How We Lost Our Magento Website and Rebuilt It Better in Shopify in a Single Week

February 28 2016, 6 Comments | by Frank Eybsen

If you are a regular visitor to Jaxon Home you may have noticed the site was down for about a week in February. It all started on a friday evening.

I won't go into specifics about the cause but about the same time we were locking up our Culver City showroom unbeknownst to us our website's server was being deleted, along with most back ups we had of the site. An early Saturday morning phone call about the site being down started a weekend long nightmare of looking high and low for any scraps of other backups we had of the Magento theme we'd been working on for several months.

Sunday night arrived and Betsy and I had promised the team we'd come up with a decision. Having lost our full time Magento developer the week before we flirted with other dev shops and also looked into other platforms.

We eventually made the scary decision to try and rebuild the entire site from scratch on the Shopify platform in a single week. We'd have until Friday before we agreed we'd throw in the towel and hire a Magento dev shop (which also came with a 4-6 week timeframe for the site be back in action).

The Re-Building

Although we lost our Magento theme we still had almost all of the frontend and mark-up (HTML, CSS, and Javascript). However, we decided to piggy-back on the default Shopify theme (Launchpad) because we assumed it would have pre-made lay-outs constructed strictly with Shopify in mind, which it did. Much of the work the first day was taking our old mark-up, molding it over the shopify Launchpad theme, and making it work. Some portions we had to re-write but it was quite exciting seeing the Jaxon design aesthetic slowly crawling forth from the default theme.

The next few days were the most challenging. We don't sell t-shirts. We sell furniture that you can customize to fit your specific needs. I kept going through the Shopify example gallery and a terrible feeling started to overwhelm me as I saw the same simple, customization-free websites. Would we eventually hit a roadblock where all of our work was for not?

Shopify: The Front-End Champion

Shopify's admin system at first seemed very limiting. Something designed with ease-of-use in mind, but ignoring the 'anything under the sun' functionality. Which is actually a breath of fresh air after working with Magento which is really too accommodating where you can sometimes feel like you're writing your own e-commerce platform.

But like they say, structure allows for creativity to blossom. And Shopify's admin was solid, you knew what you had and liquid is as easy a language to learn as there is. And with that you didn't need a developer anymore, Shopify took care of that, and now it was up to the clever front-end person to make the site work as they wanted.

Customization Experience

But like I said, we make custom furniture here so let me run you through some of the cool things we were able to do. And in fact, the day our old site was deleted many of these features were still comps in the twinkle of a designer's eye.

Shopify provides an awesome tutorial on adding color swatches to your site. We used a little javascript to have the main image change as the user selects their swatch (the zoom function even works on these new color images!).

 

Each of our product types has their own set of custom options as well. For these we created select elements and passed the selection as a variable to the cart. Took a bit of time to figure out just how this works, but now you can choose your cushions on your sofa, choose if you want tufting on your bed, etc. We have plenty more ideas for options we can offer customers in the future as well!

The trickiest thing we had to figure out was giving the visitor the ability to change the dimensions of their furniture. This is especially important for sofas where you have the ability to shrink a sofa down to a loveseat and back again - and we needed to make sure that this reflected on the price (no one wants to pay 10 foot sofa prices for a 5 foot loveseat right?). The way we accomplished this is pretty ridiculous and if you are an interested Shopify site builder email me and I'll share the secret.

The Finish Line

When Friday rolled around we sat with Victoria and her team and showed them the site. We knew they would be happy with the work, the site looked almost identical and suddenly had new features, but they were more surprised. How did we build a site in one week that took us several months to build initially?

Granted, all of the design, mark-up, and long nights pondered the UI of shopping for furniture was already completed. But still, getting a fully functioning e-commerce site with 100 products (we're still working on getting the full collection online) and almost each product having user-selected options was quite a feat. And we owe it all to the great work done by Shopify.

I can easily say after working with many different e-commerce solutions that if anyone ever asked me what to go with I would respond Shopify every time.