Case Study: Darden’s Delights

What’s the last thing you think you would find in an online store?

If you were me, then your answer would be this huge machine I found on Amazon.  Seriously, who buys this on Amazon??

Either way, I recently had the opportunity to work with an absolutely wonderful family who have dedicated their lives to giving back to the disability community by selling their delicious homemade pies online via their store: Darden’s Delights.

That’s right: they sell pies over the internet! Wooo!

I met David & Betsy (the owners, pictured below) at a local networking event here in Atlanta, and (as usual) I checked out their website.  I could immediately tell that it could use some serious work, and that they were probably losing business because of it, but I kept quiet as I didn’t want to be “that pushy sales guy”.


David and Betsy glass, with their daughters Darden and Anna.
David and Betsy glass, with their daughters Darden (right) and Anna (left).

Fast-forward 5 months and I get a phone call asking me if I’d be interested in working with them to renovate their website (I was really excited to work on that site, so I was ecstatic to get their call!).

Anyway, we got to talking, and soon…a project was born!

The Problem

We ironed out the problem fairly quickly:

The current web presence for Darden’s Delights is confusing and difficult to navigate.  Because of this, we are selling less pies that we should be.

Oh, and just for some context, this is what their site used to look like before I worked some magic on it:


As you can see – ordering a pie online was quite a challenge!  Fortunately, Betsy & David were still flooded with orders at the time due to them attending local trade shows and their recent PR success.

You see, Darden’s Delights is more than just a company that sells pies: they’re absolutely committed to giving back to the disability community.  Darden (their daughter pictured above) has Down Syndrome, and rather than sitting around and waiting for governmental aid, Betsy and David made a pact that they’d build a business to establish more opportunities for the members of the disability community.

This, in addition to being a fantastic cause, earns them press frequently (see below), though their website was just hemorrhaging business left and right because the site experience itself was so complex.

The press absolutely LOVE Darden's Delights - and understandably so.
The press absolutely LOVE Darden’s Delights – and understandably so.

Specifically, we had 3 goals for the site:

  • The experience had to be simple (test with real people).
  • The design had to be modern and responsive.
  • User had to be able to purchase items directly through the store with their credit cards.

That’s where I came in and waved my magic Wand of Web Design™

The Solution

Alright, so we needed to design something simple and intuitive.  Typically when this is the case, I rely on a mix of my experience and input from potential customers to make my decisions.

So, I hit the bricks and threw a quick mockup of the site up so we could get feedback ASAP.  Here’s what I came up with:

The first iteration of the new site experience. Note the use of a generic quiche in the background.
The first iteration of the new site experience. Note the use of a generic quiche in the background.

(Fortunately, David and Betsy had opted to use a theme generator, so I was able to churn this out in a week).

After getting this in front of some of my local contacts, here’s what we learned:

  • It was not obvious that there was content underneath the “hero” image on the homepage.
    • What We Did: Added a scroll prompt, and capped the hero image height at 80% of the height of the browser height (so people could see the sections below it).
  • People wanted to be able to add the pies straight into the cart from the eCommerce store.
    • What We Did: Well…we added the option to add to cart from the store!
  • Overall “message” is confusing…what are they actually doing to help the disability community?
    • What We Did: Refocused the site copy until the message was blatantly obvious.

Meanwhile, I approached Betsy and David about solving another problem I encountered on their site: their product photos were uninspiring (see below).

The original pie pictures. As you'll soon see, there's so much potential that's not captured in these photos!!

So, I worked with a local photographer (Daniel from Lockwood Photography), and BOOM!  We were certainly able to capture the “essence” of the products.

Just look at these bad boys!

Just look at the start difference!!
This is yet another example that details why it’s so important to outsource the things you’re not good at doing yourself.  These professional photos are much more likely to drive conversions than a cheaper alternative.

After getting the new pictures together and updating the site look and feel, we have what’s (almost) their final site today:

The (almost) final home page.
The (almost) final store page.

As you can see, everything is just so much simpler now.  Though we weren’t done, yet!

Just before we launched, I approached David & Betsy again:

While we’re at it, why don’t we make your logo “pop”, too?

This is why I always tell people that I’m in the business of solving problems, rather than web design.  Oftentimes, the problem your facing as a business owner is a compound one and you need someone like me to tell you that it’s seriously broken.

Here’s a quick before and after:


Thanks again, Johanna!

Just look at the difference!!  The site was now supercharged and ready to go, so I took a look back at our list of goals:

  • The experience had to be simple (test with real people). Complete
  • The design had to be modern and responsive. Complete
  • User had to be able to purchase items directly through the store with their credit cards. Complete (We did this with Braintree)

Looks like we were ready to go, so we launched it and tested everything.  Today, this is what their new site looks like:




After this project, I like to ask this question: would you have trouble buying something from this store?

The site experience speaks for itself.

The Results

Here’s the real question though: did my work with Betsy and David yield any sort of tangible ROI for them?  How’s their eCommerce store doing today?

Well, stay tuned as I’m going to update this in about 6 months when we have some real data!

Key Takeaways

While building out the Darden’s Delights store, I learned…

  • WooCommerce is one of the most powerful tools out there – I can’t wait to get to using it again!
  • Working for companies that already have traction is ideal.  It’s very easy for them to measure the ROI of a new site.
  • Avoid eating your client’s delicious baked goods at all costs – you can get addicted very easily.
  • Biggest Lesson: Trust is the pinnacle of importance when it comes to freelance.  If I’m planning on solving compound problems (one of site experience, branding, etc.), I need to make sure the business owners trust my suggestions or we both lose!