Bandsaw Manuals is website that allows registered customers to download PDF manuals from almost 900 band saws, with more manuals being added every month. The website has over 4,000 registered users and over 10,000 downloads. Normally, each of these manuals would cost $100 or more, but Bandsaw Manuals offers them for free to its customers.
The website is live and is maintained by myself at the moment.
I have had a great relationship over the years with the owner of Order Band Saw Blades and I’ve handled an enormous amount of his websites (think along the lines of 1,400), but I’ve never had the chance to work on such a visible product for him as Bandsaw Manuals. I have had to work within strict limits on this project from the start. Users needed to be able to register on the website in order to be able to download any PDF. Also, most importantly, in order to prevent leaking all the manuals to any one user, I would have to impose a limit of unique downloads for each registered user. The sales team would need a way to export the users from the website and also receive a weekly report on all the downloads that have happened during the past week.
Since starting work on the website, I’ve gone through two designs and completely changing the platform (and codebase) once. I loved working on this project because I was in charge of everything, knew every little detail of every line of code I’ve written, every pixel I put on the screen. From mockups to the actual designs, to coding it, launching and continually improving it, I have been, and still am, the one person that knows what it took to bring it to its current state.
Initially, the website was coded in Codeigniter. I’ve started with a blank slate and coded everything in an otherwise fantastic MVC. And it ran just fine, but I quickly realised the maintenance headache when updating PHP versions and keeping up with all the Codeigniter updates and patches that were coming out. After about 2 years, I’ve made the decision to switch to WordPress. That took an insane amount of work to re-code everything, but it also provided me with the opportunity to learn. I’ve gotten quite comfortable with creating plugins and themes for WordPress. I also took this opportunity to completely redesign the website.
The website’s user base as well as downloads are growing at a steady pace, with 5-10 new users every week. This is bringing with it a challenge which I’ve started to tackle already. Proper user reports. The sales team’s requirements for what each report needs to include and how it needs to look changes and having to always hard code the new layout and write the proper WP_Queryies is getting old. I’ve created a new plugin for WordPress called Export Users Pro, which I hope to soon offer to the Wordpress community. It is, I believe, the most comprehensive and easy to use exporter available at the moment for WordPress, with the major advantage that it lets you create an infinite number of report templates, every one 100% customisable from naming the CSV/Excel headers to adding the user fields as well as combining them to create new fields (e.g. First name + Last name = Full name).