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

[quote=240821:@Beatrix Willius]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.

Seems to me the questions are the result of no practical experience more than anything.

That’s way too simplistic of an answer. There are best practices for WordPress websites that eliminate most threats.

Yes, security is certainly an issue and I suppose the problem with using any CMS solution is that the more popular it is the more people would be trying to hack it.

Right now I am torn between simply getting a template theme and building my own basic website and using a domain installed store solution or using a CMS solution with hosted store.

I am leaning towards the latter for one simple reason: sure I could design and build my own custom solution or adapt my current one to make it more responsive but it will take a little more time … but the main problem is that it would need constant attention as technology changes.

I’m beginning to think that the advantage of using CMS and a hosted store is that as technology changes the CMS and store developers will always be updating their products as will any “drop-in” products that are linked to the CMS system and store.

My only issue right now is that while I probably could use “out of the box” and hosted products for my site and store I would still need the ability to manually create some independent pages with “code-behind” to handle serial number checks and other app-related things. As mentioned, I use ASP.NET right now for this and am not sure how I can achieve this if I choose the CMS and hosted store route.

Is it possible? With a CMS site and hosted store can you still create pages with code-behind that you have total control of and if so, can it be done in ASP.NET or are you tied to PHP if you choose WordPress, Joomla or Drupal etc? And is it also possible to access and query an independent SQL database outside of the CMS/Store solution via your own coded page?

Have you looked at everweb? It’s a Xojo made application for making websites without code.

ASP.NET is a powerful stack but hosting on Windows is not super easy. If you use ASP.NET 5 which targets CoreCLR you will have more flexibility regarding hosting but you will still be mostly dependent on some advanced configuration. PHP out of the box can handle a lot of these tasks with ease but like you say many of the common packages have security issues.

At the end of the day having a solid product that is supported is more important the marketing materials. Start with the minimal necessary to conduct your business and then optimize. The decisions you make today can only serve to limit you later. Stick to mainstream and even GASP static websites if necessary to convey your mission and why you can uniquely solve it.

Regarding ecommerce FastSpring is pretty nice because they do most of the work necessary. Integrating with Stripe or Braintree is very simple in most languages including Xojo.

Responsive design is important and bootstrap is a nice tool to help you get there. Not too relevant to the underlying technology. If you are already familiar with PHP then you will notice not much has changed so I would stick with that if you must have something. If I was starting green and wanted to learn something that would help me immediately with minimal friction I would do NodeJS.

One more for the list …

I have had pretty good luck with this tool. The latest version can build Websites that can handle desktop and mobile formats automatically in the same site. There are hundreds of free and paid plugins and extensions. It can build sites with zero code or you can “go crazy” and add your own code and customization.

The output is standard HTML, CSS, PHP, etc.

It is only $50 … but it is only Windows based.

The only way IMHO. Trying to do everything, as I read above, can only conduce to the syndrome of the never complete masterpiece that is never available.

True true true … a simple plan well executed is better than the masterpiece that is never done.

Thanks for all your advice and pointers. Still haven’t decided the best route to choose and still researching but I do agree that sometimes it’s better to just get something up and running rather than spending too long seeking perfection.

My options right now are as follows:

  1. Find a good Windows host and build a basic ASP.NET website using Visual Studio (since I am already very familar with ASP.NET) with a respnosive Bootstrap theme template (I’ll need to learn Bootstrap) and then link to a hosted store solution like Shopify and integrate a payment solution like Braintree and a license key/digital download plugin like FetchApp or SendOwl.

  2. Find a good host that offers CMS, decide whether to go for WordPress, Joomla or Drupal and then build it that way and integrate with CMS plugins for Shopify and Braintree etc.

  3. Use something like Shopify or Big Commerce to host my site and store and then code my own plugins to handle the custom stuff I need that I would normally handle with ASP.NET “code-behind” pages.

  4. Same as Option 1 but use Xojo Web instead of ASP.NET.

Option 1 to me right now seems the most practical since I have done this before (without Bootstrap) but the other options are appealing because I know that CMS or a hosted solution will always be on top of technology updates.

Option 2 will be completely new to me (but maybe fun???) but I would still have to handle the custom code stuff I need and that may mean learning some basic PHP. Same for Option 3.

Option 4: Although I code for desktop apps in Xojo I have never built a website in Xojo and it could be a bit of a learning curve and slow the development process. I do plan to write my own CRM solution in Xojo web in the future that I want to link with my site and store and existing customer database (unless anyone knows of a good Xojo CRM system out there?) so building my site in Xojo now could make it easier to link to that further down the line … but as mentioned, that may be best left for the masterpiece etc.

