Cost-effective Development with Drupal Commerce [October 30, 2012]
Want to learn more about Acquia's products, services, and happenings in the Drupal Community? Visit our site: http://bit.ly/yLaHO5.
Is Drupal Commerce the right choice for your business? Join this webinar for a top-down overview on how Shepherd Neame, Britain’s oldest Brewer, launched their website on Drupal. Topics will include:
• Cost-effective approach to building with Drupal Commerce
• Making use of the Drupal Commerce developer ecosystem
• Integrating Drupal websites with geo-location store finder functionality
• Optimising a Drupal admin theme for many Content Admin users
• Design approach for Drupal Commerce build
• What we’d do differently if we did it again
Speaker 1: Thank you for joining in on the webinar today. I'm going to go over a few slides and then pass it over to Simon. Today's webinar is: Cost-effective Development with Drupal Commerce, with Simon Bostock from Deeson Online.
Simon: Hello, everybody. This afternoon there will be a short webinar, hopefully followed by some questions around cost-effective e-commerce development. This is particularly with Drupal Commerce, and obviously with Acquia as well, and the idea of the talk really is to talk about how we worked on particular projects, but also about some other projects, and how we try to make sure that we are doing the right things and we are working … devoting our energy towards the right thing.
I work for Deeson Online; we are Britain's oldest Drupal Agency. That’s probably not meant to be doing Drupal longer than everybody else, but we've been around since 1959.
We are Acquia Enterprise Select Partner and we built that to more than 200 Drupal sites and we'll be doing e-commerce sites since 2002, on that picture there. I'm the one in the glasses at the bottom, and that’s the team, the team who worked across the Shepherd Neame Project, which we'll be talking about quite a lot.
The e-commerce work we do, we did the standard bricks and mortar style experiences, so shop replacements, but we also really specialize in doing membership sites as well, and also sites with a lot of digital content, and probably talk a bit about those as well. The project that I'm specifically talking about today is the Shepherd Neame Project. For those of you from outside the U.K., Shepherd Neame is Britain's oldest brewer that’s been going since … I can't remember when actually, but about 400 years, or something like that.
They have about 360 pubs and hotels across the Southeast of England, they also own a number of the biggest beer brands in the U.K. This particular project was a complete redesign and a rebuild of their old site and moving from some Legacy concept management system towards Drupal, and the key parts about it that made it interesting is it's got 360 micro sites contained within the main site. That’s all connected where each pub has its own micro site. The interesting bits which we'll talk a little bit actually are, obviously, the e-commerce part but there's also some geo location features, such that when you go to search for a pub, the website knows where you are. There's also an online job application tool.
That’s me, and the reason I give you my contact details is if anybody would like to ask any follow-up questions that you don’t think of today, then my email, and it's just there. There's also a blog post on our site, that address at the bottom, which will have the slides on immediately after the talk and then also a blog post about e-commerce in general.
We are talking really about Drupal Commerce. Drupal Commerce is a framework, it's a framework for e-commerce things in Drupal, and for the perspective that I'm talking about today then really this is a set of building blocks really, a set of materials that you can build a commerce build out of it. I should have said actually, earlier on, the talk is really, we have done webinars in the past, related to e-commerce which were much more aimed at designers and technical people. This one is aimed at people like me, people who are leading on projects, and I'm a producer, at Deeson Online, so my job is really to make sure that we come and spending money effectively and efficiently, and that clients are getting the best deal for it.
That’s where I'm coming from with Drupal Commerce. Drupal Commerce is very much a starting point for e-commerce development, not the end point. You get a number of tools that you can use to build e-commerce sites, but it doesn’t actually do anything much out of the box.
The three bits I want to talk about with why we use Drupal Commerce and why we chose to use it on Shepherd Neame projects, and almost certainly will choose to use it again in the future. It's one about my job, about using our energy wisely, and energy here means energy, but of course it means money as well. It's about getting the most value for the money that you're spending.
Will talk a bit about how Drupal Commerce integrates with the rest of, both the business, but also the main website. To finish, will talk about some really big-picture stuff about what's happening in Web experience management.
