Building a New Website

Moving from NopCommerce to Shopify and building a brand new eCommerce website from scratch was a huge and exciting challenge for the Direct4x4 team.

I began working for the Direct4x4 team back in February and it was my task to promote the company and overhaul our external marketing and communications.

Coming from a tech background, I was familiar with many eCommerce platforms but the one Direct4x4 were using when I arrived was extremely difficult to work with as a newcomer to the company and the industry.

It was slow, difficult to integrate with other tools and a minefield for coders like myself who like to roll up our sleeves and customise every little detail of the site. 

We wanted to bring things in-house and even considered creating a whole new eCommerce website from scratch; I created a few basic wire-frames and test sites to see how that went. This was obviously going to be a mammoth undertaking for a small marketing team like ours.

Shopify eCommerce Mainframe

It became clear during this ‘probing’ phase that we would need to use an existing eCommerce platform to build on and in the end we settled on Shopify. Shopify was already being used by our German colleagues over at direct4x4.de and once we realised how much we could streamline our product line-up with Shopify’s Collection, Product, Variant system, it was a simple choice to make. We wrote up a brief project plan and got to work.

However, building a successful Shopify website is not as easy as one might initially think!

To make it sufficiently functional for the customer and our team members who use it every day, a lot of thought and effort needs to go into the structure, the layout and the quality of the content. You have to consider inventory management, payment gateways, courier and shipping integration, weights, taxes, privacy and security, search engine optimisation (SEO) and that’s just the tip of the crunchy lettuce!

We went through several iterations of the website you see today before settling on this one. Using a heavily modified version of Shopify’s own ‘Debut’ theme, we built something that meets our business needs and allows new and existing customers to efficiently find what they need in a reliable and pleasant web environment.

Coding the Direct4x4 Liquid Website

The most time consuming part of the whole process however, was importing all of our product lines and stock. As you know, Direct4x4 supply a vast array of different products for a wide range of vehicles. Our SKU count was in the tens of thousands. Streamlining these SKUs and updating the content associated with them, whilst still integrating with existing inventory control systems was an immense task that continues to this day.

Descriptions had to be fact checked, re-written and properly formatted, files had to be transferred en masse, all images on the site had to be re-created and then optimised and...well the task list went on and on.

We continue to work in an AGILE project management environment so not all of our product lines will be available from our website at launch. However, we will be adding more products all the time and we will continue to tweak and make improvements to the website on a regular basis so we fervently encourage you all to keep coming back to check for the latest 4x4 accessories and expedition camping gear.

We’d also really love to hear your feedback on the new website. If you have any comments, questions or bug reports, please comment below!


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