The intersection of design and technology

Once we decided to create an online marketplace to distribute Terra Keramik’s handcrafted tableware, we asked ourselves several key questions:

  1. How do you sell a premium product that is handcrafted by an artisan, three-dimensional and finished in stunning, colorful glazes through the web, which is a two-dimensional medium that does not present well the physical properties of a product such as finish, color, weight, dimensions, etc.?
  2. What brand and product qualities do we want to communicate through our web design, content and features?
  3. What type of web presence do we want? Product-driven (i.e. catalog layout), content-driven, feature-rich, or a combination
  4. What about the technology platform? Open-source or proprietary (i.e. Microsoft)? Are performance, security, and scalability important? How about in-sourcing vs. out-sourcing of development and hosting?

So here are our key design choices:

  • aesthetically attractive site to present handcrafted product
  • provide product specifications for experts and connoisseurs
  • simple, clean look-and-feel consistent with the product
  • intuitive navigation
  • relevant content that would support the product marketing
  • interactive user experience
  • transparent information about business terms and conditions
  • And here are our key technology choices:

  • open-source technology platform (Apache, Linux, PHP, MySQL) supported by large user communities
  • largely standards compliant (HTML, CSS) [we say largely because we strive to be but we had to make some compromises in the short term]
  • separate site structure, content and presentation
  • optimize site performance
  • use packages or widgets where it makes sense (WebAssist’s eCart, proxy2’s AdvancedPoll, Sound Commerce’s AuthNet integration)
  • local checkout payment gateway (we own the customer and his/her experience)
  • secure the site with a branded SSL certificate
  • Let’s come back to the question about out-sourcing development and web hosting.

    Out-sourcing hosting made sense given the commoditization of this service and therefore attractive feature/price relationship.

    But the decision to out-source development was not so simple. Several friends suggested we out-source development to India. We were concerned about finding someone who could translate our brand and product vision into a website that combined good design with good technology at a reasonable cost. Our experience is that organizations tend to have an inherent bias towards either design or technology, and it is rare to find someone who is able to balance the two. And manages to do so on a reasonable budget and schedule.

    So we decided to develop the website ourselves.


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