Ex Officio eventually decided to go with MainStreet Commerce, Luellen said, and engineers went to work rebuilding pages of the Web site using a template and setting up a staging area for testing. "Obviously, it was a little frantic with the time constraints on us, but they immediately started the ball rolling and laid out the back end," Luellen said. "They actually took our site and duplicated it and rebuilt all the pages using a template system. I was able to create pages [more easily] and have more control on creating content pages [than our old Microsoft Commerce Server system], and they didnt just give us a template and say, Have fun."Click here to read about a service that aims to help retailers maximize site value. "The elegance of the architecture [is that] we dont [have to] code every integration. We take integration down a different path," MainStreets Laurie said. "Weve taken our code and built out the foundation for moving data to the front of the system. The last mile is a few pages of code that wraps the metadata to our objects so that the Porini system accepts an API shipping order and they provide us with an XML inventory file." Laurie said that by taking advantage of the standard Porini integration methodology, MainStreet was able to build one small executable that runs on a schedule three times a day and pulls orders and presents them to Porini in less than one page of code. Luellen said this method provided smooth integration across Ex Officios systems as information gets passed back and forth. "When a customer places an order, it is entered and tracked through MainStreet, and three times a day a file is exported into Porini, and it goes into inventory and affects inventory," Luellen said. "Pick tickets are printed, and once [the process is complete] and the item is shipped, Porini updates the inventory and sends an advanced shipping notice to MainStreet." After the MainStreet system pulls the tracking number from the Porini system, it automatically e-mails the client that the item is on its way and updates the inventory for the shipped item, Luellen said. The MainStreet back-end configuration tools work on a simple attribution system (the ability to take different inventory items and select different settings) that enables Luellen to easily set up different items for sale on the site by changing a few settings. Luellen said this gives him tight control over site content without having to worry about coding. "Using their attribute system, we were able to customize and automate a lot of the things that needed to be hand-coded on every item page on the old system," Luellen said. "If you go into our back end, there is a setup for each [inventory] item with check boxes and selections that do different things that we can make on every item, and I can add and change things without having to do programming." Since the system went live at the end of last year, Luellen said, MainStreet has continued to deliver upgrades that add value. Recently, he said, the company delivered a code upgrade to accommodate the fact that Ex Officio does limited manufacturing runs. When inventory drops below a certain level for any given product that has a limited production run, the Web site automatically changes. Instead of displaying a quantity box, it displays a drop-down list showing how many items remain. When the last item has been purchased, Luellen said the product disappears from the Web site; if there is a return or a problem with an order, the product automatically reappears on the Web site. Luellen said that working with MainStreet was a great experience and that he believes the developer can handle any future challenges. "They did a good job. The engineering team has a lot of skills and are well-spoken and can tell you what you need to do," he said. "Weve gotten to the point now if anyone comes up with [an idea for the system] in our operations meetings, we believe MainStreet can do it, and we throw that into their court. We have been really happy with the experience." Ron Miller is a free-lance writer based in Amherst, Mass. He can be contacted at email@example.com. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in Web services.
Luellen said MainStreet took on much of the workload at a time when he was particularly busy because he was trying to run the old system and create the new one. Only a week or so after MainStreet got started, it set up the staging site and began discussions with Luellen about how he wanted to present items on the site.