5 Star Net Releases New Softball Bats 2.0 Website

Softball bats 2.0 code-named “New Attitude”

The result of the project was to increase market-share on a domain that’s been around since 2003 with a great selection of products, awesome customer services, and a small following of devote customers by creating a new attitude.  

The design team attacked the “New Attitude” concept and came up with a bunch on new features and new looks.

Some of these new ideas were incorporated into the final design that was deployed June 23, 2010.  Here are some screen shots of the versions along the way.

2003 - Our first design in classic ASP.

 
 2005 - Our second design using ASP.NET.
 
2010 - Our new design with MVC.
 
The next part highlights some updates and design decisions we made while building the site.

For Marketing, we’ve setup the home page so they’re in total control of what appears and what does not via an administration product manager.  We’ve removed pesky categories that are a heirarchical nightmare, and while they are popular, we got the idea to drop them and just show filters.  Why?  Many of the categories were filters and visa versa, which was seen as redundant so it was easily removed.  In addition to filtering there is search and a bat coach for navigation.  The bat coach asks simple questions that new players understand and the coach then provides a list of products that best matches the user’s questions.  All of these navigation elements drive the customer to a products grid, or products list landing page.  To this, we’ve added sorting and combined with filtering, we feel our softball bat “slicer and dicer” navigational elements, for finding the “right” bat, are the most comprehensive in the market.

Many other improvments were also installed for Pro Athlete, Inc.  For example, the ordering system for Softball Bats 2.0 is integrated into the current Pro Athlete, Inc system so training was minimum.  In addition to allowing major credit cards and Google Checkout, we’ve also added PayPal as a payment option.  Chartbeat, Google Analytics, Google Analytics Transactions, Google Base, Silverpop connectivity, jQuery, Google Website Analyzer, Google Webmaster Central, Google Adwords, Google Rich Snippets are other important tools, technologies, services that were used in building the site or for getting statistical information about the performance or success of a particular choice.

We are now running on the website using model view controller framework for ASP.NET, called MVC.   It’s your typical three-tier design, but with MVC, the UI is a lot lighter.  There is no viewstate hidden value that has to be passed back and forth to retain form state.  Microsoft really tried to simplify web development with ASP.NET, but there are trade-offs with Web Forms and the code could get bulky real quick.  For purists, that sucks.  With MVC, we have so much more control over the output pipeline.  MVC is running on IIS 7, a windows 2008 machine, with standard gzip compression turned-on.  With the redesign, which means more css and less html, we were able to drop the size of the pages from 140k to 25k.  We are also utilizing the existing content delivery network for images which drastically increases the speed of the test.  

In addition, the MVC framework with jQTouch provides us with the ability to quickly generate a mobile web application for Pro Athlete, Inc.  See sample screen shots below.