Active Vista supplies Australian and New Zealand market gardeners with the products and knowledge to operate an economically sustainable, and ecologically sound enterprise. Active Vista test and use everything they sell through their own Certified Organic market farm: Longley Organic.
We partnered with them to fortify and expand their eCommerce capabilities in order to meet increasing sales demand. Top achievements included improvements to security, usability, information architecture, and multi-region sales capabilities.
How we helped
Wordpress / Woocommerce
+400 Products In Store
Net Sales Year on Year
Clicks from Search
The Active Vista Story
Active Vista is making a big splash in Australia and New Zealand’s small farming space.
It was born from the seeds of an organic farm based in southern Tasmania. The owner James found that as a small farmer, sourcing overseas market gardening supplies from Australia was too cost prohibitive as nobody was importing and distributing them within Oceania. The costs of engaging in small-order shipments were often so high that they became a deal-breaker for small growers like him.
He saw a chance to solve this problem to make a positive impact on the flourishing small-scale regenerative agriculture scene down under.
Taming Taxonomies in a One-Stop Supershop
In just 13 months Active Vista went from selling zero products, to over 350. Incredible.
Their diverse product range quickly became a major boon for their customer base and meant that the business could legitimately claim to be a one-stop-shop for their needs.
However, an unforeseen challenge arose that overcomplicated the customer experience and had the potential to negatively impact revenue. This problem was Information Architecture related. The original approach to product categorization wasn’t equipped to handle such a wide range of products. And as the inventory grew it became difficult to contextualize the new offerings into the existing schema. Active Vista had plans to further expand their range to well over 400 products in the very near future so fixing this was top priority.
The Need for an Audit
We conducted an exhaustive Information Architecture audit of the product range to understand where scalability and user experience were compromised. We identified a few key issues with the existing schema:
It was too narrow at the top. There was a single taxonomy (Categories) doing the heavy lifting for all of the organisational needs.
There was no internal stratification of category terms. Everything was ‘flat’ with no subdivision enabled.
The category vocabulary lacked consistency. The terms weren’t homogenous, terse, findable, or easily understood at a glance.
Products were incorrectly categorized.
Customer oriented categories, and fulfillment-related categories were co-located. There was no structural differentiation between the categories and used by customers, and those deployed for administrative purposes (such as shipping).
Building a new schema
In our post-audit review, our working group came to the conclusion that the most expedient way to solve these issues would be to build a new schema from the ground up, and recategorize all products. But all was not lost with the existing schema. While it was lacking or excessive in some critical places, it served as a highly instructive reference, and many existing categories could be used in the new schema.
Airtable proved to be the perfect tool for the heavy lifting. We were able to efficiently build, populate, and modify the schema. Getting to the finish line involved many iterations and Airtable’s malleability really came to the fore.
A RESTful Rollout
Transitioning to the new schema would be non-trivial. The implementation would render hundreds of existing category archive and single-product pages redundant, as well as break global navigation.
We were looking at more than 3000 individual manipulations to the product range and were keenly aware of the potential damage to search and user-experience that might occur if things weren’t done right.
We decided to utilize the WordPress REST API to populate all the new changes and used the Airtable base as our replacement data source. When we launched, all schema changes and redirections were implemented in under 60 minutes without errors.
The original schema had 120 categories, in a near-flat hierarchy. The revised schema manifest in:
11 Primary Categories
66 Secondary Categories
13 Product Attributes
The outcome of this work was a new schema that was capable of:
Making significant and immediate improvements to the customer experience
Aiding SEO and findability needs
Paving the way for a range of user interface improvements we had in the pipeline
After the new schema had been deployed, website analytics demonstrated a 33% bounce rate reduction that has been maintained since.
Custom eCommerce Theme
The site was originally established with an off the shelf eCommerce theme. By the time we became involved it was clear that the business needed more customization and features than the theme could offer.
We built a custom theme based on the identified needs that Active Vista had. The new theme would allow for practical and expedient development of features in the years to come.
Dynamic Product Filtering
We deployed out a dynamic product filtering capability for the stores product listing. The filters referenced the new product schema to great effect. This feature has been instrumental in assisting findability and improved the user experience greatly.
We also made improvements to secondary navigation elements (especially in single product pages) and implemented prunable permalink structures.
Improved Security & Server Performance
We rolled out a host of improvements to the back end including:
Automated database and file system backups.
Deployment of a CDN and Asset Caching.
This improved page load times, and set them up to handle the increasing traffic demands they were experiencing.
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