Better and Faster with SuiteCommerce Advanced

It's been six months since the release of our first major update to SCA. Since then we've had two further releases, where we've added a lot of new features. We're keen to get as many people using and building SuiteCommerce Advanced sites, so I want to run through four core things that make SCA stand out from the rest.

Build Better and Faster

Before you can even start any project you need to get everything you need ready, and for a website that means prepping your work environment and developer tools.

One of the immediately beneficial things you'll notice is that we use and support modern technology that you'd expect. So, to start, there's no IDE for SCA — you're free to use whatever text editor you like, whether it's Sublime Text, Notepad++ or Atom. Secondly, we use the lightweight and fleixble Gulp to run local environments and deploy to our servers.

We also provide a lot of ready-made code and resources for when you're getting started with a new site. Our pre-built reference implementations include modules and applications for all areas of the site: Shopping, My Account and Checkout. Don't worry about mobile and tablet users: SCA is responsive.

The final thing in this vein worth noting is all the resources you have available to ensure that you not only deliver a successful site, but you also can continue to maintain it. We have this site — Developers.SuiteCommerce — which features reference documentation, training videos, how-to articles, a design guide, and more.

Great tools and resources: getting started has never been easier.

Search Better and Faster

Good search technology goes beyond simple keyword queries. When a shopper is looking for that one special product, they want to drill down through the results until all that's left is that the thing they want. In order to accomplish this, SCA makes use of the powerful Solr search engine. We've also added a few neat features that really illustrate its power.

Search as You Type

Increasingly common among many search engines (and conspicuous when it isn't) is functionality that suggests search results as the user types in their query.

As you can see in the image above, I've started searching for "top" and the search engine has returned a handful of results that might be what I'm looking for. Of course, I don't have to select any of them and I can continue to the search results, but it's nice to be offered.

Advanced Configuration

With Solr, we've implemented new backend capabilities to configure it. These give you greater control of item search results and to give you more control in what you can surface to your shoppers. Furthermore these changes make it easier for your shoppers to find what they're looking for. With SCA you get a lot of control over what results get returned, in particular with the seemingly nebulous 'most relevant' search results.

How you set up your site's search is up to you, and to help you we've included some documentation that explains the options and how to weight them, should you want to deviate from our defaults.

Perform Better and Faster

SCA makes uses of a CDN. In case you don't know, CDNs are a network of geographically distributed, super fast servers that excel at serving data. What happens is that when a page or resource is first requested, we send it to the CDN to be cached. When someone else requests that page or resource, the CDN finds the fastest way to serve that data to the user and then sends it from that location. What this means is the NetSuite servers don't have to generate or serve that data again, which is a more intensive process.

What all of this means is that your site performs better because things like images, search results, static content and SSP files are served faster than if they came from the NetSuite servers.

While there is some caching on the NetSuite servers, the CDN is faster and offers greater flexibility in terms of determining how long items are cached for, and giving you the ability flush certain URLs (or it entirely).

Template Better and Faster

Finally, we've spent a lot of time picking and implementing the right frontend technology. We power it using Backbone as our framework and Handlebars as the templating engine. Both are powerful, mature JavaScript libraries.

In addition to our documentation and training, I've also produced a handy four part guide on developing your first module. For me, this way of doing templating really make sense, especially considering how flexible they are and that they can be reused in many different places. Check out the screenshot below as an illustration.

The above code snippet is a small part of the ItemDetails template, and it is used to generate content on product reviews. It contains markup for:

  • Handlebars conditional statements
  • Semantic class names
  • data-type parameters, tying specific elements to a JavaScript function
  • data-view parameters, tying specific elements to a view
  • And more...

Summary

You would have noticed the theme running through this article: better and faster. All of the exciting functionality I've talked about is ready to use in SuiteCommerce Advanced. All of it has been picked to make the lives of your developers, administrators and even your shoppers better, while ensuring they're able to do what they need to do faster.

Incorporating quality, industry-standard developer tools into our suite is important not only because they are what developers expect but because they practical and offer a market benefit. For example, we think adopting an agnostic position on text editors and IDEs will make things better for developers by removing the hassle of being force to use a tool they may not like or get on with.

Similarly, we've thought about the improvements that we can make to improve shoppers' experiences by making architectural changes. Changes to search and caching mean that we can reduce the amount of time it takes for shoppers to find what they're looking for and check out. If you think the gains from using CDN are small, imagine adding them all up over the course of a shopper's entire visit: you'll be surprised.

The final thing was better and faster templating. In reality, what this means is that building a site from start to finish should be easier and quicker because the code is more intuitive and reusable.

Next Steps

So, from here I'd recommend you reacquaint yourself with existing NetSuite systems and learn about the new SCA stuff by taking our new training course. This can lead on to becoming a NetSuite-certified developer, something I've covered before.

If you're an agency or partner who builds ecommerce sites for other people, drop cap@netsuite.com an email to find out more about taking the plunge into SCA.

How was your experience building an SCA site? Are there any other hiddens gems we should mention?