Categories
Web Design Web Development

Code-First or Database-First?

So what is Database First?

Put simply

Categories
E-commerce

What is Dropshipping?

‘Dropshipping’ – another one of those buzzwords flying around the web.

But if you’re just starting out in e-commerce, dropshipping may be just the solution you need. Rather than sinking money into holding stock, your suppliers maintain the stock, wait for an order from your customer and the dispatch it.

Dropshipping sites typically integrate with large wholesalers, Amazon, eBay, Ali Express and Dsers and the like importing them into your website and displaying them as if they were in-stock on your store. A customer completes the online order and, on confirmation, that order is sent to the supplier for dispatch.

Sounds Amazing. Why Isn’t Everyone Doing It?

Because of the low cost of entry into the marketplace, it is highly competitive. As always, the correlate of something that is cheap (or even free) is that it takes time to do it well. Lots of stores open but few really do enough business to justify the time invested.

So Can You Make a Profit Dropshipping?

Sure you can. But as with all things, you need to start right. If you’re interested keep things in mind as you build your ideas:

  • Unless business itself is your interest, pick a market segment about which you like. You’re more likely to know about what you’re selling and it’s less likely that it will bore you in a year or two’s time.
  • Analyse your potential competitors, remember dropshipping is a busy market, check out their products both for things you might want to sell and look for gaps in their range where you could complete.
  • Choose your suppliers carefully and, if you can, negotiate for the best possible margin.
  • You’ll need a website to display your products.

Building Customer Trust

To stand out from the crowd, you’ll need a corporate identity – a logo, colour choices and consistent font usage.

Consider using a professional designer who really can produce an original identity for you. There are a huge number of generic logos out there. Within Sheffield alone I have seen car dealers using the same logo with different text.

Poor design decisions can cheapen your brand and undermine customer trust before you even start.

Choosing a Website Platform

The following are recommended:

Shopify

Shopify integrates seamlessly with Amazon and eBay. If your site does not look professional, customer trust will be undermined. With the Shopify theme store you have a great head-start with sharp, full-featured designs ripe for customisation. Backed up by enterprise level reliability, it’s a great choice.

WordPress

Not as simple to code and harder to keep looking fully professional. But WordPress and WooCommerce can be used to make a highly effective dropshipping platform.

Consider the Disadvantages

Lower Profit Margins

Because your orders (at least to start with) will be in retail quantities, not wholesale, you are unlikely to be able to command wholesale prices from the supplier – meaning that in order to keep your prices competitive, profit margins are likely to be slim.

It’s Not SImple

You’re not dealing with a warehouse but you still have to manage many of the headaches of owning a retail business: returns and complaints and so on. This with the headache of the extra step to the supplier. In some ways you’ll just be the go-between. Which leads us to …

Limited Quality Control

You may rarely see the products you’re selling, if the quality dips, the first you hear about it may be your customers complaining.

Limited Potential to differentiate your products

Again, because you are buying from your client in retail quantities, the extent to which any supplier is prepared to brand your products or offer you exclusive variations is likely to be very limited. It may prove difficult to offer something Amazon doesn’t.

Hidden Costs

If not set up carefully, shipping costs can mount up and rapidly profits. Many of the hidden costs that apply to a standard e-commerce store apply to dropshipping sites too. All those plugins can start costing a lot month-by-month.

Still Interested?

Good. Crack on. If you’d like help making a success of it, you can always contact us.

Categories
Web Development

Another Little Case Study

We’ve talked elsewhere about Jagged Globe, so here’s another little case study. It’s all about their custom website and their many, many beautiful images.

Over the last year or two we’ve been adding the popular rich-text editor, CKeditor, to many of their administrators’ pages.

This editor allows a website administrator to edit web content as if they were in Microsoft Word© with multiple formatting options.

Using UTF8, it removes many of the problems of an extended character set and ensures all html added is correct, tags balanced and so on.

But What About the Pictures?

Asked the client.

Although CKeditor has tools for browsing a server file system (CKFinder, ELFinder and others), none of these are quite appropriate for Jagged Globe. Their image database predates Javascript text editors and the thousands (tens of thousands) would soon break anything manually scanning the disk.

Hang on …

… we thought, we can’t be the first people to have this problem so we did some research.

We found a little-used plugin which just required some back end code to supply a list of images so they can be added to the web page as the administrator creates it.

Little Fire Digital integrated Jagged Gobe Images with CKeditor
The database-driven image browser for Jagged Globe

… bit of back end wizardry and an hour or two later we were testing.

Everything worked as needed and within a few hours the entire development was launched.

The system is super easy to use, when staff at Jagged Globe select ‘Browse Server’, a new browser window opens with all the categories defined for the images available at the top.

