Let’s build an ecommerce web app, Part One: You might be insane

SO! You’ve decided to enter the fray and start your own internet company: you’re going to develop and host online stores, targeting all sorts of businesses.

Frankly, you’re insane: people will throw dump-trucks of money at you if you try to “change the world” by opening up a new social network for chinchillas, or a Facebook app that simulates sitting in traffic. Trying to enable small merchants to sell stuff online isn’t really all that world-shattering. No one really cares.

After all, they can just host their store at a big existing commercial provider, like Yahoo! Stores; or they can roll their own store with Paypal; or they can get some commodity hosting and install a free cart app.

Well, yes. You can do all those things. And sometimes, they’re good ideas. Other times, they’re not. How do you know? You don’t. Each of these solutions offers a certain level of pain: for example, installing a free cart app on commodity hosting means you are now a designer, sysadmin, programmer, and IT manager. The hoster probably has N other customers running who-knows how many other random free cart apps; if your store is down their level of commitment may end at “well the web server is up and running, so it’s your problem”.

That’s the essence of your business case: the “easiest” options are in fact complex and fraught with peril. You’re an expert in the tools, the tech, and the business know-how. Host with us, we’re awesome!

I don’t want to talk about business; I don’t know it. I wanted to instead go with what I know, technology. Let’s assume you’ve got a co-founder with great hair and a flawless smile to handle all the business stuff, and you’re in charge of the technology. I want to talk about bytes, not bucks.

On our next episode: 3 little letters, then 3 more, and how they’ll make your life miserable.

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