[TYPO3] TYPO3 viable as eCommerce system for Amazon-like webshop?

Daniel Smedegaard Buus daniel at polyteknisk.it
Tue Sep 12 13:09:24 CEST 2006

Hello everyone :)

I've started new work, helping a university bookstore that services 
mainly the students, replacing their currently horrible and buggy 
webshop. The new website is basically supposed to do what Amazon does 
(including the semantic data features, like "Other people who bought 
this book also bought..." - that kind of stuff).

As said, right now their website is really quite bad, not quite dynamic, 
too rugged, the company who developed it has seized to be, and thus it's 
no longer supported. My task is to replace it completely and add a range 
of nice features, like the ones found on Amazon, Blackwells and similar 
places, plus a few good ideas of their own.

The current hardware on-site is entirely Microsoft controlled, and the 
book database is populated by an MSSQL server. I've been told that there 
has to be really, really good arguments for switching to e.g. a Debian 
server for the website (which would be my preference), and I'm not in 
any way fanatical about it (at least not when I'm getting paid by these 
guys ;), so if it's at all possible to stick with the current MS setup, 
that's the way we're gonna go. Of course, PHP can be installed on IIS, 
no issues there, and TYPO3 supports MS SQL out-of-the-box, so 
compatibility-wise all skies seem clear. If I'm mistaken, or there are 
many "except"s, please correct me.

Basically, we have these extra needs/wishes, that we're hoping we might 
meet/fullfill if we use TYPO3:

- The system should be highly customizable. That is, I should never have 
to say, "I'm sorry, you can't have that feature, because TYPO3 doesn't 
support that", instead I would say, "Of course you can have that, but I 
have to program for a week, will you pay for that?", or if I'm really 
lucky, "Sure, that's trivial, extension XYZ has that or TYPO3 has that 
out-of-the-box, give me five minutes".
- Performance should be high. By this, I mean that search and page 
rendering times shouldn't be noticably affected as the product list 
exceeds 2.5 million books (the store adds books from Browker and other 
suppliers, in order to let people order anything, even if not in stock). 
As this data is in the MS SQL database, that shouldn't really be a 
CMS-specific issue, but at least the TYPO3 should have a priority 
regarding performance, and the abstraction layer shouldn't cause 
performance issues when tables get huge. Is it possible to do some 
benchmarking fairly early, without the entire system being implemented, 
or do benchmarks already exist?
- Support for multiple languages (as in integrated, and easy to manage).
- Breadcrumbs for navigation.
- Forums for discussing books.
- Automatic image processing (à la ImageMagick) for scaling uploads to 
preset sizes (thumbnails and so on). Bearing in mind it'll be running on 
a Windows server.
- Commerce support (cart etc.). Either through plugins or easy to 
implement (as in we wouldn't be "making the system do something it 
wasn't really intended to do"). I've looked at the eCommerce Drupal 
project, and it seems promising.
- Newsmail support (generation, easy creation, list management...)
- PDF creation (for invoices).
- Support for AJAX (as in it won't break the system to add some AJAX to 
some of the pages. Not even sure if this makes any sense to put on the 
list, just ignore it if you go, "Huh?")

Okay then. With the list of wishes above, combined with the declared 
purpose of the system (think "This guy basically just wants to copy 
Amazon"), I would be very grateful to receive thoughts about this and/or 
experiences with similar projects. Would you consider TYPO3 a viable 
option for this?

I'm also looking at osCommerce, but this option really is only viable if 
it's highly customizable and fairly easy to customize, as it's pretty 
far-off feature and data-wise out-of-the-box.

Thank you in advance for any feedback and ideas you may provide :)

Best regards,
Daniel Buus, Denmark

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