Upon finishing a programming project to improve how we manage out of stock products and then integrate it with our shipping estimates (see image above), I completed all of the major initiatives that we wanted to complete in 2011 to improve our shopping cart software that powers Detailed Image. The reason why we’re at this point and it’s only June 5th is a pretty simple one – most of the important stuff is finally finally done! We’ve built a stable, scalable, easy-to-manage and easy-to-use platform that will serve us well for years to come. There’s nothing “major” left to do…at least as of right now. We’re entering a maturity stage for the software, one that I’ve never really experienced, where we can focus on some combination of data-driven small tweaks (lots of split-testing) and some crazy experimental stuff (like completely new interfaces for shopping).
Out of curiosity, I went searching for the first evidence of the start of this shopping cart project. I vividly remember the night when we decided to abandon the osCommerce platform that Detailed Image had been using in 2006/2007 and begin developing our own. Had there been something like Shopify around at the time, there’s no way we would have ever attempted a project of this magnitude. But the shopping cart software in 2007 left a lot to be desired, especially when it came to search-engine-friendliness.
Anyway, I was able to dig up a document called “Time Frame” from July of 2007 where I outlined to my partners the development time frame for the software, in which I estimated that we’d complete and launch the site sometime in late August. The earliest blog post that I can find, Flipping the Switch from 8/11/2007, about dialing up my productivity to hit the launch date, mentions that we were shooting for a September 1, 2007 launch. We eventually ended up launching on 9/7/2007 – the title of my post, DI Up – Completely and Utterly Drained, kind of says it all about how hard we pushed to launch. There was a quick growth spurt right away, and after another solid year of growth we realized that we had outgrown that current setup and the entire thing needed a revamp if we were going to stay on our platform during our next big growth phase. Starting in early 2009, Mike and I built a new shopping cart system, one that fixed most of the problems of the old one while also being compatible with many of the things the old one did right. That launched in May of 2009, and my launch post is pretty similar to that one from 2007 in that I was totally mentally spent. Ever since then we’ve been meticulously chipping away one feature at a time up to the present.
If you showed me back in 2007 what we have now, my jaw would have dropped. Both on the front end and on the back end, we have software that I believe gives us a big competitive advantage. If you look at all of the stuff we’ve tried as a company over the years, we’ve started a lot of things, but for one reason of another have changed directions and never seen them all the way through (all of which I believe in retrospect were good decisions). This is something that we’ve been committed to for four years now, and I think the results of this slow, iterative improvement speak for themselves when you evaluate the product as a whole and the impact it’s had on our growth.
There’s an amazing sense of accomplishment that comes along with sticking with a project like this for so long. It’s very tangible evidence of my progress as a developer and our progress as a company. There’s also a great sense of relief that comes with being at this point. Any time I haven’t been working on the cart, there’s been this guilt in the back of my mind that I need to get back to it because we’re still lacking this important feature or that important feature. There was a time back when I left my job where I spent considerably more time doing SEO and web marketing for us and for our clients than I did doing any sort of development. Looking forward, I’m excited to have the chance to push forward with the development on LockerPulse, re-introduce some of that marketing into my day (for both sites), and tackle new business challenges like hiring our next wave of employees.