Annette Fowler

AspDotNetStorefront Conference – Day Two

Est. Reading Time: 7 minutes

Welcome back to the play by play of my experiences at the 2011 AspDotNetStorefront Conference in Las Vegas.  Day One down, Day Two here we come…  Another incredibly informative day and I leave lots smarter and excited to start our newest AspDotNetstorefront project!

Developer’s Clinic– Technically the “developer’s clinic” was to allow the developers to bring solutions to coding problems that were e-mailed to them in advance.  The questions were way beyond my meager programming skills though (I leave that to our awesome developers!), but I did come to the conference armed with sixteen “how to” questions.  Since I didn’t see anywhere else on the schedule to ask my particular questions (and 90% of them would really bore an audience anyway), I invaded the developer’s clinic area and basically begged the unlucky AspDotNetStorefront staff member there for assistance.  Josh Belden was kind enough to indulge me, even after I pulled out the notebook with my myriad of questions.  He worked through each item with me patiently and didn’t once roll his eyes!

This is really the reason that we selected AspDotNetStorefront as a shopping cart in the first place – the exceedingly helpful support and active developers community.  I’m so pleased to find out that that spirit of sharing and community continues at Vortx and couldn’t be happier about the assistance that Josh provided.  Trying not to sound too gushy, but this 30 minutes of one-on-one consultation likely saved me hours of research and analysis.  I’d suggest that next year, rather than a “Developer’s Clinic”, which seemed rather sparsely attended, there be an “Ask the Experts” booth, where conference attendees can go to brainstorm with the experts.  Thanks Josh!!

Session 7B, “jQuery” by Dan Heberden, jQuery – This session also turned out to be too technical for my poor project manager brain (there’s only so many dollar signs and curly brackets my head can take!), but the developer that attended the conference with me was positively giddy.  “We can do everything in jQuery!” she said, which I really liked to hear.  I learned enough to know that jQuery is going to give us a more interactive user experience without sacrificing performance or having to edit source code (which I avoid like the plague if I possibly can).  Dan was incredibly knowledgeable on the subject and provided a list of resources which I plan to add to our corporate knowledgebase:

Lunchtime announcements– We anxiously awaited the big announcements that were shared by Dana Greaves, CEO of AspDotNetStorefront and Vortx, during the lunch session:

  • Of most immediate interest to me personally– Version 9.1 of ML was released today, which should offer many fixes and enhancements to the ML9 product with minimal impact to current custom code
  • Change in licensing– Instead of being forced to purchase Multi-Store in 5-pack units, the product is now available in single store units, with the future option to purchase additional stores at a discounted rate
  • Several promotions and discounts available to conference attendees were announced
  • New branding/naming for the ML9 product as “MSx” (I think??)

Session 8B, “Design + Master Pages”, by Chris McKellar and George Solomon (Vibe Commerce) – I was anxious to attend this session because I’ve worked with Vibe several times in the past and have heard both Chris and George speak before.  They are both extremely knowledgeable about AspDotNetStorefront and very good public speakers and I was not disappointed.  One thing that stood out about this session, among the others, was specific examples of AspDotNetstorefront sites that used the principals in the talk.  They also did a good job of bridging the gap between the true developers in the room and those of us that have to make business decisions based on the technology.

Chris began with a nice overview of the psychology of design and prompted us to consider a number of different factors when designing and developing a site:

  • Make sure the user experience is seamless and simple – “Make it so good they don’t notice”
  • Understand exactly what you want the customer to do and how that goal can be accomplished
  • Modern designs tend to have:
    • Less “ads” and/or call to actions in the site header (instead reserved for informational/account-related content)
    • Search box tends to be large and in the middle of the top nav bar
    • Tabs have been replaced with “mega-menus” and photography is leveraged to provide an emotional response
  • Consistency in site design and presentation is KEY!
  • Category landing and search results pages should look exactly the same to provide a seamless shopping experience
  • Use whitespace/negative space wisely and generously… Let the site “breathe”
  • Use appropriate color triggers– warm colors for strong emotions and immediate response (call to actions, promotions) and cool colors for calmness and serenity
  • Provide the customer with a confirmation page before the final order is placed to increase consumer confidence

Next, George provided a summary of “Master Pages” and why we should be excited to use them.  As someone who has been reluctant to upgrade for this very reason, this was a very informative part of the session for me.  I learned the following (do I dare say I’m sold??):

  • Master pages provide an effective way to establish a consistent layout throughout the website as well as separating the functionality from the design in order to enable team members to develop on different pieces of the same site simultaneously.
  • When deployed correctly, there can be a performance boost for the end-users on an AspDotNetStorefront site using Master Pages
  • Using Master Pages allows a service company to bring any .NET developer up to speed quickly on an AspDotNetStorefront site, whereas earlier versions often required a fairly high learning curve for both designers and developers
  • There will potentially be more third party controls and add-ons available for a site based on Master Pages, due to its inherent extendability
  • Applying styles and switching themes are easier with Master Pages
  • .NET only allows one “run-at” form per page and AspDotNetStorefront uses that, so other sub-forms on the page (search box, newsletter submissions) must be implemented using .NET controls.
  • Sites should be easier to develop and deploy using Master Pages (fingers crossed!)

Session 9B, “Stump the Experts” with Jesse Hodges, Josh Belden, Jason Addington (all of AspDotNetStorefront/Vortx) and George Solomon (Vibe Commerce) – The organizer’s intention was to make this kind of a “game” where the audience would write down questions that they knew the answers to and try to stump the expert panel.  This started pretty slowly, as most of us were unprepared and thought it would be more of an open brain-storming session (and personally, I still wish it had been), but it turned out fun in the end (I won a bag with a cheater question) with lots of laughs and trash talking.  I didn’t really learn a whole lot, except for one thing, which was probably the most important of all—these guys are really, really smart and they know what they are doing– period.  With a program that easily has tens of thousands of lines of code, they could quickly and easily spout of the exact name of a stored procedure and how to modify the code to get the desired effect.  They are proud of the work that they do and readily think outside the box to solve a problem.  Good enough for me!

I leave Las Vegas tired from a long couple of days, but full of energy and excitement about the product and the company that now owns it.  Congrats to all involved for hosting such a successful event!

One Comment

  1. Posted March 11, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the kind words Annette, it was a real pleasure meeting you and Tiffany, as well as everyone else at the conference.