Trifork Blog

Axon Framework, DDD, Microservices

Project: welke.nl

July 23rd, 2009 by
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The Welke Magazine has been around for a while now and is a well-established name in the home decoration area. To follow up on the success of their paper version, MediaMij –the company publishing these magazines– decided to expand their position in the market by launching an electronic version, welke.nl. The goal of this website was to give their readers a more interactive experience and allow them to find more products that could be of interest in an intuitive manner.

In this post, I will focus on some technical and organizational topics that were addressed during the project.

Search and data import

The initial version of welke.nl contained two major parts: the product database and articles. A Content Management System (CMS) has been implemented to help the authors and publishers manage the content on the website.

The product database, however, required more specific features than the CMS could offer out-of-the-box. To enhance the customer experience, welke.nl visitors have to be able to filter through the available products to limit the selection to only those products that are of interest to them. To enable this, we used something called facetted navigation (or attribute-based search). Facetted navigation provides a very intuitive view on the current data set by showing the values of several, well-picked attributes of the search results including the number of products that match for that attribute value. By choosing one of those facets, the search result are then further limited to only results that match that value. This allows users to easily drill down the entire data set and has the added value that users will never get to an empty search results set. Next to normal values (e.g. choosing a specific brand) some facets allow you to choose a range (e.g. price) or multiple selections (e.g. color).  You can see a working example on the website.

Another major difference between the product database and the articles section is the way data is inserted. MediaMij maintains close contact with their main suppliers in the Netherlands and helps them write interesting articles about new products. The suppliers provide the data to MediaMij in files containing the details of all their products. These files are imported into the CMS using a simple tool and subsequently synchronized with the search engine to allow users to access the information.

Empowerment

Welke.nl is divided into several domains, based on the types of products that are offered. The bathroom domain was chosen as the first domain to be developed. In addition to the JTeam project staff, two MediaMij developers were included in the development of this first domain. As part of the project, so during the development, we coached them and trained them in the use of the frameworks and technologies that we used on the project. The idea behind this empowerment is that MediaMij could continue development of other domains independent of JTeam.

Only several weeks after the successful launch of the bathroom domain, the kitchen domain was developed and launched with only limited support from JTeam. The subsequent development and launch of the fireplace domain was done by MediaMij without any support from JTeam at all. This proved to the customer that our empowerment approach had indeed worked. In fact, JTeam is not involved at all in the development of the remaining domains, allowing us to focus on more advanced features the client would like to see implemented (for all domains).

The result, a happy customer, who is able to quickly move into new domains, without any dependency on JTeam, so no vendor lock-in. And in turn, JTeam can help the customer on the more technically challenging area’s.

Going further…

Development continues on the JTeam side, implementing some additional requirements. Currently, we are in the process of implementing dealer locator functionality, basically a location-based search. This allows users to search for dealers of products that are nearest to them, based on a location they provide. Luckily, JTeam previously implemented similar functionality for iLocal. Of course this location-based search functionality will be fully integrated with the existing product database and CMS.

Conclusion

We can conclude that the empowerment approach has helped the customer in becoming independent in the maintenance of their new website. They no longer rely on the availability of JTeam personnel to make changes or even expand to new domains. Moreover, it also allowed us to focus on the innovative areas and help improve their customer experience even more.

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