It’s been a while since I launched a new website, and it’s amazing how fast technology has been changing over the past several years. I originally started experimenting in the web arena back in 1997 when it was standard to use the “table tag” for all your layout purposes. As the shift moved to DIV tags with floats in the CSS world, I longed for what I perceived was the simplicity of using tables to layout web pages.
Fast forward to 2012, and everything changed with my introduction to the Twitter Bootstrap framework and the Grid System concept in CSS. I wish I had found this framework earlier because it is absolutely brilliant!! For an admittingly mediocre programmer, this framework makes the web accessible again and REALLY speeds up web development. And the GRID concept is absolutely wonderful! I now have the logic of columns and rows like I had in my old “table” days but with the power and flexibility of CSS. On top of that I now have access to an extensive library of components to quickly and easily iterate upon. Big thanks to Mark Otto and Jacob Thornton who are the original developers and visionaries behind this framework.
So with the introduction to Twitter Bootstrap, I was able to use the framework in combination with WordPress and Rachel Baker’s BootstrapWP to help launch Pink Cake Box University to the world. Pink Cake Box University is an extension of Pink Cake Box with a focus on education in the cake, cookie and cupcake world. The education component of the site is centered around Anne’s new cake decorating DVDs and also includes cookie and cupcake decorating classes and various tutorials and recipes.
The other great feature of the Bootstrap framework is the built-in responsive design component. It’s almost a no-brainer. You include the responsive design CSS stylesheet and the CSS takes care of a large majority of the work. Perhaps the hardest part for me was getting the menu to collapse appropriately for mobile devices.
For the classes section of the site, we used the Event Management plugin. This is a fantastic plugin. We’ve been using it for years and are happy to see that Marcus Sykes and team have continued to enhance the plugin tremendously. It’s now well integrated into wordpress and leverages custom post types and taxonomy for event management. We purchased the Pro version to enabled payments through paypal and some further customization options. The only issue we’ve had so far is that the booking forms do not play nice with Twitter Bootstrap responsive design approach. I haven’t done a deep dive yet, but it appears the forms have some hard coded widths in the CSS code which causes trouble on the responsive side of things.
The other interesting part of the project was integrating with Amazon.com for managing the purchase and fulfillment of Anne’s DVDs. I use the word integration loosely here because at this point we are simply just linking from Pink Cake Box University to our DVD listings at Amazon. What’s interesting though is the ability to leverage Amazon’s fulfillment capabilities for distributing the DVDs to customers. That’s probably the most attractive aspect of the service. We simply send them the DVDs and they manage the order and fulfillment process. With its fulfillment services, your listing can qualify for Amazon Prime and free shipping.
The downside of using Amazon is the lack of promotional capabilities. The Amazon platform has great promotional capabilities, but for some reason they restrict promotions on books and dvds. I do not know why, but it is certainly disappointing. In the end however, Amazon provided a fairly straightforward setup process and allowed us to get to market in time for the Christmas rush. Going forward, we may look at other e-commerce options, but for now Amazon is serving its purpose.
That’s all for now. For those interested, we are running a great little contest to win one of Anne’s new cake decorating DVDs. The DVDs focus on the basics of stacking, squaring-off, fondanting, and paneling round and square cakes. You can enter here.