What type of Carted customer am I — Elements, SDK or API?

So, you’re thinking about leveraging the capabilities of the Carted API but you’re just not sure where to start. Carted Elements, Elements SDK or the API?

An abstract image of organic lines in several layers with purple hues moving across the page.

In this blog post we’ll dive into the three different offerings currently available at Carted to help guide you on which option is right for you.

And just for some fun, we’ll use the analogy of building a house to help us.

Before we dive into implementation methods let’s take a look at the core capabilities of Carted’s API as it stands today.

Carted supported features

  • Display products: Get up-to-date product information from a wide range of merchants.
  • Multi-merchant cart: Manage products sold from different merchants in the same cart.
  • Native checkout: Embed a full checkout experience on your site—no more redirects.
  • Affiliate attribution: Earn affiliate revenue without the risk of last-click attribution theft. Carted supports all affiliate networks.

Carted Elements, Elements SDK and the Carted API

You’re looking to access some, or all, of the above features. Maybe you are a media publisher looking to create shoppable content. Or you’ve got an app that helps your users save for upcoming purchases. You might be a messaging service that wants to add contextual commerce to keep your users engaged for longer.

Depending on what you're looking to build, you may be considering the API, the low-code Elements to get up and running immediately, or you may sit somewhere in between and the Elements SDK sounds right up your alley.

Choosing the implementation method that works for you

Ok, so time for the house building analogy.

As we know, there’s more than one way to build a house - and the approach you choose will dictate the effort involved.

Option 1: buy the house already made, the turnkey solution!

Option 2: purchase a pre-fab home and all you need to do is hammer the pieces together.

Option 3: build an entirely customized house, completely from scratch.

In the context of Carted, that maps back to the three offerings we currently have available:

  1. Elements — a turnkey solution.
  2. Elements SDK — build-your-own experience using pre-fab components.
  3. API — a fully customisable option.

Let’s take a look at the three options in more detail, starting with the most simple.

Use the low-code Elements

The Carted Elements are quick to set up, don't require any technical expertise, and provide a great shopping experience.

"Carted Elements" is a frontend JavaScript library that can be compared to a turn-key home solution. Just like a freshly built home with everything you need already ‘done’, Carted Elements provides pre-built UI (user interface, a fancy way of saying “the things you see on the page”) components that can be installed on your site with a single script.

Developers can use Carted Elements to quickly build user interfaces without having to build the components from scratch.

Although the components are pre-built, developers can still modify and extend them to suit their specific needs. Developers can customize the look and feel of the Carted Elements components to match their website's design, and use rich on-page events to trigger analytics and even new features of their own.

It's like painting one of the bedrooms in your new turnkey house blue instead of white, or switching out the existing door handles for something more ‘you’.

Extend with the Elements SDK (Software Development Kit)

While the Carted Elements are easy to use, you may have some unique requirements or desired workflows that aren't possible with the pre-built UI components. The Elements SDK enables you to create custom interactions and UI components that integrate with the underlying Elements infrastructure. That means you can build only what you need and use the pre-built UI components for everything else.

So, back to our house analogy, you’ve bought the prefab house kit and all you need to do is assemble the pieces, but we've pre-wired the house with extra cabling just in case you decide to add another bedroom.

Customize with the API

If you need more customization than is possible with the Elements or Elements SDK, you’ll need the Carted API. The Carted API enables you to access all of Carted’s underlying functionality through a unified interface, and integrate it into your own app architecture.

An API can be compared to a hardware store selling building materials. Just like at the the hardware store, you need to have a certain level of knowledge and expertise to know how to combine these materials into a house.

If you’re looking to build a fully customized home, completely from scratch so that you can be opinionated about each and every detail, then the API is for you. The API provides you with the full range of components, resources and features that you can hammer together to build your dream experience.

Still unsure? We recommend starting with Elements

Elements takes care of some really complicated UI, like checkout, which would otherwise involve recreating a lot of complex business logic if you were to rebuild it yourself.

Continuing the building analogy, you could build a three-bedroom, two-story home from the ground up, but it will take more time and skill to get it right. You might instead prefer to walk into a home that a Master Builder has already built for you.

This is much the same as Carted. Using Elements, you can get up and running with on-site checkout within minutes as compared to the time it would take to build a more custom solution from scratch.