If you'd like to find out about the features, about Drupal Commerce then there's a link just there. Today I won't be talking too much about the features, I'll be talking about the benefits, and as I said, it's the first real thing here is about using energy wisely.
Drupal Commerce like Drupal is an Open Source thing, so it basically means that a lot of very hard work, a lot of the boring stuff has been done by Drupal Commerce, and when I think about Drupal Commerce, I really think that what it's done is exactly the same as Drupal.
It's taking all of that really boring stuff, put it in the background and all of the bits are the same on every e-commerce site across the planet and Drupal Commerce takes control of that and it handles that so that we can actually think about the really interesting things, which is about making good user experiences and making sure people can complete the tasks that they want to do.
As an example of this, the Shepherd Neame main site, what we've got there is a couple of the landing pages, and this is the Shepherd Neame Shop, and as you can see, the Shepherd Neame Shop really neatly inherits all of the design work and the styling that’s gone into the main sites.
Immediately every … we've made a huge site and so we've carried out a bit of branding and then the big redesign and the rebrand of the Shepherd Neame property and the fact that the shop inherits all of the styling from that, there's a huge cost saving for us.
In terms of the other stuff that’s out there, theres loads I think probably hundreds … more than a hundred there anyway, contributed modules to handle all the little bits and functionality that perhaps Drupal Commerce doesn’t do out of the box.
There's also a set of default functionality, and a bit quite active community as well. We found that when we were building this particular site, that some of the pieces of functionality we wanted didn’t exist, but they were in the issue queue, and by the end of the project, before we'd finished some of the … most of the functionality that we wanted had been contributed. It was quite a long project because it was a very big project. It was eight months in the end. At the beginning of the project we raised an issue with the Drupal Commerce community and said we would very much like to be able to do that.
A number of other people said, "Yes, we would also like to be able to do that," and by the end of the project those bits of functionality had been completed, not all of them, but most of them has been completed without any real extra effort from us.
Drupal Commerce is … if you know Drupal, you know Drupal Commerce, or if you are Drupal developers, you know what they're talking about, then they'll also be able to work with Drupal Commerce. As I said before, this is really important for us because it means that we can just concentrate on the really interesting things as opposed to the boring stuff.
If you are considering Drupal Commerce it's probably worth thinking about a few things, and there are some defaults on the Drupal Commerce thing, for example, there are no shipping or payment options, and there are contribution modules to do that, so there is bits of extra functionality that you can plug in, but out of the box from a standing start it doesn’t have any shipping or payment option functionality.
There are some odd things as well. For example, the product entity and product display, this means that when you want to display a project from the Drupal Commerce site you have to create the product and then you have to create the display of that and our clients have told us that this is slightly unusual, and there are very good reasons for this, it means that you can have different sizes of clouds, for example, and variance of products.
Then again, clients have said to us that it feels a little bit odd at first. I think in the end everybody agrees that it's probably the more powerful way of doing things, but worth considering in the beginning. The resource is something called Drupal Commerce Kickstart, and actually that shot there I'm showing you, Commerce Kickstart that’s what it looks like out of the box.
If you have a client that has a URL there, if you visit that URL there you'd have to play around with Commerce Kickstart. We've started using Commerce Kickstart quite a lot for prototyping and it means that when we are working on larger projects we are able to use Commerce Kickstart to knock up something quite quickly, and I'll show you an example in a moment, and that is something that’s better than using Photoshop visuals or something like that.
It means that we can go back to client say, "Have a play around with this. Does this work? How do you think it should work?"
That’s the bit where I think Drupal Commerce really demonstrates good value. The bit where I think it demonstrates power, and certainly how we found it to be very powerful, is in how it integrates with Drupal sites. The first thing to say here and I've put this at the beginning because we should take it lightly. It's more fund, and I'm not saying that as an e-commerce platform aren't as powerful, because they probably are, and it's just that we've found that the things that clients are asking us to do, Drupal Commerce, and actually Drupal e-commerce solutions n general have been more able to do that than, say, some of the other Open Source solutions.
It means we can … there was once … in the past we have used other e-commerce solutions, it meant that we … there was a site, and then have to … we built an e-commerce site and then we had to integrate that with the main site where Drupal Commerce is actually a big part of that. It means we can do all of the things that Drupal is really good at, and Drupal really stands out in some areas which I'll talk about in a second.
