Over the past few weeks, things have been coming together pretty well around payment solutions for Quplo. One thing that’s been especially insightful is our growing understanding of the various services, contracts and companies involved in just being able to sell your stuff online in 2010. It’s sort of terrifying that this problem still hasn’t been solved concretely for worldwide businesses.
But that’s a story for another time. Today we want to talk a bit about Spreedly, who, as the part of the chain that our users will be interacting with, also seems to be the only part of the chain that actually knows what it’s doing and cares about how it presents itself.
Spreedly, in a word, is great. Unlike Chargify, which shot itself in the foot by announcing to its users that prices would double, or FastSpring, which has a sort of murky-feeling website and hadn’t launched subscriptions yet as we were researching them, Spreedly just works.
Paying with Spreedly
First of all, the user experience of the payment process is fantastic. It’s so fantastic I had to tweet about it:
Here’s what it looks like:
Even though Spreedly doesn’t offer the ability to skin the payment screens to look like your own app, that’s okay, because they look great. They’re minimalistic, with great typography and UI elements, following modern design patterns, and without any awkwardness. Someone at Spreedly cares about this experience.
Managing plans and customers
But it’s not just the consumer-facing process that Spreedly nailed. The dashboard, the marketing site, the documentation – everything oozes an obsession with simplicity, minimalism and elegance. Spreedly is no-BS. There’s no jargon to parse. There’s only one plan ($19 per month + 20¢ per payment transaction). Everything does what it says it does.
A great API does less than you thought you wanted
And like everything, Spreedly’s API is barebones. You can barely even call it an API, it’s that straightforward. Here’s how it works: there are some URLs. You can POST to them, or GET from them, and in some cases PUT something. Authentication happens with HTTP Basic and all you do is send over a token as the username. No password required. Spreedly talks to your app using XML.
But wait, sometimes when dealing with payments, you need notifications, right? Spreedly’s API doesn’t do that stuff. It does two things: first, it constantly polls your app with a list of user IDs that currently have subscriptions (you can ask for the details afterwards). Second, it sends you emails whenever something more interesting happens.
The great thing about this minimal API is that Spreedly didn’t have to build and maintain a complex architecture and as a result, neither do we. All the other services we’ve come across have extensive features designed around keeping track of the status of subscriptions, event handling for exceptional situations, etc. Spreedly just has this air of “why?” about it. And we agree – email is enough. At least for now. Perhaps if we start making millions overnight, we’ll feel differently about it.
Spreedly with European businesses
But let’s return to the theme of these posts for a moment: Spreedly made it to the shortlist, but why is that?
It’s because Spreedly’s no-BS attitude allows them to support European businesses easily. One thing that helps is that they’ve based their internal architecture on the Ruby on Rails ActiveMerchant library, which comes built in with support for a lot of (mostly US-centric) payment service providers. And they’ve extended that with new support for providers their customers have asked for, including Ogone, which is based in Belgium and supports businesses in the Netherlands.
One thing that sort of sold us on Spreedly was their documentation around supported providers. They have a page dedicated to configuring each gateway to work with Spreedly, including screenshots and detailed steps to get things working. In our case, their Ogone setup guide is great.
Beyond the shortlist
That concludes the payment provider shortlist. It might be obvious that we’ve decided to continue with Spreedly for the time being – we may revisit our decision later on, but for now, the simplicity of Spreedly’s service and the overall feeling projected by their site, documentation, API, and service put them ahead of Chargify and FastSpring.
But choosing Spreedly isn’t the end of the road. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, there remains a fundamental challenge for us to solve. Although Spreedly handles subscription logic and credit card input and storage, it’s not a payment service provider in the strictest sense of the term. We still need to connect it to an acquiring bank with whom we have a merchant account so that the money paid to Spreedly can be transferred to us. And that part of the adventure is even more complicated than the one we just faced, it would seem.
We’ll write another post in the near future detailing what we’ve learned there, as well. For now, we need to get back to work as it doesn’t look like there’s an equivalent to Spreedly in the merchant account-providing market…
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