THE BIGGEST CATALOG FOR SCIENTISTS
Labochema company has been operating in the Baltic states for more than 15 years and is the biggest company in the region, selling top quality chemical reagents, consumables, laboratory equipment, furniture, and implementing individual laboratory installation projects. Most of Labochema clients are university scientists. The company also sells their production to privately owned laboratories, always seeking to meet the customers’ expectations despite any issues.
Labochema company has accumulated vast experience in cooperation with partners. Labochema represents Sigma Aldrich, Leica, VWR, and others.
We started with analyzing the current system. Besides the aforesaid drawbacks, it also had some really complex challenges:
- Complex pricing system;
- Complex product indexing;
- Non–standard functionality (quotes, products from contracts, different catalogs for different customer groups).
The main challenge of the project was “A searchable product catalog with more than 1’500’000 items”. For this challenge, we used SOLR – a standalone enterprise search server. Usually, SOLR performs on e–shops from 10 to 100 thousand products, therefore we faced several problems. Firstly, we had to optimize SOLR and adapt to the project scale. Secondly, we implemented a total count function so that customers would be able to see how many specific products (search results) there are.
Due to the content–heavy system, we implemented Varnish HTTP accelerator. Varnish stores data in virtual memory and leaves the task of deciding what is stored in the memory and what gets paged out to the disk of the operating system. This helps avoid the situations when the operating system starts caching data while it is being moved to disk by the application. Varnish is used by a great number of online sites such as Facebook, The New York Times and Wikipedia.
Labochema e–shop has 3 stores (Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian) and every store has different customer groups with specific content (different categories, products, and prices). We have expanded Varnish functionality by implementing some Varnish crawler upgrades. Every customer group has a Varnish crawler user – this user checks all the available categories, so the categories and product pages load quickly for the real customers.
Amasty Customer Group Catalog module is used to hide prices and set access to catalog pages on Labochema’s needs. Our team extended this module’s functionality by implementing dynamic categories, like adjusting the menu according to the terms of customer groups.
Cart2Quote module helps to create, send and manage customer’s quotes in Magento. Labochema team can easily organize quotes, manage discounts, assign sales representatives and manage relations through e–mails and quotes/order statuses.
Labochema sells their production only to business and academic institutions, laboratories and the public sector. Every organization has its own customer group with different prices. Also, some organizations have special prices on existing agreements.
We implemented agreement functionality, which helps Labochema managers to create agreements and assign products and customers who receive special prices. When searching for products, the user has an opportunity to filter products that fit in particular agreement.
Specific software and hardware requirements
- At least 8 GB RAM;
- Zend, Memcache, PHP OpCache or HHVM ;
- APC –replaced by opcache/hhvm;
- NGINX, HHVM;
- MySQL (with Percona patches)
- No stored procedures.
The Content is the Interface
The main inspiration for the e-shop design was Swiss design, often referred to as Typographic style. Our design team instead of adding more elements to work with preferred to remove as much as possible.
Look and feel
The main source of information was the Labochema brand book. The client’s request was to use as little colors and shades as possible. Because of this reason, our designers chose typeface as an instrument of visual communication. The typeface is able to deliver a message in a very precise, clear and unobtrusive way.
Different font sizes frame the hierarchy of the presented data. The largest font size is dedicated to display top–level elements in the content’s information architecture and page’s hierarchy. This kind of visual impact helps to guide the user’s eyes throughout the page more efficiently.
Search and Navigation
The search box is the most frequently used function in Labochema e–shop. The main goal was to make the search box clearly visible, quickly recognizable and easy to use.
Because of an extremely high amount of products, it is necessary to have a search function among categories. Users can choose the category in the drop–down menu. Also, there is an autocomplete functionality which accelerates shopping.
Over the last decade, the magnifying glass has become a conventional icon for search and it communicates search function better than a “submit” button.
The search box fits the website’s overall design perfectly and manages to stand out slightly when users need it.