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Laridian Launches All New Website

Posted on: December 31st, 2010 by Craig Rairdin 32 Comments

First, a little history.

Back in 1998 when we founded the company, we knew very little about the technologies that make up the Web. We contracted another company to create an e-commerce site for us and as such projects usually go, they got about 80% there and said they were done. In order to just get our site up and running we had to learn a little bit about Active Server Pages, HTML, SQL Server, and payment processing. We finished their job, which turned out to be a good thing since it forced us to learn how our site worked.

Over the years, we’ve expanded onto multiple platforms and multiplied our product range many times over. The days of being able to concisely list all of our products on a single order form were gone a long time ago, yet our lengthy order form persisted. The pressures of running a company and continuing to develop Bible software for a large number of different platforms took precedence over upgrading the website.

Five Years in the Making

Back in 2004 we hired a person who specialized in Web technologies and tasked him with re-engineering our site. We wanted a “catalog” and a “shopping cart” instead of an “order form”. We wanted it to be easier to roll out a Bible reader for a new platform and have its catalog already populated with our full range of Bibles and books. We wanted marketing people to be able to create catalog pages without knowing (much) HTML. And we wanted to consume fewer processor cycles serving pages so our site would be scalable and perform better.

We did an incremental update to the site that gave it a more contemporary look and handy pull-down menus, but retained the old commerce aspects of the site. Then Web-enabled cell phones came along and we needed a Web-based Bible product. Our new Web guy was the perfect person for this task. And when business started booming and we outgrew our Web server, we needed someone to negotiate the world of load balancing, multiple Web servers, database servers, email servers, firewalls, VPNs, and all manner of other issues. Our website redesign project spent a lot of time on the back burner while we put out the fires burning on the front burner.

The “Web-based Bible product” eventually turned into iPocketBible.com, the first Bible program for what was then the “new” iPhone. Other projects came and went, and eventually our fancy Web technology guy came and went, leaving us with lots of ideas, quite a few pieces of mostly implemented infrastructure, but very little to show other than one or two Web pages that demonstrated the color pallet we had agreed on.

Android: The Unlikely Motivation

When the Android OS had a surprisingly good Christmas in 2009 we knew we were going to have to start thinking about Bible software for that platform. Work began in late summer 2010. As the program came together we started thinking about what it was going to take to duct-tape another platform onto the old website and it was not encouraging. In November, I (Craig) made the mistake of saying, “I think if I just had a week during which I could focus on the new website, I could have it online and it would make releasing the Android version of PocketBible a lot easier.” Jeff (co-founder and VP Development) and Michelle (Marketing Director) looked at each other then at me and said, “Really? You should do that!”

Having “permission” to focus on the website was very motivating. Eight weeks later this site emerged. And that’s why we don’t pre-announce our ship dates. Thirty years in the software business and our estimates are still off by a factor of eight. :-)

Features

  • Login applies to the entire site, not just to your download account. Log in at any time and the site will automatically tell you if you already own the particular book you’re looking at.
  • If a book is part of a series or bundle, the site will point that out to you, allowing you to save money by buying it as part of a larger collection.
  • For each platform (iPhone, Windows, etc.) and each book type (Bibles, dictionaries, commentaries, etc.) the site automatically maintains best-sellers and new-releases lists.
  • A true shopping cart replaces the old order form. Purchase products for two or more platforms in one order (wasn’t possible before).
  • Purchase more than one license for downloadable products. (Again, wasn’t possible before.)
  • Cover images for books
  • Faster download account page.
  • “Programs” and “Books” separated on download page to make it easier to find what you’re looking for.
  • Simplified options on the download page. Show only products you haven’t yet downloaded or only products updated since you last downloaded them.
  • No need to pick a platform before entering the site. Less intimidating.
  • Ability to browse the entire catalog regardless of your platform.
  • Support for Associates Program referrer codes on every page. More detailed Associates Program reports for better tuning of links for maximum revenue. “Copy Link” feature on most pages for easy creation of links containing your referrer code.
  • Easy site navigation and useful information in the footer.

