We took some time to visit with Andreas Thomson who helped Sprigs get their online store and website working again after failed attempts by previous developers. Using WordPress as the CMS and FoxyCart to handle the ecommerce side of things, Thomson was able to launch and maintain a successful website that had all of the necessary features and functionality needed by the company.
Hello! Who are you? What’s your company? How’d you get started in web development?
My name is Andreas Thomson. I got started in online businesses in the mid 1990s when I had a site built for a retail store I owned. Back then, ecommerce was questionable - would people actually submit their credit cards over 28.8k modems? My choices ended up being $40k for a website with a form-like interface for managing products, or $800 for an HMTL site and lessons from the developer on how to make simple updates. And neither included any kind of credit card processing. Considering we started the entire brick and mortar store on less than $75k we went the $800 route.
I learned enough HTML to be dangerous and waste a lot of time trying to update my store. Fastforward seven or eight years, I was living in New York and working with a guy named David Ries at a web development company. I worked in sales where I would hear all sorts of stories about web developers flaking, never completing projects and in general over promising/under delivering. As a sales person, I took pride in the fact David and his team were different.
Could you describe this project? What was the goal? What was the vision?
Sprigs wanted a full-featured ecommerce site to promote and sell our line of yoga clothing, clothing accessories and Banjees wrist wallets. In March of last year, we hired a company to create the site for us.
We had a hard deadline for an August launch to coincide with our biggest trade show of the year. The developers we hired promised we would be done with plenty of time, however it was a crunch right up to the last minute. And then the site crashed; repeatedly over the course of the first few days.
The site that launched was missing features we had said we wanted from the very beginning such as coupon codes (they hard coded one for our trade show, but never gave us a way to update them) and a way to easily import sales into QuickBooks. There were quite a few other things that the developers never delivered but those were 2 big ones.
What were your roles and responsibilities in this project?
I was brought in in November to help wrap up the site. More specifically, to help the developers find a way to get the orders into QuickBooks, but what I unearthed was shocking. For example:
- There was no selection for Washington DC in the drop-down boxes for State in the billing/shipping addresses of the checkout.
- There was no way to enter a different name for shipping address than what you entered in the billing address information.
- There was no way to change the quantity of an item selected in the shopping cart. You had to go back to the item to add more. And if you wanted less than you selected, you had to remove the item from you cart entirely, go back to the item and add the correct quantity.
- There was a “Confirm your order” page that did not list what you were ordering (only the addresses you entered and total cost). Additionally it did not state it was an order confirmation page. The first few times I saw it I thought it was the receipt page. And I wasn’t alone in this. Google Analytics showed a 30% exit rate from this page. So nearly ⅓ of all people that submitted their credit cards left the site before actually submitting their order!
- And the list goes on. My first thorough round of QA resulted in a list with over 50 issues.
Ultimately, I joined Sprigs in January to head-up a project to replatforming the site and then be in charge of ecommerce as well as other technical projects.
How’d you find FoxyCart, and what need or problem drove you to choose FoxyCart over other options?
We tried working with the original developers to fix the issues, but they only addressed the most simple issues (like adding DC to the States drop-down) and were slow in doing so. Additionally, we started finding more errors. Finally the CEO of Sprigs asked me what we could do to start over. I recommended keeping the design, organization and flow but moving to a better platform (turns out the original developers tried to take work they had done for another company and re-purpose it.) I took the opportunity to reach out to David Ries and ask what he could do. His recommendation was WordPress as a CMS and Foxycart.
How was FoxyCart able to meet the need or problem?
Being a developer with knowledge of PHP and CSS David was excited by the flexibility Foxycart offers. As he told me when he first recommended it, “It is built by developers for developers.”
As a merchant and project manager, I was thrilled how quickly David was able to implement the cart after creating the custom WordPress theme our site uses and the admin (in WordPress) for managing items. He made it seem seamless. I was also thrilled to find it offered just about everything we need. And if it doesn’t there is probably a service that plays nicely with FoxyCart that will.
What was your experience with using FoxyCart?
It has been great. It is full featured, but simple to use. It is intuitive for shoppers on our site. I am excited with how well it has integrated with our 3PL and with the prospect of connecting to QuickBooks.
What surprised you about working with FoxyCart?
The detailed transaction report. If there was a sample report available on the site, it would have assuaged any concerns remaining after reviewing www.foxycart.com.
The powerful yet easy to use coupon codes and discounts were the also a surprise. I expected coupon codes, but discounts surprised me.
What would you say to other Developers/Designers/Merchants who are looking for an ecommerce solution?
My advice goes out to merchants:
- Consider FoxyCart. Unless you have complicated products you probably do not need a custom developed shopping cart and checkout. The 3rd party systems out there have matured and benefited from others who have come before you. FoxyCart is a good, flexible, inexpensive option.
- Find a developer you can trust. This is easier said than done, but a good, smart developer can make a project successful. This may not be the appropriate forum to make a recommendation, but David Ries is great - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Do your homework. Review the forums and wikis of systems you plan on using. Additionally, Google them along with qualifiers like “sucks” or “downtime” or “crashes.”
- Hone-up on your project management skills. At the end of the day, the project is your responsibility.