The gist of this Canadian franchise web design and development project:
This Canadian franchise website project started as a new design concept, headed up by a web designer who hired me for the development aspects of the project. Later, the company hired me directly for ongoing functionality and design implementations.
This organization had grown rapidly, and needed a way to bring together their 70+ locations into a cohesive website structure. In the time I worked with them, they had revamped their web design about three times. The iterations of design, as well as bringing in new functionalities, are show in the galleries below. Though, there was a significant amount of back-end work and strategy done for this company while I worked with them.
As a franchise website client, this company was agile. They pivoted their marketing and operations often, to stay current. They solved problems quickly. And so, over the years, that meant ‘rolling with the punches,’ in way. While things moved fast, I was able to deliver the web design changes and functionality requests they needed. I did this while keeping things realistic regarding budget, and expectations of output. Teaming up with this client meant a lot of ‘think on your feet’ project management work!
My efforts with this franchise helped them reduce staff hours, and streamline the process of running several location websites. On the one hand, this was thanks to the development capabilities available in WordPress MultiSite. But also, it was due to the custom coded features made for their needs.
In relation to acting as a Canadian franchise web developer (and design service provider), you may also want to check out the following content:
My article on the various methods of setting up a franchise website, using WordPress (published on one of the largest WordPress blogs out there):
A case study of another Canadian franchise website project I managed, which took a different path than the one I’ll be describing in this post:
Click one of the images to open up a slideshow!
A solution-rich dream for a franchise web developer – building a multi-location site that could save hundreds of hours on staffing costs
This website started as a redesign of an older website, which wasn’t resembling the size that this company had grown to, through franchise sales. The first web design that I had to implement for this client (through the design agency that hired me for it), was mostly information-based. It needed to display the service offerings of each location in a flexible way. Each location needed to showcase what they offered, which may have been different than what other locations were offering. In addition, the overall brand (the franchisor), needed a ‘head office’ website, all in the same network. This corporate brand needed control over its website, too. The franchise sites would all belong to the franchisor. This was achieved by using WordPress Multisite.
To make things easier for the client to update individual service offerings on a location-by-location basis, we used a custom post type, with custom fields, for content entry. Knowing that not everyone using the back-end of the site would be tech-savvy, it was important to keep things simple. They had in-house staff and resources to make the frequent content updates they needed. They didn’t want to hire a web developer to be making these changes. That would not only cost a fortune, it would be impractical, since changes were done so often, and the turnaround time had to be fast.
We used a custom post type with a custom Genesis template for archive to display the many, many services that this company offered. These showed in a grid-style layout, instead of a scrolling page, to help users view multiple items at once. It also include a sub menu which would allow users to view items by taxonomy terms (categories and tags).
The custom post type ‘single’ view (for individual service offerings) was templated with several page sections. For example, a section for an intro to the service, and then a section for showing a photo gallery, or booking instructions. This would help the readability of the pages, as opposed to showing a long body of text. Each section had a different colour background, to help clarify where one bit of information ended, and another started.
By using custom fields, we were able to set up specific content entry fields for the client. For example, “enter section 2 title here” or “enter booking instructions here,” and so on.
The initial web redesign also had a footer that would show across the entire network. This would include company-wide information, such as contact details. But in addition, each franchise site in the WordPress Multisite network would be able to display its own information.
Later, the site moved on to more and more features, spanning a couple years.
A new e-commerce section, to sell products online
The next step in the web design iteration was to introduce new branding for the company, including a new logo.
They also wanted to bring in a blog area and e-commerce features, to sell products. This would be an additional revenue stream for the company. Though, it made sense, since most franchise locations sold these products at their brick-and-mortar stores anyway.
We implemented e-commerce with the WooCommerce WordPress plugin. We were able to integrate this into the Genesis Framework, which the entire site was built in. The designer delivered branded widgets, forms and designs to use with the existing WooCommerce features. This gave a customized ‘look’ to the e-commerce area, without departing too much from WooCommerce defaults, which would have increased budgets unnecessarily.