Once the category is chosen, thumbnails of all the images uploaded are displayed (most recent first). Double clicking on any inserts the image into the document. Correctly formatted. No code, no errors.

Little Fire Digital Ltd – fixing the internet, one job at a time.

Read our Jagged Globe case study

Categories
Web Design Web Development

What is the Best CMS?

There is no shortage of content management systems available for website design and development. There is also no shortage of bigotry when it comes to which CMS is best to use. There still remain puritans who swear by coding the website and building it all from the floorboards upwards. It will be truly unique and do whatever you need it to but in 2022 you can probably already get most of the work already done from a themed template website which is already mobile responsive and there are options for eCommerce and brochure site alike.

WordPress

WordPress. Let’s start right here. There are some designers who swear by WordPress and they are so brand loyal that if you were to break them open somehow, they would say “WordPress” all the way through them like sticks of seaside rock. They love WordPress. On toast. For them, it is better than bacon. For some people that means it’s not that good. (Like Simon who hasn’t eaten meat for 35 years) and for others it means it is almost impossible to ever be that brilliant. (Like Spence, who hasn’t eaten bacon for 35 minutes, and misses it already.) It’s all about personal choices and its totally fluid and subjective.

What People Love About WordPress

  • Interface – When first installed, it’s a user friendly CMS
  • Appearance – the display framework for your website pages is mature and stable and easy to customise and there are literally thousands of themes out there to take a lot out of the heavy lifting out of web design
  • It’s Free – it really is, installing WordPress on your own server is free. WordPress will also host your website for free
  • Plugins – so you can perform any number of functions
  • Support – 30% of the world’s web developers work in WordPress working on patches, fixes and updates all the time. The online community is huge
  • SEO friendly – the WordPress CMS is all about the user experience which search engines love, it’s also mobile responsive, quick to load and really easy to optimise images. Not to mention they have SEO plugins a plenty.
  • WordPress Hosting – there is hosting available which is tailored specifically for WordPress websites.

What’s not to love?

… well, since you ask …

What People Hate About WordPress

  • Security – With such a large user base to exploit, it’s the Devil’s Playground for Hackers. If you own a WordPress website, you need to be aware that regular security patches need to be applied (for which your provider may charge you).
    • 75% are from WordPress plugins
    • 14% are from core WordPress
    • 11% are from WordPress theme
  • Appearance – seen one WordPress site? You’ve seen them all. Themes are inconsistent and can be generic. It really does take skill and talent to stop a WordPress from looking, well, WordPressy.
  • Interface – As you add functionality, the administrator’s interface can become dispersed and it can become less and less obvious how to do what and where.
  • Creeping costs
    • Freemium upsells. The theme providers, yoast, elementor and just about everyone in the WordPress game are all about the upsells. Yes, you can have a free version that does just about enough to make you wish you had it all available to you.
    • Premium upsells. Your business is running great online and many of those plugin providers will want a slice of the action – expect paid plugins to edge up their prices as your website becomes busier.
  • Bloat. All those lovely themes, plugins and images you installed to get your website just so sweet? They can crash your website, slow your website down and cause a raft of reliability issues.
  • Time Updates, updates and more updates. It’s just not quite enough to plug in an play with WordPress. It’s more a case of plug in, play and then spend a lot of time updating plugins

Not that any of this is insurmountable with good practice and regular maintenance and updates. Updates are good. Learn to embrace the updating. We know it’s boring. In fact, let us worry about that for you. We love that kind of boring. Rich finds it rather therapeutic, in his happy zen place updating WordPress plugins and updating security keys.

    So the thing is that we aspire to not just be a Progressive Web Apps Agency, but we actually strive to be a progressive web design agency.. do you like what I did there? …

    This is to mean that we want to equip you with the best solution to your problem and if we are only looking at custom website design and wordpress website design, then we are kind of fishing in a shallow pool when there are vast oceans of solutions out there .. at least, two .. maybe as many as three more which I am going to mention right here on this very post!

    Squarespace

    Well someone had to say it. Beloved of designers, architect and visual types, Squarespace is a great content management system for delivering a good looking website.

    Squarespace websites are highly polished in their appearance with easy to navigate pages and a nice coherent user experience. They also have over 140 different templates to build from all of which can be customised.

    Squarespace can implement ecommerce.

    What People Love About Squarespace

    • Appearance – with a “fanatical” team of developers, Squarespace template blocks can rapidly-built into great looking websites.
    • Easy to Use – Squarespace really is easy to use. The admin interface is straightforward and consistent.
    • Speed – the platorm is both quick to build and to run.
    • Excellent Customer Service – another thing about which the company claim to be “fanatical”. If you’re in the UK, you will have to wait for New York to wake up before you can experience that service however.

