Manhattan Mini Storage is the leading provider of storage units to New Yorkers. From beginning to end, soup to nuts, 42 Solutions has built and maintained their web presence, adding features over the years and keeping the look and feel fresh and easy to use. Read on to find out about how 42 Solutions helped bring an entire brand to the web.
The story of putting New York’s Manhattan Mini Storage on the web is one of a family owned business frustrated by their dealings with previous vendors and a small web applications and design company that could.
Approached in late 2002 to allow Manhattan Mini Storage customers to make reservations for storage rooms online, 42 Solutions was presented with a three page specification of the few features they wanted to see. Partners Dan Kellner and Colin Andrew Ferm spent the next several weeks and months flushing out the requirements until finally discovering that the reservation process was just one aspect of what the proposed site was supposed to do.
In the end, Manhattan Mini Storage naturally wanted a fully featured website for their customers, one that would not just allow them to make room reservations but one that would also allow them to purchase packing supplies, manage their accounts, and pay their bills online. In short, it wasn’t going to be a small project and, nine years later, it still isn’t.
Rather than moving forward in a phased approach, Manhattan Mini Storage wanted the entire site with all its features to go live at one time. This meant building out each feature, testing and validating it before moving on to the next so that Manhattan Mini Storage could see the progress on the new integration server.
Perhaps the biggest challenge was working with the existing reservation system that powered not just the reservation call center but also each storage location and managed the entire company’s inventory. 42 Solutions solved this problem by using the database that powered the new website to act as a “middleman” between the old system and the new, pulling inventory and customer data from the existing system for use on the web while pushing reservation and payment information back.
Using the Java/J2EE architecture to ensure high availability and componentization development was rapid and by March of 2003, the new Manhattan Mini Storage website was ready for deployment. 42 Solutions advised Manhattan Mini Storage on both the server hardware purchase as well as the colocation provider and set up the system to host the website. Once all the pieces were in place, the site went live and was more successful than anyone could have imagined.
By the end of the first month alone, the business being generated by the web was equal to one of Manhattan Mini Storage’s seventeen locations and bill payments made on the web reduced overall costs marking an additional benefit to Manhattan Mini Storage’s entry into e-commerce.
With the initial release a success by any measure, the managers of Manhattan Mini Storage began dreaming up new ways to generate business from the website. New features were added on a regular basis including the generation and mailing of “e-bills”, statements emailed to their customers with direct links back to the website to make payments. Those who subscribed to e-bills also had the ability to remove themselves from receiving paper bills, saving Manhattan Mini Storage hundreds of dollars a month just in billing costs.
And, while the website launched with the ability to pay by credit card, the cost of transactions completed with checking accounts was much lower. So the website was soon integrated with a second payment processor, giving Mini Storage customers the option to pay with a new method in return for a small reduction to their monthly bill.
42 Solutions, as the original developer for the Manhattan Mini Storage website as well as the other websites for the parent company Edison Properties, was invited back when Manhattan Mini Storage felt their groundbreaking website was due for a refresh in 2008. A lot had changed on the web in those five years and 42 Solutions brought many of those innovations to Manhattan Mini Storage.
And while the Java architecture of the site remained solid and stable, many of the underlying technologies were stripped away and replaced with the latest open source libraries to ensure forward compatibility and to leverage the work of thousands of developers.
Naturally, this refresh of the website became known as “Version 2.0″ because of the breadth and depth of the changes being made. But, in the end, Manhattan Mini Storage ended up with a website that would work for several more years without a major revision because of this one time update.
Once again, in 2011, Manhattan Mini Storage decided that their website, still the leader in the space, required an update and turned again to 42 Solutions, by now Edison Properties’ longest serving web partner. Working from a design by ReadySetRocket, 42 Solutions revamped the entire reservation process to create perhaps the easiest workflow yet for customers in search of storage space.
Again, the look and feel was modified to integrate with the clean new interface and the entire site experience a facelift while the underlying technology remained almost entirely unchanged.
Taking advantage of AJAX technology, 42 Solutions also created a series of RESTful interfaces that could be called by pages on the website to generate content on the fly, a feature that came in handy again when Manhattan Mini Storage realized that the future was increasingly mobile.
Even in the world of mini storage, business is always changing and, as a partner with Edison Properties and Manhattan Mini Storage, 42 Solutions remains ready and able to adapt their web presence to new realities and customer expectations.Tweet
Working with 42 Solutions, you’ll find that it’s not the technology that’s important, it’s the idea. Regardless of whether your company is based on proprietary software or open source, we will find the right tools to get the job done.
Invite us to your office and we’ll send a pair of consultants armed with laptops and bright ideas, ready to solve your problem and offer solutions. We pride ourselves in getting to know how you do business and integrating into your process.