BikeDealer.ie is an online classified ads website for motorcycles and accessories in Ireland. The brainchild of a motorcycle enthusiast based in the South East of Ireland, the site is aimed at private sellers and dealers who can post ads for bikes and accessories. Up to 10 images can be uploaded with each ad along with a YouTube Video.
The site front-end takes the familiar form of a typical modern classified website with intuitive icon based shortcuts on the homepage representing the different ad categories. The homepage also features the cover image of 5 most recently uploaded ads and the 5 most recently sold items. Visitors to the site can search through the ads and filter / order results as they require.
Ads cost 3 euros and payment is handled by both Realex and PayPal.
The most striking aspect of the initial meeting was the clients obvious enthusiasm for the project and we were glad to bring our experience and ideas to the table. The client was very clear about the required functions of the site and the control that he would need to manage it effectively.
The definition of requirements is an important aspect of any project and by meeting face to face we can interact with the client and clarify requirements to a detailed level. Early on we discussed the following high level requirements:-
- domain name registration & site hosting
- website design
- powerful search / advanced search functions for buyers
- private seller & dealer ad upload capability and private login areas
- easy process to sign up as seller / dealer
- image & video upload for ads
- integrated payment for ads
- admin control panel and dashboard
- back-end ad management module
- back-end seller / dealer management module
- back-end makes / models / accessories management module
- back-end coupon management module
- back-end sponsored ad management module
As we fleshed out the high level requirements, we recognised early on that a bespoke solution was required to fully satisfy the low level requirements and make the solution as flexible as possible. Among the must have requirements were the ability to handle coupon codes and have the ability to manage sponsored ads on the homepage.
In this instance the client actually brought some design sketches to the initial requirements meeting which was a big help. Together we worked through the designs and we were able to point out deficiencies and possible improvements there and then. On the initial meeting a high level design was agreed on paper and we took an action to put that into a real web page design for the client to preview. When the design was completed we mailed it to the client for preview. This design then underwent a number of revisions until the final design was agreed on. This aspect of the project is important as the design is crucial to the end user experience once the site goes live and its important to agree this early on.
The most important function of the system was to allow users upload ads as easy as possible and that was our initial focus. We implemented a 4 step process flow for placing ads :-
Step 1 : Enter ad details
This step will prompt the user to enter most of the ad details and depending on their selections, different options will appear on screen. As the user makes their selections, AJAX is used to refresh the page dynamically to build up the next set of options for the user to enter. A mouseover help system is also incorporated on this page.
Step 2 : Upload Images & Video
This step caters for the uploading of images (up to 10) and a youtube video with the users ad. As images are uploaded, the system automatically resizes & optimises them for the web and automatically adds a BikeDealer.ie watermark to each photo. The user can set images as cover image, delete images and rotate clockwise, anti-clockwise. Again a mouseover help system is used here.
Step 3 : Preview Ad
This step allows the user preview their ad before posting it. If the user wants to change anything about the ad, they can do so from this step. This step also doubles up as a member / dealer log in and sign up stage. The system checks to see if the current user is logged in as a registered user of the system. If they are they will automatically be redirected to the preview page. If not they will be redirected to the log in page. If they are not a registered user, they will be prompted to sign up at this stage.
Step 4 : Payment
Payment is offered through PayPal, Realex & Phone Payments. This step also caters for users to enter coupons for discount or free ads. Once this step is completed the ad is published.
The 4 step post ad process works well especially as a means to sign up new users quickly and easily.
Private sellers are non-trade sellers that wish to advertise bikes or accessories on the site. They pay per ad and have a private login area where they can edit their details, change their password, update / remove their ads & see a history of their ads.
Dealers are sellers that typically will have a large stock of products to sell. By signing up as a dealer on BikeDealer.ie you will be afforded 200 ad slots that they can use however and whenever they choose. Each dealer will have their own online store on the website showing just their ads.
