Online Designer Overview

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The 3P Online Designer is an exact functional copy of the 3P Desktop Publisher, except that it runs inside an HTML5 capable browser and needs no installation on the client side. It uses the same templates, layouts and product definitions as the desktop version, is easy to install and requires no extra server database. You can connect it to your existing backend, or run it together with the 3P Shop & Backoffice products. It comes with a Project Manager and an Image Uploader, which allows the user to upload large amounts of images in the background while working on his project. The 3P Online Designer is probably the fastest, feature richest and most stable application of it's kind on the market of photo books and web2print. It combines the product design flexibility and editing speed of the 3P Desktop Publisher with the convenience of online editing through HTML5.
 

Workflow

The user launches the Online Designer in a HTML5 capable browser and logs in using a login form, provided by you and hosted inside the OD.
The user selects and designs product, then selects Purchase product.
The PDF pages are sent from the OD server to your backend server.
The user is redirected to the shopping cart on the backend server, where he finalizes the order.
The backend server stitches the PDF pages into a single file (optional) and puts the job into a print queue.

 
Integration Tasks

Define a Products.xml file with all products and design each product layout.
Rent a designated virtual/root Windows server with sufficient resources. For security reasons, you cannot host the Online Designer on the same server your shop & payment gateway is running on.
Install the Online Designer on this server. We can do this for you (see price sheet), but there’s also a detailed manual which you can follow.
Provide a login/registration mechanism, which is hosted by an HTML control inside the Online Designer software.
Integrate the upload interface of the Online Designer in your backend. We provide an Upload Connector in PHP, which receives the PDF files from the OD server and stores them in a folder on your backend server. You have to integrate this connector into your backend server, so the PDFs are assigned to existing customers.

 
Technical Background

An Online Editor application is usually a complex client/server 3-tier system, consisting of a client application in Javascript, which is interpreted inside a browser window, a server application which hosts most of the business logic, and a database which stores all the page and project data. Between these components, data is swapped through heavy Ajax communication and converted from XML to JSON objects to SVG (vectorial graphics) and back to JSON and XML, only to be stored as binary data in a database and later converted to PDF. This classical architecture relies on redundant business logic and data, which must be replicated constantly over the internet and interpreted in different browser types, relying on safe and stable communication. Through communication snags and handshake errors, inconsistent data states can arise from editing changes in the client (user interface) not being transferred to the server's business layer and database, and vice-versa. Furthermore, server business logic modifications and bug fixes must be replicated to a different programming language on the client side accordingly, Ajax communication must be enhanced, and all changes must be tested under numerous browser types and versions. It's not surprising, that most developers are highly stressed with 3-tier projects, and resulting applications are frequently stripped but costly versions of their desktop counterparts, which live in completely separate and thus redundant code bases.

With the 3P Online Designer we have found a better way. Through clever combination of HTML5 and Windows server technology we've managed to keep most of the business logic on the server only, avoiding redundant data and heavy Ajax communication. All code is identical to the desktop version, leading to 100 % feature parity on all platforms (Mac, Windows, tablets). Whenever we enhance the desktop edition, the changes are immediately available on all other platforms. Data is stored on the server only, and database requirements are limited to a few hundred MBs for the whole user base. Every project is stored in a well designed, transactional file storage on the server, and can be moved easily to another server if space limitation or load balancing requires it. No user can lock down the database or cause data loss across projects, and since data is not replicated across the internet it cannot get corrupted, avoiding user frustration and high support expenses. Product designs, templates and layouts can be fully reused, and installation of the OE is a matter of hours, not weeks. Trough combination of the best web technologies available today, the 3P Online Designer has grown to become an equal counterpart of the 3P Desktop Publisher. Ease of maintenance, stability and flexibility are not available at this level in any other Online Editor on the market.
 
Requirements

At least one virtual, root or dedicated Windows Server 2008 R2 or 2012. Here are 2 example prices in 2017 from Strato.de and Contabo.de. We don't recommend "United Hoster" in Stuttgart, as they seem to be a bit on the shady side. If you already have a server there and plan to upgrade, we highly advise to switch to an alternative provider:

Virtual Server: € 25 / month - 24 GB RAM, 6 virtual cores, 600 GB SSD disk
Root Server: € 129 / month - 42 GB RAM, 8 dedicated cores, 700 GB SSD disk

Optional: additional disks for backups, additional storage servers or cloud storage, and further servers for load balancing (balancing software included in 3P)

lightbulb_onThe SSD disk server will run much faster with few concurrent users than the root server, because of the extremely fast disk. However, the number of concurrent users will be limited by RAM. If you need both, speed and RAM, you may have to rent a dedicated server or build your own.

sign_warningBefore you choose a server or cloud plan for your business model and product portfolio, please perform realistic field tests. The Online Designer is a good alternative for customers ONLY if you have a powerful server! A simple approximation would be 2 concurrent users per 1 GB memory. We tested in 2015 with the following most recent HTML5 capable browsers on a 4 GB Windows 2012 Server with 8 concurrent users:

Functional: Firefox v39, Chrome v43, Opera v30, Internet Explorer v10, Safari
Not functional: IE 9 and older, mobile platforms (Android, iOS). Most mobile browsers did not provide full HTML5 capability in 2015.

 

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