A customer with an eCommerce site approached us with a frustrating situation: their shoppers were occasionally having issues during the checkout process. When this issue was reported to the hosting provider, shopping cart vendor and shopping cart plugin authors, all declared that the issue wasn’t due to their software and they were unable to provide further assistance. Ideas2Executables worked with the customer to cut through this blame game and diagnose and fix the underlying issue.
The first step in deriving a solution to this check-out bug was to determine a method for recreating the issue. Fortunately, the customer had already determined this and setup a product that we could purchase that triggered the issue. When there’s an issue with your software platform you may feel powerless to fix it. However, being able to reliably recreate the issue is an invaluable step you can assist with, regardless of who undertakes the final fix.
The second step in building out a solution was to decide where the problem should be debugged. Broadly, you have two choices: either on the production system itself or in a cloned-development environment. Working on the production system means less setup time and allows the developer fixing the issue to begin debugging immediately. However, working on a production system risks causing downtime or other issues that may impact real customers. If your software is in active use and time allows, setting up a cloned-development environment is a much lower risk option for setting up an environment to fix the issue.
A cloned development environment is just what it sounds like. An isolated series of servers and software in which to debug the issue that is created by cloning your production system. Your hosting provider may assist with setting this up, or the developer debugging the issue may opt to do this.
Working with a cloned environment allows a programmer to work without impacting production systems. If a programming mistake is made that causes orders to be deleted, for example, the production system isn’t damaged. However, setting up a new environment takes additional time and cost, which may not be in your budget. Also, it’s possible that when the production environment is cloned, the bug no longer shows up. If this is the case, then this fact alone serves as an important clue to help understand the bug.
The customer who contacted us to fix the issue with their eCommerce site opted to have us debug the issue in production. They made this decision because sales were so severely impacted by the bug that it was reasonable to prioritize quickly fixing the issue over negatively impacting shoppers.
Our customer was utilizing a robust shopping cart vendor with a number of additional plugins. The result was an overwhelming amount of code where the bug could be hiding. To narrow down where the issue could be, we developed an auditing facility that let us see precisely which areas of the code were in use during the checkout process. This allowed us to focus in on the relevant blocks of code, and ignore thousands of lines that weren’t relevant. This auditing facility served as sort of an x-ray vision: we could debug the behind the scenes processes, but to shoppers continuing to checkout on the site, nothing was visible.
It was gratifying when we finally understood the issue that was causing the problem. When a customer starts shopping, their session is tagged with an order-number. During checkout, the cart details are turned into an order record. This temporarily assigned order-number is discarded, and a persistent and permanent order number is assigned.
This process was complex, but working well. The issue was the customer’s use of a plugin that was not cooperating with this process. The plugin utilized the original order number, but wasn’t being properly reset when the permanent order number was assigned.
We fixed the issue for the customer, and reported the bug and fix to the relevant shopping cart plugin author.
It took a few debugging sessions to resolve this situation, but ultimately, the bug was slain and the customer’s website returned to its former working status. The auditing framework we developed is still available to us should future issues arise. Most importantly, the customer has learned they have an advocate they can turn to whenever their site encounters an issue.
If you have questions about this Case Study, or how Ideas2Executables can you help you address a challenge in your own application, Contact Us. Or give us a call at (703) 688-3084.
“Since November 2011, Ideas2Executables has proven to be an excellent long-term partner and integral part of our ongoing development strategy. Their team created excellent and well-documented code to power our web-based solution. They are reliable, flexible and have completed every project in a timely manner. Most importantly, they genuinely care about the success of our business.”
“For the past 8 years, I have had the pleasure of working with Ben on the development and evolution of my website, ASLdeafined.com. When I think about Ben and what he exemplifies as an outstanding professional, these traits would include hard working, being timely and meeting deadlines, forward thinker, and extremely detailed focused. It has been such a pleasure to work with such an outstanding developer and professional for the last 8 years and counting. I look forward to working with Ben on new and exciting features of my website. As a developer, Ben has made such a great impact on thousands of people because of the work he does. And if it weren’t for Ben, ASLdeafined would not be the educational tool that it is today to help people learn American Sign Language. It is without reservation that I write this testimonial for such an outstanding developer! Thank you Ben for all of your hard work and class.”
“Working with Ideas2Executables was one of the best decisions my company has ever made. Like many companies, our success is tied to the effectiveness of our website. Putting our site in Ben’s skilled hands, with the combination of high quality work and fast response times, has been integral to our growth over the last several years.”
“Ideas2Executables has been a consistent and wonderful vendor to deal with. They have worked tirelessly with us to develop a complex website and their steady hand has guided other professionals through the development and maintenance of the site. Their responsiveness and attention to detail is unparalleled.”
“For the past couple of years we have had the luxury of working with Ideas2Executables. We turn to i2x for our most challenging projects; taking advantage of their creativity, professionalism, and web development expertise. It is comforting to know we have their team in our corner.”
“We love working with Ideas2Executables! Ben does a great job of communicating with us on projects and helping us with the details of how everything will work. He has a wealth of knowledge and keeps up with the latest technology. We always get projects back on time and quick responses to any questions. I would highly recommend Ideas2Executables to anyone.”
“It is very hard to find a developer who knows your platform, performs the work, and will be a partner with you for your website. Many developers farm out their work, causing miscommunication, wasting time, and making it difficult to trouble-shoot. It’s such a relief to be able to form a relationship with a developer who listens and is responsive and honest.”