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Drupal Northeast May 2013: Drupal Commerce

Having missed the last few months’ of Drupal North East for various reasons, I was happy to be able to make it back for this month’s talk. There were actually a few new faces (and it sounds as if the developers at TH_NK know their Drupal!) for a presentation by Drupal North East regular Richard Carter about Drupal Commerce.

The module was released around the time of Drupal 7 as a D7-native competitor to the then hugely popular Ubercart. While many people who tried it on its release (including Drupal NE organiser Adam) tried it then and weren’t impressed, the concerted efforts of the Commerce Guys team has meant that it’s now a robust module. Mostly. There are still odd gaps in the eco-system, such as Worldpay, but it’s rapidly evolving.

Examples of sites using Drupal Commerce:

The key difference for those that have used Ubercart in the past is that Drupal Commerce is based on entities (each variation of a product is an entity). Richard eloquently summed up the difference in two diagrams.

What this means is that while Drupal Commerce is tricky to set up in comparison to Ubercart, it can be incredibly powerful, particularly if you understand how to use Entities and Rules.

A particularly good reason for setting it up is that thanks to the Inline Entities connect modules, it’s finally easy for site owners to add their own price options to a site and it make sense. Adam has also found that it really forces you to understand how entities and Rules work, as the main distro comes with 1200 suggested rules!

From the sound of it, it’s worth trying out Drupal Commerce unless you have a very simple shopfront, in which case you could use Ubercart (though arguably if you have such a simple system it might in some cases be more cost-effective to use a hosted service such as Shopify!) For those that are starting from scratch, there is a Kickstart installation module that brings together various Drupal Commerce 3rd party modules and allows you to get running with it. People with existing sites unfortunately will have to stumble through on their own.

One of the main complaints that still stands on Drupal Commerce is its lack of documentations. There are a lot of videos available online about using Drupal Commerce, if you’re prepared to spend the time watching them (a note to videocasters: transcribe your videos!)

It’s interesting how quickly the Drupal community has moved from Ubercart to Drupal Commerce. Politically, I feel a little conflicted about this. While Drupal Commerce is certainly “drupally” in a way that Ubercart wasn’t (Ubercart was very proprietary in how you had to set it up, though Adam also admits that the D7 version is far more pluggable), part of the reason it has done so is that Commerce Guys have a vested interest and so have poured money and resources into it. Apparently the lead maintainers of Ubercart all did their project in no relation to their day jobs! While a number of Drupal modules have been built for projects and then released as a module, this is far more targeted. Of course, companies such as Mailchimp have also released modules that plug into their services, but their interest is clear. Still, Drupal Commerce is an interesting experiment in just that: commercial interest in an open source community.