Setting up geo-location targeting features for a multi-location website
Next, it became apparent that finding one of the 70+ franchise locations across Canada was getting difficult. The client liked the way other multi-location websites (whether franchised or not), had ‘detectors’ to figure out where a user was located, and then ask them to select a location near them. That would help the user get to the brick-and-mortar stores much easier than having to go through the process of ‘drilling down’ or searching for a location on a map feature.
After doing some research into this, I hired an advanced software developer to custom-code a geolocator into this website. In our research, we learned that geolocating has limitations. It can locate based on a server location, or based on GPS – for devices (like a mobile phone). We went with both. This way, if a user was viewing the site on their mobile phone, but had location services turned off, they would still have the ability to pick a location from a dialogue box (and this would still detect their general area, based on server geo targeting). This was a fallback, to ensure more success, and usefulness, of the geolocator.
We also enabled the ability for users to enable a cookie feature that would allow them to ‘save’ their location.
But then we realized, what if they don’t want to land on the homepage of each location site when they visit? For example, let’s say they saw an advertisement on Facebook for one particular service offering. They clicked to sign up for that service… so it would be a huge hassle to then take them to the home page of any site in the network, and then expect them to navigate their way to the appropriate sign-up page. So, we built in a solution for that too. If they clicked on an external URL, they would be taken the right service offering, for the right location near them, based settings they had previously set in their browser.
Each location had to be entered into the geo-targeting software, so it would know what to offer the user. To avoid having to do a bunch of data entry, the software developer was able to take the SQL database entries of the store directory. This had the geo-coordinates, contact info, and so on already available.
I acted as a project manager, researcher and liaison for this part of the website project. It was my job to map out the user journey, the expected outcomes, and to think of solutions to problems or questions that may arise along the way. I also had to budget the project, keep tabs on its development, and test the results before handing it over to the client.
Coding the ability to syndicate company-wide content updates across the WordPress Multisite network
Afterwards, the company made some internal, organizational changes to their operations. That meant that all franchise locations would offer identical services. So, the need for particular content appearing on some sites in the network, was greatly reduced. Because of that, it became sensible to introduce a syndication ability into WordPress Multisite.
After doing research into the possibility of this, I set out to budget, map-out, document and project manage the software coding of this project, too. I also presented options, problems and solutions, so the client could choose a development path to take, for the functionality they wanted.
I hired the developer to implement a custom-field based solution for the head office staff to be able to write one line of text (or other content), in one spot on a sample template, and have it populate across the network. This way, every franchise location would end up with the same content, for brand consistency. But, instead of spending hours manually entering (and re-entering) this content on 70+/- sites, they would only have to do it once. This saved a lot on staffing budgets for the client. It was far worth the fraction of the cost to have it coded in.
I did let them know about the SEO implications of duplicate content dilutions with regards to this method of content publication. However, to the client, it was more important to save the time.
Features of this multi-location website project:
- WordPress Multisite back-end for a franchise website, built in the Genesis Framework.
- Global footer to maintain consistent information across the network of location-specific sites.
- Location-specific header and footer information to display details of a single franchise location on a network site.
- Custom web design implementation, with reiterations on graphics and colours to update the website branding.
- Ability to ‘clone’ sites implemented, for easy set up of a new franchise location in the system.
- Custom templating of archive pages and a custom post type, using custom fields (for special content areas and divs). This included the ability to view posts by taxonomy organization, in a secondary menu.
- Full e-commerce implementation for selling products, using WooCommerce in Genesis, with custom design on e-commerce widgets, forms, etc.
- Pinterest ‘pin it’ button and Facebook feed integration.
- Custom-coded syndication to feed content into specific custom fields on custom posts types throughout the network.
- Geo-locator pop-up to help users find a franchise location near them, using two geolocating features, which would kick in depending on whether a person was using their mobile device, or a home-based internet connection.
- Map directory of franchise locations, with contact info, and sidebar drill-down menu.
- Contact and newsletter sign up form design.
- Custom sidebars for different sections of the website.
- Social media profile and share links.
- Google Analytics tracking implementation.
Other work done for this client
This client also hired me for copywriting, software solutions research, and online marketing consulting.