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jon@studioaceofspade.com
440.591.8799

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319.536.1954

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440.591.7384

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118 E. Washington St.
Floor 2
Goshen, Indiana 46528

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The weekend getaway you've been waiting for.

Midwest Railroad Co.

Brand modifications, web design, web development, e-commerce, plugin customization, support

Timeframe

3 weeks

Sector

Travel and Vacation

Region

USA
Illinois

The Challenge

With only three weeks to develop a custom e-commerce solution based on WordPress to sell customizable tickets, we were confident that we could not only deliver a functional solution, but a beautiful one, too.

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Understanding the Situation

Jim Bradley of Midwest Railroad Co. came to us with a project that he was launching in under a month – he was going to run vintage rail car rides from Chicago to away sports games for Chicago teams. There was one problem: he needed to be taking orders online in less than three weeks.

With the branding in hand, we took to our sketch boards. Jim had provided us a brief outline for the brand and turned over creative control to us. We worked with him to develop the following guidelines:

  • The site needed to effectively communicate an extremely complex product package
  • Users needed to be able to purchase tickets online
  • Users needed to be able to print tickets on their home computers
  • Adding packages and variations should be simple for him to do long term
  • The site should be able to support above twenty events at a time, but should be able to handle as few as none.
  • Coupons were a must-have, as well as the ability to take down payments on tickets
  • Amtrak required each ticket to have a traveller’s name on it – something that no standard e-commerce solution offered

With the branding in hand, we took to our sketch boards. Jim had provided us a brief outline for the brand and turned over creative control to us.

Entering the Development Phase

After a week on planning and design, we knew that we had only two short weeks of cramped development ahead of us. But, our careful and prolonged planning phase prevented any wasted time or missteps during the build itself.

We started by roughing in the homepage, and then doing the same for the subpages. We made the site responsive for only two levels of devices – widescreen and small laptop. The workflow for the site would have been cumbersome for smaller devices, and the simple fact of the matter was that to develop something proper for mobile devices was not possible in such a short time frame, nor was it possible in the budget laid out. Instead of degrading the quality of what we were producing, we recommended focusing on his highest traffic areas – non-mobile devices. Jim agreed, and that is how we proceeded.

After we finished the layout of all of the pages in less than three days, we moved on to ensuring that the content management system was in place and easy to use. Once we had it built-in, we had Jim walkthrough the platform to ensure it was as easy to use for him as we had intended it to be. We noticed a few sticking points in the workflow of creating tickets as he used it, and used the following day to fix and improve those points, cutting down the average time to create a ticket package from thirty minutes to just under twelve.

Turning our sights elsewhere, we drilled through the e-commerce system. It was up and running in a day, and within two more had been customized to meet Amtrak’s standards for tickets. We had just about finished with more than four days to spare, which we spent optimizing the down payment and coupon processes, as well as making security improvements sitewide.

Knowing how and where to compromise in cost and customization is something we specialize in, and allowed Jim to get exactly what he both wanted and needed.

How did we get this done so fast?

This project had been quoted by several others, who said that it would take longer and cost more than Jim could pay. At the Studio, we’re turned off by the idea of ‘not possible.’ Knowing how and where to compromise in cost and customization is something we specialize in, and allowed Jim to get exactly what he both wanted and needed.

One of our biggest assets is our expert knowledge in WordPress, as well as the tools that we can leverage to speed development. Aside from having written our own homebrewed version of WordPress for speedy launches, we’ve meticulously tested and tried out various plugins. The knowledge of those allowed us to launch this so quickly. Here’s a shortened list of a few of the things we used to complete this custom website on time, and within budget.

  • WordPress
  • Advanced Custom Fields
  • Stripe
  • WooCommerce
  • Twitter Bootstrap
  • The Event Calendar
  • WooTickets

The Final Product

This project was completed on time and within budget. The client couldn't be happier with the result, and neither could we. Building a custom e-commerce solution that had been fully tested was truly a feat.

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Four icons and a brief description were all it took for people to understand what the site was about.

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Jim wanted to feature a food shot at the top of the menu page.

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Cars can be added quickly and layout with a set style. All Jim has to do is enter text and an image.

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The package page was designed to auto-tile the packages as they were added in order of the closest date.

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