Integrating the App: Running A Race

Sometimes integrating a new third-party app feels like running a race.  Motivational (?) comments like “our whole company is waiting for this” does not relieve the pressure of getting it done right.  It was a two-week marathon that ended in a two-hour sprint.  I felt stressed and tired, but also quite accomplished.


Our Goal

One of our UX goals is to improve our international customers’ checkout experience.  Dealing with the duties, taxes and everything else involved with international shipping is daunting on the best of days and will take up too much time/resources/manpower if we do it in-house.  A trusted third-party provider empowers us to offer our products to customers who don’t live in the US.


A Big Change

Less than a year ago, we changed our third-party international checkout provider to one owned by a major player in the shipping industry, who I will nickname, FE.  We spent a lot of time trying to streamline the international fulfillment workflow. I got a lot of complaints from our customer support team and passed them onto our account executive at FE.  We could tell they were very new at this, but they were very responsive to our needs and as time went on we encountered less and less issues.


Improvements on the Way

But FE is not resting on their laurels.  They have long-term plans to make their customer checkout experience better, which in turn will make our international checkout experience better!  These improvements are in line with our UX goals for our own customers and are truly exciting to us.

The new platform we integrated is the first in a long list of improvements, which will eventually lead to a lot of cost-savings for our international customers.  We made it pretty and easier to use.  Phase 2 will make our international customers love us even more.


The Guinea Pig

One of the best things about my boss is that he’s not afraid to try new things.  I get to play with so many things at work that I am learning about new technologies all the time.

And our business partners often ask us to implement applications they’re trying out before anyone else.  We are in that sweet spot, you see.  Being the market leader in our niche, we are big enough for a pilot test before they approach other companies.

Admittedly being a guinea pig can be scary – especially when you’re messing with the checkout process.  But when you look at the reward of giving your customers a checkout experience that they will love, it is definitely worth the risk!


So We Ran the Race…

I think the keys to any successful integration of third-party apps are:

  1. Good documentation.  Make sure your instructions on how to proceed with the integration are easy to understand.
  2. Assume beginner level technical ability when dealing with your integration counterpart.  Never assume that the person who is implementing the integration is on the same technical level as you are or has the same knowledge of the code you wrote.
  3. An easy way of communication between the teams involved.  Slack was a great way for teams to be always available.  But be warned, being always available sometimes leads to micromanagement and not all developers like that.
  4. Quality control.  Test, test and test some more!  As a developer, testing is very important to me, that is why I feel stressed when I am rushed to finish a task.  Because that usually means test cases will be sacrificed.  Test as many of the possible cases as you can and then launch the product.  Do not launch the product and then wait for bugs to be reported!


FE and I had a good run.  We made it to the finish line and our international customers are enjoying the fruits of our labor.  Now on to the next race with another team on another adventure!