The fact that Drupal are good at that, that means that Drupal Commerce is also very, very good at that. There are some things which, for us, we've just not been able to do before and it's a lot of fun.
If you look at the first example of that, I'm not sure how much I like the phrase Content Marketing, but it's something that people are talking about an awful lot now. It means we can integrate the commerce functionality, the e-commerce part, or actually the name content of the site. If you go to a lot of shops online, and you can see that quite often I have a separate blog or a separate site somewhere; whereas for us it's been really useful to have this content linked directly to the shop for all of the benefits that can give.
It also means that we've got really powerful Drupal user roles and commissions, so we can show different versions of the shop or different parts of the shop to different people. This is a prototype that we are making, this is something we've done very little design work on and it is pretty much what commerce looks out of the box, and with that a little bit of styling. Raven is a TV star in the U.K., and when I say a star, she does the kind of Lifestyle TV shows about gardening and things like that, and this is a new shop, that we process happened for her and her company.
Basically what we've got at the top there; is a blog post that went to Salads from the Garden, and we can link that directly into the shop. We've got that, it's not styled very much there, but you can that the related products, and that product there, those orange flowers are linked directly to that blog post. We can do some interesting things like that and that’s a very simple example with blog. Maybe we could do it with any particular type across the Drupal site.
What that means is that basically, if you can describe it, you can pretty much do it, so for example, you could show a product to a person who has made more than 10 comments on the blog, and if you can imagine any situation where that … as I say you can do it, Drupal is fantastic at, not only manipulating the product data, but it can also manipulate the user data, so we can do really interesting things with that.
I'll show you another example now on the Shepherd Neame project. I think the key part about the cost-effective things for the Shepherd Neame is that they're not very … they're not a small company, and cost-effective things for the Shepherd Neame is that they're not very … they're not a small company and cost-effective here doesn’t necessarily mean it's a low-budget affair.
On the Shepherd Neame site they have fans basically, more than customers; they have fans, people who are really devoted to them. They also have shareholders who use their shop and I'll explain how they use them in a minute and how it's very linked to what Drupal does.
If you're a shareholder at Shepherd Neame you basically get a privilege card and a privilege card means that you're basically shown a different shop to everybody else so a different pricing structure anyway. They have a completely separate pricing structure to normal users like you or I. When we were commissioned to do this project; we were commissioned to do actually two projects, one to do the main site build, and two to do a special micro site for Shepherd Neame shareholders.
In fact, what we discovered was that it was fairly simple to just amalgamate those two projects, to put those two projects into one, and if fact, all of the budget that we had for the shareholders' micro site we were able to devote purely to doing the site, because in Drupal terms, the shareholders are just another user, and because they're just another user it's very easy to give them their own specific pieces of information across the site.
We didn’t do very much with this, but I think it's something that we have prototypes and have thought about in the future, but as I said before, the site has some geo-location features, so you can see on this screenshot here that when you go to the Pub Search page, so we have, like I said, 360 retail outlets and the site knows where you are, and we did this very cheaply, we did this … you can't use this on older browsers, this is really optimized for HTML 5 … the more modern browsers and smartphones.
As I said, the site knows where you are and I think we played around with this and this is not in production but you can fairly, simply build geo fences, and what that means is that the site can change according to where you are. If you're in a shop or near a shop or perhaps it would be a ticketed event and you are near the ticketed event, and the site can know that you're there, if you're within that geo-fence and can change show you different content, and I think that’s going to be something that you see more and more often, and it is becoming to be something that is quite cheap to build.
All of this really links in to the idea of what people are beginning to call I think, Web experience management. I think Web experience management is still one of those slightly-awkward phrases that is used by a lot of people who don’t really know what it means, and it's … it's really about building cross-channel services and if you look at the Shepherd Neame project, then what we've got there is we have a shop and we have a number of … so I've just come too quickly on that side … we have a shop and a number of retail services and if you're a customer of Shepherd Neame you're not interested in whether the shop is separate to the retail places.
