Website Design – Developing The Back End

The back end is a mysterious and dangerous place. Well, only if you don’t know the landscape or the language. Doing work on the back end of a website without proper training can feel like traveling to a new country without a guide or translator. Things may look familiar, but you don’t know where your going, nothing makes sense, and you can get into trouble very quickly. That’s exactly why companies like ours have highly skilled web developers. When free cookie cutter templates won’t cut it, real back end developers are the only ones who can connect the zeros and ones in just the right way.
The virtual city-scape from Tron Legacy.

 

E-Commerce Systems: A Tale of User Experience

Back end functionality can take a website from average, to exceptional, if implemented correctly. Often, people try to set up e-commerce systems on their own. Just as often, this leads to a nightmare for their online business and their web team. With e-commerce, you MUST get it right, the first time. Internet users are particularly notorious for identifying bad systems, finding seemingly unnoticeable problems, and forming long lasting opinions based on very short experiences. The buzz word in the world of e-commerce right now is User Experience! Anyone can read tutorials online and set up basic back end systems, but it takes a highly trained web developer to integrate e-commerce systems fluidly into a website’s overall user experience, and that why we are here!

An "e" in a basket, just a visual metaphor for e-commerce.

Back End Basics: Payment and Data Collection

We are often surprised about how little consumers generally know about the difficulties behind back end website programming. In an age of PayPal, Constant Contact, and Hub Spot, all of this simple back end stuff should be easy right? WRONG!

Payment Integration – Setting up online payment capabilities for your website is not simple as 1,2,3. Sure you can make a basic “Buy It Now” button using PayPal for practically nothing, but as I mentioned above, seamless integration with the user experience of your website is not as easy as one would think. More importantly, if you want tracking of orders, special criteria, dynamic calculations, itemized sales capabilities or anything else of that nature, your talking about back end development. People who try to do this without the proper training end up wasting a lot of time, and even worse, can loose customers from a batched e-payment system. Nothing turns off a client more that a scary error or misstep during the online payment process. Get it right, or people will run for the hills and call your website a scam.

Data Collection – Keeping track of data collected online is one of the most amazing things about the modern internet. Simple lists and tables are not too complicated, but the more information you start collecting, the more complex the system on the back end must be. Once you start to collect data of a complicated nature, back end development is a must. Remember, the point of all of this digital hulabaloo is to make things easier and efficient, not to cause confusion or hassles. Once again its the back end developers to the rescue. Never trust someone to collect, store, and organize data from an online system unless they know what they’re doing.

Classic scene from Jurassic Park - Newman Takes Control of The System
Never let this guy have your administrator’s password.  Jurassic Park

Advanced Back End Systems: A Labyrinth of Code

When it comes to modern e-commerce, things are getting really cool, and really confusing. It takes a special type of mind to design, develop, and maintain a complicated back end system. For example, we had a client that wanted a calendar widget for their website. Most of the features they wanted come right out of the box in a free plug-in. However, the client wanted some very special scheduling and e-commerce capabilities for this calendar. Their only hope was our back end development expert. The simple fact is that their is a X/Y spectrum of customization and complexity. The more customized a client wishes their website to be, the more complicated the system will become. (Thanks captain obvious…)

A big green labyrinth of hedges

The point I have been trying to make is that when it comes to web development, there are many options out there. More importantly, when it comes to delivering a customized, seamless, and intuitive user experience, the old adage holds true, “You get what you pay for!”

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Hollywood Ballroom Dance Center: New Custom Calendar

One of our favorite web clients, the Hollywood Ballroom Dance Center, LLC, has become very creative with the WordPress Ajax Event Calendar plugin.  This plugin is beautifully written and allows detailed entry of color-coded events.  It allows links, images, and maps in the event detail, which show in a modal window.   But because the Hollywood Ballroom Dance Center’s calendar is jam-packed, they needed an adjustment for their clientele.

 

Test Link

Hollywood Ballroom Dance Center using Ajax Event Calendar
hollywoodballroomDC.com uses Ajax Event Calendar

There is always something happening at the Hollywood Ballroom Dance Center.  On any particular day, the calendar may have six or seven entries.  That means that their calendar extends far down on the web page.   And when you are in the middle of the calendar, it’s easy to lose track of where you are.

To improve their user experience, Hollywood Ballroom Dance Center has created a header category to show the day of the week as well as the day number. We suppressed the date numbers that would show in the grid by default to avoid redundancy.  The result is a kinder cleaner experience for their dancers.

Take a glace at this Ajax Event Calendar.  With the color-coded categories, the extensive detail available for each event, and the clarity of presentation, the calendar is working well for the  Hollywood Ballroom Dance Center.  And their customers are so pleased they are doing the happy dance.