although, not sub-theming is sometimes frowned upon as it can make updating the site a bit tricky, I've found no real problems with any of the Kickstart theme updates.

In regards to the responsive design - which can be quite intimidating to anyone new to this wild web development process, I have to say that working with the Omega platform for the first time has been really enjoyable. Specifically with the customizable content zones and media query break points which were easily configured and made the mobile development fairly easy. The concepts required a tutorial or two to wrap my head around, but, once there, it was easy to manipulate the layout.

Views were used for all the product teaser displays, providing a simple, uniform style (image, title, price - all linked to node) throughout the site to guide shoppers to product nodes. Not only are views used on the front page for automatically updated teaser displays (i.e. new products added to the store, etc.), but also provided a handy way to make product recommendations to shoppers on any given product display page, in addition to collecting and presenting all products tagged as being "Clearance", "Sale" or produced by a specific manufacturer.

In addition to front-end presentation, I used the admin views to provide important sources of information regarding the products. By creating custom fields for both Margin Amount and Margin Percentage in the product displays, I was able to use these as sorts on my back-end product lists, which has proved valuable when deciding which new ad materials to create, or which new products to promote within the store, etc. (allowing me to know which products are most financially beneficial to advertise). As well, these new fields allow for front-end displays to be sorted by Margin $, so that certain views provide teasers of the store's most profitable products to the shopper first, while those products with less margin are found deeper within the views grids (and generally several pages in).

Block Class is a small, simple module that makes it easy to assign a CSS class to any block you're creating. When you're as heavily reliant on CSS customizations for layout and design as I have been, this module is a great little tool that saves time. I often find that these small, little helper modules, when combined together, make the entire framework much more efficient (at least in terms of the development time) and make the entire Drupal platform more robust and desirable to work with when you're someone who lacks the knowledge to custom-code a site from scratch.

Search API - again, as the Commerce Guys have suggested with their Kickstart approach, the Search API module not only provided search functionality, but also worked in conjunction with Views to provide search facets and sorts for the lists of products. With the combination of these two modules, shoppers can easily and quickly focus in on the products they're looking for, and sort them based on price, title, etc. When your goal is to create an interface that is easy to navigate (especially with a wide variety of products), the importance of this type of functionality cannot be underestimated.

Rules are not only a part of the Commerce package, but they quickly became the go-to solution for problems including setting up shipping parameters for free shipping within North America on orders over $150, creating new email messages (using Message Notify) and providing add-to-cart messages for products which can't be shipped because of dealer agreements. This is the deep-end of the Drupal pool, and I've pulled my hair out more than a few times trying to make finicky rules work, but the more you learn it, the smarter your e-commerce automation is - and that means that knowing rules isn't just an option, it's a requirement (but it's really cool when you figure it out!)

As this project is housed on a shared host through it's start-up and initial marketing phases, the use of the Boost module was pretty much a necessity - especially when considering the number of style sheets, image assets, etc. that are required for the majority of pages. As expected, Boost, running with the Boost Crawler, has resulted in a significant increase in page-load speeds - which when you're presenting an online store, is crucial.

Also of note is the use of the Field Group module, which allowed for the tabbed elements within each product display. This proved to be a valuable tool as the goal was to create simple, clean product pages that were easy to read and uncluttered by loads of product information. Many of the products sold have 10-15 important specs (technical specifications) which need to be presented to shoppers who are often knowledgeable cyclists looking for certain technical info. I made the decision to tab three categories of information - 1. basic description; 2. specs for each product variation type; 3. videos (when the manufacturer had created a quality video presentation to help sell their product). The result was on target, with shoppers quickly having the info they want, but when the product page opens, it's not visually overwhelming.

On the product display pages, CKEditor and IMCE were used as the WYSIWYG solution, which was particularly important, as the design plan called for the use of "badges" that would visually indicate important information such as warranty length, staff's favorite products, etc. In addition, small manufacturer's logos were placed in the bottom of each description area which link back to view displays of all of the products within the store produced by that specific manufacturer. As our core cycling demographic tends to be quite loyal to individual brands, this taxonomy based display (handled by Views) and its logo-image linking was considered an important sales element in the node display design.

Community contributions: 

Beyond testing and reporting on the modules used, (i.e., Commerce Canada Post, Feedback Simple, and Commerce Kickstart) no other contributions were made to the Drupal community, as no custom modules were required.

I would like to express my thanks to the Drupal community and specifically to the great team at Commerce Guys, for everyone's help in dealing with bugs, providing tutorial videos (i.e. for subjects like rules implementations - I'm looking at you, rfay and rszrama ) and of course, for the continuing stream of custom modules that keep solving the walls we all bump into from time to time.

The reason I use Drupal and continue to advertise its benefits to anyone who asks is because of the coders, programmers, and developers that slog away long hours in front of their screens making Drupal just a little bit better every single day.

Project team: 

The team was one very stubborn, dedicated designer (with no social life to speak of) and his trusty companion - a Maltese Puppy named Brutus who was mostly there for morale reasons (his coding skills are terrible).

The extended team included Stephen, Peter and Jay of the Bike Gallery Bike Shop in Vancouver B.C. They provided basic info on the products that they felt were appropriate for the site (the basic requirements being that the products be ones that these avid cyclists felt comfortable recommending to their peers).