As much as possible for a user this should be integrated, work together rather than being in different silos. I think what we have with Drupal Commerce is a way to build those things and integrate them into the site so that we really begin to think about the customer journeys and the user experience across all of the different places where they go to.
One of the tools that we've really found successful actually to have a look at really cheaply improve the things that we've built and the e-commerce site, there's something called CrazyEgg. CrazyEgg, which is all one word, it's CrazyEgg.Com is a tool which you … a bit like Google Analytics that you can plug into a site and it will basically show you where people are clicking. This is the CrazyEgg on our site, on the Deeson site. What it's told us very, very quickly is that one of the menu items in the top there is it has performed very, very badly and nobody has clicked on it, and nobody appears to know what it means.
We've got some really good information there that enables us to go back and make some changes. This is the same information for the Shepherd Neame site and when we design the Shepherd Neame site we chose to have a carousel on the homepage of the Shepherd Neame Shop. Carousels are often really poorly-performing items, and nobody really knows what to do with them, and often they are a design compromise which really is tantamount to admitting that you haven’t really made a decision about what to go there.
We can see from CrazyEgg here, actually this has been quite successful, and there's been one item there which is seasonal, on the left hand, which has not really worked, but we've got some really good data here that this says people are using this particular feature.
We can also see this is another thing that we get from CrazyEgg, which tells us: the lighter colors there are where most people are looking, so we can see that the eyeballs that the people are looking at this page, we are really focusing on where we want them to do, which is the area with all the product information on it, and this is the Shepherd Neame brands page and, again, very cheaply, we are going to have to find out what brands people are looking at, which brands have got the most recognition on the site.
I think the interesting thing for me here is that the brand in the top left, isn't necessarily the most popular brand there, but at top left pieces real estate has been really, really valuable. In addition to having something like Google Analytics which is the kind of standard thing, for doing a cost-effective Drupal Commerce build where it's quite complicated and complex user journeys through the site. We can put CrazyEgg on there, which is quite a cheap subscription, it's £15 or £20 a month, which is for what you get is quite a lot I think, and we get some really good information back about how thing are working, in a way that I think Google Analytics is not necessarily as good at.
Going back to the Cross-Channel Service idea and when you get any business, I think it's natural for any business to show different silos or different areas at the top that don’t necessarily talk to each other, and often you see that in the navigation part of the site, so we can see all of those different areas there. What Drupal Commerce is, is the ability is to link in to all of the other things that a site does, so you'll find sites where we've built that digital content, but it can also link into things like the knowledge base and the community functionality has been particularly powerful.
Those are the support, and all of things that you can do within a standard Drupal site, and I think even more complex in the future is that you're linking to these retail destinations, you're also linking through … or trying to join up services across campaigns, and also trying to join up things within your general data that you have, the marketing data and all of the data that you have on your users. I think … what I'm trying to say actually with Drupal Commerce is that a lot of the really boring things are in the background there, which means that the interesting things you have a lot more time to think about them. This is a Drupal Commerce which is an Israeli Drupal Commerce site actually, or at least built by the Israeli company.
It's basically an underwear site, but it's actually if you go and visit it, the address there, Under.Me, it's a really interesting site to use, or it is if you're somebody like who builds websites. It's actually really beautifully designed, and there are some beautiful touches on there. For example, when you add something into a basket the projects has a nice little animation and it's very clear about what you’ve done, and my theory is, you only have time to focus on these really delightful, interesting parts and you only have time to focus on the cross-channel experiences.
If you can somehow put in the background all of the boring stuff, I think you need a platform which does those boring things for you and then you can build beautiful and interesting experiences on top. That's certainly been our experience with Drupal Commerce, and I'd strongly recommend, have a look at this site, it's not one of ours, I wish it was one of ours, but it's a really interesting example of a very simple product but I'm actually a beautiful user experience.
Acquia has got some … has done some really interesting work actually with Web experience management. Web experience management, as I said before, is really that idea of going across channel and not multiple channels but across channels that are working in harmony together.
That’s really my overview of Drupal Commerce, and like I say, there will be something on the … there already is a blog post on the blog forum, it's a bit more detail and I'll put the slides up later on. Of course, anybody is always welcome to get in touch if they have any specific questions, but I know we've got some questions now.
