You may have read quite a few praises about Telligent's soon-to-be-new product, Graffiti, recently - especially from me and fellow Telligenti. If you've been following along you'll agree that a lot of it sounds something like this: "I converted my blog to Graffiti", "This blog is now running on Graffiti", and "Down with Wordpress, up with Graffiti". Well, maybe not that last one, I threw that one in to see if you were paying attention. Anyway, based on all of the blog talk you might mistakenly believe that Graffiti is a new blogging engine. You'd be partially right, but Graffiti is much more. It is a CMS, a Content Management System. It's a powerful and easy to use CMS, but a CMS nonetheless.
What can you build with a CMS? Blogs of course (see Rich's blog post about some of them), but you can also build complete web sites. The Graffiti site itself is a good example of that. What else can you build? Anything you want; anything you can think of.
Here's an interesting anecdote, interesting to me at least, but follow along because I eventually make a point:
A couple of weeks ago I registered a domain name as an investment. I don't often do that, but I felt that I stumbled upon a pretty good name for a hot and growing niche market so I took the plunge. Given, it was just a $9.00 plunge for a one year registration, but it's a risk nevertheless. The domain name is good, but it's not awesome so I felt that I would have to grow some good targeted traffic to show that it could be successful to any future interested buyers. My first thought was to develop some original content that could stand on its own and draw some Google love. I then decided to add some links to products that fit in the niche and make a couple of dollars in affiliate sales while building traffic. Next I decided that since I was going to feature products that I might as well make it look like an e-commerce site. Then I wondered if I could use Graffiti to do so. I thought it was possible so I downloaded the beta and set about trying.
I spent about 6-8 hours over a weekend customizing the look of the site to make it look like I wanted. Most of that time, probably 90%, was spent in finding a template that was close to what I wanted and then modifying it and tweaking the CSS. I then spent the rest of the time implementing that template in Graffiti - this was by far the easiest step. The end result was that I was able to build a site that looks and behaves e-commerce like, from the home page, to the product category pages, to the product pages. I had to make no code changes to Graffiti to make this happen. Of course Graffiti has no support for shopping carts or a checkout system. Because I am not selling these products myself, but instead only interested in affiliate sales, my product pages have "Buy Now" buttons that redirect the user to product pages on other sites. However, I think it would be simple enough to switch to using PayPal "Buy Now" buttons or a PayPal Shopping Cart or Google Checkout to allow for "real" e-commerce functionality.
NOTE: Before providing you with a link to the site described above I feel that I need to make a couple of disclaimers and disclosures. The site that I built is not sponsored by Telligent, approved by Telligent, nor associated with Telligent in any way. As I mentioned before the current goal of the site is to create income through affiliate sales of the products displayed on the site. In this case I am not offering a link to the site for that purpose. For the audience of this blog I am pointing out the site as example of something "different" that can be done with Graffiti that you probably have not thought about. For the purposes of this post I am recommending Graffiti as both an employee of Telligent and and end-user of the Graffiti product and not recommending the usage of the site nor the purchase of goods through the site.
Now with that out of the way my conscience is clear. The site is BuyWoodToys.com. The Baby Toys and the Trucks category pages are good ones to look at for an example of a category with several products in it. Hopefully after you look at it you'll say to yourself, "It looks just like any every other small e-commerce site, so what?". That's my point exactly and I couldn't have said it better myself :). I think you'll now agree that Graffiti is not just a blogging engine.