Sunday, November 09, 2008


Okay, so I promised the tale of online ordering at Yoyodyne. Let me first explain the situation at our shop. There's two of us pre-press guys that make up the art department of our shop. John Silver is the lead operator because a) he's been there longer, b) he has a wider range of experience with computers, traditional lithography and print shops, and c) he cares a lot more about the job than I do. Most of the time I'm quite content to toil in his shadow, but from time to time I do feel a tinge of envy. I am the lesser employee when compared to him, but I'm not without my own skills and years of experience. There are times when I wish the powers that be would come and ask me to take on a project* rather than always run to him.

Be careful what you wish for, eh? A number of weeks ago, I started overhearing the bosses talking to John Silver about some web design project. Seems that John Emdall had bought into some online ordering service, MyOrderDesk, that one can have customized for one's own company. Or one's customers. Now, at Yoyodyne we always look for a cheaper solution--used equipment, older software, using all available manpower when needed. So rather than having the dudes at MOD design our site, they were asking John Silver to draw upon his computer expertise and create the skins we'd need for the order site. In addition to his other duties, of course. So, J.S. tries his hand at it and ran into a roadblock. He just couldn't get a handle on how to dig into the site and set up the things he needed. He tried to tell the powers that what they were asking for wasn't possible. They were telling him that it certainly was. (The MyOrderDesk salesmen told them so, after all.) I only overheard about 75% of these discussions, but for whatever reason I started to think that if I had the chance to take a stab at it, I could possibly break thorough where J.S. was getting hung up. After all, I've changed the fonts and colors on many of my Blogger templates.

Anyway, two weeks ago I got my chance. I had been asked if I had any web experience and I mentioned that I had done some basic html. So they asked me to take a stab at it. After doing some poking, I discovered that once again John Silver knew what he was talking about. The powers were envisioning a site that would seamlessly link to a customer's site, taking on all the design elements and delivering full functionality. Well, that was possible, but only if you buy a package for each customer. Our single site could be fully customized, but we'd have to pick which customer to flatter. To my credit, I did make a bit more headway into manipulating the site, but then again, I also had less daily crises to tend to. I reported my findings to the powers and after some consultation with the pros at My Order Desk, we all came up with a plan wherein we'll drop the MOD window into customized pages that will be hosted at our site. We'll pay the MOD folks to create our first page and then John Silver and I will start creating the versions for our variety of customers.

Of course, this is going to take a lot of work. In addition to making it look pretty, we have to set up the various forms and databases for each customer, as well as altering our current workflow to make use of the service. This is all unscheduled work, which means that the sales people will be screaming for it while the production manager will be screaming for the paying jobs. Ah, well. So far it's proving to be an intriguing challenge, as well as another item to add on the resume.
*Yeah, I know. I'm the company FSC dude. I sent that ball into John Emdall's court and haven't heard about it in weeks. I've a feeling that'll be on the back burner until a customer starts inquiring about it again.

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