Last week I was in the UK on business and had the opportunity to meet up with some of the leads working on the EECommerce module that will bridge Expression Engine and Magento Ecommerce. There were several purposes in the meeting 1) for me to communicate a very particular need I had in bridging multiple stores in Magento with multiple sites (via the Multiple Site Manager) in Expression Engine. 2) The other purpose was for me to get a handle on the project and what they were trying to accomplish. Based on that meeting with Lee and Greg, here are some of the things I learned about EECommerce.
EECommerce is trying to make it possible to have the entire user/developer experience defined within EE.
The goal of the module is to port everything necessary to have a seamless shopping cart experience without ever leaving Expression Engine. While that was not necessarily what I was looking for in merging the two systems together, there is a lot of potential in this approach as it will mean that the designer/develop does not have to mess with Magento’s somewhat confusing templating system. Their goal is to make it so that you can define your entire store in EE templates, using the plug-in tags to harness Magento’s inherent functionality. Of course you would still access Magento’s backend (e.g. product entry, order management) directly, but the actual user experience would be defined in Expression Engine.
EECommerce will be a complete encapsulation of the Magento API.. along with several extensions.
EECommerce’s tag system will encompass everything that can be done through Magento’s API and more. This is by no means just a subset of Magneto functionality that is being brought into EE. Far from being a subset, they will actually be extending the API in several ways that can be used with or without Expression Engine (as a developer I like this).
PHP UK seems to have passion for the project and a desire to garner community feedback.
For my own part, these guys drove a couple of hours to meet up with me at my business headquarters. The drove up and listened as I explained the level of user integration that I was looking for between the two systems. I laid out my architecture and they responded with what they believed their module would be able to accomplish. They also assured me that they would talk to their developers and give me a better idea of when I might expect to see and beta test some of the features that I need to have developed for a forthcoming web site that I’m developing.
EECommerce was a bit more undeveloped than I might have hoped
I was hoping to see EECommerce a bit more developed when I met up with PHP UK. For sure, they showed me that the module was working “in principal” but it seems that there are many bugs to get worked through on a bridge that is this involved. Although they are hopeful to have something a bit more polished by some of the upcoming MAGE:Camp it seems as though they will have their work cut out for them. In short, don’t plan on using this module in your ecommerce project that needs to be deployed next month.
A Word About Price
Clearly some of the biggest reaction in the community has come at the sticker shock of the EECommerce module. Obviously everyone loves getting something for nothing, but as you and I know there is nothing that is truly free. Everything cost something (even if you’re not the one who has to pay). As an ecommerce entrepreneur, not just a developer, I think there is some real business value in the module that is being developed. If built correctly, the module could be used to rapidly deploy ecommerce micro sites. The tool has the potential (we’ll see when we get there) to greatly speed up the development of ecommerce sites that are simple and complex.
The Jury is Out
At the end of the day, the jury is still out. Until the beta truly gets out there and a the developer community really begins to put some pressure on the module, its hard to see what will come of EECommerce. I for one, am willing to give it a go and am looking forward to seeing if these guys can pull together a supported tool that helps make online commerce even easier by bringing the feature richness of Magento into the flexibility of Expression Engine.
If you have questions about my meeting and what I was able to see, please post your questions in the comments and I’ll try to address them in a timely manner.
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