How We Looked Online 2007 – 2012

computer, office, internet, business

If you’re like us – and a bit geeky about the internet – you’ll have been champing at the megabit for the second in our series looking at the history of the ABC Selfstore website. Our internet time machine has landed in 2007 to see how our purple, green and blue strands of the World Wide Web looked – after we’d carried out the first major redesign of abcselfstore.co.uk…

Up until 2007 – in the UK at least – pretty much the only way of checking availability or reserving a self-storage unit was to phone or visit your local store. Actual real people would check their systems to see what was available. In some cases that would have been on the in-store computer, for others flicking through a hard-copy index-card system or (for the less sophisticated operator) sticking a metaphorical finger in the air saying something like “yeeeaaah, I ‘fink Unit firty-four ‘as just become free, let me just go and check…”

We had an instore computer system and in 2006, and we decided to find a way of hooking it up to the internet. It was a big project at the time, but one we felt would be brilliant for would-be ABC Selfstore customers. It gave them the opportunity to check the availability of our storage units, get a price and even make a booking quickly and easily – at any time of the day or night.

At the same time we opted to redesign the look and content of our website, making it more visually appealing and improving the user experience. It all made it easier for our customers find the things they needed – be that our Self Storage guide, Frequently Asked Questions, guidance on just how much space they might need or the range of packaging materials that are available in store.

The finished result was launched in July 2007:

For the technologically minded – a major change between our original site and this one was the move to Cascading Style Sheets. On our first site – the styling (the code that dictates the colours and font styles ) was what’s known as ‘on page’. So every page had styling code replicated. As HTML science developed, a much more efficient ‘site-wide’ way of doing things was found. The introduction of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) meant that a single file could be drawn upon to provide styling information across the whole site. Our site was amongst the first in the industry to deploy that technology and the end result is web pages that load faster, look better and are more consistent – which can only be good for customers.

In 2007, the term smartphone hadn’t been mentioned (they were known as PDAs), tablets hadn’t been invented and this version of our site was another static one – the columns and rows that make up the layout were not what’s become known as responsive.

If you were viewing our site on the very first iPhone (which launched the month before our website 2.0) you would have had to pinch and zoom your way around the pages. Responsive Web Design (the technology that allows websites to morph themselves to the screen they are being displayed on) wouldn’t be a recognised term for at least another three years. But we didn’t stop tweaking…

If you’re looking at that picture wondering What was the ABC Value Check? And how did we define the ABC difference? Check this image from Autumn 2009. We didn’t simply introduce a new site and rest on our laurels –  we’d been working hard on the content. The homepage has much snappier introductions and the ABC Value Check has become our now familiar Price Promise. The ABC difference explains more clearly our long-standing commitment to great customer service and value.

In part 3 we’ll fire up the archive in 2012 and look at the big changes we introduced in 2012…