Some Facts About the New Site

  • The old Laridian website had approximately 1600 hand-coded ASP and HTML pages. The new site covers an additional platform and has less than 70 hand-coded pages. The rest are automatically generated from a database of product information.
  • Product information is stored in a structured way with very little HTML tagging (bold, italics, and a limited number of links). This way, non-HTML-experts can create and maintain all the product pages. (Previously, each product required one hand-coded ASP/HTML page for each supported platform.)
  • Adding a new platform (like Android) to our product line used to require the manual creation of hundreds of individual product pages. The new site requires only one new page. The rest are generated automatically from existing data.
  • The old site required us to list every single product available for each platform on a separate order form. The new site automatically builds a catalog and has an integrated shopping cart.
  • The old site had very few product images. Each image had to be manually scaled to the appropriate size and uploaded to the server. The new site takes one product image and automatically creates it in several sizes to use in different contexts. As a result we’ve added cover images for every book and a graphical icon for every program.
  • The bookstore that is built into the iPhone and Android applications uses same technology as the main website to create its catalog. Only about a dozen small pages are required for the entire site. Individual product pages are created from the same data that drives the main website.
  • The method of determining what products a customer owns has been centralized making it faster and easier to use for a variety of purposes. For example, if you are logged in, the site can tell you whether or not you already own a product you are about to purchase.
  • The new site automatically builds best-seller, new-releases, and all other product lists without any intervention so that they’re always up-to-date.
  • The new site makes extensive use of CSS to make it easier to reconfigure and fix problems. It uses just a little JavaScript but is intentionally simple so that it runs on a wide range of browsers with little need to do any detection and special cases in the code.
  • The “big footer” was inspired by sites like Zappos and while it may be cliche and trendy we think it’s really useful. It’s our favorite way to get around the site.

Future Plans

  • There are a few small things “missing”, such as a way for users to modify their own contact information and support for the Associates Program. These will be coming soon.
  • The store built into the iPhone and Android apps has a “search” function. Since the on-device stores are built on the same foundation as the main site, it should be trivial to add this functionality to the main site.
  • This blog still sports the “old look”. We’re moving it to a new server and will be either styling it to look like the main site or going with a more attractive generic style.
  • I’ve always wanted to have a way for you to view your order history and print a receipt for any order.
  • We’d like to make it harder to end up with more than one account by testing your email address against our records before you purchase.

There will undoubtedly be some problems as we shake out the remaining bugs, so we appreciate your patience. We really like the result and hope you do, too.

32 Responses

  1. David A. says:

    I just stumbled onto your new web site. I am impressed. It will take some time to get used to. But, I like what I see so far.
    I am also looking forward to the Android program.
    Thanks,
    David

  2. Curt says:

    Very Nice. In addition to the functional improvements you detailed; it looks nice, fresh and current. Will be nice when you update this blog also.

    Now; back to android please :)

    Happy 2011 to you.

  3. Jim says:

    New site looks great and sounds like some great features. Happy New Year!

  4. Kim says:

    Glad you mentioned the part about changing person details. I really want to change my email for my account and will look forward to that feature being added.

  5. Kim,

    Send an email to tech support and they’ll change your email address for you.

  6. Rob Gwynne says:

    I am thrilled at these changes.Love the new website.I got away from Palm about two years ago due to their lack of ” vision”. I have really missed My Bible as I now use the DroidX and love it.I am anxious to get My Bible on my Android and will be keeping a close eye on the website/blog. Thank you Laridian.

  7. pee says:

    congrats on all the improvements waiting to read on my desire HD and the big screen will no more kill my eyes thanks and happy new year.

  8. Stan says:

    Great look! Although I must confess I did re-enter the URL twice because I just knew the first time I must have typed it in wrong because it now looks so much better.

    So be kind to your faithful customers and do something like send out an email or have the very first page say something like, “No, No yur rite this is the same ol’ Laridian you’ve come to enjoy” then take us to the new page.

    Speaking of “new” and motivation *(you did, I didn’t) what about that Android version? I think first bought from you all back when I was using a hammer and chisel on my pilot, my Ham-something. Now I have a droid and need everything!!! (Can you imagine if Luther had had a Droid?)

    Oh one last thing: I’m a real man I LOVE duct tape!!!!

  9. bryan white says:

    Nice new site, I really liked how easy it was to check if there were updates since my last download.

  10. Lawson Culver says:

    I for one am glad to welcome your website to the 21st century. Next stop, AJAX! :-)

  11. Actually the little error reporting box in the lower right corner of the footer uses ajax to send its reports and get back a status message.

    I also experimented with using ajax to do the little login form at the top of the page but there were too many cases where I wanted to put new content on the page and it was easier to just do form submission.

    Of course iPocketBible.com is all about ajax. It is basically one page with a div that gets re-filled through ajax requests every time you turn the page or go to a new verse.

    So been there, done that. May do it some more in the future. :-)

  12. Craig Horlacher says:

    Congrats on the new web site! Good move and well done!!!

  13. Torrance says:

    Great site! I’ve been on an android device for over two years now and am eagerly awaiting your long over due app. This OS has clearly been noted as the app of the future, I think a little more attention should be given to it’s app version of this program. C’MON MAN!

