The project

The Allen & Unwin’s website needed a complete overhaul. Based on a bespoke CMS, it was unwieldy and unstable.

Content was taking such a long time to load that potential book buyers were deserting the site before they could find the book that was right there, ready and waiting. And the mobile site… well, best not to even talk about it and how it didn’t talk properly to the full site.

The wonky CMS also meant that the ability to add new functionality was seriously limited.

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Design Award

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20% up turn in sales in the first two months of going live

Happy customers

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The design

We used the ready-made design elements of bold book covers to bring life to the site, creating a template with a striking mosaic effect.

News and events are featured in large tiles as readers scroll down the page. We stuck with A&U’s corporate colours, but brought the palette up to date by adding a spunky new teal highlight.

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The Solution

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Moving to an established open source CMS like Joomla was a must.

Just as importantly, the design needed a facelift, UX had to be put back into the equation, and the URLs that went on for a million characters had to be brought under control for SEO purposes. Not only did the site need to make A&U’s books shine, it also had to have e-commerce functionality. No more abandoned, half-filled shopping baskets.

But… So many books. So much data. So much metadata. And website sections that didn’t match the categories on A&U’s internal database.

Lesser digital agencies would have run screaming, but we knew we could do it. After all, those books and their readers just had to be brought together…

At the heart of our solution is a balance between automation and control. A&U can change things around as they need to – all those books need their moment in the sun – but within rules that make it consistent and easy. Essentially, we’ve equipped A&U with lots of tools that make it easy to do cool stuff within the site.

image of allen and unwin new responsive websiteimage of allen and unwin new responsive websiteimage of allen and unwin new  responsive website
image of allen and unwin new responsive website

Sister publisher Murdoch Books also got a new website as part of this project.

We built up to the UAT stage and then duplicated the site for Murdoch.

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Tech talk

The sheer quantity of data we had to deal with in this project was mind-blowing, so getting the site optimised was our biggest challenge.

Using MySQL we optimised the database and created indexes so that the Sphinx could do its job in the best way possible. This involved creating database indexes for each table that is connected to another table to make the joins run quicker – joining all the VirtueMart (shopping cart extension) tables in one query for Sphinx.

We also designed a custom payment extension for the shopping cart. The previous site was using an older API so an update was literally essential for getting money in the bank.

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