ACK.com Website Updates for 2013

From the desk of self proclaimed Benevolent Web Dictator Jeremy Arntz. 

Since launching the redesigned ACK.com in November of 2012 we’ve been busy making improvements to the site. Some of the changes are visible, but many are behind the scenes. The web development team at ACK is not only tasked with improving and maintaining ACK.com, but we also build many of the internal tools that our coworkers use to ensure our customers receive the best service.

As hard as we try we aren’t perfect and unfortunately in early 2013 we realized that the design of our shopping cart code was not flexible enough for our future plans so we spent some time rewriting so it would be much easier to modify and maintain. From a customer’s perspective there wasn’t much of a difference except it was no longer necessary to save your shopping cart. If you’re logged in your shopping cart is automatically saved.

Product filtering in the new version of the site was very basic with few options. So we went to work expanding our filters to include the major product attributes for each category. We took our time to design and build the new filtering system which resulted in smoothest feature launch in ACK history. We are very pleased with the results of our hard work. 

Along the way we were able to create a set of tools for our warehouse team that converted the majority of our paper-based processes like picking and sorting to paperless systems using tablets. The new tablet based system has improved efficiency, provided enhanced metrics to help improve our accuracy, and drastically reduced the amount of paper we use.

Let’s be blunt our product search was not good. So we decided to make it better and now our search is good, but we know our customers expect more from us so we are working on making our search great.

If there’s one truth in web development it’s change. In the past it was common to have a  desktop version of your website and a separate mobile optimized version which made sense when there wasn’t much variation in mobile device screen sizes. Which is how the mobile version of ACK.com was designed. The flaw in this was that every change we made on the desktop site we also had to make on the mobile site which lead to more work for us and most importantly a degraded experience for customers.

In recent years the consensus on how to address mobile web browsing has switched from having a dedicated mobile site to using responsive web design to modify the layout of “desktop” version of the site to be optimized for mobile. We kept the design of the site exactly the same, but at the code level we started over from scratch and the majority of the site is now fully responsive. We are very proud of how the site functions on phones, tablets, and of course the desktop.

Stay tuned for more updates throughout the year, thanks for reading!

10 Of Your Biggest Paddling Accomplishments from 2013

ACK's own Andrew caught his first ever King Mackerel in 2013.
Andrew caught his first ever King Mackerel in 2013.

With 2013 behind us, many paddlers are looking back at their paddling accomplishments from 2013 and feeling good about what they were able to do with their kayak, canoe or paddleboard. I wanted to get a sense for exactly what people had accomplished over the past year so I started asking around. Here were the most common 10 that I heard:

  1. Buying a first kayak, canoe or paddleboard. No wonder we had to ship so many kayaks out last year! 2013 was a year that many paddlers made their first big purchase and they were certainly proud of it.
  2. Going kayaking more than in 2012. For many paddlers, just getting out more than they did in 2012 was their biggest accomplishment. I can attest, making time for paddling can sometimes be hard but always worth it!
  3. Not flipping over, falling out of the kayak, or losing anything over board. Add a couple of gear leashes and you’ll be a shoe-in for this accomplishment in 2014.
  4. Taking on a particularly long or strenuous paddling trip. Going on a long kayak camping trip or taking on a difficult whitewater river is a big accomplishment and in 2013 many paddlers were able to do just that!
  5. Visiting a certain paddling spot. Many paddlers were able to take a long trip to visit a special paddling destination in 2013, which is great! This also happened to be one of the 5 most common paddling goals for 2014 as well.
  6. Rolling for the first time. It’s an awesome feeling when you finally perform your first successful roll and something many paddlers learned to do in 2013!
  7. Going to the Boondoggle. The kayak fishing Boondoggle was a chance for kayak anglers from across the country to come together and have a good time in 2013. We were very glad to be a part of it!
  8. Taking a paddling class or getting a paddling certification. Whether it was becoming a certified guide or instructor or just taking a couple classes with the ACA, 2013 was a year many paddlers learned new skills!
  9. Winning a paddling competition like a fishing tournament or race. As if participating in an paddling event wasn’t enough, we heard from many paddlers who caught the biggest fish or paddled the fastest. Keep it up!
  10. Insert joke about paddling in the classroom or the bedroom. Ya..when you start asking people what their biggest paddling accomplishment was in 2013, you’re bound to hear a few bad jokes.

