Three Ways E-commerce Is Still Broken for the Developer Community

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Three Ways E-commerce Is Still Broken for the Developer Community

By Sara Hicks - 01/30/2017
E-commerce has come a long way since the days of archaic legacy systems, customization snafus, and unreliable hosting. If you’ve managed a team of developers or are a seasoned developer yourself, you’ve experienced the first-hand challenges of setting up an online shop, big or small. Luckily, today’s modern solutions offer up a plethora of features and tools built specifically to sooth common pain points associated with development. In fact, some solutions even give retailers with little to no technical experience the ability to set up shop in just minutes.
 
Despite these many advances, however, setting up, configuring, and running an online store can still be time-consuming and costly. Below we’ll explore why e-commerce is still broken for developers.
 
Installation
Many e-commerce solutions available today were born nearly 10 to 20 years ago, back when the Internet was a vastly different place. As a result, legacy systems tend to carry with them a sizeable amount of baggage and technical debt that prevent these platforms from adopting the latest and greatest in technology.
 
For instance, many solutions require developers to install and configure their supported databases, additional software and multiple drivers right off the bat. Additionally, legacy platforms use an entity-attribute-value lookup that is complex and slow, and they rely heavily on architectural workarounds for their database limitations.
 
Thanks to these limitations, migrating from one e-commerce solution to another is incredibly challenging. If a business ever chooses to migrate off of a platform, it may result in a multi-month engineering project that eats up time, resources, and money.
 
Customization
In this era of globalization, online merchants should expect to receive orders from all around the world. With diverse customers comes a whole new set of localization issues to tackle: from language translations and currency conversions to regional taxes and customs, e-commerce sites must now accommodate the cultural standards of a global audience with a limited set of tools at their disposal. Case in point: formats for international shipping addresses have yet to be standardized, and integration with carriers like UPS and USPS can be difficult due to their limited APIs.
 
Shoppers are looking for more ways to view, interact, buy and ship, and in an attempt to satiate that want, some developers are cobbling together features using third-party extensions and legacy applications that haven’t undergone code review.
 
Deployment
Deployment is the one thing that kills developers the most. It requires a whole different set of skills (e.g., understanding file systems, HTTP, scripting, Linux) from what the typical front-end web developer works with on a daily basis. Since deploying a stable, secure, production-ready shop is such a pain, people either usually look for hosted ecommerce solutions, or they pay a web service, like Amazon Web Services, to do the work for them.
 
AWS, container orchestration services (e.g. Rancher, Docker Cloud), and micro service hosting providers have been a game-changer. With hosting solutions that are ephemeral in nature, rather than living on a physical server, developers are able to spin up or erase hundreds of virtual machines instantly, which saves time and money.
 
Conclusion
So, while ecommerce has come a long way since the early days, there are still big issues for developers and vendors to tackle in the coming years. It’s an exciting time to bear witness to the evolution. 

- Reaction Commerce's co-founder and CEO Sara Hicks