  14. Rob Grimmett - aussie aussie aussie says:

    Well done – now anxiously waiting for your upgrade to Android -

  15. Greg Grotbeck says:

    In a nice way i say speed it up!!! I actually thought of going with a different Bible program for my Android but none of them match the great use of yours. I especially like the Bible memorization tools. Keep doing a great job and looking forward to when i can use it on my Evo. Patiently waiting.

  16. Baggas says:

    Site looks great.

    One unrelated question – are you guys planning on offering the new updated NIV any time soon? I’m quite happy with the TNIV but would still like to have the new one for comparisons sake.

  17. Yes, the NIV2011 is coming soon.

  18. Jansen Wendlandt says:

    Looks great! I’d say it was worth the delay it probably caused to the release of an Android platform, except that I won’t really experience the improvements until the Android version is released.

  19. Jansen,

    Actually the website update was a necessary part of the Android product so it didn’t delay it as much as it is a milestone in the release of the Android product.

  20. Edward Cook says:

    You guys are geniuses. I have no idea how you do all this stuff with just two programmers. Totally amazing. Wishing you well throughout 2011.

  21. John says:

    Windows7 mobile next please

  22. Daryl says:

    Been with you guys since your first releases for WinCE and Palm. Of course I have used both iPhone (when I briefly owned one) and iPad (wifey’s device). However, I have drank deep of the Android kool-aid since, and there’s no turning back. So I’ve been without any mobile study resources since the Droid invasion in 2009. It really hurts, a lot. :-(

    I would assume there’s lost revenue each day it’s not released. I hope Mantis or Logos does not beat you to market, because I would go with either and probably not look back. Of course, my sincere hope is for your godspeed on this. As I said at the beginning, been with you guys from the start and want to continue that way.

    Dear sirs, please don’t take this as if I’m beating up on you guys, I’m just expressing my hurt and I hope it’s constructive. I’ll keep your company in my prayers.

    Godspeed.

  23. Jeff says:

    I was debating getting a new phone. My WM 6.1 does EVERYTHING I ask of it and I was doing all of it before Android went big. My wireless provider doesn’t even have a new Windows7 phone and Laridian is still working on Android, so I guess I’ll hang on to my HTC Diamond. (Had near heart failure yesterday. Dropped in on the asphalt getting out of the car!)

    Thanks for the GREAT products, service and prices!

  24. Jeff,

    Thank you for your positive comments. It’s comments like those that keep us motivated to create great products. Sometimes people think that by threatening us or telling us how to do our jobs they will encourage us to work harder, faster, or better than we currently are to meet their goals for us. But frankly those comments just discourage us. And it’s funny how one comment like that can affect us more negatively than three or four positive ones can offset.

    So — thanks for your loyalty and patience. And glad to hear your HTC phone survived its suicide attempt. :-)

  25. Lyle says:

    I used your products on my old Windows Mobile phone and loved them, but haven’t found anything like them on my new Android. When you come out with an Android product, I’ll buy it!

  26. Steve A says:

    Great work on the new site and the easy delivery to new platforms of our existing library. I can’t wait for a version for my WIndows Phone 7! Holding my breath! Thanks!
    Steve

  27. Glenn T. says:

    Ditto on the Android. It is akward having to pull out my Dell Axim (carry 2 devices) in order to do bible study. PLEASE, PLEASE.PLEASE.PLEASE build the Android at a faster pace. Your product is superior to on-line Bible versions.

  28. Jeffrey DeMarie says:

    Are there any more “free” bibles and other books for the new user to have after they purchase the reader program?

  29. Jeffrey,

    What’s we have is what’s listed at the site. Choose your platform, then choose a type of book. There’s a list of free commentaries, dictionaries, or whatever in the right-hand column.

  30. Rob Woodbridge says:

    Wow, estimates off by a factor of eight. I love it. My software industry training told me to take the estimate given to me by a developer, increase it by an order of magnitude and then double it. So 1 week becomes 2 months – exactly your experience. Whaddya know, my training was right!

    Regardless, great work on the web site upgrade!

  31. Trev Newsome says:

    Great site guys. Have used your products on Win and iPhone and now patiently waiting for Android for my Desire HD.

  32. R S Shuford says:

    `
    Here is how to predict how long a software project will really take:
    Ask the programmer to evaluate the job and tell you his or her best
    estimate for the timeline. Suppose the programmer says, “2 weeks”.
    Now, take the number and multiply it by 2, then observe the stated
    unit of time and translate it to the next higher unit. Therefore,
    the above software project would *really* be finished in 4 months.

    Note how accurate this prediction would have been for Craig’s website!

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