New Website in the Works!
We are actively working on a new website. When we launched the current version of our website in June 2011, we were quite proud of our improvements over the previous version, and especially the awesome art and design by Kamui. We knew it had room for improvement even then, and as time has gone by, its limitations have grown more problematic. Our plan had been to continue to improve this website, but it has become apparent that the community of developers behind the open source content management system (CMS) on which our site is built has dispersed to other projects. We no longer see value in putting effort into further development on this site.
Instead, we are looking to Drupal and the Drupal Commerce suite of e-commerce modules. Drupal is a CMS that is more modular and flexible than our current CMS, which leads to both opportunities and challenges, and it has a much more active development community. It is also increasingly familiar to us as we use it for other projects in our day jobs, making it the natural next step for the Sofawolf Press website. As an open source project, Drupal suffers the typical problems of incomplete or out-of-date documentation, and it exists in an ever-changing environment that evolves when a host of passionate, diverse, and creative people with their own specific CMS needs collaborate on a single solution that tries to satisfy everyone. But this large community of users and developers also provides a variety of opportunities to learn and get answers when the documentation fails.
One resource we have taken advantage of is professional one-on-one coaching that was paid for by one of the Digger Omnibus Kickstarter stretch goals. It has been helpful for boosting us up the learning curve, but unfortunately we are far from the top of that curve, and our funds from the stretch goal are nearly spent. We are glad for the coaching we’ve had so far: without it, we’d be much further back than we are now. Although we haven’t gotten to as many things on our to-do list during the coaching sessions as we’d hoped, we’ve developed basic skills and understanding for developing and troubleshooting Drupal that will help us continue to move the project forward on our own, and with help from the general Drupal community.
The Current Roadmap
We are planning a two-phase development process. We want to move off of our current platform as soon as is feasible, and in order to do that, we are de-emphasizing design in the first phase:
- First, we will deploy a new site that is fully functional, but which utilizes a stock Drupal theme (with Sofawolf stylings).
- Second, we will take additional time to design our own theme that further refines the look and feel of the website, making it distinctive and more truly our own.
In addition to retaining our current site’s functionality, we have a host of improvements that we’d like to implement in the new site. Some of the most notable and critical include:
- Combine the current two-account system into one (finally!)
- Simplify and improve the checkout process
- Retain and improve security in the checkout process
- Add PayPal and Dwolla payment options
- Make the whole site mobile-friendly
- Retain the ability for customers to choose the maturity level of titles they wish to view
- Retain previous customers' order histories
- Retain our ability to hold sales, provide coupons, and give customer loyalty discounts
- Better highlight the creative and talented people behind our many products
As of February, 2014, we have the basic catalog and product architecture set up. We are currently working on configuring the migration script to bring over products, customers, and order history information. This has been a particularly challenging and time-consuming process: the Drupal migrate module is especially finicky, delicate, and not the most helpful in providing information when it fails. On the flip side, all the time put into figuring out the migration debugging process has required us to dig deeper than expected into Drupal’s bowels, and as a result we’ve gaining a fuller understanding of what is going on under the hood (to mix metaphors).
Once we have our catalog filled out, we can better visualize how the whole site will function, allowing for preliminary design and styling tweaks. It will also be easier to configure discounts and the checkout process with actual products to use during testing.