I just had a meeting with two bright guys who have spent the last three months building an ecommerce system from scratch. Actually, they haven’t been the ones doing the coding, it has been a group of 4 students from Devry (a technical trade school in AZ). Talk about a school project.
During our meeting, they said that they had a cumulative effort of over 400 hours into building an ecommerce system, and the owners still have to make changes to products directly in the SQL database.
I can’t tell you how often I hear this. I’ve even done it myself! Years ago, I landed a big project to build an ecommerce site for a local company and by the time we had gotten some semblance of a site working, we were all de-motivated. The reality is that it would take several man-years to even come close to matching the features that a mature ecommerce application would have.
So what happened? We ended up scrapping all of our work (about 250 to 300 hours, all told) and installing an ecommerce system we had been keeping our eye on.
The end result was that in about a week, I had the web site done (and very little sleep, but it was done!). The client was more than satisfied, we had exceeded their objectives.
Back to the people I met with today — During our meeting I could see them addressing an internal struggle of whether they really wanted to throw out everything they had made. The facts are stunning: potentially invest hundreds of hours and continue as planned… or throw it out and start with a solid base.
In the end, when you add up the dollars, there are very few situations where it makes sense to build your own ecommerce engine. There’s just too much to think about. Security, payment gateways, discount codes, adding and removing products, order management, databases, affiliate systems, product categories, and more.
I have similar feelings about application development in general, but I’ll hold those for another day.
- The Problem With Ecommerce
- Product photography on ecommerce sites or how to be different online
- Truth #2