So what was your biggest accomplishment? Leave a comment below and let us know!

A Look Back at 2013

New Year Fireworks
Happy New Year!

Wow, it’s hard to believe that 2013 is already over! It was a big year for us at ACK, thanks to all the support from readers and customers like you. As we get geared up and excited for another great year, I thought I would take this opportunity to look back at all the things we accomplished in 2013.

New Inventory Management System

In the summer of 2013, we implemented a new eco-friendly mobile inventory management system in our warehouse replacing long rolls of paper with electronic tablets. The result has been greatly improved speed and accuracy of order fulfillment as well as an over 90% reduction in daily paper usage. Just another way that we have improved on our internal processes to benefit the customer! Read more about the new system.

San Antonio Store Inbound

Another year, another ACK store. Our newest location is set for San Antonio, Texas and will be open later this month! The location was chosen to better serve our customers who were already commuting from San Antonio to our San Marcos store. We can’t wait until the doors open! Make sure to stop by later this month to visit and also don’t forget to RSVP to the Grand Opening Celebration in Feb.

Redesigned Mobile Website

With so many different sized tablets and smart phones becoming relevant to our customers, we decided to take on a redesign of our mobile site that responds to users’ screen size. The site launched in November and was coupled with a revamping of our checkout system, making it even easier to shop with us. If you haven’t tried it already, visit ACK.com on your smartphone or tablet and see it for yourself!

Three Customer Service Awards

It’s always great to know you’re doing a good job, and in 2013 we were reminded of this not once or twice, but three times! For the 5th and 3rd consecutive year respectively, we were awarded the BizRate Circle of Excellence Award and Kayak Angler’s Choice Award for Best Retailer of 2013. In addition to these two repeat awards, ACK was also upgraded to an elite service designation by Stella Service! We’re proud to have earned each of these awards and will continue to do our best in offering top rated service for readers and customers like you.

Kayak Angler Tournament Series

In 2013, our Kayak Angler Tournament series saw significant growth with over 115 different anglers participating in 7 events. Our new website, www.fishkats.com, was a huge success in communicating information and will continue to be a hub for all things KATS for the 2014 season. The series was so successful that Tournament Director Kristian Kolflat was offered a full time position as ACK’s first ever Operations Specialist. Kirstian continues to plow forward with a largely expanded 2014 season as well some exciting new projects involving Austin Kayak Fishing.

New Centralized Warehouse

We took a huge step in September of 2013 by moving into a much larger, centralized facility. Not only did the move consolidate ACK’s two different warehouses and support functions (like customer service, merchandising, website development and more), but it also tacked on an impressive 10,000 square feet for increased operational efficiency with an additional 12,000 slated to be leased in 2015. The move allowed us to tackle a record breaking holiday season while still providing quick shipping and top notch customer service and we look forward to continue utilizing our space to its fullest potential in 2014. Read more about the move.

While these were some of our most notable accomplishments in 2013, the list doesn’t stop there. 2013 was a year that we saw huge growth in product selection, hired many new faces into the ACK family, improved on various aspects of the website and much more.

As always, we couldn’t have done any of it without your support, and for that reason we wanted to say thank you! We’re looking forward to another great year and are glad to have you with us.

The ACK Team

New for 2013 in Kayak Models and Features

Even though 2013 isn’t quite here yet, many of our kayak vendors have already started delivering new kayaks, some never before seen models and others with updated features. Some of the most notable launches are the new Native Watercraft Slayer, Feel Free Moken 12.5 & 14 and the sharp looking Wave Sport Ethos Ten. Also, check out some of the new features on tried and true models.

We’ll start with the new boats

Native Watercraft Slayer 12 & 14
Created by Native using an “automatic for the people” approach, the Slayer is the latest fishing kayak to hit the scene. It’s been referred to as a sit on top (SOT) version of the popular Ultimate model and, with a lot of the same deck features, it’s easy to see why. But that doesn’t mean that the hull is the only thing that’s changed. With a new seating system that can alternate between a high and low position, open front hatch, plenty of molded in areas designed for fishing accessories and much more, we know this is going to be popular with anglers. Already, the Slayer prototypes were a big hit at our Demo Day events! Available in a 12 ft and 14 ft option.

