Site Enhancement

Online Instrument Rentals

The web site has been doing very well for Top Notch Violins in St. Louis and they were ready to expand their instrument rental section. Previously, customers could rent a violin/viola/cello/bass only by visiting the store and filling out paperwork. The goal was to now provide the option so customers could rent online (or in store).

The online rental had to be easy ot use, secure, and the project had an accelerated schedule. The project kicked off in early June with a targeted go-live date only 6 weeks away: end of July.




Web Design
Online Form

I hate forms that get more complex as you go. You are making great progress on the form and get to part 3 where you hit a tough question – so you give up and quit. To avoid that, we put the most complex question of the whole form measuring for the proper instrument) right up front. Once a person was past that, the rest was easy. We also simplified the answers, included a flyout help, and put a photo directly below the form showing how to measure.

The project began with research regarding the best approach: whether to utilize a full-fledged shopping cart (and, if so, which one), or whether to embed a form into the site. Following some research into the various approaches and some discussions regarding Top Notch’s vision for the future, my recommendation was that they begin with the embedded form route.

While there are a number of options when it comes to Online Forms, we chose Wufoo for this project (a decision that has not been regretted).

While the goal of the project was “online instrument rentals”, I DID NOT want to simply toss the 8.5”x14” legal document on the site. Other violin stores have done that and it looks bad and is not customer-friendly. Part of this project involved completely overhauling the rental process and creating a simplified, customer-friendly approach to the rental process. This involved hours of working through the rental form: simplifying anything that could be simplified, removing unnecessary fields, even creating logic dependencies so that some of the form’s input fields only appear when needed, along with creating a different rental form for each type of instrument. The contractual section (legal wording) was also overhauled and simplified.

A significant consideration was the security and privacy aspects of handling Personally Identifiable Information (PII). For this project it was primarily the customer’s Driver’s License number – although of course PII extends beyond just the Driver’s License number. We utilized Wufoo’s Professional Plan so that the Driver’s License field could be encrypted, and I converted the Top Notch website from HTTP to HTTPS (something which also beneficial from an SEO standpoint) during the project.

We decided to not use Wufoo to collect customer credit card information. This was for a variety of reasons, one of which was fraud-control: Top Notch provides high-quality and personal service, and they wanted to connect with each client who was renting an instrument. The short phone conversation to gather credit card information was a way to make that connection and help to reduce the possibility of fraudulent rentals.

The online rental feature launched on schedule at the end of July — just in time for the back-to-school instrument rental season. As the first online rentals came in, it was important to immediately contact those customers to find out how the process worked for them and if they had run into any issues. I love customer feedback! A treasure trove of information about the site, features customers are looking for, the terms that they use to describe those features, other stores in the local area, and more – all from a few phone calls to find out how the rental process went.

Customer feedback is not a spectator sport where you simply sit back and enjoy the show. We immediately implemented some tweaks to the online forms, the site, and the rental process in general based upon customer feedback. While every customer had a great experience and a number said that the reason they chose to rent from Top Notch was the web site, we did find a number of ways to improve the process based on customer feedback.

The rental form functions well on mobile devices:

The results?


Year over year rentals increase

Customers love the option to rent online or in store. And not only can customers rent online, but they can choose whether to have the instrument delivered to their child’s school, or they can pick up the instrument from the store. And not only can customers choose to pick up from a store, but they can specify whether they want to select the actual rental instrument (something that can be special/fun/exciting for a parent and child to do together) or have the instrument pre-selected and prepped/ready for quick pickup at the store. Sounds complicated? It’s not. At least that’s what the customers say. It took effort to create a simple and streamlined form, but was worth it.

All of this makes Top Notch’s customer’s happy which in turn makes everyone at Top Notch happy – and when my client and their customers are happy, I’m happy!

Related projects