We are kickstarting our first Medium post. Introducing the Helsingborg Design LAB E-Commerce platform. Not just any e-commerce platform but a platform that we have decided should reflect each clients needs but still be based on one single API solution.
For the last two years, Helsingborg Design LAB has been developing more advanced and extensive e-commerce websites using WordPress and WooCommerce or Magento 1 and 2. The biggest challenge has been the continued development of a WooCommerce website to maintain the client’s freedom when building and developing their content, pages, and functions.
Everyone knows that WordPress is fantastic if you have great hosting and know your way around with plugins tools, themes, and premium themes etc. Something we do not use is a Premium theme as we feel that there are always many things that we can’t control. With performance in focus, it is preferable not to be stuck with ten or more plugins from third party developers, each maybe good but together they can create conflicts.
It is plugins that most times kills a WooCommerce website. 50 or more products/variations makes database queries slow and on top of that, WPML with two languages and then the worst-case scenario is when the currency converter gets involved. Speed gets down the drain quite fast!
By the time you are all set and the site is optimised for the functions that the client wants, we still find ourselves in a situation where the client installs other plugins or an SEO agency installing 2–3 additional plugins, back to square one!
Last year, we built about 25 e-commerce websites with WordPress, and the average number of plugins is approximately 30–45 plugins per site after some time. That is a lot!
We sat down, analysed every hour we spent and saw that we were never actually making any money. An e-commerce project indeed, at the end of the day, cost us about 25% more than what was offered due to scope keeps changing and other unforeseen issues that we need to sort out.
We learned that different approaches are depending on the client direct needs and what type of products they sell. Still, something that many people don’t understand is that running an e-commerce website is a full-time job, and it’s not just ordering here, launching there and selling an everywhere solution. Even if the world has shown us that people can start a Shopify and grow month on month. So it’s hard work for both the agency and the client. But if it is done right, you will see sustainable results maintained over time .
What we did was to analyse all functions we have ever built. Listed everything that ever went wrong, and that was the biggest issue was. Based on that, we saw a bigger pictures which lead to a solution on how we can solve the problems one for all.
The biggest issue was performance. If we can’t give our clients performance-ready websites, we might stop building e-commerce websites. But there are so many aspects to why a site is slow, as I mentioned. Plugins and WPML was one of the most significant issues. The second issue was the number of products. We have some Woo-Commerce websites where we have clients who have 3000+ products with multiple variations, and this was a nightmare to optimise and keep stable.
The result of this was not to find an existing system but to build our own. We looked at the skillset we have in-house and saw no other reason to compromise; instead, we focus on building a platform with all the technical skills and giving all the freedom to the client. Even though a client could not install plugins, etc., we still saw a solution that could save both us and the client time. This resulted in spending more time developing the extra functions that a plugin might have solved, hence making it obsolete.
The idea was to build a high-performance infrastructure and API that is self-hosted by each client. This idea was a perfect fit as we already have our own Hosting Platform running (Kepler Hosting) so the infrastructure part was more or less solved.
We also had a few lines of code from an older internal project where we already started building a custom e-commerce project but was later put on hold. Hence, we saw value in investing in our tech and building our next SAAS application
HDL E-Commerce was born
The mission was set. To develop our e-commerce platform, and we did about a year of research to find the best way to build our idea. We also saw three partner clients that helped us reach our dream. And here we are two years later-2500 Git commits and a platform that keeps expanding day by day.
To give you a quick overview. The HDL E-Commerce platform is an API first application where we provide APIs that we later integrate to your React.JS frontend and design. We have something called “Client specifics” This is a module where we develop client services with a hybrid integrated to our core API. Giving every client the right tools and flexibility to integrate ERP systems or modify/add new functionality.
The Core API is always in continuous development and keeps improving. As a result, we will never leave a single client on a legacy platform.
We hope you like the initial background to why we at Helsingborg Design LAB decided to build our platform. And we hope you stay tuned and follow our journey and mission to be Swedens most technical and flexible e-commerce platform for our leading e-commerce websites for the Nordic region and beyond!