Wilderness Systems Aspire 105
Meant to compliment Wilderness System‘s already impressive line-up, the Aspire 105 is a new crossover boat that has replaced their Pamlico series. Whereas cross over boats generally tend to mix white water and recreational designs, the Aspire is meant for recreation and light touring. Great for both flat and moving water. This aims to be a great hybrid option for new to intermediate level paddlers. Like most other cross over boats, the Aspire has a drop down skeg to improve tracking when desired.

Wavesport Ethos 10
Wavesport
has created the Ethos as it’s foray into the river trekking category. Designed to handle waters with up to class III rapids and then track on flat water sections with help from it’s drop down skeg, the Ethos 10 can take on longer river trips. With plenty of storage space and a cockpit designed for comfort, this would be a great kayak for beginners looking to explore new environments and develop their skills on long or multiple day river trips.

Hobie Pro Angler 12
If you keep up with the kayak angling community, you’ve probably already heard of Hobie’s latest model of the Pro Angler 12 as it was released back in April. But just in case you haven’t…well, Hobie still knows how to make angler’s happy. The new Pro Angler 12 has all the bells and whistles of the 14 model and features the new vantage seating feature which will be described below. We’ve had them in stock and the reviews are good!

Perception Expression 14.5 & 15
Perception’s
new Expression offers forgiving handling and stability expected of a touring design with the performance of an expedition kayak. The up-swept bow nose and peaked deck allow the Expression 14.5 to shed water quickly, providing more speed and performance than the typical touring kayak. We can tell you one thing for sure, it’ll go fast. A perfect boat for an afternoon paddling or even multi-day tour. Offered in both 14.5 and 15 foot models.

Coming Soon: Moken 12.5 & 14
While not yet available, the new Moken 12.5 and 14 are going to be a huge hit. I personally had the pleasure of not only trying both boats at our recent demo days, we also met with Feel Free’s Head of Operations in the U.S., Jim Hager for a video shoot featuring both models. Click here to check it out.

New Features for 2013

2013 might just be the year of comfort kayak seating. With new seats from Ocean Kayak, Wilderness Systems, Hobie & Feel Free there are plenty of new ones to choose from. Sprinkle in a few other upgrades from Feel Free and Ocean Kayak and you have a pretty good list of new and notable features for the 2013 lineup of boats. Here’s what you can expect:

Wilderness Systems Phase 3 Pro Seating System

Wilderness Systems’ Phase 3 Pro Seating System
Wilderness
has always done a good job when it comes to outfitting their kayaks with comfort seating systems but this time they’ve really gone above and beyond. With complete adjustability in all aspects of the seat this really is  worthy of the word “system”. We’ve had a chance to try it out in some of the 2013 models and are very impressed. Expect most of the 2013 model Wilderness boats to come equipped with some version of the Phase 3 Pro Seating System.

Ocean Kayak Comfort Hybrid Seat

Ocean Kayak Support Track Foot Braces and Comfort Hybrid Seat Back
Ocean Kayak has gone out of it’s way to make their popular recreation and angler kayaks just a little more comfortable. They’ve rolled out both a new seat and foot peg system that aims to meet this goal. With Ocean Kayak, it’s all about making sure even the tiniest of details meet the customer’s needs.

Hobie Vantage Seating

Hobie Vantage Seating
New to both the Pro Angler 12 and 14, this is a revolutionary new seating system in terms of comfort & adjustability. Named for the vantage point it gives you for spotting fish, this seat is just another reason why the Hobie Pro Angler series if one of the top fishing kayaks around.

Feel Free Uni Track System

Feel Free Uni-Track System & King Fisher Seat
Feel Free has created an easy to use track system for paddlers looking to customize their ‘yak called the Uni-Track System. It can be found on some of the latest Moken models like the already released Moken 10 Lite. This track system makes it easy to attach Scotty & Ram mounts without drilling or installing anything. Click here to see a short video clip featuring the Uni-Track System

Feel Free King Fisher Seat

Additionally, new Mokens will also feature the upgraded King Fisher Seat with a comfort seat back. I personally love this seat, so comfortable and you can’t help but think it looks pretty cool too. Wait until you see it on the new Moken 12.5 and Moken 14 coming soon.

Much to look forward to this year! As always, share your comments and questions below! – Joseph@ACK