"We had a really interesting brief recently," says Ravi Bains, principal web consultant with Maverick OnLine. "A small record shop, D's Joint, specialising in rap, soul and R&B, wanted to use the Internet to increase sales. Really, they were looking to take on the HMVs and the Virgins, and to do this successfully they had to be different, but really in tune with their clientele."Maverick OnLine's approach was to build a fast-paced site bringing in the world of the cinema and playing on the strengths of the retailer in its niche market. Navigation is typically from chart to chart but users can search by artist or title, among other options. This part of the site was built using Dreamweaver and Macromedia's Flash. "We also needed to handle the buying part of it as the main aim was to increase sales online," says Bains. "This was initially a problem as using more traditional programming methods meant something like four weeks of development time and that would seriously have strained the budget of £4000." Bains had heard of Actinic Catalog but assumed that it was only suitable for end users. When he looked at the product more closely, however, he discovered that it was ideal for developers like his company. Using Catalog it would be possible to reduce the development of the shopping part to under a week, a considerable saving in cost, while simultaneously including more functionality and security than was easily built using traditional methods. It was also a very affordable solution for D's Joint, while the partner programmes Actinic offer are specifically designed to help web designers like Maverick OnLine profit from their marketing, design and consultancy skills. "What was best of all was that we were able to combine the shopping elements seamlessly with what we'd developed using Dreamweaver," adds Bains. "Catalog is very customisable and flexible, and we could build the site to appeal to target users without losing any important e-commerce functions, like easy-to-use shopping baskets or excellent security, which the package provides. Users can move from one part of the site to another and back again without finding any joins or considering anything other than the music they're looking for." One of the striking aspects of the D's Joint site is that music samples are instantly available. "We know the D's Joint implementation has faster audio streaming than any of the big name music sites," says Bains. "And we've had some very positive feedback on this." Less dramatic, but no less important, is the fact that once customers hear music they like they can buy it immediately, thanks to the MP3 facilities and online ordering. This is actually D's Joint's third attempt at online trading but the first to bring in any sales. "We made things work," says Bains. "By producing what was needed - a high quality site with easy to use and secure e-commerce facilities within the budget of a small business." Alex Harakis, sales manager at Maverick OnLine comments, "Sales are now starting to pick up rapidly and after only three months the hit rate is 12,000 per week and rising. Many of the visitors return regularly and part of this, we think, is down to the way Catalog makes it so easy to keep the site fresh." An important part of the Actinic solution is that customers have full control over their own sites. They can be held on virtually any web host without incurring any expensive maintenance or specialist monthly charges. No one at D's Joint's had any previous web knowledge yet all the regular updating of the charts and relevant pages is now done in-house. "Nancy needed only a little training as Catalog is so easy to use," says Bains. "Now she's very confident about updating the charts regularly herself and that really keeps costs down." As far as Bains is concerned, much of the credit is due to Actinic. "Without the facilities that their software gave us we'd have had a much harder job doing what we needed to do," he says. "It's an excellent tool for web developers needing to bring in e-commerce facilities for their small business customers." © Actinic plc.