Stripe vs Stripe Connect and what you need to know

One of the responsibilities we take seriously at North UX, is making sure that our clients are aware of liabilities and security when it comes to technology. And there is nothing more sensitive than when you deal with financial data for your own customers. Over the past few months we’ve noticed that more and more plugin developers are making a move to Stripe Connect vs Stripe for payment gateways, and we think this is a substantial change and want to make you aware of what Stripe Connect is vs normal Stripe implementations.

What is Stripe?

Stripe is a payment processer – it allows you to take a credit card payment as well as Apple Pay and various other payment methods, without having to directly comply with PCI. That means Stripe manages your customer financial data so that you don’t have to worry about security on your own website for that information. At North UX we LOVE Stripe. It is our payment gateway of choice.

What is Stripe Connect?

Stripe Connect is a platform that allows one Stripe account to collect funds on behalf of another Stripe account. The platform Stripe account collects the funds, and then delivers them to the connected Stripe account, or vice versa. There are a variety of ways this can be set up, and a variety of use cases where this does make sense. Think of this like how Uber or Lyft work. You pay Uber, Uber takes a cut of what you have paid, and then sends a cut to the driver. We will be sharing a case study soon that outlines how we used Stripe Connect on a client project in a way that was a win for all parties involved.

Our Concerns with Stripe Connect

We have some concerns with the Stripe Connect platform and how we’ve been seeing it implemented by plugin developers. The platform account is not required to collect funds from the transaction, it’s an optional part of the Stripe Connect API. We’ve noticed that plugins such as Gravity Forms, and Restrict Content Pro – both plugins we are big fans of have switched from allowing you to input standard Stripe API keys, to giving users the Stripe Connect button to connect their Stripe account. It’s certainly an easier way for people to connect things up, but at what “cost”? When you click on the Stripe Connect button, seen here, be sure you are aware of what you are actually giving access to.

The platform account will be able to see all the transactions that have happened, ever! And if granted the right to “collect payments” on your behalf, can change or manipulate those transactions, as well as in some instances change and manipulate your payouts. When you connect to a platform account, you are granting access to your customers private information, via the Stripe Dashboard. The platform account is provided access to Stripe’s reporting portal which shows transactions that pass through the plugin, but also any other transactions in your Stripe account. If you want a more detailed walk through of how this works, Gabor Javorszky – a North UX Team Member, has written a more technical article with a full walk-through, so jump on over to his personal site and read it.

Working around Stripe Connect

We do have work arounds for the plugins mentioned above to allow them to continue to function under a standard Stripe implementation, and can also make plugin recommendations or customizations for other WordPress plugins to ensure that you are not using the Stripe Connect platform and granting plugin developers access to your customers data and your money, unless absolutely necessary.

Working with Stripe Connect

If you do choose to use Stripe Connect, please consider that your account has access to the personally identifiable information of your customers. This should be declared in your Privacy Policy and Terms of Service as being shared with a third party.

Get help with implementation no matter which option you choose

At North UX we are here to inform you regarding technology and best practices, and to help you make educated decisions for your business and customers. We are also here to implement technology in a way that works efficiently and effectively for your business. Use our contact form to ask us any questions, or let us know if you need help working around a plugin’s use of the Stripe Connect platform.

What is continuous deployment and why should we do it?

Continuous deployment is a development concept for software or technology solutions. Instead of building the entire project and then releasing a perfect product at once, continuous deployment focuses on starting with a minimum viable product (MVP) and making regular consistent improvements to it over time.

What’s in it for me?

More controllable costs for development work.

When creating a new product or implementing a custom marketing automation, it can be challenging to predict the timeline for development of each feature. So when we prioritize tasks, and provide regular feedback that includes costs involved, the project owner has greater control over how much time is invested in each aspect. We can set budgets, and then slow down or speed up to stay within budget requirements while also making constant improvements. This means you can allocate funds to your highest priorities first.

Small changes simplify the troubleshooting process.

When you introduce many changes at once, it can be hard to pinpoint which change had what impact. Think about a recipe gone wrong: if you added all the spices at once, it’s tougher to tell which spice threw off the flavor. Similarly, when we’ve made smaller, incremental changes in iteration and encounter a bug, knowing which change caused the bug is significantly easier. The solution to that issue can be reached more quickly.

Getting new offerings to users quickly: a faster return on investment

Let’s be honest, development is an investment. It’s not “cheap” initially. But the goal is often an efficiency for staff (saving them time and you money), or an increase in user engagement (boosting sales and interactions). So the sooner you launch your new offerings, the sooner you see an ROI. When we tighten the loop between development and introduction, you get the results much faster, making the investment even more worthwhile.

Better user experience with a smaller learning curve as users engage with one new feature at a time.

