Introducing the SolidShops Intro

Video production is all but our core business but we thought it would be nice to have some kind of intro video to go with the app.

Being quite short and simple, here’s the video we came up with. It was animated by Nathalie at Kick The Piggy and the sound for it has been played in by Pieter Op De Beéck together with Kim Herman [thanks a lot for that!].

We are thinking of using this intro to play before or after our tutorial videos. Let us know what you think of it in the comments.

SolidShops Status and Announcements

Howdy dear e-commerce enthusiast! You’ve probably come here because you are wondering when we will be going live or because you are eager to learn who is behind

Well look no further, as the answer to those and other common questions is just a few blog lines away.

I need to know! Why isn’t SolidShops live yet?

We received this question about a trizillion times on Twitter so let’s create some clarity here. As we are writing this post, we bow our heads in shame. We know we kept you waiting for SolidShops for an awful long time and here is why: we underestimated the development time of our automation processes and decided not take them lightly.

On top of that we wanted to include a sweet templating language from the beginning. As we are focusing on web designers for the greater part, we wanted to include the ability to build 100% custom and flexible templates right from the start. The templating language is in place, and is already awesome if you ask me (yes, I’m a web designer as well), but it took a while to put everything in place in a way that’s useful to web designers.

Yes, we could have gone live earlier – you know: release early, release often – but we want you to enjoy our service from the beginning, without the risk of loosing any data and with as little downtime as possible.

Writing scripts to generate backups and restore them in case of system failures takes up a considerable amount of time, more time than we thought it would. The same is true for the deployment processes that allow us to safely release updates to the application. While these flows are now in place, we still have a fair amount of testing and fine tuning ahead of us.

These processes that we are building right now will be the foundation of SolidShops from the start and we need them to be a solid as possible to take it from there.

Who are you guys, who’s behind

Perhaps not the most interesting info for you, but a much asked one nonetheless. Just like we love to know our clients, we’d like you to know who you are doing business with.  After all, we’re in this e-commerce business together.

In short: we are Joris & Dries [what’s up!?], Dries & Joris[hi!]. We are two web development junkies and since high school (that’s some 10 years ago if you might ask yourself when that was) we have been developing web sites and applications for ourselves and for clients.

Dries currently still works as an SAP consultant and integrator while I (Joris, that’s me) am teaching about web standards and development to my students in college. Besides teaching and developing SolidShops with Dries, I also do the occasional freelance work for my own clients.

Over the past 1 to 2 years, we have been working on our dream app, mostly on weekends and in the late hours of the day. Not only is it our dream app because we have been breathing SolidShops for the past 20 months. Besides that, we’re especially thrilled about releasing our work to you so a lot of small to medium online shops can open their doors at low cost while having a flexible web application at their fingertips.

What is the current project status?

Currently our entire flows are set up the way we want them to operate. A small number of early testers have gone through the whole process of signing up, creating and configuring a store and creating orders through them. We are not waiting for the application to be *perfect* before launching, because we’ll be iterating continuously to make the application better based on your feedback. We do take our time to build what is absolutely necessary for you to get started with a web shop for you or your clients.

When will SolidShops go live? Please tell me!

We are planning to go live on – oh wait, we can’t tell you yet. We’ll go live when we are ready for it. What we can say is that we’ll launch our beta before December 2010. All beta subscribers will be notified of their account activation automatically. If you did not subscribe yet for an early account, please do so now.

Before launching to a greater audience, we have been building the application with two people only, mostly in hour spare time after our day jobs. At this point we also have two persons ready who will be assisting in delivering support.

We probably took more time to deliver the app than large companies with millions of venture capital behind them would have done, but look at it this way: we never took any capital, we are our only investors, we focus on what we think is important for our clients and not what an investor thinks is important. We are building and scaling SolidShops at a healthy pace and are here to stay. No rush jobs, no half work.

What features are on the road map?

Before anything else we’ll be making sure that the base application is running smoothly and securely.
When that’s taken care of, we will focus on the features and changes that you – yes you there, with the fancy keyboard – ask us. So let us know if you have any feedback that can make SolidShops work better for you.