Team members: 
Usability: 
3
Credibility: 
3
Google Popularity: 
4

It’s true, usability has become a commodity.
Over the past few years, we have gotten used to certain standards in web design. In order to make a lasting impression on your visitors, you need to build experiences that go beyond those of a plain, usable website. This does not mean usability has become any less important. It just takes on a different role in web design, now forming the basis for a great user experience.
Usability means user-centered design. Both the design and development process are focussed around the prospective user — to make sure their goals, mental models, and requirements are met — to build products that are efficient and easy to use.

Let’s start with a basic, yet central aspect of usability: the availability and accessibility of your site. If people try to access your website and it doesn’t work — for whatever reason –your website becomes worthless.
Here are a few of the basics of availability and accessibility,

  • Server uptime – It’s important to ensure your visitors don’t get an error trying to load your site. Invest in good hosting.
  • Broken links – Double check that there are no dead links on your site.  Nothing sends a visitor back to Google search results faster than a 404 page.
  • Mobile responsiveness –  Make sure your site can handle different screen sizes and slow connections.

You could say the core of usability is clarity.

If you distract or confuse your visitors, they will either need more time to find what they came for, or they might forget their initial goal all together. Either way, they will not experience your website as user-friendly and chances are that they leave dissatisfied and with no intention of coming back.

Visitors come to your site with certain goals in mind. It is your job to help them reach these goals as quickly as possible. If you can manage to do that, your visitors will be pleased and you have laid the groundwork for a positive experience.

A clear and usable design can be achieved through:

  • Simplicity – Focus on what’s important. If you don’t distract your vistors they will be more likely to do what you want them to do.
  • Familiarity – Stick to what people already know. There is nothing wrong with looking at other sites for inspiration. 
  • Consistency – Don’t get cute.  Create a consistent experience across your entire website to keep your visitors mind at ease.
  • Guidance – Take your visitors by the hand. Don’t expect your visitors to explore your site all on their own. Instead, guide them through your site and show them what you have to offer. 
  • Direct feedback – Feedback is essential to any interaction. The moment people interact with your site, make sure to offer an indication of success or failure of their actions. 
  • Good information architecture – Understand your visitors’ mental models and how they would expect you to structure the content on your site.

Learnability is another important aspect of usability.

It should be your goal to design intuitive interfaces — interfaces that don’t require instructions, or even a long process of trial and error to figure them out. Key to intuitive design is to make use of what people already know, or create something new that is easy to learn.

By now, people are familiar with a lot of design concepts used on the web. By using these concepts consistently, you meet your visitors’ expectations. This way, you help them reach their goals more quickly. As human beings, we like patterns and recognition, which is why we are better at handling familiar situations rather than unfamiliar ones.

If you use new concepts in your design, make sure to use them consistently and give people a hand during the initial learning phase. For example, you can offer additional information, or instructions the first time they use your site or product. Keep it simple and visual to help people remember new concepts.

 

While the design is very fresh and modern, the layout of the site is classical and in line with what most of us know about websites. At the top left, there is the logo telling us where we are. On the top right, there is a search field, allowing us to search the site for any random term. Below, there is the top navigation menu featuring the central content categories of the site. When clicking on the links, we get a dropdown menu with all the content available within that category.

Then, there is a big visual header element which alternates between four different images. The header is followed by what we know as content area with a vertical sub navigation menu featuring different topics that can be “discovered” and some highlighted content. Below that, there is a social media section and a comprehensive footer area which features Other Microsoft Sites and a lot more secondary links.

The site is very clean and easy to navigate. The familiar layout helps people to quickly find what they are looking for.

 

Credibility is a crucial aspect of any website.
Even if people find the content they are looking for, if they don’t trust you, that content is worthless. Your website could cause site visitors to be skeptical about your business in any number of ways including whether or not you really exist, your reputation, or the quality of your content.
It is important that people know you are a real company with real people. Offer a clear “About Us” page together with your contact details and if possible a physical address.
Of course your content also plays an important role for the perceived trustworthiness of your site. Make sure you are honest and precise about your content. Avoid mistakes, such as incorrect grammar or misspellings. Don’t be modest about your expertise. If you are an expert in your field, make sure people know it. For example, you can show third-party testimonials, work references, or the number of your social media followers to win your visitors over.
 
Besides the professional design, which matches the exquisite reputation of the brand, they offer a lot of high quality content to demonstrate their expertise.
For example, an entire content section covers information about Research and Innovation. This shows the engagement of the brand in professional research and reflects the high quality of its products. Another content section addresses Commitments, demonstrating that the brand takes its social responsibilities seriously.
Besides the actual research, the brand also makes use of expert testimonials and photographs of celebrities, such as Julia Roberts, to convince people of the quality and popularity of their products.
 
Another trust indicator is that it is very easy to get in contact with L’ORÉAL. The brand is not only available via social media, but also a physical address and phone number is easy to find.

Last but not least, relevancy contributes to good website usability.

It is not enough that your website is clear, your content must also be relevant. Again, it is essential that you know your users and why they visit your site.

Start with defining who your users are. Second, talk to them to find out what their goals are when visiting your site.

 

Third, define user scenarios that demonstrate in which situation people visit your site to find what kind of content.

Any design decision that you make should result in a more user-friendly website for your users.

 

The brand offers sportswear and equipment for different sports. When coming to their website, you can either choose to browse their store by Men, Women, or Kids, or you can browse by sports.  Instead of only grouping people by their age or gender, Nike recognizes their visitors as sportspeople within a certain discipline.

For example, if you are looking for new running shoes, you don’t even care about all the tennis or indoor sports shoes they also have. Nike allows you to browse their store according to your very specific goal.

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