Mar 19

Co-founder of Obox Themes. Designer. Racing driver when I have time. Crazy about cars. Love tech. WordPress is my bread and butter.

Introducing Obox Themes 3.0

It’s a great day at Obox, after 3 years of iterating on the same design, we are proud to launch a complete redesign and rebranding of Obox. The grammar police are going to be super excited about this one!

So where do we start? Well, maybe it’s best to start all the way at the beginning, July 7th 2009, the day we launched the original Obox Themes website.

Back in the day, we chose to make a commitment to creating and launching a Theme company in 30 days. This involved creating a fully functional eCommerce site, WordPress themes, support forums, affiliate program and blog in less time than it takes to buy milk. It was only Marc and I working on it at the time, and it was a pressure cooker of a situation.

The tight deadline forced us to stick to what we knew, which meant ColdFusion, MS Access and a Windows server. To our amazement, everything came together on time and we launched our tiny little theme company which did all of one sale in the first month.

Between 2009 and 2013 we only did one complete redesign. It was a massive step up from what we had visually and the tech we built behind it was also refreshed but not completely redone.  Of course, as our company grew, our infrastructure could not cope with the load and we all agreed that it was time for a total refresh.

New code, new hosting and a new design.

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Step forward to Obox Themes v3.  Everything has been migrated from ColdFusion and MS Access to PHP, MySQL and AWS. We’ve got a new logo,  new color scheme,  a slightly different font and,  finally,  we are using WordPress in all the right places.

Just like version one and two,  this new site was also predominantly built by a two man team – Myself (David) and our developer Nic Malan.  Unlike the first versions though,  we did not rush this process.  It took close to 12 months to get this puppy out the door,  and initially it didn’t even start with Obox itself but rather, SalesGenius.co.

When building SalesGenius we developed a new CSS and HTML framework (similar to Bootstrap) and worked on evolving it to the point where we could launch SalesGenius.co as a consumer application.

Once it was live,  we turned our attention to the new Obox site,  but even then it involved two months of discussions and rough concepts.  We created a ‘Project Transfusion’ document and spec’d out the huge challenges we’d face and the high specification we’d hope to achieve both visually and technically.

What you see today has been countless hours of hard work, focus, rewrites, pixel pushing and head scratching.  We wanted the new site to go back to our roots as video bloggers,  so we created a new division called Obox Films which went about creating unique background videos for our landing pages,  and a mini-documentary where we interviewed close friends,  competitors and industry pros,  which we hope to launch later this year.

We set out to design unique icons for each feature we have in our themes and did so in-house.  Besides the 97 unique icons you see on the site there were another 200 icons which never made the cut.  Our new colors were also iterated over time until we were 100% happy and font selection did a full 360.  We went from Proxima to serif fonts and then back to Proxima.

Content migration was also a huge challenge.  We needed to make sure that we didn’t lose any data,  users could still access their themes and of course were able to buy new ones without affecting the old ones.  Our purchase process was also completely rewritten and our pricing structure was made more flexible – this alone involved two massive rewrites,  but the end result is incredible,  especially when we want to create bundles and specials in the future (expect more of those).

A major failing of our previous site was post-purchase usability.  It was difficult to download themes and get support,  therefore our absolute number one priority was to improve these two experiences.  We have tried our best to place help links all over the site,  and have designed the customer Dashboard from the ground up for the best experience we can offer.

You will now be able to rate themes, download them quicker and receive support easier with the refreshed interface.

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Plugin pages also got a revamp, besides being good to look at,  they all make more sense now that we’ve improved the copy.  Speaking of copy-writing,  we felt we needed to remove as much jargon as possible and explain the exact reason a feature is great.  Before we did so,  we basically user-tested words that are often used when referring to themes and realized that no one actually knew what a ‘visual customizer’ was,  or what ‘custom post types’ were.  So we threw out what we had and started again.

I hope to go into more detail about the new site in the coming weeks,  including posts about the new icons,  creating the amazing video backgrounds and the massive development challenges.  Until then,  I would like to invite you to have a click around the website and experience the effort that went into creating it.

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