Ruminations of idle rants and ramblings of a code monkey

Commerce Starter Kit 3.0 – CSK Reprise

CSK | Open Source | Web (and ASP.NET) Stuff

I am happy to announce a new Commerce Starter Kit. We’re calling it CSK 3.0, but it’s not based on the previous (CSK 2.0) codebase at all; it is a complete re-write from the ground up. Some of you probably remember when I first got involved in the CSK … that was WAAAAAY back in the days when ASP.NET 2.0 was all new and shiny. ASP.NET has, of course, moved forward quite a bit since then. We won’t be just upgrading the old CSK code base, but building a brand-spanking-new version, even though we’ll be calling it CSK 3.0. And … it will be in the same spirit as CSK - “shared source” and freely available to all. I will be reporting progress on this regularly, so you will want to subscribe if you want all the latest updates and news on the project.

This all started with a chat or two with my old buddy Rob Conery, the creator of the original Commerce Starter Kit. He’s here at Microsoft now and working on the MVC Storefront, a sample application that uses the ASP.NET MVC Framework (as the name implies). At the end of these chats, we thought we’d revive the CSK name and build a new version … with components and business logic based on the same components and business logic used for MVC Storefront but with a traditional WebForms UI. That’s right folks … it’s gonna share code with the site that Rob’s working on. Not only does it make life much easier, it also shows how the same core logic and functionality can be skinned with either MVC or WebForms.

Here’s the core stuff that is on the plate for this version:

Updates to the latest coolness: CSK 3.0 will be targeting ASP.NET 3.5 with SP1, so we’ll have all of the latest toys, including (of course!) Linq. :-)

Migration to common e-Commerce libraries: I mentioned this above; CSK will be using the same core business libraries and database as MVC Storefront, allowing you to easily switch between the two.

Localization support: Oh boy, I remember lots of folks asking for this with CSK 1.x and 2.0. The new CSK will be localizable out of the box. All of the product and category text and descriptions will be localizable. The goal is to also have most, if not all, of the static text on the pages localizable as well. That’ll be fun with resource files.

ASP.NET Dynamic Data Administration: The admin site will now be a separate web application so that there’s better isolation from the main web site. Of course, this could be installed as a virtual directory application under the main site but that won’t be necessary at all. You’ll easily be able to deploy it as a completely separate web site.

ASP.NET Web Application: This is the “old” (as in 1.x) model for web applications. While it’s not as easily changed while running (since you actually have to do a build), it does provide better start-up performance, something that became a complaint with CSK 2.0. Yes, yes, you could pre-compile the site (and I often suggested that folks do this) but with the web application model, that won’t be a separate step.

ASP.NET Ajax: This is all a part of the cool new toys, but I thought I’d highlight it separately. We’ll be using ASP.NET Ajax where it makes sense as well as the ASP.NET Ajax Control Toolkit.

Better composability: One of the things that I thought we could have done better with CSK 2.0 was to have a better composition model for the UI … for example, there were 2 or 3 different places to change a product list display … category list, search list, etc. This made it more difficult to maintain as fields were added or changes were made to certain core UI elements. These components will be separated into a series of User Controls, each with distinct, composable functionality. You want to change the view of a product in a list? Change it once and you’ll see it everywhere … search results, category listing, cart, etc.

Coupons: This was only partially implemented in CSK 2. Rob and I spent a couple of hours, both on the phone and over IM, and forth on how this would be implemented and I think it’s settled. The coupon system is going to be very extensible so that you can create any type of coupon that your heart desires. We’ll be including a couple of simple ones to get you started.

One of my key goals with this rev is simplicity. I want the UI (at least) to be as simple as possible … and I want it to be simple to re-skin the CSK to your own look and feel. To that end, I am using quite a bit more controls and data binding than were used in version 2.0 … everything, in fact, is in some sort of control or another. Additionally, I do want to highlight, as much as possible, the infrastructure of ASP.NET as well as the extensibility of this infrastructure. For example, for the category listing, I’m using a SiteMapProvider that builds a site map from the categories in the database. Believe it or not, this is actually quite easy to do and provides things like the SiteMapPath, which I do plan on getting in there.

I will need some help with this – in particular, I’d really like help with the following:

  • Functionality – what features are essential and/or cool? What do you want to see in there? (No guarantees that it’ll make it, but if you offer to do it, it’s a lot more likely!)
  • Design – Right now, I’m just stealing the design and layout from the MVC Storefront, converting it to use WebForms (so no MVC calls), etc. etc. etc. I call it the CASE methodology – Copy Always, Steal Everything. Now, I have the design skills of a dead toad, so redoing the design is simply out of the question. BUT … I would like to see it begin to diverge from MVC Storefront’s look. So any help that you might want to provide to do that would be very nice.
  • Testing – Yes, we’ll have automated tests to catch a bunch of stuff, but manual testing and feedback is also needed, particularly when it comes to user experience.
  • Migration – From CSK 2. I really don’t know if this is going to actually be possible and it’s certainly not something that I have on the list of “stuff to do” but if someone wants to volunteer to write a migration utility, that’d be cool with me.

I’m targeting to get the first, alpha “preview” version out in the next week or so and I’ll announce that here as well.

Comments (4) -

Tom 10/25/2008 1:18:51 PM #

Looking forward to it! It will be interesting to see the testing part of it being moved over to the web forms world. Have you considered MVP? To me it is sort of the hybrid of the two worlds, sure would make the transision a bit smoother. Just a thought...

Good luck!

GoBlue 10/27/2008 2:32:11 PM #

this sounds great. i was a big fan of the CSK 2.0. i hope this new version also has a mini-shopping cart like it's predecessor. can't wait for the first preview...

John Tarbox 10/27/2008 4:21:55 PM #
John Tarbox

A MVC and a webforms version, super! Wouldn't it be great if someone would do a Silverlight front end as well!

Chris Silvey 10/28/2008 3:49:17 AM #
Chris Silvey

"Functionality – what features are essential and/or cool? What do you want to see in there? (No guarantees that it’ll make it, but if you offer to do it, it’s a lot more likely!)"

  Bulk Import Manager - Import categories, product info, and maybe go beyond the norm that effects other aspects such as setting featured item (true/false), new content on the front page all from a xml or csv file.

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