Dealers pay a yearly subscription and have a private login area where they can edit their details, upload a dealer logo, incorporate a Google Maps location of their physical store, enter promotional details, change their password, update / remove their ads & see a history of their ads.
This project called for a very comprehensive back-end to manage ads along with a host of other critical functions for the client. The back-end is comprised of a number of different modules:-
The client is the site administrator and has access to the back-end through a secure username / password protected portal.
The client has the ability to manage ads from the back-end. At a glance they can see the number of active ads in the system, the breakdown of dealer vs. seller ads, the number of ads placed in single day etc. The client can produce reports from the database to see how busy the system is and how well it is performing and they can filter and order this report as they choose.
If certain ads are reported as inappropriate, the client has the ability to remove these ads from the system with an appropriate reason. The entire ad management function was designed with the client and great care was taken to ensure that all of the necessary tools were provided to allow the client manage ads effectively.
Dealers pay a yearly subscription in exchange for 200 ad slots that they can use as they choose. The back-end features a comprehensive dealer management module that allows the client to view all dealers at a glance, see how many times they’ve logged in and see when they last logged in.
When yearly subscriptions have expired, the dealer will automatically be disabled on they system and their ads will no longer be visible nor will they be allowed post new ads. When payment is received, the client has the ability to re-enable the dealer account from the dealer management module. If for whatever reason the client wishes to lock a dealer account (blacklist the dealer) they can do so from the dealer management module.
Member / Seller Management
To post an ad on BikeDealer.ie, the user must be registered on the system as a member. They can sign up explicitly or join implicitly as part of the place ad flow. Once signed up, the client can run reports
and view information from the member database such as the number of logins the user has completed, their last login along with the number of ads they have posted. This can be used for various reasons by the client for example to view their best customers etc.
If for whatever reason the client wishes to lock a member / seller account (blacklist the user) they can do so from the member management module.
It costs private sellers 3 euros to post an ad on BikeDealer.ie. The client felt very strongly that he needed the ability to offer promotions in the form of coupons. We developed a coupon management system that allowed the client to create coupons in the back-end easily.
The client just fills out a form to create a new batch of coupons. They simply enter the number of coupons they wish to create, select the coupon value, and enter the expiry date for the batch. The system then automatically creates the coupons (random 6 digit codes) and saves them to the system.
Accessory Category Management
When posting an ad, the seller can post either a bike or accessory ad. If they select accessory then they will be presented with a dropdown of all available accessory categories. The client needed the ability to manage this list themselves and add / remove items at will. For these reasons we developed a bespoke accessory category management module.
Makes / Models Management
If a seller wishes to post a bike ad, they can select the make and model from dropdown lists. The system initially had over 130 makes and over 1100 models defined. As new makes and models come along, the client stressed the need to have the ability to define these in the back-end and manage the database. We designed and implemented an easy to use make and model management utility in the back-end.
The solution was built with flexibility in mind and the client needed a lot of control over variables in the site. For example, the number of ads shown per page, the number of ads a dealer is allowed to upload and the maximum amount of images that can be uploaded with an ad can all be controlled in the back-end. The client can update these settings at the click of a button.
We always like to give our more complex solutions a clear dashboard or a high level ‘at a glance’ view of their online business. The BikeDealer.ie dashboard shows at a glance:-
- number of ads posted in the last 7 days
- number of active dealers in the system
- number of unverified dealers (dealers that have signed up have yet to have their account enabled) in the system
- number of active private sellers in the site
- number of new private sellers that have joined this week
- Number of active coupons in the site
- Number of coupons used this week
- Number of accessories, makes and models in the system
The dashboard serves as a one stop shop for the client to see what’s going on in the site currently.
We were faced with many challenges on this project and it was very rewarding to see all the different modules come together at the end to give an innovative & user friendly front end along with a coherent & flexible back-end.
By working closely with the client throughout all stages of development we were able to stick to the requirements and suggest improvements along the way.