A little later than originally planned we're pleased to be able to say that our Expansion Shop is now back online selling all of our Train Simulator 2015 expansions.
With the changes we have had to make following the recent problems with the website the sale and delivery of our expansions has been the most involved to solve. When we originally started publishing expansions for MSTS way back in 2007 we had a website that was fully built on Open Source software with all the features we wanted fully integrated into the one platform.
As time has gone by weaknesses, changes or the discontinuation of modules has seen us gradually move to independently supplied and hosted solutions for things like the helpdesk and mailing list as we felt these offered a more stable, reliable and long term solution.
The shop component of the website was the last remaining integration in use and recent upgrades removed the native ability to sell and deliver digital products. This change in the capability of the software along with nagging concerns about the security of customer data and problems encountered using the mail servers of our webhost to deliver download details lead us to look for an alternative solution which saw us considering 3rd party ecommerce services.
The result of this has been the movement of our sales and delivery system to FastSpring. The FastSpring service allows a high degree of integration with our website and the styling of their shop pages can be customised to such a degree that it should be a smooth and virtually invisible transition between our website and the elements provided by FastSpring. What's more, we can now offer direct card billing alongside PayPal and a number of other payment options.
As a consequence of using FastSpring the security of data should increase along with secure connections at the sensitive stages of the order process. Also, there should be less delay in download emails being received and more reliable download connections too!
Unfortunately, switching to an external provider in this way is a slightly more expensive solution with higher charges being levied on each transaction than our previous system using PayPal and NoChex. As a consequence, we've had to reluctantly raise the prices of our expansions to cover the increased costs involved. This isn't something we have done lightly but it is the first time this has been necessary since the release of the Class A bogie tanks.
Our experience in working with FastSpring to set up and integrate their system with our website has been reliable, efficient and professional so hopefully this will be reflected in the customer experience too.