Speaker 1: Thank you very much, Simon. We are just going to do the Q&A session now. If you have any questions just put them in the Q&A box at the bottom, so we have one question from Will Long at the moment.
He would like to know what you're hosting hardware configuration was for the Shepherd Neame project.
Simon: The hosting hardware, it's kind of outside of my area actually, but it's on Acquia-managed Cloud, and so for us most of the projects that we are working on of a certain size we would recommend then that the Acquia for. This is for exactly the same reason we would recommend Drupal, and exactly the same reason we would recommend Drupal Commerce, and Acquia do all that kind of boring stuff for us. It's a fairly standard Acquia managed Cloud installation.
Speaker 1: I have another question from Stephan. "Who have you seen as the fastest, most reliable payment processor for integrating into Drupal Commerce?
Simon: Yeah, that’s a really good question and actually we had two … I'm not going to say the name of the other one. We actually went through two payment providers here because the first one let us down, and very big one actually, let us down in a number of ways. Our preferred partner is PayPoint, and I think that’s largely … as much as anything, it's to do with history. We just have a lot of experience with PayPoint, and PayPoint has always worked really, really well for us and what we've found there is that I think the intelligent choice to make here is that you go with a payment gateway provider who specializes in Web things.
The reason we had a failure on this particular project actually is because the payment provider was focused on retail environment, so the point of sale, as well as the Web things, and things got a little bit confused, so our preferred one is PayPoint, but I have to say, if I'm really honest, I think that the preferred option is largely due to history as much as anything else, so I'm not sure it's a particularly strong recommendation, but it's worked very, very well for us.
Speaker 1: Randy would like to know, "How do you deal with large amounts of Legacy data from existing e-com sites?"
Simon: Yeah, another good question really. It really, really depends on where it's coming from for most of the time, this just gets imported into Drupal as you would any other content, so this works particularly anywhere with Drupal Migrate, and from my perspective it's someone who has to manage the budgets and work out where the value is. It's very rarely in our experience and it had been worse than anything too complex with the migration because it's actually been as cheap to start again with a fresh install.
With when we were doing the content things, however, that has been something that has always been about a custom migration pretty as much as I think it would be from any other standard site migration. That’s not what particular detailed answer, but using the Drupal Migrate module and importing it as you would any other particular content.
Speaker 1: Phil would like to know, "What has your experience been with PCI compliance when working with Drupal Commerce and your hosting environment?"
Simon: Again, that’s been much more outside of my area and the area for this. In general, it's not really been issue, obviously … in the same way that we go with Drupal Commerce to take that boring things there that usually that PCI compliant stuff would be handled, and very much by the painted gateway providers. Sorry, I haven’t really got a very good answer for that because it's … that’s the kind of stuff that we would leave to their solutions architect, and the people who are much more technical to deal with this. I've not really been there, and we've not really had any particular issues and problems, and it's been something that’s been handled by our third party partners.
Speaker 1: Are we able to ask about panels, because [Eggo 00:29:29], wanted to know, he said he found panels a good part of cost-effective sites, are you using panels and panels everywhere with your project?
Simon: The reason I'm laughing is because we have a bit team of developers and I think every developer has their own favorite solution, and I know that panels is something that causes … you can go to any meeting at Deeson Online and bring up panels, and half of the people will think panels is the best thing ever, and then half of them will actually hate it. On this site there is quite heavy use of panels.
Having said that, we have we have the 360 micro sites on there and we, because the micro sites are very, very configurable, each micro site is able to have its own layout, so we actually use home box on that instead of panels, because we needed something which a non-trained person would be able to use. The main bit, the main front end panels is used quite heavily, and on the rest of the site using home box and with quite a lot of tweaking actually, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend home box for a site like this, but yeah, home box with some other things.
Speaker 1: Michael would you to expand on the payment gateway question by asking, "When will there be a rock solid integration with an accounts package, so that single solution can be offered to clients with integration?"
Speaker 1: It's the integration.
