I’m Ryan; the guy at the other end of the single, fickle string kraasimages.com dangles from. Occasionally I’ll be using this medium to share the triumphs and challenges that come with managing a multi-seller marketplace for Caribbean stock photography, if not for the continued advancement of similar projects in existence and to come, at least for the comic relief.
There’s no shortage of that.
Let’s start with a few of the tech-related questions most likely to be asked in conversations about our project.
- How does it work?
Bells, whistles, fire extinguishers, crocodile tears, rainbow farts, and some open source Content Management System called Magento that’s inexplicably one of the world’s most popular web applications for e-commerce. Our software and the gazillion photos, audio and video clips that make up our content library reside on a ridiculously expensive server running a LAMP stack in an undisclosed location, where our team valiantly battles and vanquishes bugs, hackers and errant technophobe users on a daily basis.
- What is a Magneto? Why did you choose that platform, as opposed to something we all know like WordPress?
It’s Magento. No X-Men villains here, sorry. While WordPress is great for publishing, it’s e-commerce offerings didn’t offer the depth needed for implementing such a complex project. You see, we’re not only selling photos, with varying sizes and licensing considerations, but we’re also selling on behalf of our beloved contributors, who need to get paid and manage their own collections. We’re more like the Coronation Market of Caribbean Stock Photography, allowing our vendors to display their wares and earn themselves a living, and less like a Loshushan Supermarket, where shoppers drown in the monotony of sameness and jacked up prices. Magento serves as a great starting point for shaping our software resources to suit our particular needs. It’s (mostly) free, and relatively simple to configure, customize and develop on top of.
- So how do contributors get paid?
Well, first they have to sign up as a contributor in our online marketplace and provide us with a few bits of information, including how they wanna get paid (usually through PayPal). They accept our Terms and Conditions, and start uploading! We review all submissions, approve the ones that pass our selection criteria, and make them available for purchase on the front-end of the site. Then they sit back and watch the money come in. End users / buyers see a photo they like, purchase it with their preferred payment method, and our software directs the proceeds to the contributor’s PayPal account. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
- Is it really that easy for you?
No. I hate Magento. Each day I contort myself like David Blaine to get it to do even the most mundane of tasks. Not because it’s inherently difficult to work with. But let’s just say I’m not the first developer on the project, and a few best practices were skirted in the name of expediency, and there was no versioning, and I may or may not have been startled out of my sleep by a nightmare about a rogue code gorilla throwing barrels at an MVC Mario.
- What advice would you give someone looking to start their own online marketplace?
Ok, maybe don’t use Magento. I’m a long time Drupal advocate, which is much better documented and supported than any other open source platform I’ve come across; or maybe spring for a custom-built proprietary solution. Always plan ahead. Future-proof your work. Never modify core code. Use version control. Utilize project management tools to keep track of all the fun things you’ll be fixing.
For all the complaints, nothing invigorates a developer more than a challenge. That’s why software has little numbers in ascending order beside them, because there’s always something else to do, to enhance, to refine, to revisit. As we traverse through the various iterations of the project, I’ll be sure to post the more memorable, teachable moments.