Friday, 18 January 2013

PayPal should be easy, right?

Paying by PayPal is easy. Too easy, some would say!

Just click a button, enter your PayPal password, confirm the payment, and, hey presto, you're the proud owner of a new iPad / collectible classic LP / ticket for T in the Park (depending on your taste and budget) which will be sent to you as fast as Royal Mail will allow.

No worries about entering your home address and credit card number into some dodgy-looking website; PayPal already knows your details and doesn't reveal them to the merchant, so you feel much more secure that your personal information is safe.

That's the customer's perspective, and it's probably because PayPal is perceived as so easy and safe by shoppers that many stores report an increase of at least 14% in sales when they implement a PayPal shopping cart.

Implementing PayPal isn't so easy

But not in a bad way.

Screenshot of a PayPal 'Buy Now' button
It's actually quite easy to whack a PayPal 'Buy Now' button onto your website, and allow the customer to buy something. It's all the other stuff around it that takes the time.

PayPal keeps the merchant (seller) safe, as well as the customer, by setting up lots of checks and balances to ensure that nobody (hackers or the like) can spoof a payment and get goods for free, or masquerade their way into your PayPal account and relieve you of your hard-earned cash.

Implementing those checks correctly and checking for errors along the way takes a bit of development time, but it's worth it to know that the transaction is secure.

A Digital Download system using PayPal

I've just finished implementing a time-limited digital file download system, integrated with PayPal's Express Checkout 'Buy Now' payment button.

Once the payment has been confirmed by PayPal's Instant Payment Notification (IPN) and Payment Data Transfer (PDT) APIs, the application automatically creates the digital files and sends the temporary download link to the customer's email.

Although developing and testing the application took some time because of the aforementioned checks, I'm happy that the resulting online store is better and safer as a result. Plus, from my client's point of view (the online store merchant), he's got a bespoke application which is saving him money compared to the online downloading site he was using previously.

See the new online store here: