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22 Nov 2011

Flex Custom Product Design Tool Integration Introduction I realize that this is going to turn out to be a rather long document, but I don’t want that alone to suggest that we’re looking to have a great deal of customization done to your existing design tool. We are, for the most part, interested in your tool’s frontend user interface “as is”, with the understanding that its integration will require work to “marry” its backend with our existing ecommerce solution’s backend. I submit this rather long document – with apologies – in an attempt to allow you to fully understand what it is we are trying to accomplish with this project. Project Overview We currently provide an ecommerce solution as SaaS, (software as a service), to our member companies, (“subscribers”), from the visual graphics industries (sign, screen, print, embroidery, specialty advertising, etc). Part of that ecommerce solution - for which we are now sourcing a replacement - is an online design tool that we've integrated into our ColdFusion / SQL Server platform. Our ecommerce solution is a highly customized product based on the ColdFusion SiteDirector platform (so it is not Magento, XCart, Joomla, Drupal, Zencart or any other such off the shelf solution). Despite the fact that we're presently nearing completion of a project that includes a JavaScript based version of such a tool integrated into our existing complete online store application that additionally allows the selling of non-custom "catalog" items, we wish to have this portion of our application rebuilt in Flex, recognizing it to be a far superior platform for such a tool in terms of usability and it's ability to deal with vector graphics. We need to customize and integrate an online custom product design tool to be used for the creation of custom signs, banners, apparel (t-shirts etc.), business cards, promotional items (coffee cups etc.) - truly all manner of products - that are template based. The new Flex version tool that we're now sourcing will similarly need to "plug in" to our existing online stores both in terms of the frontend GUI and the existing backend store management interface. The custom design tool would need to accept input from the store - things like cookies / session variables, selected template, etc. - the tool itself would need to be slick and feature rich and function as well as any other similar online tool, and the tool would need to output the completed custom project back to the store's shopping cart. So, we really just need the online design tool "frontend" application, but it needs to tie in / be integrated into our existing store's MS SQL 2008 "backend".

SaaS Ecommerce Solution Overview – Frontend (storefronts) As mentioned, we already have in production a complete SaaS ecommerce solution – both frontend storefront and backend administration - for our members. This ecommerce solution comes as part of a complete template based website package that we offer to our members. Each member website – with ecommerce solution included – is hosted on the member’s own unique domain, and we are the hosting provider for all member domains. Our existing SaaS ecommerce solution allows our members (stores) to sell both noncustom catalog items and custom designed items. The following two screenshots show examples of catalog items for sale from the stores of two of these template based member websites. The first site might be found at a domain like, the second at a domain like, but both would be hosted by us.

Each store’s custom designed items are currently created by the user via a JavaScript based design tool. It is this tool that we are replacing. Below is a sequence of screenshots stepping through the store interface for one of our member’s stores as the user navigates their way to our JavaScript based design tool.

I included the above sequence of screenshots simply to demonstrate that in our current store’s architecture, by the time a user reaches the actual design tool they have already selected the desired product and design template, (if desired, as the “template” could simply be a blank product “canvas”), any associated product “variations” or “options”, and the desired quantity. However, with our replacement tool we’d like to allow some or all of these product and template related selections to be made and / or changed within the tool’s interface itself.

Here are two more frontend (storefront) screenshots, one for each of our two sample member stores, just to ensure that there is no confusion. With the actual specifics of the integration yet to be worked out, this is where your custom tool would reside and be accessed by a user.

There are a couple of related features that don’t seem to currently be available in your sample tool that we would need to have you address. The custom design tool offered by another contractor that we are in discussions with regarding our project seems to do a nice job of both of these tasks. I ask that you please take a look at the tool used on the following site to see how they’ve incorporated these features (they are referring to “production process” as “decoration type”). 1. We need the ability to allow the user to select the “production process” desired per custom designed product, and subsequently, be able to enforce a minimum order quantity and a “cost per number of colors used” pricing structure as appropriate. If you consider a custom t-shirt, that design can be digitally printed, screen printed, or embroidered. If the product is digitally printed, typically there is no minimum order quantity nor is there any sort of “cost per number of colors used” pricing. However, if the product is either screen printed or embroidered, there is typically both a minimum order quantity and a “cost per number of colors used” price structuring.

We would also need the tool to be able to accommodate the ordering of various "size" quantities for the product being designed. For example, for the selected production process, (“decoration type�), this site has a 24 unit minimum quantity order, and clicking on the "Quantity" link gives the user the ability to choose the individual quantities desired for each size (please note in the second screenshot that the logic prevents the user from choosing less than the 24 quantity minimum order).

2. In the event that the production process selected does indeed result in the custom designed product being held to a “cost per number of colors used� price structure, we need the tool to count the number of colors used for text and clipart, and in the case of uploaded images, have the user manually indicate the number of colors in their image.

SaaS Ecommerce Solution Overview – Backend (administration) Our existing SaaS ecommerce solutions comes complete with a login protected, specific to each member (store) administrative backend interface to manage products, (both catalog and custom), customers, orders, etc. Additionally, we as the administrators have full access to the entire system, and are therefore able to create stores, monitor orders, create and make products available for selection to put on sale by each individual member (store), etc. The following screenshots are meant only to enforce the point that we currently have a very feature and data rich, fully functional administrative backend in place to manage stores and products as a whole, of which custom designed products are a part.

I suspect that this is where things will get interesting. While “dropping” your tool’s interface into our frontend / storefronts seems more or less straightforward, the backend management of all of the associated data in one place – that being our existing custom backend administration interface that manages all stores and all products, both catalog and custom – is going to take some integration. Your tool is going to have to be revised as necessary to pull data from our SQL Server databases, which themselves might have to be revised slightly to accommodate your tool.

T-shirt tool  


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