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Case Studies

Below are detailed descriptions of two e.designs projects, Judy Diamond Associates, Inc. and Political Information.com.

Judy Diamond Associates, Inc.

Judy Diamond Associates sells financial information on CD-ROM about companies and organizations to stockbrokers, financial planners and benefits package salespeople. By June, 1999, the company realized that it was in danger of losing market share to rivals who were able to sell their products online. The company approached e.designs to build an ecommerce system that would allow it to protect its position as a market leader.

e.designs worked with JDA to develop system requirements and outline the hardware and software required. Two requirements were paramount -- the system had to be easy-to-use and it had to be secure against credit card theft -- but we also had to take into account that the system needed to be easily expanded and easily maintained.

By relying on open-source software, including the Linux operating system and Apache web server, we were able to propose a system that was both robust and well within JDA's financial ability. For the actual ecommerce engine, we modified an open-source program and married it with custom PERL modules.

In the end, e.designs completed the project on time and within budget. JDA was able to take full advantage of the online market during its busy fall sales season. As planned, the system has been very easy to maintain and allows new products to be added quickly, saving JDA a great deal of money.

As part of the project, we also redesigned the JDA website's appearance. Since the site was to sell financial products, we used deep, rich colors (burgundy and a green/gold) to convey the impression of wealth and class. The look was so successful that it was immediately copied by a JDA competitor.

We also reorganized the site to make its information easy to find, and encouraged JDA to add regular feature articles (such as advice on how to increase sales) to draw repeat visitors who might eventually become repeat customers. Additionally, we prepared and helped implement a site marketing plan and stayed on retainer to provide marketing advice.

Our relationship with JDA was so successful that less than one year later, e.designs was chosen to implement the next step of JDA's migration to the web. Now that the company could sell its products online, it wanted customers to be able to use its databases online as well.

This new project was much more involved than the original, and its ultmately was over 6 times that of the original ecommerce system. Consequently, competition for the contract was fierce.

In the end, e.designs beat a company with annual revenues of almost $40 million to win the right to build the new system. We won in part because of the technical advantages of our proposed system (more robust, easier to expand and maintain, more secure and slightly less expensive), but also because of the confidence our earlier work had engendered. The project, which involves huge SQL databases integrated into custom sales and customer-management modules, went online in October, 2000 and is generating strong sales.

Political Information.com

Political Information.com is a targeted search engine for politics and policy. e.designs was involved very early in the process of building the search engine in the spring of 1999, helping to determine the site's content and market niche. We also worked with Pol Info technical staff to select and prepare the search software that would power the site.

Pol Info has turned out to be a very involved project in part because of its advanced features. As an example, e.designs has had to create site layouts that work with several different database-driven page generating programs. Since the core of the site is a set of search engines, the individual pages are created on-the-fly as users look for information. The site links section (over 200 pages and 1800+ links) is also actively regenerated from a database every time the list is updated.

Adding to the challenge, each program has different requirements for the page templates. e.designs staff would have to deconstruct the templates in different ways for each active feature, even though the resulting pages look the same to users.

The site also has to be capable of growth. Since the site editors add new features constantly to attract readers, the layout and information architecture need to be easily expandable.

e.designs has been equal to the challenge. First, we created a logo for the site, then used it as an anchor for the overall design. Then, we fleshed out the layout with the features originally envisioned for the site. Finally, we worked with Pol Info staff to write page content and integrate the page templates into the database-driven sections of the site.

Once site construction was complete, we developed a marketing plan and helped implement it, writing press releases and building partnerships with other political websites. After Pol Info had been live for six months, we redesigned the page layout to reflect user comments and the need for even more features.

e.designs has also been integral in redefining the site's core mission. After several months of operation, it became clear that the political web marketplace was very crowded. Despite its powerful search features, Pol Info would have a difficult time being noticed in the throng.

e.designs worked with Pol Info management to change the site from just a reader destination into a vendor of services to other websites: the site now licenses its searches to other political web portals.

These licensing arrangements bring in something rare on the political web: revenue. They have also opened the door to Political Information.com building non-political search engines for other portals, which promises to become an important core mission in the future.

Political Information.com has proven to be a very successful site. A Netscape Netcenter Cool Site, a USA Today Hot Site, it was also called one of the Neat Ideas of 1999 by a prominent Internet political newsletter. And its licensing and custom search solutions businesses are bringing in steady revenue.

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