    What People Hate About Squarespace

    • Cost – Squarespace is not free and extending it is not always cheap. Expect creeping costs.
    • Appearance – Like many content managements systems, Squarespace websites can begin to look generic
    • Rigid – Squarespace is hard to extend, if it doesn’t happen to do what you want then there’s almost no way to make it do so.

    There are complaints too (in the name of being balanced and impartial, like the BBC) surrounding Squarespace sites in that they only have one sub navigation which is a limiting factor on building a website with deep menu hierarchy, and it pretty much puts the kybosh on creating a multilingual website.

    … in Conclusion

    So as you can hopefully see by now, we have no dog in any one fight. It’s almost like we know that just as a good pub has handpull beer and also draught via the mast heads on the bar, and then there’s the fridges, the optics, the wine list and even a coffee machine these days .. same thing really but for websites and content management systems. They are all tools of the trade that we work in.

    So going to a digital company who are going to evangelise just one CMS and poopoo the rest … is like having the nightmarishly laughable scenario that you hire a plumber who knows better than everyone else and he’s come to the conclusion (entirely by his own volition) that doesn’t like pipe wrenches.

    He’s not too keen on adjustable spanners either. What he likes to use is a lump hammer. For everything.

    It’s the same with content management systems, we like to ensure we are equipped with as many up to date and well maintained tools for jobs of all shapes and sizes that all come with their own set of problems that will require different applications and solutions and to have the right tools to apply to each accordingly.

    We’d like to hope it makes more sense when you think of it like that.

    Categories
    E-commerce Web Development

    Wimbledon

    CHAT

    Let’s Parley …

    AFC Wimbledon

    How Little Fire Digital helped bring AFC Wimbledon home – a joyful tale of insane deadlines and madcap football fans.

    AFC Wimbledon and the Plough Lane Bond Website - Little Fire Sheffield helped bing the Dons home.

    Make no mistake, Little Fire Digital is a Sheffield company: in one way or another, we’ve been in business here for nearly thirty years; our office overlooks Bramall Lane; in simpler times there are season-ticket holders clattering away at their keyboards and, without leaving my garden, I can tell the score of each and every home game.

    And yet, and yet, it appears you can take the man out of London but …

    I was witness to the sorrow of my childhood friends and family as their stadium, ground and finally their club itself was sold from under them.

    If you don’t know the story of AFC Wimbledon, the fan created club patched together from soggy try-outs on Wimbledon Common and the love and loyalty of their fans, you really should look it up. It is without doubt one of the best stories in sport. With talent and passion the fledgeling club has defied the odds (and, on occasion, the Football Association) to rise with unprecedented speed to League One.

    Despite this, the fans who have followed, who have celebrated this meteoric ascent with such cheerful lunacy have never quite shaken the yearning to return to Wimbledon, to have again, in their words, ‘a home game’.

    I can’t have been alone in thinking that the prospect of affording a plot of land of sufficient size in an expensive corner of London was hopeless fantasy.

    It was just before Christmas when the phone rang.

    The land had been bought, the stands were rising fast, but funding had run short.

    More than anything, AFC Wimbledon want to remain fan owned – to exclude forever the risk of losing their club once more through the misadventures of a careless owner.

    ‘Could you put together a website quickly in the New Year?’

    ‘I think so.’

    … and so we did

    Working closely with the Dons Trust, we dropped everything to build a means for fans to raise money by buying bonds from the club. January was a frantic development spree, adapting our content management system for the sale of intangible assets, countless to-ing and fro-ing between lawyers and our developers to make the loans available for sale.

    We learned later that the Trust’s lawyers had said it would take a year. We had the site selling bonds by the 20th of January.

    Over the following weeks the Dons Trust and the fans mounted an extraordinary campaign: across social media, across local media, leafleting, manning the tube stations of South London at rush hour – exhorting commuters to invest in their new, local club. The money began to roll in.

    AFC Wimbledon fans in 2016 © AFC Wimbledon and The Dons Trust

    AFC Wimbledon fans in 2016 © AFC Wimbledon and The Dons Trust

    Drop us a line

    !function(){function t(t){this.element=t,this.animationId,this.start=null,this.init()}if(!window.requestAnimationFrame){var i=null;window.requestAnimationFrame=function(t,n){var e=(new Date).getTime();i||(i=e);var a=Math.max(0,16-(e-i)),o=window.setTimeout(function(){t(e+a)},a);return i=e+a,o}}t.prototype.init=function(){var t=this;this.animationId=window.requestAnimationFrame(t.triggerAnimation.bind(t))},t.prototype.reset=function(){var t=this;window.cancelAnimationFrame(t.animationId)},t.prototype.triggerAnimation=function(t){var i=this;this.start||(this.start=t);var n=t-this.start;504>n||(this.start=this.start+504),this.element.setAttribute(“transform”,”rotate(“+Math.min(n/1.4,360)+” 12 12)”);if(document.documentElement.contains(this.element))window.requestAnimationFrame(i.triggerAnimation.bind(i))};var n=document.getElementsByClassName(“nc-loop_circle-02-24”),e=[];if(n)for(var a=0;n.length>a;a++)!function(i){e.push(new t(n[i]))}(a);document.addEventListener(“visibilitychange”,function(){“hidden”==document.visibilityState?e.forEach(function(t){t.reset()}):e.forEach(function(t){t.init()})})}();

