But as with any economic sector, the benefits are not distributed evenly. Customers and revenues are accruing to those businesses with the most appealing and responsive websites. The most profitable sites afford the same pleasures of shopping in a luxe retail outlet: they invite, they stimulate desire, they cater to individual need, inexorably drawing customers to the purchase button.
That kind of consumer journey demands websites that are not only powerful but adaptable. Competitive companies require sites that accommodate quick and easy changes that can highlight the season, market conditions, consumer preferences, and product rollouts. Content, new promotions, and announcements of special events must go up—and be taken down—rapidly, seamlessly, and painlessly.
But such capabilities imply an essential technological democratization. To exploit sudden opportunities or respond to unexpected market developments, commerce teams can’t rely on a developer to implement required site changes; writing and testing the requisite code can take days or weeks. What is required is a system that marketers and brand managers can use to create rich, compelling ecommerce content quickly and painlessly. Low—or no—coding skills required.
There are plenty of integrated and third-party content management systems (CMSs) that can fulfill these needs minimally, but the astute retailer will demand more: a visually and functionally sophisticated system that takes it to the next level.
To remedy this deficit, Astound Commerce has supercharged Page Designer, a low-code Salesforce Commerce Cloud (SFCC) feature that allows companies to speedily update and augment their digital sites. Astound’s Page Designer is a versatile proprietary overlay that provides companies with exceptionally fast, deep, and nuanced management capabilities.
“We’re providing a particularly powerful toolkit,” says Scott Springer, the director of user experience for Astound and the team leader for Page Designer. “It’s based on a series of building blocks that lets teams do virtually anything they want creatively and stand up pages quickly without the logistical nightmares of extensive coding and support that so often hobbles website updates.”
Page Designer allows team members without deep coding skills to create rich, elegant home pages, theme landing pages, category landing pages, image galleries, and content pages. Its foundation rests on three primary building blocks:
Layouts. Used to define the positioning of content on a page.
Components. Fourteen essential content frameworks placed within the layouts, defining the user experience.
Modules. Complex pre-defined arrangements of components that provide a vast choice of configurable content options.
Page Designer also incorporates a matrix that identifies all configurable options for each component, allowing designers to work directly with technology teams to add or remove entire components or selected configurable options across the entire system.
The ease of use and seeming simplicity of Page Designer, however, must not be conflated with mediocre outcomes.
“Though our building blocks allow for quick design without customized coding, they result in pages that are beautiful, sophisticated, and essentially bespoke,” says Springer. “They have the look and feel of pages that are designed by highly creative and formidably skilled developers.”
Springer credits his Astound colleagues, including Kellar Williams, Anton Kamarov, Brad Mu, and Valentin Ulanov, with creating the powerful architecture that ultimately led to Astound’s Page Designer offering. The team worked on prototypes with the flagship store for shoe and accessory brand TOMS in Venice, California, and department store chain El Palacio de Hierro in Mexico City, Springer says. Those early models got the job done—but Astound’s CX team was determined to enhance Page Designer’s flexibility, given the needs and demands of top retail leaders.
“We really didn’t derive full potential until we worked with [custom flooring brand] FLOR to devise a system that met all their needs via our configurable parameters,” Springer says. “So now, those 14 components can do it all. FLOR had a small team turning out different pages on a three-to-four-day timeline, telling really captivating stories and employing spectacular design aesthetics. It just created a magical front-end experience, and they were thrilled with both the friendliness of the technology and its personalization capabilities.”
With ecommerce accelerating exponentially, the ability to rapidly augment and update websites has become a top retail priority. Page Designer not only solves the mission-critical problem of timely website management—it also allows virtually anyone to do the work.
“Page Designer is an exceedingly powerful reference application for top-of the-funnel issues,” says Springer, “and it meets the goals implicit for any exemplary ecommerce solution—better, cheaper, faster. It has the flexibility needed to express any storytelling experience for any CMS, and it frees developers to do what they do best—build code for new products. We’re very proud of it.”
The Astound Commerce Page Designer solution offers customization features that are clearly its biggest benefit. Page Designer gives site administrators a wide array of options, including:
- Controlling width and height components
- Adding buttons and calls to action
- Adding accordions and expand/collapse nodes
- Creating elegant carousels and off-canvas, swipe-enabled sliders
- Populating carousels and sliders with content and product tiles
- Using large product tiles to direct attention to key products while
simultaneously maintaining timely pricing and variant logic
- Precisely placing live HTML text over banner images in up to nine locations for SEO-optimized pages (gone are the days of burning text into your marketing images)
- Promoting categories, articles, and showcasing individuals via the
Deluxe Category component
- Setting images to fixed-aspect or focal-point crop for true responsive imagery solutions