hi guys, I’m Federico from Argentina. First of all, I want to say: "I love this page". I have learned a lot from the videos, and the articles.
But now, I want to go deeper and learn some stuff beyond css. I’m about to get my grade in Business School, and can’t stop wondering: what about ecommerce?.
In my town, the wave of commerce is pretty recently, and learn how to build and manage this kind of sites seems to be redituable for me.
So, I guess there some kind of CMS for building ecommerce sites? Am I right?
I have looked into OSCommerce a little bit. Also, Joomla has some "cart" plugins.
But, before I start the long process of learning something new, I want to be sure that I’m on the right track.
So, any tips? any suggestions? thanks!
P.S.: I hope my english is understandable. (I live in Argentina :D)
This is a question I struggled with as well. So many people want to go to the web to help them sell more of what they currently do in brick and mortar stores. However, competition is steadily increasing and it takes more than a little cut in prices due to the low overhead of a web site to make the sale. They have to appear to be bigger than the next guy which requires a custom design and quality software.
There are a few good solutions and Magento I think is one of them. However, you have to be able to make it look different than the 100 million look-a-like oscommerce sites out there. This involves spending time to really dig in to the code, and understanding what you can and cant do as far as changes.
Next, I would suggest when choosing a solution, you also learn a little about the language used to create it. For example PHP. This way you can do a little more than just redesign the look. If for example there is a query that pulls 5 random products tags as "featured" to display on a "featured" page and the customer wants just one, but for it to display larger and more prominently at the top of the page, you can edit the query to return just one result and then edit the display appropriately.
Or maybe they simply want their product images to use a shadowbox style pop up instead of opening in a new window, you can edit the source code to ensure a class is passed to the element when its built dynamically. Include the JS in the header file of that page and you are good to go.
You will find that there are plugins available for a lot of popular Open source solutions, but if you constantly rely on others to come up with something kind of like what you need, you will not be able to fully satisfy your customers needs.
So whatever you choose, consider your that your starting point.
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I have some experience with eCommerce, which I can share.
There are many "full CMS" style eCommerce software packages. The software controls the whole look of the site, controls all the content, handles the cart and payment processing and all that. These are great for sites with a ton of products where you really need the templating and database structure and all that. I’ve used two in the category. Pinnacle Cart – I was 95% happy with the feature set, pretty intuitive and all the features you expect and want from an eCommerce package. Weird little missing things though, like can’t create a free shipping voucher code. It’s also table-based. CubeCart is the other – CubeCart has a free version so there is a pretty huge community around it. It also has a culture of "plugins" to expand its functionality, since out of the box I found it a bit limited. It’s pure CSS though, which is nice.
There are other non-CMS style eCommerce solutions though. FoxyCart is pretty dang cool and worth checking out. They make it easy to integrate eCommerce into a site you have already built. It’s kind of hard to explain, but they handle a lot of the work from their end but it’s also very customizable at the same time. In the same Genre is E-Junkie. Arguably easier to get started with than Foxy-Cart, but more difficult to customize.
I’ve had to deal with customer support with all four of these companies and I can vouch for all of them in that they are pretty responsive. Pinnacle cart is probably the best, E-Junkie the worst, all though not that bad. I just had one feature I was asking about they kept telling me was coming out that month that took like 6 months to get done.
When I had a look at Magenta while back and that’s 1 reason why it stuck out to me, because it looked like you can change the design and can make your site look so different from another. The way it can be customised just seems very promising. But saying that apparently there is very little GOOD documentation and its very very complex… Any little change will send you digging around the code for hours. So how helpful is being able to design for it if you will never get the design actually sorted. Last thing is… its meant to be very very slow (apparently being addressed) when doin anything from general looking around to adding stuff to the cart.
Desipite its faults tho, i think when i get round to sorting out a eCommerce website Magenta is going to be the one i use. Just all the stuff about coupons, specials, multiple checkout and shipping options, tiered pricing, layered navigation just seems so promising specially as its free!
I’ve used e-junkie and it was extremely simple to set up. Their site has a great user interface!
I don’t have any experience with a more complicated shopping cart however other than installing zencart at home and playing with it. Does anyone know of a good site with a step-by-step tutorial on the steps involved with setting up a shopping cart (e.g. payment gateways, merchant accounts, SSL certificates, etc).
I am sure there are issues I am not even aware of so I want to learn as much as I can before attempting to set one up for a client.
Well, for fooling around with an ecommerce solution, I always prefer for something free. So I download the Magento stuff.
It looks pretty complete to me, can handle some SSL certificates for credit card payments, taxes, multi-language sites, etc.
I really must learn php, before trying to go deeper with it. There are lots of templates sites for magento, and a big community behind it. There is also documentation especially for designers, but seems a little bit complicated (at least for me). It’s like they’re sufficiently clear to explain the architecture of the templates.
Also, I must agree with zane: running in my pc, with waamp, it seems to be very slow loading pages, even with a few products in the db. But I guess it’s a matter of optimization of the code (again, I must learn PHP urgently).
Well, I’ll keep you updated if I make any progress with it.
Yes, this is the general consensus on the osCommerce forums too (Magento was forked from osc). It is overly complex, slow and bloated, but definitely worth keeping an eye on. As of now I’ll stick with osCommerce, but that can soon change.
I’m a very strong supporter of osCommerce. It is a freeware open-source project that started in the 90’s so the code is older and still table-based although it has been updated many times and is stable right out of the box. It may not be the newest or best or have the coolest new features but it has a very strong user-supported community in which to get your questions answered as you learn to use it. Also it has an enormous number of user-created contributions so you can add whatever functionality you desire.
It is php-based and most people use mySQL for the database. There are some security and SEO contributions that really need to be added to make it usable but that can be done with a minimum of effort, skill or knowledge. Changing the design is very important and that may take a little more work. The more you know about css, php, sql and apache directives the easier it will be and the more you can accomplish. Because of it’s strong user community, it is also a great project to use to develop those skills.
osCommerce has also branched off into other incarnations: cre-loaded and zen-cart. I haven’t looked at either of these. I suspect they have changed significantly (presumably for the better) but I also suspect that the user community isn’t as strong yet for either of these.
Hope that helps.
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