    Categories
    Uncategorised

    A Little Case Study

    CHAT

    Let’s Parley …

    It’s rarely easy grafting new code onto old. Existing systems have a way of working which cannot change without significant investment and potential disruption. Whilst at the same time, technology moves on, meaning that there are benefits to be gained – if only one could integrate them.

    So it is with Jagged Globe, who have a long-standing database of dazzling photographs of the world’s highest places. These are used to great effect across the website and are an integral part of both Jagged Globe’s marketing material and the website’s function.

    With the huge advances in digital photography, the number of images the company receive is increasing all the time and the existing methods of uploading images is becoming onerous and impractical.

    The existing site has stringent rules for categorising and naming images and a complex post upload processing procedure. We could find no single plugin which offered the ease of use hoped for and compliance with the existing website – a custom solution was required.

    Case StudyWith skill and expertise, Little Fire have been able to extend the existing, bespoke Jagged Globe website, integrating a new bulk upload page. The new site implements everything the old procedure offered, but one can add 20, 30 or more images at once. Errors are reported, progress monitored on a file by file basis and, once uploaded, the photos are saved, filed and categorised as they always have been. All the while, Jagged Globe staff can get on with other things.

    Agents can now upload images in Nepal as clients come off the mountain and they are ready to use in the Sheffield office immediately.

    It’s not been easy, but it has been fun. We really do love this stuff.

    Jagged GLobe Bulk Image Uploader

    Drop us a line

    !function(){function t(t){this.element=t,this.animationId,this.start=null,this.init()}if(!window.requestAnimationFrame){var i=null;window.requestAnimationFrame=function(t,n){var e=(new Date).getTime();i||(i=e);var a=Math.max(0,16-(e-i)),o=window.setTimeout(function(){t(e+a)},a);return i=e+a,o}}t.prototype.init=function(){var t=this;this.animationId=window.requestAnimationFrame(t.triggerAnimation.bind(t))},t.prototype.reset=function(){var t=this;window.cancelAnimationFrame(t.animationId)},t.prototype.triggerAnimation=function(t){var i=this;this.start||(this.start=t);var n=t-this.start;504>n||(this.start=this.start+504),this.element.setAttribute(“transform”,”rotate(“+Math.min(n/1.4,360)+” 12 12)”);if(document.documentElement.contains(this.element))window.requestAnimationFrame(i.triggerAnimation.bind(i))};var n=document.getElementsByClassName(“nc-loop_circle-02-24”),e=[];if(n)for(var a=0;n.length>a;a++)!function(i){e.push(new t(n[i]))}(a);document.addEventListener(“visibilitychange”,function(){“hidden”==document.visibilityState?e.forEach(function(t){t.reset()}):e.forEach(function(t){t.init()})})}();

    A Little Case Study

    CHAT

    Let’s Parley …

    It’s rarely easy grafting new code onto old. Existing systems have a way of working which cannot change without significant investment and potential disruption. Whilst at the same time, technology moves on, meaning that there are benefits to be gained – if only one could integrate them.

    So it is with Jagged Globe, who have a long-standing database of dazzling photographs of the world’s highest places. These are used to great effect across the website and are an integral part of both Jagged Globe’s marketing material and the website’s function.

    With the huge advances in digital photography, the number of images the company receive is increasing all the time and the existing methods of uploading images is becoming onerous and impractical.

    The existing site has stringent rules for categorising and naming images and a complex post upload processing procedure. We could find no single plugin which offered the ease of use hoped for and compliance with the existing website – a custom solution was required.

    Case StudyWith skill and expertise, Little Fire have been able to extend the existing, bespoke Jagged Globe website, integrating a new bulk upload page. The new site implements everything the old procedure offered, but one can add 20, 30 or more images at once. Errors are reported, progress monitored on a file by file basis and, once uploaded, the photos are saved, filed and categorised as they always have been. All the while, Jagged Globe staff can get on with other things.

    Agents can now upload images in Nepal as clients come off the mountain and they are ready to use in the Sheffield office immediately.

    It’s not been easy, but it has been fun. We really do love this stuff.

    Drop us a line

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    Boring & Dull

    Keep in Touch
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