In general, people tend to resist change. This is especially true when interacting with websites or apps they are familiar with. There’s often an uproar when a social media or communication platform releases even a minor update. We humans are creatures of habit. This is why it is easier on the user to introduce one new feature at a time, leaving the rest of the site familiar and in their comfort zone. With small changes over time, you retain trust and engagement.

How to do it right

Dream big and then pare down your MVP

Particularly when starting something new at North UX, we invite our clients to dream BIG. This helps us lay a foundation for where the project could go in the long run. Looking at the big picture helps us see how features will interact with each other in a high-level scope. After we dream big, we streamline. We pare things down to the MVP: what’s the most critical for this project to thrive? Then we pare it down at least one more time. While it can be difficult to truly boil a project down to bare bones, especially when you’re dreaming and envisioning exciting things, taking a continuous development approach really does force us to start with the core essentials and grow from there.

Start where you are at

Not every client starts a project from scratch. In fact, most of our clients come to us with an existing site. The concept of continuous deployment does not have to be implemented from the beginning. It can be picked up and applied where you are right now. We can start “plugging the holes in the boat” to get your current product in a better place. Sometimes, as we do this, we realize we don’t need a whole new replacement. We can create some small changes over time to reach your business goals without re-inventing the wheel.

Maintain a clean codebase

This is critical if you want to be efficient in small iterations. It can be hard to spend money on something that doesn’t seem to yield tangible results from an end user perspective — but occasionally the investment of cleaning up the current code base is well worth it and the best place to start. Think of it like renovating an older home. Often, some renovations today can make sure the home stands strong for years to come. You should be using some type of version control to track the changes overtime, and the current code should be well structured and documented. Creating a working environment that various developers can easily jump into is crucial to continuous deployment, and perhaps the first order of business when adopting this strategy. This ensures you aren’t limited to only using one developer. Any developer on the North UX team (or even a developer from your internal staff!) can jump in and address an issue in a moment.

Think modular

When creating small changes, we can very easily create things in a modular fashion. Modular development is a little like creating a set of LEGO blocks. If you manufacture high-quality LEGOS and create them correctly, you can use those blocks to build a castle today — and then use those same blocks to build a house tomorrow.

When developing module pieces, each aspect can be easily moved and iterated on in various areas of one project, or even carried between projects. This cuts down on future development time. It also separates concerns and potential bugs, and helps in maintaining a predictable, clean codebase. Plus, modular development also allows us to plan well for ongoing changes, knowing what areas of the code base do not need to be touched.

When not to use continuous deployment

Just like almost anything in life, one size does not fit all. There are some instances where continuous deployment is not the right fit for the moment.

One scenario in which continuous deployment is not ideal is when introducing a new design or brand. Doing so in pieces communicates inconsistency and disorganization — not exactly the tone you want to strike when bringing something new to market. Continuous deployment is also not a good fit for rebuilding a new foundation of an existing product. Depending on your current technology, sometimes a foundational change is needed, so small changes over time isn’t practical. Once we’ve replaced the old with the new, we can shift to a continuous deployment approach for the remainder of the project needs.

Interested in learning more about how we can help with continuous deployment? Get started with an ongoing support agreement.

Look for the Lightening Bolt, Accelerated Mobile Pages

We’ve all done it. Clicked a link for an article that sounds interesting only to have it load so slowly it’s not worth the time to wait. This is particularly painful if you are on your phone or tablet. Wouldn’t it be great if we could know before clicking on a link that it’s going to load smoothly and in a timely manner? Well, good news, there is a solution.

I’m used to writing articles for website owners, designers or developers, but this one is for everybody. I want to introduce you to Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). AMP is a project by non other than Google, but it’s open source which means it’s accessible to anyone and is actually being built by any developer willing to contribute. It’s a framework designed to deliver extremely fast content for mobile.

Look for the Lightning Bolt

The AMP icon is a little lightning bolt, you may have actually seen it, but not known what it was. It pops up on an article in search results on mobile or in the upper right on an article linked within Facebook. These images were taken from my phone, the first from Facebook and the second of a Google search on Kansas City.

This means that the site has AMP and that the linked page will load quickly with all of the same content available on desktop, but without the lag. So click with confidence and enjoy your reading.

Accelerated Mobile Pages For Site Owners

I said this article was for everyone, but I can’t help but comment on what this means for my typical audience. If you don’t already have AMP available on your website you might want to consider it. Google is taking page load times and responsive usability into account when ranking search results. Articles utilizing AMP are not only given preference within the order of organic search results, as seen in the screen capture above, they are shown in a carousel with images. No other organic search result will get that level of billing from Google. These results are more common when searching for widely used phrases like “Kansas City” and will yield several results, but less common phrases may present a unique opportunity to have your page highlighted above some other organic results. If you’d like to know more about using AMP on your website, I’d love to help you out. Start the conversation, with our 1 Hour Free Consultation.

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