Walking the walk with Drupal Commerce
When a fair chunk of your household income is dependent on an eCommerce solution, any decision to make changes should not be taken lightly. The online gifts business my wife established in 2008 has grown steadily through the recession of the last 4 years and the eCommerce website I built for it originally has been surprisingly and thankfully very robust. It was built using Joomla with the Virtuemart shopping cart module on a $3/month hosting package from Siteground. There has only been one small outage on the hosting service during this time and only occasional minor issues with the website itself. We have very much taken a ‘if it ain’t broke don’t try to fix it’ approach.
However, as the business has grown, ambitions have expanded and the online world evolved in new directions such as mobile and social media, the limitations of the Virtuemart solution, in particular, have become more and more apparent Also, as eCommerce development is central to what I offer in my fledgling consultancy business – Webwiser, I feel it would be hypocritical for me to recommend a solution to fellow business owners and entrepreneurs that I wouldn’t be prepared to stake my own livelihood on I first started experimenting with Drupal Commerce in late 2011 and since then there have been some significant developments …
- Drupal Commerce grew enough to pass Ubercart as the most popular shopping solution for Drupal.
- A good number of large and prestigious sites moved to Drupal Commerce.
- Commerce Kickstart, a self-contained package of Drupal modules that allows people to get a store up and running quickly, become the most popular Drupal distribution.
At the start of this year, the lead developers of Drupal Commerce, an organisation called Commerce Guys launched a new distribution – Commerce Kickstart 2. Having built a trial site in the first beta version of Drupal Commerce and a new version using the first Kickstart distribution, it was clear that Commerce Kickstart 2 was a big leap forward and, for me, became the tipping point whereby I was prepared to invest much more time and effort in learning and using the solution. So, during the quieter summer months when not sunbathing 😉 I have been finalising the new Bump Company site for relaunch on Drupal Commerce ready for the busy Xmas period. For those interested in such things, I am currently writing a detailed case study on my consultancy site about the experiences. Here is a summary of my experiences so far …
1. Native solutions offer a more seamless experience for customers and administrators alike – My personal experience is that add-on shopping cart modules and components for proprietary and open source content management environments can be frustrating to work with. Likewise, the content management elements of the more heavyweight standalone eCommerce solutions can often be found lacking. So, having an eCommerce solution that uses all of the native core capabilities of an established and very capable CMS is a joy to work with.
2. Robust and flexible importers make changing platform easier – Like the majority of organisations, having a loyal customer base is what has helped my wife’s company grow and prosper in tough times. A database of 10,000 contacts is small in the general scheme of things but holds a lot of value. Transferring data from the old platform to the new one quickly and efficiently has been a top priority in assessing the pros and cons of making this change.
3. The lead developers have inspired confidence and delivered repeatedly – Since experimenting with the first release and reading about the vision Commerce Guys had for a native Drupal 7 eCommerce capability, I have been surprised and delighted by how well this small team have communicated about their progress and delivered on their stated goals. It’s that reliability in an environment that is constantly shifting around that has instilled confidence
4. The Drupal eco-system has responded with focus and professionalism – The strong and credible leadership from Commerce Guys has brought out the best in the Drupal community. High quality add-ons have emerged quickly to address gaps and speed up development and these are supported with professional community participation. I have answered practically all issues during development through Google searches that identify relevant Drupal community responses almost instantly.
5. Drupal Commerce is built for the future by those who understand the past – The strapline currently being used on the Commerce Guys website is – “We believe that how you do eCommerce should be up to you, not your software” In a competitive world where how you sell is in many ways more important than what you sell, online retailers need to be able to differentiate. This is made harder by rigid shopping cart solutions that are very difficult and/or expensive and time consuming to modify.