Saturday, February 06, 2010

ECommerce Toolkit

If you were building an ecommerce platform, how much standard functionality could be developed as a standalone service? Would it be possible to create a suite of services that developers could use as a toolbox of hosted apps?

I've been thinking for a while how this might work, and although I'm a long way from any solution, I've decided to start using this blog as a collection point for ideas, research, analysis etc.

The service I've spent most time looking into is ratings and reviews. This is now fairly standard on websites, and I think it's possible to abstract the collection of data away from any specifics relating to a particular site. This means it's possible to create a ratings service that is externally hosted that needs to know nothing about the parent website. If I am collecting ratings, and then aggregating the data and feeding it back (average, weighted average, top / bottom reviews, etc.), it's irrelevant whether the review is about a book or a play or a sandwich. The implementation details are left to the developer - you want to rate things on a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 - that's up to you, we just store a number. You want to publish reviews instantly, or moderate them pre-publication - that's also up to you - just set a status on the initial review and filter the content coming out using the status field. We just store the status as a text field - if you want to use it to store New/Approved/Archived then just do it.

What are the other services that could be created in the same vein? Favourites? Comments (e.g. Disqus)? Subscriptions?

There are a lot of online services available right now in this space - think Reevoo for reviews in the UK - but most are marketing services directed at the business owners. I'm thinking more about a toolkit for developers, not the business. Making it easier for developers to create new experiences without having to spend time on the building the plumbing.

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