Morphsuits Web Development and Design

Morphsuits is one of the most recognisable fancy dress brands in the world. Hugh began working with AFG Media, the company behind Morphsuits, back in October 2010 when they were looking at transitioning their infrastructure from an online e-commerce provider to their own custom solution. This was in large part due to the growth that the business was experiencing and the changing requirements that were a result of this. At that time there were 13 different Morphsuits sites each of which had a separate back-end and served a different region of the world.

This meant that products had to be managed in 13 different places, each one in (potentially) a different language, a different currency and order processing had to be integrated with a different distribution infrastructure. So while it made sense to seek to consolidate all of the websites on a single backend e-commerce system from an SKU management and a reporting point of view there were complex requirements around such things as stock levels, shipping options, pricing, taxation, display language and payment processing that had to be taken into account a the level of each individual site.

Due to the fact that we had a number of other projects in progress at the same time the decision was made for us to take control of the requirements gathering process as well as the overall architectural design of the system but the development of the solution was put out to tender (a process that we also facilitated) and then we were charged with the management of the selected provider. Since the Morphsuits business is global, we were required to coordinate work across the world and that meant making ourselves available pretty much around the clock. We also began to manage the AFG domain registrations, their SSL certificates, DNS, Email accounts, hosting, payment infrastructure, warehouse integrations and reporting requirements.

It became clear during the course of the project that there was a long term requirement for a full time IT Director within the Morphsuits business so in around March 2011, Hugh began to dedicate all himself full-time to AFG. In the lead up to the initial deployment of the Morphsuits websites it became apparent that there were some deficiencies in the development workflow that the chosen software provider was using and that they had underestimated the scale of the task. So, we stepped in and worked with them in order to fill the gaps, manage the initial deployment and the change over from the previous websites to the new ones. The end result was less than an hour of downtime and a fairly seamless change over.

We had put Pingdom external monitoring in place and that along with the help we received from our hosting provider ForLinux meant that we had a reasonably solid first couple of months while we worked though some minor bugs and began to implement the requirements that we'd pushed back to after the initial go-live. Gilmation also took over the development at this time and spent some time cleaning up the development workflow (using local development environments on VMWare virtual machines, development and staging environments on EC2) and adding an automated deployment with Capistrano.

At Morphsuits one of our peak times of year is Halloween and our traffic begins to ramp up from mid August onwards. This increase in traffic meant that we had to do some quick capacity planning and then implement some changes. In the first phase we added some more Apache Servers to our load balancer and upped the RAM across all machines, then we added Cloudfront, using DNS to switch it on and off, for our static http content. This allowed us to scale to a level where we could handle the Halloween traffic while we waited until the Halloween rush was over before we moved to phase two which was to replace the load balancer with a Varnish / Pound setup that we configured to allow us to use Varnish as a cache and a load balancer for both http and https.

It was also at Halloween 2011 that Paco began to work full-time on the project focussing initially on our API interaction code which communicates with our warehouses around the world and then proceeding to re-implement our payment processing code as we changed payment gateways to Adyen and Braintree.

Since then we have been kept busy with the addition of websites for Morphkids and two new AFG brands (Foul Fashion and Royal and Awesome). Although based on the same underlying code each one of these projects has had it's own quirks and challenges but as we have continued to develop our workflows, environments and codebases (i.e. through the use of git submodules we have been able to avoid a lot of duplication) we have been able to deal with a lot of these by taking advantage of our scale and the number of deployments that we now have in place.