Ecommerce Store / License Keys / CRM / Support Ticketing / Fulfilment / Bootstrap

Hi. I’m thinking of updating my website to a new modern responsive design and am considering using Bootstrap in combination with ASP.Net (VB).

I would also like to have my own store that will easily integrate with this kind of design template and redirect to PayPal and another third-party credit card payment processor (to comply with PCI) and then return to my site once the order is complete to automatically send out an order confirmation email with a license key. The store would also have to handle VAT/Tax calculations.

I am currently using esellerate to handle the ecommerce, licensing and activation but would like to move away from them to use my own licensing system so I can manage activation and deactivation online myself and generate my own keys and upload them to the new store system for distribution.

I would also like to somehow incorporate my old customer database (from esellerate orders) into my new one and for my new system to handle CRM and support ticketing etc. And if and when I decide to create a physical boxed product for the store to also handle sending out fulfilment emails to the customer with tracking info and to a warehouse to process the order.

I know these are a lot of questions all rolled into one topic but I feel they are all intrinsically linked and that before I can make any decision on one solution I need to carefully consider all the other options.

Can anyone give me some advice?

Perhaps share their own experience in this field and their own design choices and adopted solutions?


If you’re asking about bootstrap and ASP.Net I think you’re on the wrong forum. If you’re asking about using Xojo instead of ASP.Net, then I think you could do that, but whether or not you’d want to is another matter. I don’t think that all of the pieces you would need are readily available. I do think you could put together some of the pieces along with your own code to do what you want, but it would probably be a substantial amount of work.

My question would be what are your priorities. There are a lot of store solutions available that you could simply purchase and start using. I’ve worked with a few of them, and they all have their downsides. If you want to roll your own for a specific reason then I think you should look at what tool might help the most with your specific priorities.

It’s very hard to make a canned recommendation in the online store space because I think they all have different limitations and it’s going to be hard to make a best choice in almost any specific scenario. I think most people look at a bunch until they get tired of looking and just go with whatever seems best at the time. I don’t know anyone with a large store that’s entirely happy with their chosen product.

There’s also things like Amazon, NewEgg, Etsy, Ebay, and probably a bunch of others where you use someone else’s marketplace. Not to mention the App Store and Google Play. It really depends a lot on the specifics.

Hi Kevin. Thanks for your input.

In terms of a store I would like a “store solution” (with source) that I can just customize as needed in terms of of a coded backend and design the front-end to match the website design template I use. I mentioned Bootstrap (though I’ve never used it before) because I like the simplicity of the design and apparent simplicity of installation and customization.

I don’t mind making a few coded customizations to the store solution I choose but ultimately want most of it in place from the start.

In terms of CRM, Order Management and a Support System…again, if possible I’d like either a store solution that has all this or some of this or can easily integrate with other third-party solutiona.

I’m not interested in a hosted store solution like Amazon or a marketplace like Tesy but something that will run on my domain and that I have full control over…unless of course a hosted store solution has everything I want all wrapped up into one with a nice bow on top!

In terms of a licensing system, again, I would prefer to use a ready-made solution and just plug it into my Xojo apps and maybe even customize the online backend into my site so I can manage activation and deactivaion via an admin panel online.

Front End
Let’s start with Bootstrap. Bootstrap is like building blocks for web developers. I use it frequently with my sites, it makes setting them up faster. It’s like Lego blocks - there’s basics in there, but you still have to build the finished website. It does help make a stylish result much faster, I built the HTML Edit website, and the XJBundle design with Bootstrap grids and elements.

Matching your existing design is a huge task if you select an existing shopping cart system. You have to learn how the shopping cart system does styles, and you have to translate your existing web design into a theme or style for that cart. If you were to write your own cart it would be much easier to integrate with your existing design but you lose the advantage of having all the back end created for you.

Store, CRM, and Support
There are a number of CRM and Support solutions that exist already, but none that I know of are integrated with a shopping cart / store. Having this all in one could be an advantage, but it would be a lot of work to link two different systems; and writing your own is a huge task. You have to ask yourself, do you have so many customers that you can’t handle support and their purchases separately? Is linking their purchase to a support ticket worth the investment to you?

In your store are you selling many products or just software licenses for your own? There is no need to go and get a full cart system if you’re selling just your own software. Carts are great for buying many items (like clothes) in one transaction, and you can create a system where users could buy multiple licenses in one transaction, but it doesn’t have to be a full shopping cart. Existing store solutions can usually deliver serial numbers, but from my experience you have to supply it a batch, so calculated keys are out.

License Keys / Activation / Fulfillment
This is another beast in it’s own. As mentioned, the existing shopping cart solutions aren’t set up to be software activation mechanisms. Writing an activation mechanism would be your best method of achieving the most control over the situation. But that’s not always the easiest, and transitioning existing customers is a task that will create support issues.

To get everything you want in one spot with total control you’ll have to roll your own.
There are some solutions out there that fit most of what you want, Paddle for one has the activation management down. Support with Paddle though is quite confusing for the user. I never know whether to contact the developer or Paddle. But integration is easy, it’s just a popover on your website so you don’t have to change any design elements.

As a Whole
Setting up an entire system like this is no easy task. For non-professionals it’s best to settle for an existing solution or hire a consultant for your web ecosystem. I would only take on the task if you know exactly what you’re doing.

My personal recommendation for you is to hire a consultant.

I had to come up with my own system because no standard shopping cart would do for my hundreds of fonts which are often bought individually. Actually when I started back in 1997, there was pretty much nothing (not even Paypal).

