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Modern E-commerce Site Setup June 30, 2011

Posted by stewsutton in Architecture, Information Technology, Security, Social, Software.
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Today, there are a number of considerations that should be thoughtfully weighed as a startup business or existing small business seeks to setup or modernize their online services.  Its not the web site design emphasis of the 1990s nor is it a heavy weighting on the “platform” that became a major focus in the mid 2000s.  Today the focus on modern ecommerce is a balance across several elements:

  1. The content management aspects to the business enterprise
  2. The relationship of the business with its “social graph” ecosystem
  3. An understanding of the security around data collected and managed
  4. Content design that properly reflects the brand identity of the business
  5. Off-premise management of infrastructure – (data and applications in the cloud)
  6. Choice of platform(s) to support business needs in the most cost-effective format
  7. Outsourcing skills for design and sustainment tasks for business operations

This is a far cry from the days of setting up a simple website and its clearly more to think about than in the days of a simple shopping-cart site.  While there are clear places for both of those examples, businesses today are seeking to differentiate services within an increasingly network-connected ecosystem that requires more planning and thought toward business operations.  Each business has its unique needs and preferences.  Approaching the elements of a modern e-commerce business enterprise seeks to balance cost and performance that make the best sense for the business, its near-term and long-term prospects.

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Content Mgmt Goes Social June 30, 2011

Posted by stewsutton in Architecture, Social.
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There is a transformation taking place now in the CMS space.  These systems that were quite content to be content management products are getting a “social” upgrade.  This is part of a broader pattern as large social suites compete with the social technology integration into the traditional enterprise IT stack.  How soon until we see social RDBMS, social routers, and social tape archive systems is not clear, but the category of CMS has taken the plunge.

At the center of any modern eCommerce solution are several core components and one of them is a CMS or content management system.  The CMS takes responsibility for managing all of the digital content assets that are used within the eCommerce system.  Most modern CMS solutions have been rapidly advancing to take on the functionality of a portal and a social platform.

This progression further simplifies the architectural specification for a modern eCommerce solution.  The assets managed by a CMS range from blocks of text to images to videos.  Modern CMS solutions also address the presentation of the collected content using visual templates and guides.  And the interaction with that same content is generally facilitated through highly-focused programs which are integrated into the CMS using plug-in and widget frameworks so that a highly tailored eCommerce solution can be built with the unique functionality required by the business.

While there are numerous CMS solutions, a small number stand out as compelling approaches toward a cost-effective formulation supporting an eCommerce need. Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, Liferay, Alfresco are five open-source content management systems that have commanded attention through significant use across the marketplace and each has specific advantages.

 

Drupal

Official site: http://drupal.org/  —  Drupal was formed in 2001

Notable Features:

  • Multiple sites can be managed with Drupal and across multiple languages.
  • Utility ranges from a blogging site, corporate site, personal site, gallery, or full eCommerce site.
  • Site users can be managed using standard registration, including OpenID support.
  • There are multiple access controls to help manage the activity of site users.
  • A custom menu system, template customization, advanced search, RSS feed aggregator

 

Joomla

Official site: http://www.joomla.org/  —  Initiated as an offshoot of the Mambo CMS in 2005.

Some Notable Features:

  • Supports control of multiple sites and in multiple languages natively.
  • Utility ranges from a blogging site, corporate site, personal site, gallery, or full eCommerce site
  • Site users can be managed using standard registration, including OpenID support.
  • Full support for Access Control Lists.
  • Page cashing for increased performance.
  • Network asset linking does accomodate moderately descriptive URLs
  • Many Extensions: Over 6,000 free and commercial plugins available

 

WordPress

Official site: http://wordpress.org/  —  first released in 2003

Notable Features:

  •     Highly optimized for blogging.
  •     Custom and easy to switch themes.
  •     Users can re-arrange widgets without editing PHP or HTML code.
  •     Support for tagging. Advanced search by tags.
  •     Highly intuitive UI (User Interface).

Native applications exist for Android, iPhone/iPod Touch, and BlackBerry which provide access to some of the features in the WordPress Admin panel and work with WordPress.com and many WordPress.org blogs.

