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Program your own shopping area: Beware the fallacy of independence!

This post is also available in: Deutsch

Today I’d like to share an insight that just caught my eye while I was working. As a lawyer involved in the development of T&Cs and other documents for a new project in the gaming sector, it is my job to also oversee the processes involved in selling online. While dealing with the myriad of regulations and requirements, I came up with the idea for this blog post.

I want to emphasize that I speak as someone who actually benefits when clients choose to do everything themselves. But I am also a passionate supporter of efficiency and smart solutions. Sometimes, in the late hours of the night, while navigating complex legal texts, I wonder how many creative and innovative ideas are lost in the minds of entrepreneurs because they have to deal with things that are not their core competencies.

The enthusiastic sparkle in a startup founder’s eyes when he talks about his vision, the fire and passion that resonates in developers’ voices when they talk about new features and designs – these are the moments that drive me. And it’s these moments that make me want to show that there are alternatives that allow you to focus on what really matters.

Let me be clear: I am not an opponent of self-reliance. Quite the opposite. But I think it’s important to ask yourself the right questions: Where are my strengths? Where can I add the most value? And what can I delegate or make more efficient through proven solutions?

With these thoughts in mind, I invite you to join me in diving into the world of e-commerce development and exploring the possibilities of making smart choices that are not only legally compliant, but also conducive to creativity and innovation.

The tempting and the risky

There is something alluring about being independent and having everything under your own control, especially when it comes to the design and features of an online shopping space. I’m the first to appreciate the creativity and innovation that can go into a custom design and custom features. It’s like creating a piece of art that reflects exactly what you have in your head. It gives you a sense of freedom and independence that’s hard to put into words.

But here’s the catch: there’s also the reverse side of the coin. The legal requirements that come with running an online store are enormous. And I say that as someone who swims in the depths of legal documents. Sometimes it feels like navigating through a jungle of paragraphs and articles, where every step must be carefully considered. The trees are the laws and regulations that must be followed, and the vines are the fine details that can make the difference between legality and a legal nightmare.

Moreover, this jungle is constantly changing. New laws are enacted, existing regulations are amended, and court decisions can affect the interpretation of regulations. You could say that it is a living ecosystem in which you must always be vigilant.

And this is where cost comes into play. Not only the financial cost of potential penalties and litigation, but also the cost in time and mental energy. Every hour spent digging through legal regulations is an hour that can’t be spent developing innovative features or fine-tuning the design.

Therefore, it is crucial to find a balance. It’s about shaping the artwork you want to create with the tools you have at your disposal, while making sure you’re on solid ground when it comes to legal and regulatory compliance.

Why not have the best of both worlds?

I don’t want to discourage you from creating your own designs and features. This brings character and uniqueness to your brand. But I would also like to emphasize that serious consideration should be given to the use of existing backends and interfaces that ensure legal compliance.

Right of withdrawal, DSGVO and more

Just think of the right of withdrawal, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), user education and the button solution. These are only part of the iceberg. Errors in the implementation of these regulations can lead to significant legal consequences and financial losses.

Proven solutions as training wheels

The good news is that there are proven e-commerce platforms that have decades of experience and have continuously adapted their processes to new laws and customer needs. Proven and well-known e-commerce platforms or plugins for content management systems have many years of experience in complying with UX/UI rules or specifications for consumer protection law, revocation rights and the integration of GTCs as well as many other aspects and can comply better and more clearly with the rules of the GoBD, for example, in the backend. Even if the adaptation to German law sometimes requires paid plugins, compliance is much easier to implement than programming a system from scratch.

But that’s not all – these platforms also come with a wealth of features and integrations to help you manage your online business effectively. From payment gateways to shopping cart solutions to tools for marketing and SEO, it’s impressive how much these platforms help make it easier to get started in e-commerce.

They are also often flexible and scalable. You can start small and then, as your business grows, add more features or upgrade to more powerful plans. Moreover, many of these platforms offer a rich selection of themes and design options, so you can customize your website according to your taste without compromising on functionality.

Another important aspect is the community and support behind these platforms. Often there is a large number of developers and users willing to share their knowledge and help with problems. This can be especially valuable when facing a challenge that you have not experienced before.

Overall, choosing a proven e-commerce platform can be a smart decision that allows you to focus on your core competencies while benefiting from the expertise and resources embedded in the platforms.

My advice to you

My advice is simple: use your energy and creativity to develop a unique design and innovative features, but consider the value of relying on proven backends and interfaces to ensure legal compliance. This will not only save you time and nerves, but also minimize the risk of legal problems.

As someone who is on the front lines of legal documents, I can assure you that this is a wise move. The beauty of this is that you still have full control over your front end – the design and features that your customers see and use. At the same time, you can rely on a solid, legally compliant foundation working in the background.

Interestingly, I see parallel trends in blockchain technology as well. There, people often try to reinvent the wheel, even though there is already a wealth of frameworks and solutions that can be adapted and used as a basis. It’s as if everyone has a desire to develop their own revolutionary technology, not realizing that it’s often more efficient to build on what already exists.

A good example of this is computer game development. In the past, it was common for developers to build their own graphics engines from scratch. But over time, many have realized that this is not only time-consuming, but often inefficient. Today, most developers turn to proven engines like Unity or Unreal Engine, which provide a solid foundation on which to build their own unique elements.

Shockingly, this realization does not yet seem to be as widespread in the e-commerce sector. Here, people often still try to do everything themselves, even when it comes to aspects that have already been perfected by others. I would encourage the e-commerce community to take a cue from the game development industry. Acknowledge the benefits of leveraging proven backends and interfaces, and focus on bringing your own unique and innovative ideas to life on the front end. In doing so, you can rest assured that you are working from a solid, legally compliant foundation that has your back.

Final thoughts

There is no shame in drawing on the expertise and resources available in proven e-commerce solutions. In an ever-changing digital landscape, agility and adaptability are as important as innovation. It’s about being smart about where you put your energy and what aspects of the project you take charge of.

As a consultant who not only practices law but also has 25 years of experience in business consulting, I have often seen how critical it is to balance a clear vision with practical considerations. The synergy that comes from recognizing and targeting your strengths while drawing on proven solutions for specific areas can be incredibly powerful.

Your creative ideas deserve to thrive in an environment that is not only inspiring, but also safe. A strong, legally compliant backend creates exactly this solid foundation. This gives you the freedom to focus on your unique design and innovative features without having to constantly worry about meeting all the legal requirements.

As someone who advises clients and oversees the legal aspects of online shopping processes, I would like to offer my expertise to assist you in this decision making process. Together, we can develop a customized approach that respects your vision while ensuring the efficiency and legal compliance essential to e-commerce success.


Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.


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