When we were approached to develop a new website for Skins South Africa, we were excited. However, our excitement gave way to some nervousness, when we realised that just how stylish our new customer wanted the site to be.
Skins Cosmetics is a Dutch retailer, founded in 2000. It went on to become an original luxury emporium for fragrances and skin care products painstakingly curated from niche brands, sourced all over the world.
In the years that the Syncrony has been developing original Magento online stores, we have some good-looking work. But for us to produce an online store that was as stylish and tasteful as required by Skins was going to stretch our entire team.
Technically, we would start with a Magento 2x install that would have the usual base functionality. As always Magento would provide the bedrock for a secure, high performance ecommerce website. There would be some of the usual technical challenges like wiring the online stock into an ERP system for near-live stock levels and pricing. Payment, collection and delivery would also be covered as standard.
Making Big Beautiful Banners
If you take a look at the Skins home page, the banners make an immediate impression of vast beauty. This expanse of style in definitely not something Magento supports out of the box! And to make it possible we needed to pick a banner extension. Seemingly not an easy task in a market flooded with banner extensions. However, an easy choice for Guy our Magento Front-end specialist.
‘Let’s go with the NWD themes banner extension for the home page,’ he said, ‘It’s my favourite.’
‘Costs half the price with double the features. And it allows us to place multiple elements on each banner, including searchable text.’
For the brand pages Guy chose to go with manually crafted banners, mainly because they looks so good after some careful hand-crafting.
The products on the Skins online store are connected to the Skins SAP One ERP System, using the flowgear integration platform.
In a first for Syncrony, we had an online store that allows customers a gift wrap option. The system we use can handle multiple paper types but in Skins’ case there is just a single white paper.
Magento Product Search was Not a Strong Point
Product search functionality quickly became our first major issue.
It is no secret that the built-in Magento search is at serviceable at best. Sure, it can find a product when given the correct search strings but otherwise it’s a bare bones solution. In fact the base search engine was bad enough for Magento to be forced to replace it by eventually bundling an after-market solution. In April 2020, version 2.3.5 was released with Elasticsearch support.
Going Beyond Stylish
Then we hit another well-known Magento problem – the BLOG.
Our client had a vison for a BLOG that would have a fashion magazine look. It needed to look expensive and would be sub-titled ‘An expert judge in matters of taste’. Not something that a Magento static page can be made to do, without the burning of prodigious hours of graphic and web design time!
Paige our design ninja was adamant. The only reliable solution was to build the ‘blog’ on a more flexible content-oriented platform. Which meant, Umbraco 8 the fastest and most flexible CMS (Content Management System) in existence. And on top of that a sexy Uskinned theme and we were off-to-the-races!
Priority access to new product launches, in store events, and expert advice.