Building a price comparison website.

Last year I bought a website domain to build a store in order to sell children’s clothes, toys and accessories. This was going to be driven by the work my wife was doing as a hobby in her spare time but unfortunately due to having a child and going to college to study childcare she just hasn’t had the time to do it.

So I was then left with a domain and nothing to do with it which made me think what things could I pivot too.

Now in my day job I work currently as a solutions architect in big data for a bank so I spend my day thinking around how to give people access to data in order to make decisions.

I wanted to build something where I could use my knowledge from my current role as well as my previous roles of support/developer/BI developer in order to build something not only I could use but would also help others in future. With Christmas coming up there was going to be deals left right and centre on every kind of product so why not build something that could compare all the different prices for children’s toys and then let it automatically tell me where I could get it for cheaper.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s already a plethora of sites that do this for other places but every time I try to use one I seem to notice the same thing over and over again. The products listed for a certain price make you think wow I’m getting a great deal until you click through them and find out it’s a completely different product to the one you thought you were going to get (I’m looking at you, google shopping!)

No, no they are not. They are a different product, or similar product but not “THE PRODUCT” I was looking for.

So there it is … my problem statement for my website that I’m going to build.

“Build a price comparison website for children’s products that gives valuable insight into where the best price is at any given time specifically for the UK”.

I know this is quite small minded, why not build a price comparison website for everything!!! I hear you say. Well in my eyes that’s been part of the problem up until now. People are building price comparison websites in one of two ways. The have a large volume of data so they want to join it all up together shown below.

Instead, let’s break this down into smaller chunks and carry out bottom up design instead of top down. eg. Instead of building a price comparison site for the world, lets just look at children’s products and what a comparison site for that would look like.

  1. Research — Specifically for children’s toys, who sells them in the UK, what do they sell ? Let’s have a look at their robots.txt file to see what we can create, are there also any sitemaps that help us build up what this data should look like in our big data database.
  2. What does the anatomy of the solution look like. What should we use to build this website. (This is going to be built iteratively as new ideas come to me whilst working on the project so the focus has got to be on keeping everything simple!)
  3. Understand the principles of what we are doing. Why is this site going to give more value to everyone in and it all stems from the research and the underlying solution.
  4. This is really about looking to simplify things for the end users.
  5. Following through and building the shit!
  6. Sense checking that everything we have built so far adheres to what we were trying to do in the first place. (I’m not going to lie I will do some of this up front because i’m too organised to just bash out some code without thinking about the overall solution).

I’m not trying to set out hard and fast rules than i need to stick to around what the product needs to be. As long as it answers the problem statement as a bare minimum who knows what this well end up looking like!

Feel free to follow me on this journey and I’ll try to document as much as possible so that others can learn from my mistakes along the way.

As a semi established IT professional it’s the least I can do.