Liferay

Official site: http://www.liferay.com/

Notable Features:

  •     Can tag and categorize contents.
  •     Document Library Manager, Recent Documents.
  •     Alfresco, Documentum, and other document library integration.
  •     User management based on various roles and groups (ACL).
  •     WebDAV Integration (which allows edit and management from remote web servers).
  •     LDAP Integration
  •     Microsoft Office Integration
  •     Calendar/Chat/Mail/Message Boards/Polls
  •     Wiki (supports Creole as well as MediaWiki syntax)

 

Alfresco

Official site: http://www.alfresco.com/  —  Introduced in 2005

Notable Features:

  •     Document Management.
  •     Web Content Management (including full webapp & session virtualization).
  •     Multi-language support.
  •     Officially runs on Windows, Linux and Solaris.
  •     Desktop integration with Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org.
  •     Pluggable authentication: NTLM, LDAP, Kerberos, CAS.

The Social Graph June 30, 2011

Posted by stewsutton in Social.
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According to Wikipedia, the social graph is a term coined by scientists working in the social areas of graph theory. It has been described as “the global mapping of everybody and how they’re related”.The term was popularized at the Facebook conference on May 24, 2007, when it was used to explain that the Facebook Platform, which was introduced at the same time, would benefit from the social graph by taking advantage of the relationships between individuals, that Facebook provides, to offer a richer online experience. The definition has been expanded to refer to a social graph of all Internet users.

For businesses seeking to leverage the social graph concept as a core function of the business, it has become relatively easy to integrate with existing services like Facebook that are offering an expanding social graph. Some integrations look like the tightly coupled Zynga games that operate in close connection to the Facebook platform. Close coupling with Facebook allows the social network of friends to be a click away in an application that has a friends and family network component.

So having a social graph integration strategy is important for network based businesses.  As platforms like Facebook and Twitter expand their social graphs around the world, it becomes less likely that a business will want to make the investment re-create that same information.  While this increases the near monopoly that companies like Facebook have in this space, it also makes it easy to decide what to integrate with.

A Simple Social Web Architecture June 30, 2011

Posted by stewsutton in Architecture, Collaboration, Communications, Information Technology.
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The web business of today has a small number of key components. Each of these components surrounds the unique business offering creating a scaleable structure that can be replicated and managed with integrity. This simple model addresses some of the key components in most web-based businesses of the post 2010 timeframe. While not referenced specifically in this diagram there are other components that can weigh heavy in the design of the business system including the mobility strategy. But for now, lets consider four components that surround the core business offering and enable it to function as a modern web-based business.

Interface — Building an interface that makes sense is a concept that has emerged with the consumerization of information technology. It’s hard to believe that in 1997 the company called Apple computer had a stock value of about $3.50 per share and was on the verge of bankruptcy. In just a few short years a steady march of products would begin to turn the fortunes of that company and introduce to the world the very definition of consumer-friendly information technology. From iPhones to iPods to iPads to the new iCloud, Apple’s innovations in consumer information technology have educated the world and have set the bar on what people expect in their user interfaces (whether on mobile devices or via their computer web browser). Today Apple’s value is over 100 times that of the company that almost did not survive in 1997. The interface of most consumer information technology has been influenced heavily by “iDevices” and this creates expectations in the design of new products and services on the Internet.

eCom — In the early days of Internet eCommerce, some different companies emerged early with differentiated offerings. Having an ability to remain adaptive and agile to customer needs while staying ahead of the competition was the formula for several early offerings like Yahoo Stores. The eCommerce systems of this early stage were custom built solutions that were largely oriented to providing “shopping cart” services to web-based merchants selling online. The eCom solutions of today are much more sophisticated. They allow much more flexibility in integrating transactional processing to take money in many different forms for services rendered.

Social — Social computing is a key part of many business strategies and operational models and it is segment that integrates crowd-sourcing, network effects, and friend relationships into the business model. The social component is how many web business achieve their scale and market capacity. It will become increasingly unique to see web-based businesses that have strong consumer-relationship ties expand to large market shares without a well-planned social strategy.

CMS — Whatever the business, there is unique “content” that must be managed. This content could be pictures, videos, text, audio files or any combination of interesting digital assets. Its the content that is unique to your business that needs to be managed and at a level above the traditional database service. That is where the “CMS” or content management system comes into action. The purpose of a CMS is to make the management of the businesses online digital assets much easier. It addresses the presentation, arrangement, and permissions associated with these assets. As the business grows, keeping the expanding collection of digital assets under control is where the CMS really earns its value.