Although this can change depending on what our customers want, possible features that are already on top of our mind are the following:

  • SolidShops API
  • integration with third party apps like email marketing, visitor analytics, …
  • more advanced reports
  • support for more payment providers besides PayPal
  • a mobile version of our app so you can manage your store on the road

Again, we are sorry for the long wait, but we’ll make sure it will be worth it in the long run!

Women buy 3x more online during World Cup

According to an article that was published in the Belgian newspapers today (yes, we are from Belgium!), there was a massive rise in online sales generated by women every time there was a World Cup soccer match on TV. At the same time their boyfriends and husbands were drinking beers and watching the game on TV, a lot of women would escape the World Cup madness by relaxing behind a laptop and by spending some cash online.

Top sold items seemed to be underwear, jewelry and summer dresses. Some online stores even noticed an increase of 300% in sales during soccer matches. Other good news for Belgian shop owners is that online spendings have grown with 17% in 2009. According to BEcommerce – the organization that watches over online store owners in Belgium – sales will go up another 15% in 2010.

New features for web designers

Since the beginning we’ve been focused on making as easy as possible, while maintaining flexibility, especially when it comes to building templates for your stores. Being a web designer myself I had a fairly good idea of what we needed to build to make our application easy and fun to use for web designers.

I also talked to a lot of colleagues in the sector, to friends, to people at conferences such as the amazing Future Of Web Apps and to shop owners and asked them what their design requirements are when building an online web shop.

Almost all web designers, including me, thought of the following

  • a flexible – but easy to use – template language
  • the possibility to manage assets, files, images
  • selection of a default theme, to get started quickly if necessary
  • the use of partials/includes in templates for recurring bits such as footers and navigation.

A few months later we have implemented all of these core features into the application. To give you a sneak preview before we launch in beta, here are some screenshots that give you an idea of how you’ll be able to build your own templates with our own solid templating language.

Create custom themes

One you’ve created your own custom theme, you can start editing and creating files like stylesheets, javascript files for your store’s interaction, style your cart, build categoy pages and so on.

Create a custom design

Some e-commerce packages make it almost impossible to create a theme from scratch, let alone enjoy creating one, while others require you to download and install a bunch of software before being able to roll our your designs.

We’ve taken a different approach here by building a custom template editor inside the application. That way you can edit your templates on the go, on any computer, without the need to install anything.

Of course we’ve taken care of syntax highlighting (we use the excellent CodeMirror for that) and normal tab-key behavior that doesn’t leave your code editor but tabs your code to the right. Of course the editor is not as powerful as Dreamweaver or Aptana, but it doesn’t have to be.

All you need is html/css and if you want some javascript to spice things up, combined with our template language. Below is a screenshot of the single products page being edited

Code Editor

When you save the template above, the content will be rendered in plain html. Styling can be done in any way you like using CSS.

Custom ecommerce template
There you have it in a nutshell: 100% custom and flexible webshop templates for your own store or for your clients stores. We are really curious about what you will come up with using our template language so get started, build your html/css templates already and pump ‘m into our application when we launch.

Of course we’d love to know what you think and how we can make our application better. We’ll soon launch in beta and those who have already subscribed for it, will receive an email confirming their beta again. If you haven’t subscribed for the beta yet, please do so now on

Until then, stay tuned everybody and thanks so much for being patient up to this point. We get the question “when will you launch” almost every day and the answer is: when it’s ready to launch in beta.

To serve you better, we are hosted at Linode

In order to make SolidShops as reliable as we can, we have now moved our application to Linode (that’s our referral link). Most of our beta users are located in the United States so we have put our main servers in Newark NJ, USA. Our European users don’t need to worry, all servers have a very fast link to the European mainland and if necessary we’ll be adding a server in Europe in the near future.

Until then, enjoy our new servers and let us know how speed is in your country.

SolidShops: first looks

While our team is working hard to complete and test out all our core features that need to be ready for our public beta launch, we wanted to give you a preview of what our administration pages currently look like. We hope you like what you see!