The Land Where Fuzzy Dice

Last week, I ported the website of Abacus Scales from a custom ColdFusion-and-Access driven monstrosity to Joomla. The design was pretty much done, but there were some obvious sticking points: There were ten categories, and the products list was an undiscoverable DHTML popup that didn’t work in Mozilla (I didn’t investigate, but when you moused out of the “popup” link, the menu closed, making it visible but not clickable). There were also only two products per-page, and no search. Joomla fixed the search issue, and some creative re-organization let me cut down the sections to a respectable seven (and one of them is “search”).

I didn’t do much in the way of actual design. Most of the work was figuring out Joomla’s database structure and re-doing the look as a Joomla template. The color scheme, logo, etc. were all done in advance, and this was really just a quick port (it took about a week from start-to-finish).

I was also able to add a “popular pages” sidebar, and really make the whole thing much nicer to actually find things. I also removed the “nonsense corporate explanation” crap and some un-used categories (like the “installations” link, describing how proud they are of their work, but not actually listing any of it) in favor of a what’s new (which is the default in Joomla). Here’s some before-n-after shots:

Before After

I know the newer version isn’t a pretty as the old one. However, it’s actually got the stuff worth reading up front, rather than burried two levels in the site under the “what’s new” sub-category, and it’ll actually work with Mozilla.

Now, if you’ve taken some time to browse around the site, I know what you’re thinking: “Why in the world do you have this big extensive product list without online ordering?” I know you’re thinking that, because I was thinking that. The reason it doesn’t exist is because the company didn’t want to be a “parts slinger.” Apparently there’s some kind of internal flamewar going on among industrial scale dealers whereby there are some who make a killing as online middlemen, and others make out comparatively O.K. selling scales and services up-front — there’s some pretty insane regulation on industrial scale calibration (lest J.P. Morgan get cheated on its porkbelly futures), so the latter category of dealers specifically chooses to not allow online ordering.

I raised the obvious question: “why not continue to sell certified calibration services while you’re ‘slinging parts’ online [and make money both ways],” but the response my boss gave me was the dark-sounding “you really don’t want to persue that avenue with that dealer.” I mean, great, less work for me, but I really don’t understand why one would put a catalog online and specifically choose not to do online ordering… Oh well.

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