2017: End of Year Review

The end of 2017 approaches, so it's a good time to reflect on the changes to SuiteCommerce that have happened this year.

We've accomplished a lot in terms of the product — new products, features and improvements — as well as provided a wealth of new resources and tools to aid you in producing the best website that you can.

New Releases

Elbrus

In April, we produced the Elbrus release. The principal addition included in this release was pickup instore, sometimes called 'click and collect'.

In partnership with the store locator functionality, this enables shoppers to place an order and then pick it up from one of your stores. Naturally, it works best if you're a B2C operation who has a few physical stores that people can visit.

What impresses me about this functionality is that it works by using the stores as fulfilment centers so that the items of an order are taken from the stock of the store (rather than other methods where, for example, an order is shipped from a central warehouse to the store).

If you're interested, you can take a look at the more detailed write-up.

Elbrus also included our long-awaited improvements to the promotions engine. SuitePromotions introduced new functionality and a refreshed interface for setting them up. For me, there were two key changes that make this functionality something to take notice of: stackable promotions and best offer.

The first allows you to create promotions so that discounts can be made additively to order or line items. In the past, the user had to choose which one (and only one) offer to take advantage of — now multiple promotions can be applied, if you so choose.

The second, best offer, applies in the opposite scenario: so, if the shopper has applied multiple exclusive promotions then the application will now choose the one that offers the greatest discount to the shopper.

Another improvement in Elbrus was to the SuiteCommerce extensibility layer: in particular, we added new flexibility to make adding custom fields easier. This method means that you no longer have to make edits to SuiteScript or JavaScript files to make them appear; by default they're included in the calls to and from the server so it's essentially a case of set them up on the backend and you're done.

There were quite a lot of other things in Elbrus too, such as quantity pricing, secure shopping domain, and a few architecture changes to aid the upcoming SuiteCommerce Standard product.

Kilimanjaro and 2017.2

The new platform version roughly coincided with the release of Kilimanjaro.

While 2017.2 had a lot in it, from an ecommerce point of view there were a couple of things that helped us. It added auditing and visiblity to SuitePromotions that enable office staff to find out why a promotion was applied and then removed from an order.

There were also changes to the way that inventory was managed. In particular to pickup in store, we added a separated buffer stock column so that you could differentiate between regular buffer stock and the buffer stock specific to shoppers who have opted for pickup in store.

We have also added in an improved sitemap generator. Sitemaps are a key way to improve your SEO as they list every page that you want a search engine to visit. The new tool generates them in minutes and include important areas of the site by default, but you can also add up to 10,000 pages manually (which is great for any static pages that may get missed).

We also refactored our Sass to make it easier to work with. While part of the reason we did this was to benefit the upcoming release of SuiteCommerce Standard, it is also a boon for SuiteCommerce Advanced users who can make use of the automated style guide that's included with it.

However, perhaps one of the biggest things in the releases was support for custom content types. If you're a fan of the site management tools then you'll know how easy it is to build commerce categories, new landing pages, and add content, such as images and banners. The new ability to add CCTs enables far more possiblities because you can code functionality (like any other SCA module) for your site administrators to use as a content type in the SMTs.

SuiteCommerce Standard

We showed off SuiteCommerce Standard at this year's SuiteWorld. It's currently in beta testing with a few partners, to work out the kinks and test what it's like theming a site.

The essence of SuiteCommerce Standard is that it retains the richness of features that SCA customers have but at a reduced cost. You also get managed bundle updates so that you're always running the latest version. The trade-off is that you're limited in what level of customization you can make.

The look and feel will be determined by what theme you enable, and this is comprised of Sass and templates only. When it comes to functionality customizations outside of the core product, then you'll be able to install extensions, which can contain JavaScript and SuiteScript.

Next year should see its general availability, but you'll have to stay tuned to find out when exactly that is.

Tutorials

The Developers.SuiteCommerce blog saw a number of new tutorials for you to try out. While they may not be specific things that you want on your site, they could nonetheless provide a useful vehicle for greater understanding.

SuiteScript and Data Handling

This year we received a fair bit of feedback that a number of you struggle with SuiteScript and data. In response, we produced a number of in-depth looks at SuiteScript usage within the context of SCA:

Additionally, a number of tutorials I wrote focused on or contained useful examples of SuiteScript:

Design and Frontend Functionality

We also spent some time thinking about the sorts of things that we can do on the frontend of the site. I've already mentioned the changes to Sass and the style guide, but we can also learn a lot about the principles of customization and extending functionality through following tutorials for functionality we might not use on our site.

Thus, consider the following to be inspiration:

On a personal level, I really enjoyed learning about 360° images. They're not ideal for a lot of items, but it's a good example of adding a plugin to a site that does something fun and quirky.

Extensibility and Site Management Tools

I'm lumping these two together because developments to the SMTs are really only possible with some of the changes we've been making to the extensibility API.

The extensibility API was something we introduced in Elbrus. It's essential for SuiteCommerce Standard but it's been a boon for SCA developers who want to customize areas of their site in a quick and efficient manner.

In Kilimanjaro, we added custom content types. I've already talked a bit about them and linked to the post about how to get started with them. But the core of how they work relies on the CMS component. Components are how we create the API for extensibility.

Going forward with SuiteCommerce Standard, we should see extensions becoming a lot easier to write and implement, and, because they connect to the code via an API, they should be easy to manage and maintain when new versions are released.

Performance, Optimization, and Style

As an organization, we would be remiss if we didn't provide you with tutorials on how to use our product. But I also feel like we have a duty to provide you with advice on how to best use our products and to encourage you to improve your efficiency and efficacy. I typically brand these as TIL Thursdays (or 'today I learned about <THING>').

One example is to look at the frameworks that underpin the SCA product. I wrote about what I think are five Underscore functions that we use throughout the applications and that you should consider using too. They're like power tools that'll make your job easier and your code cleaner.

Another is the cheatsheet I wrote to help you get started with customization. Sure, it's aimed at beginners but part of the reason I created it was as a useful reminder to myself for when I'm tinkering with my sites. "Oh", I might think, "I need to add new code to this existing function — what's the right way of doing this again?" And the cheatsheet provides clear examples on how to do it.

Other blog posts include:

Don't forget, too, that the aforementioned style guide generator is also a great tool improving your design processes.

We also talked why you should implement a secure shopping domain as it could boost consumer confidence and your SEO. We heard from DIY Home Center implemented it and what they learned from going through it.

Webinars

We also introduced technical webinars this year. These are a way for us to tackle a difficult technical concept that we know many of you want to know more about by inviting a subject matter expert to give a presentation on it.

We hosted three webinars this year:

I'm sure in the new year we'll look at what new webinars we can host and what knowledge we can share with you. If there's anything in particular that you'd like, you can let us know.

Documentation

Remember, all of our SuiteCommerce documentation is available on Developers.SuiteCommerce. We keep track of significant additions to the documentation on a special page that tracks what's new. It's worth checking every week or two to see if there's anything new that might affect you.

Don't forget that we also have a number of helpful videos in our video library which will guide you through some common configuration or customization tasks that you might encounter on your site.

Final Thoughts

Once again, let me say that it's been quite a privelege to steward the developer portal for you and I'm looking forward to meeting more of you next year and finding out what hurdles you're having trouble clearing and how we can help being more success to your site.

If you have any questions, higlights or comments, please leave them below.