February 23rd, 2021 | 4 MIN READ

Designing with Elastic Path Commerce Cloud

Written by Scott Johnstone

 

I am reminded of the value of design every time I stumble upon my basket of remotes for all of my electronics. Looking at my AV system remote, it has everything you need on it and is completely unusable. It has more than 100 words, buttons, and symbols on it and is completely unintelligible.

This is what you get when you let an engineer design your product. No offense intended to all my engineer friends and colleagues, but user interface design is not everyone’s forte. From a delivery perspective it is exactly what was requested and is organized perfectly for someone that knows what all those 100 things are supposed to do and why they are on the remote.  And, the important buttons light up when you press them. (After you press a button is not when you need the light), but the requirement to light up is fulfilled, albeit in the wrong order of operation.

 

Contrast this with the new Google Chromecast with Google TV. It has a total of 12 buttons. This simple design in combination with the voice technology built in allows my mostly blind father-in-law to play his favorite movies, change to the channels he wants to watch without assistance. He just has to find the button that is a different color than the rest and hold it down to speak his request.

My day job, when I can tear myself away for venting about poorly designed remotes, is to evangelize the software that my company sells. I work for ElasticPath and the product I work with is called Elastic Path Commerce Cloud. It is designed for brands that need to deploy commerce in whatever way their business requires, and it is designed so the developers don’t need to first get an advanced degree in how the platform works. It is designed simply but powerfully.

Elastic Path Commerce Cloud is designed from the ground up to support quick to market, quick to update, speed to value. The APIs are so simple and intuitive, it usually only takes me about 15 minutes to show the technical teams how they work and there is often an audible “AAaahhh!” That is the beautiful “Ah-Ha” moment. (Note: don’t try to look up where Aha Moment originated. It is a rabbit hole of ridiculous trademark lawsuits...)

Conversely, if you have to spend 6 months to understand how and why the engineers put 100 things on the remote and what magic sequence makes the play button enter D. Tuning and what D. Tuning even means, then the cost of owning that product just got a lot more expensive than it should be.

Back to eCommerce software, scope creep and feature expansion can erode an otherwise good design. If you need a products API to do 47 different things, just let the service do them. If you have to code in every action that could be possible within a service, then you are limiting what can be done within the API and forcing the developers to know about and remember how to interact with your API. (47 additional buttons are not needed)

By intentionally fending off complexity, no small feat for a group of engineers, Elastic Path Commerce Cloud is clean and easy to understand. Following RESTful API HTTP standards, there are only 4 ways to interact with any API within the platform. Using POST, GET, PUT, DELETE for the CRUD operations (in that order). And, anyone familiar with REST would already know that.

All APIs can be extended quickly via the API itself to accommodate even your most complex of business requirements through simple configurations. That last bit is also profound. No code is required to create custom microservices or to extend all of the existing microservices. That means there is little to no technical debt accumulated for the customization. When the platform is upgraded to add new features and capabilities, they are available without need to replatform from version X to Y. Having been in the industry for many decades, replatforming software projects was an expensive, time consuming part of life. No more.

Having been a customer before I was an employee of Elastic Path, I designed my previous company’s implementation to take full advantage of the API customization capabilities of Elastic Path Commerce Cloud. My integration between my product information management (PIM) tool took into consideration the fact that customizations of the products API can be made FROM the API. So, when a merchant added a new product attribute in the PIM, that field was automatically added to the Products API in Elastic Path Commerce Cloud when the data was syncing between the two systems. This small design element saved dozens, if not hundreds of small projects that would normally had to have been created to add new fields to data stores, APIs on both ends and the transformation in between.

The power and simplicity of the design allows developers, marketers, and merchants to get their products into the sales channels they need quickly. The delay between when an opportunity presents itself and the technical team has executed on the opportunity has been almost entirely removed.

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