The one thing I think I have decided is that unlike my last website I will probably go for the hosted cart/store rather than buying a cart to install on my server and customizing it since this takes some work and as mentioned causes problems if you do not have the time to stay on top of technology changes and HTML/web design best practices etc.

What are you selling?
One off items or ‘things added to a basket’
When do you need this?

If you need something now, get some hosting, buy Rapidweaver (maybe with Stacks) and build a website in a few days.
You can always replace it later.

If you are selling one-off software items and need a licence key to go with them,and need someone to handle the VAT for you, open an account at FastSpring.
Took me 2 or 3 days to create all my products plus optional printed manual/CD/USB/add on stuff, but they are reliable and the control panel is straightforward.

You get a URL for each product or ‘bundle of products’
The URL you use as a link on a button in your website.
Customers click through, get a professional shopping basket, get a licence key , and you get the cash twice a month.

If you sell ‘things added to a basket’ then you might add RapidCart to your site. Although I wasnt keen on that myself due to international pricing or VAT, (cant recall which)

Once you have the machine running, you can start to plug in your chats and knowledge base.
The cart URLS will work even if you replace the HTML wholesale at a later time, ditching the Rapdiweaver site

Jeff: Thanks for the advice. I did look at RapidWeaver but it’s not for me. I’m selling digital downloads with a license key and download link but would like to use my own merchant account rather than an aggregated one like FastSpring and eSellerate. I also need the option for boxed product fulfillment and would like a professional cart system that has more traditional customization options for coupons and product management and tax/EU VAT handling rather than just buy now urls.

Fastspring gives me all of that, unless Im missing something.
Good luck with the EU VAT handling: too complicated for me.
With a B2B relationship, I just let FS handle all of that.

Just had a look at FastSring and it doesn’t appear to let you use your own merchant account or offer shipping options for a pre-made boxed product stored in a warehouse etc. If you know it can please can you provide a link to the relevant section on their site?

Ah, drop shipping…
No, I despatch myself. Or people use their ‘supply on CD’ option.
Not a warehouse of boxed product.

For me:
a) because it would cost a fortune to send boxed stock to the USA, and
b) I have been known to release an update a month … any boxed product would be out of date before the postman arrived

Understood. Thanks for clarifying.

Sometimes, it makes sense to have a processor for soft goods (electronic delivery), and another one for boxed products.

A few years back, when I was still doing quite a bit of on CD, I used Plimus for physical goods order taking and delivery, while I was using Paypal for electronic delivery.

Basically, boxed and virtual have very different logics. With a boxed product, license number is usually in the box. You also have to manage shipping costs. Not so in Virtual products.

I also tried the shopping cart at first, until I realized that the immense majority of my customers bought only one product. So now they no longer have to go through the shopping cart step.

Michel: Interesting but I always cross-sell products and have found the cart approach suits me best. Note: Plimus is now called BlueSnap.

Just did a nother round of research. I looked into some other carts and hosted store like SunShop, Spree, Miva and PrestaShop. Most offer digital download products but not associated license keys. Some allow third-party modules to be purchased for this like PrestaShop which also has a great module database (which is where they make their money) but I’ve seen some pretty poor reviews for them regarding support and providing update patches etc. Apparently while it’s free to download the cost of development and modules makes it possibly not worth the trouble.

We were using a Yahoo based store (just got spun off into some other company, Aabaco?) and never liked it.

We just converted to and, OMG they are the bomb, if you are a programmer or database person. Super clean & well documented API.

[Edit: the characters O M G seem to trigger the “bad words” filter on this forum. Hah]

Thanks MIchael. Yes, Stripe seem quite good and I know they handle Shopify Payments (their own integrated solution) but that would mean not accepting PayPal which is a big no-no in my book if you use another store/cart solution and Stripe as your only payment processer. But I think Shopify allow Stripe and PayPal as a separate “paid” add-on module etc.

I did just stumble upon 3DCart and they automatically handle digital downloads with associated serial numbers as well as shipping integration and a bunch of other stuff like SEO and coupons. Their only downside seems to be a lack of good themes but I think this still seems the best option for me right now. When you weigh up the pros and cons I think I’d rather spend a little time customizing a responsive theme than adding shipping and serial number modules (and paying extra for them) into Shopify.

My only hesitance on the whole “building my own website with Bootstrap” route as opposed to a solution like Wix/Square Space/CMS etc is that those ready-made solutions make it very easy to integrate things like social sharing, analytics and email marketing etc whereas it becomes a little more complicated and time-consuming to add all this yourself.