Hey all, thanks for the comments and discussion - as you know, VEX takes user experience feedback like this very seriously. Since this thread has remained fairly objective (e.g. pingdom tests), I wanted to try and respond to some of the specific points that were raised.
Before diving into point-by-point, I need to provide one important distinction that has already been mentioned - everything I’m going to talk about in this post refers to www.vexrobotics.com.
This is the largest contributor to current page load times, especially when it comes to cart management. We are currently running on an admittedly old version of Magento - for those of you who recall our last major website overhaul in 2015, that was 100% an aesthetic and organizational overhaul. The back-end stayed the same, and has been the same for a number of years.
There are a few unique things about the VEX website that has caused Magento to start to buckle under our pressure. For one, our sheer number of sellable items, or SKUs (the 276-xxxx or 228-xxxx numbers you see all over the site). When you combine the VEX EDR, VEX IQ, and VEXpro product lines, the massive scale of our e-Commerce implementation starts to become clear. For example, there are a plethora of VEX IQ products that are sold in 10 different colors, so take your number of VEX IQ SKUs and multiply it by 8-10. In VEXpro, we actually had to start splitting up some of the gear pages because the number of SKUs on one page was causing stability issues.
Additionally, we have a number of custom additions that have been implemented over the years (this is one of the reasons why we’ve been slow to upgrade our Magento installation). To provide a few examples…
- In the top right corner of the screen, where it says “Ships From”, try changing that to UK or CA. You now have an entirely new store with localized prices and products (different charger plugs, etc).
- When you switch between the VEX IQ, VEX EDR, or VEXpro sites, the menu bar and website theme changes accordingly (most of the time). This level of separation is not natively supported by pretty much any mainstream e-Commerce solution.
- VEXpro has a number of pages with all sorts of custom buttons for different gearing options. Play with configuring a 3 CIM Ball Shifter to see what I mean. Starstruck also has some fun things to make sure you get the right number of field elements.
All of this has led to us, admittedly, dragging our feet on an upgrade. However, I’m excited to share that we are in the process of going through a massive summer project to move our entire website to a new, more stable version of Magento that should help with this immensely. We are also investigating new hosting options as part of this upgrade to further reduce load times. This is a complete back-end re-write, so while our goal is zero interruption to user experience, please understand that is a significant undertaking on our side and I’m not ready to share a release date or more details at this time.
Since you used AndyMark as an example, the aforementioned SKU count is a huge factor in this. If we were comparing a VEXpro site to an AndyMark one, it would be a more fair comparison. However, remember that VEXpro is only a third of our SKU count. Traffic also plays a role in this - as a possible form of objective comparison, look at the SimilarWeb estimates for VEX vs AndyMark.
(Yes, you could refute the above claim by comparing us to something like McMaster or Amazon, but then you’re talking about a level of webhosting capacity that is on a completely different scale. We rent datacenter space, Amazon builds their own datacenters.)
Any time you have this type of feedback, please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org and it will make its way to our web team. Do you remember which product it was, which website (US/CA/UK/EU), did you have items in your cart, etc? If you can provide some more details, hopefully we can pinpoint the specific problem. (this is how we found out about and solved the VEXpro gear issues, for example)
Duly noted I know we’ve looked in the past at sites like McMaster who use a “Build Order” form, but were unable to get anything to work at a level we were comfortable with releasing publicly. This summer’s planned upgrade should open up more options for new solutions, so we’ll definitely note this one as a possible “hot button” issue.