Breaking into E-Commerce - the good, the bad, and the Oh hey! that was easy!

Posted on August 05, 2014

One of the ironic truths of the business of web development is that we as service providers are rarely sourced for things we’ve never done. While new clients need the confidence that comes with experience in a certain subset of skills, we wouldn’t have any of these skills unless we practiced them, or were hired for them in the first place. While most web developers came to it from a hobby-intensive interest (even CS majors,) and therefore arrive on the scene with something, we need projects that stretch our abilities, what we know about our environment, and keep us interested. This is where side projects come in (another topic entirely, for another day) and where the industry’s notoriety for sometimes fudging the truth about our skills gains its credence and becomes excusable all at once.

All of this said, every time I take on a new project, there’s always a component of it I have never done before. Maybe it’s a jQuery function I’ve never used or a new ExpressionEngine Add-on, but sometimes it’s just simply a collection of unique strings of code. Yes, the reason the site has to be hand-coded is because your code doesn’t exist yet. Neither me, nor my colleagues, nor God has ever before written your site.

So - on to e-commerce. An existing ExpressionEngine client approached me to add some pages in ExpressionEngine to go alongside a stand-alone shopping cart app they had begun working with in order to launch a new consumer-direct branch to their business. It was a terrific idea - but the more I checked out their cart, the more my head hung. There was so little flexibility and so many handicaps built into the software and their interface with it that I could not honestly express too many positive opinions about it to them, though I tried. Still, I got the job for my component and about midway through, they approached me and asked for a quote for the whole shebang, shopping cart and all. Apparently on top of the handicaps they already had, their relationship with the shopping cart provider was deteriorating. I was delighted to take this on, though it didn’t happen without this sort of awkward conversation.

Had I ever developed a shopping cart before? Was I capable? Would I be available? Could I do it now? No, not after that other project finishes, now!

Hm - no I hadn’t - yes I was, yes I would be, no, okay yes.

If you’ve never done it before, how do you know you can?

Well, other people who do what I do have done it, and there is software out there to help us get through the gritty so we can focus on the finesse of the whole thing. You can even choose the software yourself.

And with that, I was granted my first e-commerce gig. Wahoo!

My client ended up choosing Store for the software used, based on its flexibility and its offering of Fedex and UPS shipping interfaces that automatically calculate the shipping price for goods shipped. One of store’s benefits that I found useful as a first-timer was the inclusion of cart -> purchase -> finish code that could be dropped in and customized as needed, but not out of sheer necessity. It helped me not miss a beat with order fields and capturing crucial info, and it helped the client see the entire build as a good value. In addition, the support we received on Store's side on how-to's and possible software bugs was great. 

I can’t think of any good opportunities that involve building a shopping cart for a side project at this time (unless it were for checkout on carolinecblaker.com - oh wait! yes!! ) So I’m looking forward to the next shopping cart / e-commerce project to land in my inbox.

Breaking into E-Commerce - the good, the bad, and the Oh hey! that was easy! Image

Caroline C. Blaker

Welcome, I'm a solo-preneur web professional living in the Land of Enchantment. I blog about things related to personal and professional life. My business specializes in Content Management Systems - ExpressionEngine, Craft CMS, and WordPress — and learning of new-to-me tech like Laravel. I also like writing content like you see here. Please consider hiring me if you’re looking for a developer who is responsive to email and gets it done on-time and in-budget.

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