Building a new website is always quite a job. It often takes longer and requires more effort than one expects at the outset. The previous vnl.co.za website was built on a custom Content Management System (CMS) and lasted 5 years. That is a good life for a website, but then a great deal has changed in this period! The world moved to the Web 2.0 with its social networking, far greater levels of interaction and it was time for us to move on.
The way we interact with our customers and the world is also changing fast. I am trying to reduce email newsletters to the absolute minimum. By using the likes of RSS, Twitter or Facebook pages, we can ensure that those who are interested in hearing from us, get smaller bits of news from us the way they want it.
We wanted the new site to be interactive, contain the eStore and blog directly, as well as have one database for customer login info, product information and the like. We had to get rid of all Flash components as they do not work on iPads or iPhones. The previous site has a separate blog and eStore, which meant a lot of duplication. It also reduced Google analytics impact, with traffic spread across 3 sites, as opposed to all concentrated in just one site.
Janina Otto and I worked out what we wanted from the new site and went out to tender for a new WordPress based site, to a few web builders in the Cape region. The quotes varied hugely. In the end we went with Generator Interactive who also built the previous site.
They were not the cheapest and not the most expensive either. Some of the companies said what we wanted, could not be done on the WordPress platform. The highest quite was 400% higher than the Generator quote. Unbelievable!
Bruce Harrod quickly worked out how to run the new site on a single platform, with the OSCommerce eStore on top of WordPress and sharing a single database across the whole system. We asked BridgeBrand Communications to help with the look and feel. Bruce later helped refine the look and feel with a simpler, fresher interface as goal. I think they all did a great job and am very happy with the new look – I hope you enjoy it too!
Janina spent many hours getting the content right and it is still a work in progress. We will add more images to the new galleries, update the content and refine the site.
The beauty of the OpenSource (ie Free!) WordPress platform, is that it allows us a great deal of flexibility and control going forward. It allows offers a ton of plug-ins to the likes of Facebook, Twitter, RSS feeds etc etc.
Shake Interactive has helped with preserving the bulk of our SEO (search engine optimization) information and links. There is always an impact when you change the whole site, but it was inevitable. Hopefully we will reap the rewards of a single, optimized site in terms of traffic and it will show in our key Google rankings.
Please let us know if you spot errors or have some problems with the new site!