I devised my entire back office originally in Perl, then PHP, and today with a mix of PHP and Xojo Web.

For a decade or so, I have been using Paypal Instant Payment Notification so when a sale is performed, Paypal runs a PHP listener on my site which logs the transaction if it is successful, then I return the customer to a Xojo Web program (previously PHP) that let him download his purchase right away.

In addition, the listener sends download instructions to the customer email, so he can go to another Xojo Web app where he can download again if needed.

More recently, when I launched RubberViews encrypted, I modified the listener so it runs a Xojo Web app that calculates the license number and sends a personal email to customers so they can unlock the demo.

If third party payment and delivery processors had been available when I started (apart from IMHO questionable Digital River), I probably would not have bothered. Most of us do not have enough hours in a day to develop ; anything like the nitty-gritty cash register takes away from more profitable ventures.

Tim: Thanks for the breakdown and advice. Very interesting and a lot to think about.

Michel: Thanks for your POV too. I haven’t got time to create my own system (though I have considered writing my own crm web app) and so am looking for multiple “out-of-the-box” solutions for now that I can perhaps link together with my own customization.

For my site design: I want clean, simple and elegant and quick to build.

For my store: a simple plug and play solution (that will match my site template) with maybe a little page code-behind and database customization if required.

For the licensing and activation: it would be great to have this part of the store or crm otherwise I imagine it will have to be a separate solution.

For the help desk & knowledge base: a plug-and-play would be good that can also match my site design. For that I don’t necessarily mind a hosted solution but would prefer to keep it all on my domain.

Which are best given wide birth, anything from DR and you’ll likely suffer someway in the future. They only care about Adobe and not small developers.

I’ve heard good things about Fastspring, but never actually used them. I’ve used eSellerate, but now I advise everyone to avoid them as they have lots of technical issues and simply don’t care.

In the end, we had to go with a solution similar to Michel’s, we used as the payment processor, once a sale is completed, they talk to our Xojo built application which generates the serial number there and then.

Moral is, we choose eSellerate because it was a quick solution to begin with, but ended up having to invest the time to build our own solution anyway, which resulted in more work and not to mention the money eSellerate made from us. Not saying it has to be done this way, but something that you should consider.

Thanks, Sam. I’m gonna actually try and get a merchant account and host my own store on my domain to save on ecommerce fees. Then I guess all I really need is some kind of Xojo friendly licensing system that can handle the activation, deactivation and blacklisting through an online control panel and then I can just upload a bunch of serial numbers to my store and deliver them via email when an order has been paid for.

So I need a store solution that would work like this and that would fit my simplistic Bootstrap or equivalent design needs.

I would also like to offer In-App purchases and esellerate can do this but as well as your comments about them I occasionally hear rumours on this forum that they may not continue with Xojo so I am looking for alternatives.

In-App purchase in its most simple form is just a window with an HTMLViewer that points to a corner of your site…

True but I would require instant payment confirmation for an in-app purchase that would allow activation or an in-app download possibly and when redirecting to a third-party payment processor and using postbacks and PayPal IPN etc there are often connection drops and issues and so I don’t think that would work for my requirements.

Whatever the system, you cannot control connection issues.

Of course but the more redirects you have to do the more chance of issues arising and using PayPal IPN (which is what I would have to do) does not provide an instant result … by its nature there is a delay in the postback to your server. Also, handling one “out” request and one “in” reply in a single behind the scenes call is going to be more reliable than multiple redirects from page to page and from one domain to another etc. In my experience.

In my last round of research I more or less decided we were going to move to Fastspring along with LimeLM for our own products.

Just looked at LimeLM site. Interesting. Would you use their hosted solution or install it on your own server to manage?

Also, I’m a little confused by their plans and pricing. For instance, would two OS versions of the same product constitute one product or two?

I am no expert (yet), but a client of ours is using it and AFAIK it’s just one app on two platforms (Mac and Win). You can always contact them and ask. From experience they have prompts answered the few questions I had.

Thanks Bob for the tip.

Does anyone else have any more advice or ideas on this?

I’m particulary keen to get some advice on using Bootstrap (or equivalent) for a simple quick to build website and also incorporating some kind of help desk/knowledge base and CRM system.

If there is no “out of the box” combined solution then I would love to hear of separate recommendations for:

• website templates
• help desk/ticketing/chat
• knowledge base
• shopping carts/order managemnt
• license control
• crm/customer management


Yeah, that’s a lot of ‘stuff’. Probably your best bet would be to look into a CMS web system like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and see what’s available for each of them. All 3 make websites pretty simple and all of them should have everything but your license control. For that you’ll have to hunt around.

FWIW, the current licensing system I have (eSellerate) forces me to use a secondary website for purchases and users have to leave my website to purchase. If you want fast and dirt simple I’d go with FastSpring.

There is no simple way to build a website. Even if you spend a lot of money it’s work.

My experiences:

  • Don’t do Wordpress except if you have a thorough understanding of security. Otherwise you will be hacked quite fast.
  • Joomla: incomprehensible a couple of years ago. Or I was too stupid.
  • Drupal: good architecure. Not very many templates. Any change of UI required custom development.
  • Rapidweaver: needs a lot of plugins. Good to use. Very flexible. Even so understanding of html is required.

Your questions are way to generic. We can tell you about the systems we use. But what do we know about your requirements? Absolutely nothing.

Get started. The website, the shopping cart/licensing system are required (Fastspring is good). To have a ticket system is good. A CRM can come later.