Wow, the last 20% of the project has definitely been the longest haul of work. The product options/variations re-factoring hasn’t helped either. The good news though is that it’s now behind me and things are really going to speed up.
An update for those of you curious about the product variations work, the engineering work has been finished. There are a lot of little bugs that need cleaned up before beta, but the proof-of-concept is complete and it looks like its going to work out well.
It’s not the end-all-be-all elegant solution that I was shooting for. There are some definite drawbacks to this approach, but further refinements during beta should help smooth out those rough spots.
The side benefit of the approach I took is that it lead to the revelation of another important feature set for Shopp owners. The ability to track product details (specs) in a very flexible way. This is useful in a two-fold way. First it gives a way to organize tracking similar specs across products. With DVDs for example, you might track the film rating (G, PG, PG-13, R), the format (full-screen, widescreen) the running length, maybe who stars in it, etc. With spec templates, you’ll be able to quickly load up a full set of spec fields for a product you’re editing. All you have to do is the data entry for the specific product. The second benefit is that the website shopping interface will be able to have those nice product filters that help customers drill down to a selection of products that they’re looking for. This takes Shopp’s shopping experience to the next level.
With things really winding down in new feature development, I’ve started work on the Shopp website. You can see the screenshot gives you a taste for what it’s going to look like. I’ve got the domain reserved, and the design has already been implemented. The core site and forum are setup. I also have plans for a huge amount of support resources including: a bug tracker for the beta team, a wiki for the documentation project, and a job board where Shopp owners can post jobs to find elite Shopp developers that can get their specific customization work done.
There’s still a lot in the pipeline to get done before the beta program. The goal being that when the beta starts, all of the support resources will be in place so that I can focus on fixing product bugs, not getting support features in place for Shopp testers and owners. From the sounds of it, this is where my competitors have failed and still fail. Part of what is going to make Shopp worth it will be all of the support available through a number of channels.
What about the Beta?
Well, the product variation challenge really threw a monkey-wrench into the schedule. I’m working really hard to get things ready as quickly as possible without sacrificing early stability and reliability. My most optimistic estimate is that we start beta in the next couple weeks.
The only thing keeping beta invites from going out right now is a good bug/issue tracker. I had hoped to find a plugin for WordPress or even bbPress for this, but alas, nothing is out there that I know of. That, or it’s the best kept secret plugin. I’d prefer a WordPress plugin because of the added benefit of a unified login system. So, if any of you know of a good, simple bug/issue tracker for WordPress (or bbPress), for the love of PHP, post a comment and tell me about it! Otherwise I may have to peel enough time off of other projects (and Shopp) to hack up a quick plugin for bug tracking. That has some appeal, but at this point, I’d much rather get Shopp finished and into my beta team’s hands.
More to come soon. More than likely, the next update will be announcing the release of the website where I’ll begin posting Shopp development updates and this blog will return to it’s regularly scheduled neglect!
BTW, anyone have any feedback on the Shopp website design?