Simon: Again, I just think that’s outside of my particular area of expertise actually. I think we've never had an e-commerce partner who didn’t have a Legacy payment system that they wanted to use, so I don’t if there will ever be a single rock solid integration. Sorry, Michael, I'm not very good at … I'm not the right person to answer that question, unfortunately.
Speaker 1: If you’ve got any further questions you can always email Deeson Online or Acquia for particularly technical questions that we haven’t answered today.
[Randy 00:31:58] would also like to know whether DC is open for membership management solution.
Simon: Yes, very much so. I think that the Deeson Group has a slightly bigger part than the Deeson Online, and what we do, as I said, we do the e-commerce sites of the placements of bricks and mortar experiences, but about probably 60 percent of business that we do is actually membership sites and we can do some really quite complex things with membership management things, that I don’t think we could do on any other platform.
I don’t know if there's any more detail on what you'd like me to say about that, but I can't anything more positive about it really and I mean for us it's been easily the most intelligent solutions because it can link in to all of the other … because it's so well integrated into the Drupal site, and if we take something like the Royal … I don’t know if you were in the U.K. or not, but the Royal Meteorological Society, is an international weather organization.
As an example of that membership site what we can link Drupal Commerce into is obviously the membership management things but also content management things and they have an enormously complex pricing structure for their annual conference because it includes one day, two-day, three-day passes, number of guests, dinners, hotel rooms and all of those kinds of things, and because we can integrate that into one particular place. I think it provides really a nice user experience we are able to do really quite interesting things and link that into their membership management system, and COM systems, and having something that’s integrated into Drupal has meant that those kind of things are really, really powerful for us.
We also do a number of trades with professional associations, so people like this, the College of Radiographers, which is an international organization for the people and to do medical imaging. Again, they have the same kind of thing which is linked up to a very, very large document library. We can link in those payment things to all of those things which are part and parcel of what Drupal does. Yeah, I think Drupal is outstandingly good dealing with people and use their own, so that makes them particularly suited for membership organizations.
Speaker 1: Thank you for that. Bryan would like to know why you recommended using Drupal with, say, [Ubercart 00:34:47] or another package rather than using an e-commerce platform like Magento or PrestaShop.
Simon: For two reasons, as I said before, we use Magento and in the end it was one of those things where it's not that Magento is more powerful than Drupal Commerce or Drupal Commerce is more power than Magento, it's just that the things that we were being asked to do with Magento, and we couldn’t do, not very easily, we couldn’t integrate with things like membership databases, and we couldn’t integrate with a normal Drupal site. It was very hard to integrate those particular things, and Magento, I think is really poor at managing actual content which is not e-commerce related, and I think Magento, especially, has got its place and particularly if you're doing an e-commerce business where you're turning over millions of pounds, then you'll probably do want to go with something which is geared towards doing that.
For us it wasn’t that it wasn’t powerful enough, it just wasn’t something that we could easily integrate into a content-heavy site, and most of the people that we work with have done e-commerce as part of their business as opposed to being their whole business. They’ve been largely focused either on members and users and content rather than selling particular things, less formally I should say, but we did ask our development team what we should do with Magento and they all, universally, said that they would prefer never to work with it again, because it was just so hard to make it do what we wanted it to do.
We have used Ubercart in the past, obviously we stopped using Ubercart when we've stopped doing Drupal 6, we still service a number of Ubecart builds, and in fact our previous webinar which was about working with future publishing and building beautiful e-commerce sites, that’s actually Ubecart end.
Speaker 1: Stephan would like to know, "Would you recommend any particularly well done site selling digital items?"
Simon: Not off the top of my head, I'm just trying to think actually. Not with the Drupal Commerce I think … the one we've built that shows digital and actually is Ubercart. No, but if anybody wants to … I think I've ducked a number of these questions, so if you want to email me I'd be able to get answers to all of those ones fairly simply actually. Particularly I'll go back to the payment ones or the PCI or compliance takes out that.
There are people here who can answer that much better than me. Certainly, I think, what I'll do is, I'll go away after this and add it to the blog post, examples of these two contents, and because I think you're right, it's a really interesting thing with this.
Speaker 1: It doesn’t look like we've got any more questions now, so I'd like to really thank Simon for presenting today. Thank you everyone for…