Meet Owen Hoskins, Designer

A graphic designer by trade, Berlin-based Owen Hoskins was searching for freedom. He wanted more control over the user experience, more opportunity to experiment with specific design concepts on the web. Oftentimes, fulfilling an aesthetic vision required customizing architecture underneath the hood. That’s how Owen fell into front and backend web development. It's also why Owen chose Reaction Commerce to power his high-art, high-concept client stores, PIN—UP SHOPPE, Prize Editions, and Stephen Kenn.

We asked Owen a few questions about his experiences with our platform, community, and with the JS ecosystem:

How did you come across Reaction?

Back in the summer of 2015, I was asked to create a gallery/shop for design & architecture magazine PIN—UP called SHOPPE.

PIN—UP pushes boundaries with a bold anti-design aesthetic, so I began the search for an ecommerce framework that allowed me the freedom to express that brand identity on the web.

Being open-source, customizable, all JavaScript, and real-time were the aspects that brought me to the platform. I had recently launched a Meteor-driven type-tester and shop for a small foundry, Or Type. Access to real-time and app-like functionality brought in a whole new world of possibilities, as well as the room for experimentation that traditional websites and ecommerce frameworks were locked out of.

What has been your experience developing on other ecommerce solutions? What are some of the most common pain points you’ve run into?

Being a graphic designer by trade who grew into front-end and back-end web development over time, my work is strongest when I can exercise full control over the user experience with customizations to the underlying architecture. Ecommerce builds were frustrating. Every solution I’d tried felt cookie-cutter and limiting. Reaction provided a great foundation for handling the ins and outs of e-commerce while making it a relatively simple process to write custom features that realize specific design and interaction concepts.

Over the years, I’ve worked on a number of ecommerce projects using all the available solutions. I was constantly frustrated by how little customization is possible. Despite receiving request after request to create shops, instead of accepting these projects, I literally began turning down everyone.

Tell us a little more about some of the cool custom work you’ve developed. You mentioned a React drag-and-drop layout builder for images, videos, etc.

PIN—UP SHOPPE’s typography system fluidly scales the font size while maintaining the vertical rhythm according to the browser window. This flexibility allows a bold, full-width checkout that runs through the steps vertically.

Following SHOPPE’s launch, I simultaneously took on projects for two gallery-style shops: a shop for LA-based furniture designer Stephen Kenn, and another shop for Prize Editions, a photography startup based out of London.

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Both of these shops were launched on Reaction 0.15. They are, in a way, an extension and maturation of concepts I started with the first shop, now realized with the new modular architecture and 100% React components.

My approach was to develop a content tool that both shops could employ to create sophisticated lookbook-style layouts. With this tool, editors can:

  • Add image, svgs, text, inline video, and embedded video assets
  • Drag and drop assets into the layout from a media library panel
  • Seamlessly toggle between a preview and edit mode
  • Resize content fluidly within a responsive grid

The flexibility of the layout system works just as well for displaying photographic prints as it does for large-scale furniture and objects. This feature set is under active development, and my hope is to eventually make it available to the wider ecosystem.

How long have you been contributing to the ecosystem?

I started with Reaction around v0.11 in the summer of 2015, and over the course of building three shops on through v1.5, I have mainly contributed via questions, issues, and requests formulated to the best of my ability. And as my custom features mature, I hope to add them to the list of contributions.

What projects/concepts/technologies are you looking forward to tackling for the remainder of the year?

I am prototyping the next version of Or Type, which I plan to launch on top of Reaction—or at least utilize some of the core modules—as Or Type needs to provide fonts as digital downloads with an order history attached to user accounts. I also plan to test out Apollo GraphQL with Meteor towards the end of this year.

I am also looking forward to utilizing the Marketplace features of Reaction in order to collect a small commission fee on sales for certain shops I have built and maintained as a way to fund continued development and support.

Overall, it has been a very rewarding, as well as challenging, journey to follow a pre-beta open source project from early on and employ it to launch production shops. I feel my persistence has really begun to pay off, and I look forward to working with Reaction in the future.

Submit your project

Our developer community uses Reaction to set up shop and build beautiful experiences. Visit our community showcase to learn more about their projects. And if you're building an online store or marketplace on Reaction, let us know! We'd love to feature you in our showcase.

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