Back in 2010 I wrote about how excited I was for a true e-commerce add-on became available for ExpressionEngine 1. That add-on was CartThrob. My how things can change in just a few years.
I followed up that blog post with another one2 that focused on some features, what it was missing, and general thoughts. It was still king of the jungle back in 2011. Unfortunately some time between that and late 2012 or so (if memory serves), things went sour. I'm not going to re-hash that.
Fast-forward to June 2013 in Chicago. Peers Conference.. Chris Newton gave a presentation called “Business Reboot". He openly discussed what had happened in his life that had caused support and active development to drop so significantly. It was a pretty good talk. For me, the biggest takeaway was that, well, running a small business has its risks and contingency plans are essential, yet not bullet proof.
That takeaway aside, I think several (most?) people left that talk feeling like CartThrob was going to be back. Slowly, but back.
If I'm honest, it did come back slowly. With higher prices and more add-ons. And bugs. Lots of bugs and incompatibilities. Don't get me wrong, increases in prices don't bother me so long as there's value. An add-on like CartThrob can save my team and me hours and hours of development, which in turn saves our clients literally thousands of dollars. However, with so many bugs and issues that crept up with even basic solutions we were trying to reach, the increase in pricing was unnerving.
And then there was support. Or lack thereof. Support first slowed down, then became completely non-existent. There are still unanswered questions in the CartThrob forums. That's unacceptable for a product developers are paying hundreds for.
I fully understand that if you fall ill things are going to slow down, possibly stop for a period of time. Some things happen unexpectedly and there's nothing anyone can do about that. That said, Barrett Newton isn't a one-man shop. At some point there should've been some sort of explanation of what was going on (even if not in detail). Instead all we got was silence. And a product slowly losing its fan base.
Eventually a revamped support policy came about. It's a little strange how it's set up, but it's something. I've used it and don't have anything bad to say about it. Perhaps my issue was a simple one.
Still, I can't help but think “too little, too late." I've tried several times to put my finger on why I keep coming to that, and I eventually came to the conclusion that trust was lost. It's that simple. The agreement that add-on developer make with purchasers of their products is important; it breeds trust and certain expectations. In the case of CartThrob, that trust and agreement completely broke down. The circumstances were very unfortunate, yes. Still…
CartThrob used to be our go-to e-commerce add-on. Unfortunately we can't say that any longer because that trust is no longer there. And frankly, I don't think the quality is there any longer.
Do we still use CartThrob? Sure. For sites that we manage and support that already have it built-in. For any new e-commerce projects we avoid CartThrob like the plague. Harsh, but true. Instead, we're opting for Expresso Store if it's an EE site. (Though I'd really like to give Brilliant Retail a spin at some point. I mean, that gorilla is just cool.) If the site isn't EE… well, we haven't made up our minds on that just yet.
1 That article existed on my old site and is now only available here.
1 That article is archived here.