The U.S. Optics, Inc Business Consulting Engagement
U.S. Optics, Inc in Brea, CA manufactures custom rifle optics allowing a customer to build a scope to their exact specifications and preferences. I met John Williams, President/CEO and the key players at US Optics, Inc where we discussed their business challenges and expectations for growth. At that time, I explained to John that I can create custom tools to support his manufacturing within an attractive new design that will rank well on Search Engines and I was given creative freedom to propose a ground-up custom solution.
My U.S. Optics Engagement Proposal Included:
- Website Design
- Information Organization
- Visitor Path Mapping and Action Direction
- Web Graphics Production
- Basic Search Engine Optimization Platform
- Interactive Content Feature / Blog / Forum
- Knowledge Base / Searchable FAQ Tool / Glossary
- Meet the Staff / Bio Feature
- Landing Page Management for Paid Advertisements
- Specification Articles / PDF Library
- Media Gallery
- Product Configurator / RFI / Ordering System
- Order / Customer Management
- Fulfillment Support
- Content Management
- Application Administration / Back End
- Accessories Store
US Optics Website Design
US Optics allows a customer more creative freedom with their scope, than any other manufacturer - offering more reticle options, their own patented knobs, multiple tube diameters, various objective sizes, two eye-relief options, illumination, variable parallax knob and windage locations for Left or Right-handed shooters, through a product line containing 1 to 42 power scopes.
The entire design cycle was supported with a creative brief that included everything from layout wire frames to competitive awareness. All of the custom engagements are backed by robust documentation. Before any pixels were pushed in Photoshop, I spent the day with the artists presenting the information to be visualized.
The homepage was designed to deliver targeted content to their viewers. A riflescope application starts with the magnification value. I designed an interactive slider tool where a user can select a magnification and view all of the models with that value. Results are displayed on the homepage's main element without a page refresh and with links to scope details or the custom scope configurator.
There are two more homepage calls to actions that render a complete product line snapshot (view all models), or a categorized list showing scopes suited for either Law Enforcement / Military, Competition or Hunting applications. Everything shown to the viewer is dynamic, based on the system data administered by US Optics staff.
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The US Optics Vision
Below is the workflow diagram illustrating the customer viewing and shopping experience as well as the manufacturing administrative actions following a custom build order. This identifies each step in any use case for both the front-end public interfaces and back-end administration features.
Putting it all together
This diagram includes customer and administrator workflows starting at the homepage and all of the top-level website content and customer utilities, and it terminates at real time financial reporting. Every use case is accounted for in the model.
The homepage has 4 states, default, slider value present, all models view and scope categories. From any of these states, the viewer can click into website content to learn about the scope, or begin a custom configuration. In the diagram, each page state and it's content is accounted for.
The system allows an administrator to create scopes, add photos and content as well as map part inventory, configurable options and prices. Once a scope is added, properly setup and has passed system validation, it can be activated and will be displayed automatically in the website.
Every scope can be customized differently and depending on it's system configuration it will have a unique shopping process to build it. The system provides 8 steps of customization; Reticle and Illumination, Knobs, Eyepiece Style, Objective Lens Diameter, Parallax Adjustment Location, Tube Size, Color and Coating type as well as its accessories.
Following the dynamic configuration steps is my custom e-commerce process; Order Review / Confirmation, Communication and the Acceptance of Deposit Terms, the US Optics Apparel Store, Collect Customer Details, Process Payment / Deposit and finally deliver the Order Receipt. At anytime during the process a customer can stop, save their order and complete it later.
Processing a Custom Riflescope Order
Once an order is placed, the customer receives a branded status email explaining where they are in the process and what to expect. From here on out, every time the administrator updates the build status, it will send the customer an email automatically, with the options of receiving a personal response from the staff member. The first step in the administrative process is to look at the order and verify that everything is sound, although the system is automated and self-validates scope configuration, the amount of options available could create a conflict. For example a knob style and it's location to other knobs; it's possible to have 4 knobs on the scope body in various styles - a US #3 windage knob, Left-handed on a T-Pal model SN3 with an illuminated reticle should be explained the clearance between the windage and parallax adjustment knobs, and allow for an update to the order before it moves forward. As a fail-safe, human action is required to actually start the scope through the system.
Once an order has been reviewed, it appears in a payment queue where the deposit transaction will be recorded, once a deposit is applied, the scope's parts are deducted from inventory in real time and the order automatically proceeds to a batch bin. Scopes are built in batches to streamline the manufacturing process and US Optics builds scopes one at a time; the system accommodates both scenarios equally. A scope will follow the build phases individual, or as part of a batch; it starts out in a parts bin and is processed all the way through quality control and serialization. At every step of the build process, both the customer and administrator have instant availability of status information.
The system has an interface for everything, from calculating sales tax based on the customer's city/county, to mapping part numbers to scope options. All of this is handled through an administrative dashboard with links to all of the back-end utilities using SSL.
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Designing US Optics' Custom Business System
Below is my documentation of the project requirements. This is a custom website system that provides part inventory and order pipeline quantity reports in real-time, complete back-end administration of their product line and the options customers are allowed to customize, content management, a searchable knowledge base, a product configuration / shopping application, order status notifications and much more.
Following my analysis of the client's needs and goals, I documented my concept and created business requirements, which were later translated into system requirements for a Windows web-application development team.
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Each step of the custom configurator provides you with a photo or illustration of the option and offers more details and item selection in Modal view. At any time the user can stop customizing and start the checkout process, save their order for completion at a later time, skip forward or backward in the process, send the configuration via email or exit.
When a user clicks on a configuration option, the Modal view delivers information, a better view and the action item to commit the selection to their order. Shown below is the modal view displayed for a Reticle, any additional options are offered here, for example the user can choose to illuminate their reticle in Red or Green using the image controls.
A scope order isn't complete until the user passes the accessories tab where s/he will see all of the available accessories for the scope being ordered. Scopes mount to rifles via bases and/or rings and have a host of add-on pieces, from sunshades, dust covers to bubble levels (or anti-cant devices), so this system offers the user applicable add-on options.
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US Optics sells scope accessories, apparel and closeout scopes, each was accommodated by building mini-stores into the system. Apparel, Accessories and Closeout stores were created to showcase other products and allow for individual purchases. The closeout store is where the company can sell already built and configured scopes that didn't go to the person who originally ordered it, otherwise, these products are also offered to every customer who is completing the scope configuration.
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A custom system such as this requires the back end utilities to administer content, data and process transactions. Shown here is the administrative dashboard with links to administrative actions, there is approximately 55 administrative interfaces with role-based secure access.
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US Optics received a completely custom business solution, website and application interface design, software design and project management. This project was conceptualized and delivered in less than 11 months, including 3 change requests in the middle of the development.
John Williams, III
President / CEO
U.S. Optics, Incwww.USOptics.com