February 20, 2003, 12:00 AM

Fry: Taking major league web design to a minor league market

Web site designer Fry Inc. has packaged the most proven back-end operating features of its clients’ sites into a standardized web design platform at a fraction of the cost of custom design.

For the last nine years, some of the largest and most successful retail chains and consumer brand marketers have turned to Ann Arbor, MI-based Fry Inc. to design-and in many cases host-their e-commerce sites. Last year, Eddie Bauer, Crate & Barrel, Godiva Chocolatier and other Fry clients generated more than $1 billion in online sales from web sites that were custom-designed by Fry.

Now, Fry has gathered the best and most proven back-end operating features of those sites and packaged them into a more standardized web design platform called Flagship, which combines customized presentation or front-end design services with standard e-commerce functions. Announced at this week’s eTail 2003 West conference, Flagship will be marketed to mid-sized chains with sales in the $150 million to $500 million range. “For a lot of smaller and mid-sized chains, there’s a major disparity between how good their sites look and how well they perform,” says Bridget Fahrland, executive creative director, who was interviewed by IRNewsLink at the eTail conference. “We see a major opportunity for boosting the revenue of those sites with better designs that are based on a solid, proven platform.”

Yet, says Fahrland, Flagship does not use a cookie-cutter approach to designing sites. The look, feel and character of the site, what Fahrland calls “the presentation layer,” is as customized as any site Fry has built for its major clients. But major back-end features which operate search, navigation, check-out, personalization and site administration services are based on standard architectures that Fry has perfected in the last decade.

By starting with something less than a totally clean slate, Fry’s Flagship service, says Fahrland, can build a new or totally redesigned site for a mid-sized chain for $250,000 to $350,000. By comparison, getting similar functionality and flexibility by designing a site from scratch, she estimates, would cost $350,000 to $650,000. Before Flagship, says Fahrland, “We might have had two days of meetings with a client-all billable hours-to determine whether the site should offer multiple shipping addresses. Now, we can tell those clients that based on our experience they need multiple shipping addresses and here is how to do it. We eliminate a lot of conversations and meetings that we used to have with clients on a lot of basic issues. We are still involved with clients on the very unique issues that relate to their sites, but we aren’t reinventing the wheel on the basics.”

This approach also results in faster delivery to the retailer of a finished web site. Fahrland estimates that with Flagship, Fry can design a web site for a mid-sized retailer in as short a period as 10 weeks.


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