Outside-In: The Unique Challenges of Building DukaPress

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So we’ve been developing DukaPress for about half a year now. During almost the whole of that time we faced a unique problem. A problem probably faced by other developers like us: people building software but not based in the so called “developed countries” (which in most cases translates to Europe and North America).

See, even though we realise that DukaPress is attractive to anyone who uses WordPress, we have to make it usable by us, who are based in Kenya and live within Kenyan realities. This is a challenge. Let me share a story to illustrate this.

Over the last two weeks or so, we have been trying to build a Fedex shipping module for DukaPress. The Fedex API in almost all cases is elegant and powerful; easy to use too. However, it seems that this API was built with little regard to developers in countries like Kenya.

What do I mean? Well, for example, Fedex has support for intra-country shipping in only a few countries of this world. Kenya (and India, too) is not one of these countries. This means that if you use the Fedex API to calculate the shipping charges of sending an item within Kenya, it will return an error. Fair enough, right? One just has to build a solution that excludes intra-country shipping within the countries that are not supported, right? Yes, in theory. But Fedex has no list of any sort of which countries do or do not support intra-country shipping, making it very difficult to build a working solution. An online shop owner based in Kenya therefore has a very difficult time making the Fedex API work for him – it will give (seemingly unfixable) errors whenever Kenyan customers buy from his shop.

Another example is the use of ZIP codes. The Fedex API uses ZIP codes to calculate distances between two places and therefore calculate the shipping charges. Places like Kenya do not have ZIP codes (only postal codes). On the ground, the people at Fedex Kenya use Kenyan towns to calculate how much it would cost to send things to/fro Kenya. The Fedex API is pretty unclear on what to do in this situation.

Now, Fedex is just a recent example but this unique challenge is felt in almost everything that we build for DukaPress. If we were based in, say, then UK building DukaPress from there we would never come across any of these challenges. It seems that, in general, little thought is paid to places like Kenya….but why? On one hand it does indeed make some sense to ignore us because we cannot yet match revenues from elsewhere. But it still feels wrong to me. In Fedex’s case, they have an office in Kenya, why not make their API work as well in Kenya as elsewhere?

What do you make of this situation?

4 Responses

  1. Joe Buchman says:

    Hello, I liked the elements of DukaPress that you have already designed. I would like to propose a customisation project for you. I have a site using a designed WP template called GeoPlaces. it is at http://shopguide.co.nz. (all data here is only test). I need to offer my visitors the ability to save posts in a favorates folder. Now this is very close to what you already have i.e. favorates folder = shoppingcart. Except it is simplier because we do not need checkout, shipping or payment functions. The favorates folder could be linked to cookies or ip address as user is not logged in. An additional function would be a favorates folder for logged in people as well. What do you think? How much would the customisation cost? let me know.
    Many thanks – Joe.

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  3. Pam says:

    I agree that if Fedex (or any company) is doing business in that country, they should have the API solutions set for it. They know where they are. It has to be easier for them and how many businesses use different shippers because of something along these lines. Free advertising if the businesses are using software that has Fedex built in, also.

  4. Hello guys. First of all I want to say that I’m realy excited to know that the developers of DukaPress are based in Kenya, Africa. I’m based in Nigeria, West Africa. I realy agree with you. It seems that software developers do not consider Africans when developing. I have an online store recently installed but the default payment modules are not favourable to those of us living in Nigeria. Which means when people buy from my store I cannot get the money.

    I’m glad this ecommerce plugin was developed by Africans. However, i have a suggestion.

    Can you develop payment modules that will allow customers to pay using Liberty Reserve, VTN(Virtual Terminal Network), Fastecash, Alertpay and other payment processors common to Africans. I bet you, this will make your software so popular among millions of Nigerians and other Africans who are eager to make legitimate money online but always meet brickwall due to restrictions by payment processors like PayPal etc. You will also get generous donations for your efforts.

    Please give it a trial.
    Good luck to you all and well done.

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