Serious Readers

Supporting, maintaining and improving a bespoke Ruby on Rails e-commerce website.

Screen showing Serious Readers website

At a glance

  • Tech Stack

  • Ruby on Rails
  • Spree
  • Engine Yard
  • Core Services

  • Support and maintenance
  • Bespoke RoR e-commerce development
  • Additional Services

  • Project management
  • Technical architecture


Serious Readers is a long-established e-commerce retailer of bespoke, high-quality reading lights. A Serious Reader light replicates the natural daylight, meaning colours can be seen true to life, and the text on the page is crisp and clear, allowing the reader to focus for longer and see more clearly. The lights are made specifically for book lovers with poor eyesight, attracting a more mature customer base.


Initially, the Serious Readers’ existing e-commerce application was built by an agency with a single Ruby on Rails developer. The agency could no longer provide the required support once that developer left.

The e-commerce site was built on top of Spree, an open-source e-commerce platform that uses Ruby on Rails. It integrates with a third-party payment gateway and an ERP system. Due to our Ruby on Rails expertise and experience managing bespoke e-commerce applications, Serious Readers asked Bit Zesty to help them improve the site and take over the ongoing support and maintenance.

Our award-winning user experience design competencies were also a factor as the site redesign is in Serious Readers’ longer-term plans. However, the priority was to improve the back-end systems and integrations, to reduce the business disruption.


We started with a kick-off meeting to understand requirements and create a roadmap. The first step was to upgrade the code to the latest versions to make the e-commerce site more robust before improving system integrations and existing features and building new functionality.

Hosting setup

When we took over, the hosting was underprovisioned, and everything – web app, database, background jobs – were running on one small virtual machine – this meant there was no redundancy, and any issues with the machine would slow or take down the site. Furthermore, the site struggled to cope with spikes in traffic, losing sales at peak times.

We improved the application architecture so that it could run on multiple servers; this enables us to scale up different parts of the application independently, which means the site has higher reliability. Also, now it can scale up to meet peak demand, for example, at Christmas and other sale times.

ERP system integration

One of the urgent priorities was improving the integration with the third-party ERP system (MNP). When an order is submitted through the Serious Readers’ e-commerce platform, an XML file is sent to the ERP via a SOAP API to keep all the information in sync. Therefore, the ERP system can track and fulfil the order; the fulfilment information is then sent back to the e-commerce application.

When we took over, the synchronisation between the e-commerce site and the ERP system was unreliable, which resulted in some orders not being fulfilled in time, causing customer dissatisfaction and business disruption. We re-architectured how the integration works – from hosting to data storage structure to rewriting the API code – now, the data is synced reliably between the two systems, facilitating the smooth running of the operations.

Payment gateway integration

One of the biggest pieces of work was introducing 3D Secure 2 (3DS2) payment protocol to make online payment handling more secure and compliant with the latest European regulation – Strong Customer Authentication (SCA).

3DS2 works by adding an extra step after the checkout where the bank prompts the cardholder to provide additional information, such as a one-time code sent to their phone. To achieve that, we wrote a new payment gateway integration from scratch as there was no off-the-shelf code library that would integrate with Serious Readers’ preferred payment provider.

However, the documentation provided by the 3rd party provider was incomplete and inaccurate. Also, all the parties had to be involved in verifying and testing the integration, making quality control more challenging. However, despite that, we completed the required work just in time as the new regulation came into force, ensuring that there was no disruption to Serious Readers’ online sales.

Complex Shipping Logic

Serious Readers sell lights and accessories of varying sizes and weights. This means they need a complex shipping logic within the e-commerce platform to ensure the products get delivered at the right price and at agreed times.

The codebase for this was highly complex and had little documentation. To make the shipping more reliable, we fixed existing bugs and broken automated tests before introducing new functionality that improved Serious Readers’ internal processes and gave the customers more flexibility around shipping.

Unconventional Promotion Codes

Promotion codes are also an essential part of Serious Readers’ business, helping track their marketing efforts’ ROI. Some promotion codes entitle customers to multiple benefits if they meet the criteria. So each promotion code has to be checked against the criteria and, where applicable, apply various discounts.

The code we inherited had very complex and unstable discount logic and often didn’t work as expected, causing frustration to the customers and the support staff. We fixed immediate bugs and rewrote parts of code that were causing the issues, allowing a friction-free experience for all users.


Before Bit Zesty took over Serious Readers’ bespoke e-commerce platform, it was unstable, contained bugs and caused frustration for customers and staff. The complex solutions required for the ERP integration, shipping logic and discounting are now fully optimised and functioning as they should be.

Despite incomplete information, changing requirements, and tight deadline, the 3D Secure 2 (3DS2) payment protocol got introduced in time – making Serious Readers more secure against fraud and compliant with the latest regulations.

As part of our ongoing support and maintenance, we continue to improve features and promptly fix any bugs that arise, ensuring that Serious Readers can provide a seamless e-commerce experience for their customers.

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  • Services we provide
  • Indicative pricing

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