Introducing Forward

The open source platform for custom e-commerce — with MongoDB

A full-featured, developer centric e-commerce platform that makes custom code easy, with powerful templates & expressive syntax.


Why does this matter?

Creative e-commerce is hard. There's no shortage of software, but out of the box solutions are rigid and frustrating for designers. Some are simple without being flexible. Others are flexible yet relentlessly complex. None of them make it easy to build outside pre-defined pages. That prevents the most interesting designs.

Let's face it. Real innovation in e-commerce is restricted to those who build the whole thing from scratch. It doesn't have to be that way.

So how do we fix it?

Programmers and designers clash because they speak a different language. Template systems were developed to solve this problem but they introduced new ones: What if your design change needs new data? What if your checkout flow goes from five steps to one? Suddenly a simple change requires a back-end re-write. That gets expensive quick.

We need to change what it means to build a template.

Free style templates

Designs should be totally boundless, but also easy to build, read and maintain. They should use practical standards that all web developers are familiar with, like HTML, CSS, and path-based routing. They should favor convention over configuration.

And, templates should have the power to direct your data.

{get $products from "/products" [search => $params.query]}

<h1>Found {$products.count} products matching "{$params.query}"</h1>

{foreach $products as $product}
	<h2>{$product.title}</h2>
	{$product.description|markdown}
	...
{/foreach}

With these conventions, for example, a custom product feed in one line of code:

{"/categories/featured/products"|get|json_encode}

REST methods are good for simplifying the interaction between web server and client, and as it turns out, REST methods are also good for mediating the interaction between templates and business logic. Now you don't have to be a JavaScript slinging ninja rockstar jedi to use this to your advantage.

{get $orders from "/orders" [status => "pending"]} 

{put [status => "shipped"] in "/orders/12345"} 

{post [to => "customer@example.com"] in "/emails/good-bye"} 

{delete "/channels/subscribers/entries/customer@example.com"}

The Admin is a template, too

If there's one thing we learned from a decade of building e-commerce sites, it's that every business eventually needs a custom admin interface to fit its process. Sometimes it's as simple as adding one more field to the shipment page and packing slip. Not having it leads to expensive workarounds or lost revenue.

It should be easy to build or customize your admin interface. Try the Admin demo and get this: it's built exactly the same way you would build a front-end store template, without complex programming. Design is important here too, so it's developed with Twitter Bootstrap to make things easier.

Combined with MongoDB by default — it's now easier than ever to customize admin screens without complex schemas, or database migrations.

Custom is great, but you shouldn't have to go there if you don't need it. The default admin interface is feature rich out of the box, easily extendable with plugins, and even completely replaceable with other admin templates.

Empowered by these ideas, developers will build many purpose-specific interfaces that will change what businesses expect out of their software.

We aim for a vibrant mix of free and commercial plugins and templates. Beyond the obvious, there must be a common way for developers to distribute their work. Where would a modern developer ecosystem be without an app store?

Software is a service

Open source ensures you can change the software, but who wants to dig through code blind? Peer support is important, but so is professional support. Developer support is where most open source platforms fall short.

We believe open source software is a service. It should be easy to get help if you need it. We will offer on-demand support and hosting beginning in alpha.

We also believe in supporting other hosting and service providers, to ensure there will always be a wide range of options. You must be able to take your code and data any where, at any time.

It all boils down to this

You shouldn't have to jump between e-commerce platforms chasing features. And developers shouldn't have to get deep into back-end programming just to turn raw designs into dynamic pages.

When you start to build a new web store, for your business or client, you shouldn't for one second have to ask what the platform allows your site to do.

The platform should be more like a modern framework, focused on giving developers more leverage; not caught up selling restrictive software licenses.

Free and open source

Scheduled for public release in 2013. The code will be 100% free forever, supported by our team plus a community of open source developers.

Need it sooner? Join the alpha, tell us about your project and download the alpha version. We look forward to meeting others that see a future where e-commerce platform design is innovative again.

Join the Forward Alpha



Now is the time.

Free forever

Software will be free as in beer and freedom, licensed under Apache 2.0. Funded by premium hosting and support.

Design matters

Better design by web designers who enjoy total freedom and the lack of back-end programming.

E-commerce with Mongo

Runs with MongoDB by default, making your data fast, easy to read and edit. Prefer SQL? That's possible, too.

Custom admin

Take control of your admin template, built with Twitter Bootstrap for easy hacking. Add product fields by simply editing HTML.

Full-featured

Made for businesses that can't compromise functionality for simplicity. Features are many, and made to extend.

Multi-channel, mobile friendly

It almost goes without saying, Forward is ideal for multi-channel and multi-device e-commerce apps.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Forward built with?

Built primarily with PHP and MongoDB, based on a new micro MVC framework with a REST-like model layer.

We envision porting the e-commerce API and template system to JavaScript, Ruby, Python, Java, and beyond.

Does it have [insert feature]?

It's still early and many features are in development, but the platform does most of what any online business needs today.

Additional features like subscriptions, digital downloads, custom reporting, and internationalization are on the road map.

When can I download it?

The alpha version is available for download now. It's early and will change significantly before reaching official public release.

You're welcome to use any version for commercial purposes. We appreciate your feedback.