Toolcheck.ie is the brainchild of a Wicklow carpenter who has been the victim of tool theft in the past. He had a very simple but powerful idea for how best to combat this. The site is aimed at tradespeople who own valuable tools that are at risk of being stolen.
The central concept behind ToolCheck is to build up a comprehensive database of tools that people in the second hand market can query before purchasing. For example, let’s say Joe Soap is a carpenter and has a toolbox full of valuable tools – he can register on the site, sign up to a monthly subscription plan and then create his online toolbox by uploading serial numbers and images of his tools. Let’s say Joe’s tools are stolen after this point.
Meanwhile John Doe is in the market for a second hand drill and comes across a bargain at a local market. He can query the ToolCheck database (for free) before he buys and if the tool is found on the database – this will raise a flag. In our example, if John finds a match on Joe’s tool – Joe will be alerted and if John chooses to – he can initiate an email conversation with him. Police can also use the database to identify suspicious tools.
There are 4 different payment plans and monthly billing is handled by PayPal.
When we met the client it was clear that they were very enthusiastic about their idea. They had been the victim of tool theft in the past and understood the injustice of it. 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
- ease of use
- mobile friendly
- streamline process to sign up as a customer and select subscription plan
- 4 different (configurable) subscriptions
- subscriptions to be charged monthly
- ability for customers to upgrade their account over time
- streamlined process for uploading tools
- integrated image manipulation while uploading tools
- online toolbox
- notification centre
- integrated email alerting
- easy search function
- admin control panel and dashboard
- back-end tool management module
- back-end customer management module
- back-end subscriptions management module
- back-end notification / events management module
- future integration with mobile app
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. This would allow for all of the functionality to be delivered as well as make the site scalable for the future.
The design had to be very clean and intuitive. There are different types of users for ToolCheck.ie and each user must have an easy to use interface.
The main users are the paying customers – the tradespeople that register their tools on the site. Their user interface and experience were key.
The registration process had to be quick, easy and intuitive. On the registration page the user is asked for their name, email address and other contact details. When they submit these details they are then prompted to sign up for a monthly subscription plan. They have 4 options here and when they select their preferred option they are taken to PayPal to checkout. One payment is complete they are redirected back to their account page where they can start uploading tools. At any stage the customer can choose to upgrade or downgrade their account package easily through their account section. They can also cancel their account and remove all of their data.
This is probably the most important feature of the site. The customer can upload a set amount of tools based on their subscription type. They can enter serial number, make, model, description and also upload images of the tool. This creates a ‘digital toolbox’ for the customer and once the tool is uploaded – it can be found on the database instantly – so it is immediately protected. Uploading a tool takes around 20 seconds to do so for customers with many tools – the process isn’t overly complicated and it is extremely mobile friendly.
Customer Account Management
The customer can view their subscription status & history at any time and modify / cancel as they choose. They can also update other account details (contact details, password, various account preferences)
Customer Notification Centre
When a tool alert is generated it appears in the Notification Centre. Here the customer can view the alert and read the message that the reporter has left. They also get emailed in real time when the alert is generated. When there is an outstanding alert that the customer has not viewed – it will presented with a red flashing icon in their menu.
The public are free to browse the website and read the various content pages. They are also free to search through the tool database for tools they might like to buy but need to do a background check on first. The search function is on the homepage and cannot be missed.
This project called for a very comprehensive back-end to manage the site along with a host of other critical functions for the client. The back-end admin section is comprised of a number of different modules:-
The admin is the site administrator and has access to the back-end through a secure username / password protected portal.
The admin user has the ability to manage tools from the back-end. At a glance they can see the number of active tools in the system, the number of active customers, the number of tools uploaded in single day etc. The admin user 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 content is reported as inappropriate, the admin user has the ability to remove these tools from the system with an appropriate reason. The entire tool management function was designed with the client and great care was taken to ensure that all of the necessary functions were provided to allow the admin manage tools effectively.
Customers pay a monthly subscription in exchange for the ability to upload and protect their tools. The admin section features a comprehensive customer management module that allows the client to view all customers at a glance, see how many times they’ve logged in and see when they last logged in.
There are also nightly scheduled batch jobs to monitor customer activity. For example if somebody cancelled their subscription through PayPal and not via the website the nightly job will catch that and will set their tools to become inactive at the end of that billing cycle.
There are 4 different subscription types on ToolCheck and all 4 are configurable and changeable from the admin section. e.g. change package name or price etc.
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 ToolCheck.ie dashboard shows at a glance:-
- Total number of tools on the system
- Number of tools uploaded in last 30 days
- Total number of customers
- number of customers signed up in the last 30 days
- Projected monthly revenue
- Total number of notifications
- number of notifications in last 30 days
- Chart showing customer & tool growth over last 30 days
- Superscription breakdown donut chart by type
- Quick view of last 10 tools to be uploaded
- Quick view of last 10 customers to sign up
- Quick view of last 10 notifications
- Quick view of last 20 system events
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.