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RedShop is a relative new comer on the Joomla ecommerce scene but it's offerings are genuinely impressive. I had some direct contact with redShop when we built the Shop Ignition Joomla template back in March and I really liked what I saw.

The scale of the extension is incredible and the templating system has a good balance between separating the design from the code, which makes theming the shop a pleasure for the non coder.

The following interview with Ronni from Redcomponent has been on the back burner for a little longer than I would have liked but I hope you will agree that it makes for some good reading.

Can you tell us a little about the history of redShop?

I was the main architect behind the first CMS and Ecommerce system that was approved by the Danish Banks Payment systems back in 1998, although it was ASP with VB classic and far from open source and Joomla! that's where it all started.

Over the years since then I have worked as a freelancer and with additional companies as an ecommerce- and later open source consultant and worked my way through at least 100 different webshop systems over a 10 year period.

Starting from 2004 I got involved with Mambo and as Joomla came out of the ground that was Mambo I went along with Joomla and slowly began to focus more and more on running a business purely based on Joomla! and Open Source technologies.

As a natural result of working only with Joomla! and keeping the focus on Joomla! only it was a matter of time before VirtueMart also was part of the plate we served to our customers in redWEB and also initially part of the extensions we built on redCOMPONENT.com (redVMMASSCART, redVMPRODUCTFINDER). However after more than 100 projects with VM it was clearly that we had hit the upper limit on how much we could change without having to do core hacks in VM on every job - and so the plans to create redSHOP was laid.

So in a very condensed version that is the history of redSHOP.

What is your inspiration for building redShop?

Well in part I mentioned some of the path towards redSHOP in my previous answer, but the main inspiration was to make a system where you could control more than 80% from the admin interface - by far the most webshop and ecommerce system in the world won't allow you to change more than 20% without being a professional developer - we wanted to combine templates and tags with the Joomla! framework and template system to allow for people to completely rebuilt all pages as to their needs and their wishes.

So the inspiration and the vision behind it is about empowering people to be creative and to draw outside of the box - as our motto is in redWEB - If you can draw it, you can do it! and as we all know there isn't a lot of limitations on what you can draw :)

The Joomla ecommerce extension space has been held, almost by default, by Virtuemart for some years now. However recently there have been some serious attempts at providing other viable alternatives to Virtuemart for Joomla users. What do you see are the biggest gaps in the ecommerce offerings at the moment? and what is it like developing an ecommerce extension in a more competitive marketplace?

Well we aim to be the number #1 pick by all Joomla! users when it comes to the ecommerce extensions - but we took the high road so to say. By that I mean instead of working on a "mini" system or very limited system we decided to go for the fully blown, full featured, full freedom component that has it all and offers it all - This also means that some of the competition out there is focusing on different segments then us but our first goal was to enable all the Joomla! Sitebuilders of the world so they could do some great webshops for themselves, their users and customers.

But part of what we are working on now - after having taken the position of the most serious full blown ecommerce component - is to make it easier to get started with through cooperation with a Joomla template club like Joomlabamboo but also with the new Start Wizard. More meaningfulness in the labeling and tooltips in the 1.1 series etc. we build on to make it easier for the not so experienced site builders to work with too.

As to gaps - I am not sure there are many gaps left - in general VirtueMart's ability to not live up to people expectations for several years meant that a lot of people went into the market to full out the void, but by now I would say that the ecommerce segment if perhaps one of the most catered for and most competitive components areas for Joomla - and this of cause is only a benefit for the users as this means that all of us developers work even harder to bring the best out to the users :)

Can you talk a little about the templating in redShop? Is it MVC compatible? How easy is it for users to make changes ot the layout and appearance of their shop?

Its 100% MVC and you can template override any template in redSHOP directly in your Joomla template - but not only that - you can also use all of the tags in redSHOP so instead of dealing with complex php code and having to understand the full Joomla! framework and being a PHP developer you can actually do it with a pure knowledge of HTML and CSS.

It doesn't get easier than that - and then there is full Joomla! content plugin support so if you want to implement graphs, tabs, sliders or any other fancy or smart Joomla! content plugin into your webshop - just install it and they will work directly in redSHOP too.

My claim is that redSHOP by far has the easiest and most advanced templating system of any Joomla! webshop component - Others may allow template overrides too but it requires a PHP knowledge level far beyond what's required in redSHOP.

You recently switched redShop to a free extension. Can you tell us why you decided to make that change?

As I mentioned earlier we want to be the number #1 webshop component for Joomla - and we take great pride in how far we have come with redSHOP so we really wanted to share that with everyone.

So now you get a free redSHOP component, free basic modules and extensions, free support (subscriber support excluded) and free documentation.

We have a support team of 12 people now (Frontenders, project leaders, developers) and a development team of 10 people on redSHOP and in the coming months we will expand our developer and support teams with an additional people - by the end of the year redWEB ApS which is the mother company for redCOMPONENT.com iRedHOST.com redHOST.dk and redWEB.dk will consist of 35 employees - with 23 of these in Denmark and the last 12 people spread all around the world - No other component service in the world has this many people working dedicated on servicing their users and building new and better components :)

This does however also mean that we do require some income to make all of this work - but our entire concept is built upon creating so much value for our subscribers that they decide to become subscribers and just now a Pro subscription will give access to close to 200 extensions (components, modules and plugins) + templates + subscriber support + email support and in the coming months we have no less than 3 new components, 1 huge add on for redSHOP and a series of redSHOP powered templates coming out for all of our subscribers on redCOMPONENT.com and on top of that we will relaunch redCOMPONENT.com in a brand new design over the summer with a new feature for subscribers to automatically upgrade redSHOP with a single click from their site.

So the model is that we give out a lot for free and if a certain amount of people decide to support us by getting a subscription and in return receive massive value then everyone wins :)

Is redshop compatible with Joomla 1.6? If so ... What is your impression of working with the Joomla 1.6 api? What was your experience with porting the Joomla 1.5 codebase to 1.6 like?

redSHOP is not yet Joomla 1.6 compliant.

redShop developement will have 3 paths onwards:

1) We keep the 1.1. series of redSHOP for Joomla 1.5 as the stable version

2) We continue the Joomla 1.5 version of redSHOP as 1.2 series implementing new features (Currently we have 0 bug tasks in queue and 125 feature requests)

3) We "clone" our redSHOP 1.1.6 Stable to a Joomla 1.6 version – Which we hope to have ready by the first July.

We already have 4 of our components finished for J1.6 now, but still not released and part of what we are waiting on is having some of our bigger components like redSHOP, redEVENT and redMEMBER ready for J1.6 too.

But unlike some other component houses we are porting all of our extensions to 1.6 and then onwards with incremential updates rather than migrations we are following the Joomla progression and growth from 1.6 to 1.7 on to 1.8 which is the next big Joomla release with long time support.

If you haven't checked out redShop yet I highly recommend you take a look at the feature list or download a copy when considering which ecommerce extension to use on your next Joomla project.

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