I’ve been building a product for displaying announcements and alert messages on ecommerce websites, called InfoToggle. It started out as a side project and has now grown to a point where it might actually be useful to others as well.
The problem InfoToggle solves is pretty simple and is something we see in my current work at POP Vakuutus quite often. We sell insurance but a successful sale depends on multiple external systems, for example the national vehicle database Trafi, a credit check service, and customer authentication, a service provided by banks. Any of these systems might and do break from time to time. Especially Trafi has a notoriously bad uptime record and often does unscheduled service breaks they only announce afterwards. During an outage we might not be able to sell a single vehicle insurance but such is life.
If any of these services breaks there’s not much we can do but wait. One thing we can do is communicate the disruption and its extent to our customers. Due to the ecommerce aspect it has to be done in a way that doesn’t scare away customers not affected by the disruption. If a disruption prevents customers from buying a car insurance, it’s best to only inform customers about to buy car insurance and preferably ask them to try again later.
Here’s where InfoToggle comes in: it lets site owners create messages for situations like these and easily *toggle* them on. For service breaks known in advance a message can be timed to be visible the duration of the break.
Of course the messages added to your site can be whatever: announcements, discount codes… InfoToggle lets you add any HTML, CSS, and JS code you need to your site. But I feel it’s useful to frame it around situations where you quickly need to communicate things to your customers. Once an initial set of messages have been defined they can easily be duplicated and modified.
Not every site needs a system like this–a good CMS will let you do all of this. What I’m willing to bet is that there are a lot of ecommerce sites that don’t have a good CMS :)
InfoToggle started as and still is a side project. One motivator was to try out new tech (which I will expand on later) and have fun coding challenges.
It also provides a chance to practice many non-technical skills like product development and marketing.
Of course being limited to a couple of hours after work and on weekends means any progress is a bit slow but the development combined to trying to sell a product gives great focus. There are countless things you could do but you have to choose the single most important feature (or bug) and get it done. I think it’s also great for learning new things.
InfoToggle is now at a point where technically it works and it’s in production use. There are a ton of features and improvements still to do but I also need to focus on marketing and selling hard. All in all it’s still super early and we’ll see how it goes. I’ll keep you posted :)