Thursday, 25 June 2015

Is Drupal Commerce still a pig for adding products?


Sometimes when walking around, it's easy to re-run an old journey just to see if anything has changed.
It seems to happen on autopilot. I really meant to see if X-cart installs from Drupal, from among the shopping carts mentioned on another page, but I think it only links in some way.

I remembered why I started writing this blog about Drupal for ecommrece a few years ago, thinking it would be a temporary set of notes kept for a month until I could sell online - hence the blog name "buildlog". I remembered that Drupal plugins are rather exciting in inviting you to a techie world rather like the script installer on your web host. Drupal has a pre-arranged "distribution" for daily deals and another for a hotel selling bookings. It's easy to hope that there will be some module soon for whatever trade you are in, or maybe a developer could write something for you that would be much harder to write for standard shopping cart software, like a link to your accounts program or something more exciting perhaps. There is a chance to collabrate, which is more interesting than just competing. I remembered that you can install Drupal from there, then go to its admin page to install more modules. You can see the "Modules" link near the top right of the picture. Click on it and this is what you get:


You can find modules and themes on drupal.org.
The following file extensions are supported: zip tar tgz gz bz2.

For example: http://ftp.drupal.org/files/projects/name.tar.gz


If you can find the right module from the modules link, right-click to "copy link location", then go back to paste it into the "Install from a URL" box. Press "enter". If all goes well you get a barbour's-shop bar accross the screen for a while, then some message that includes a linke to "install new modules", which takes you back to the modules section of your admin screen.

Names of required but now missing modules are in red that you now have to track-down and install from the same site (it's not automatic). Then you can tick the box next to Drupal Commerce, press enter, and automatically the thing installs all the relevant modules with a the odd hickup where you have to press control+backarrow and try again. Finally you have a new admin column called "store" and an option to "add product".


It's not a lot of good is it? A bit liked a stipped-down racing car for someone who really wants a delivery van or a market stall or some wheeled thing that is not a stripped-down racing car. A shopping trolly perhaps.

There's no help about related issues like the categories of the catalogue and how they are laid-out, nor attributes, nor any warning on the page about this instruction:
On a clean install of Drupal Commerce, simply adding products to the backend is not enough to display them for sale with an Add to Cart form. Drupal Commerce separates the definition (on the back end) from the display (on the front end) of a product.

I tried a google search by date in case there's anything recent to say "this new module irons-out the techie awkwardness of doing the most basic things on this software", but not much came-up. Only one thing came-up in the last 12 months from 2015.06 .26 backwards.
No results. Except something 10-months old about writing your own php code, which very few shopkeepers are likely to want to do, unless they are sick of being shopkeepers and want to build a new career in php code-writing. Not many people would want to do both at once for long.

I tried searching modules on Drupal.org but find the search system hard to use. The Drupal Commerce site itself has a list of modules so I tried reading the title of every single one, loosing track a little.

DrupalCommerce.org still set themselves a dual role in bidding for big-budget work while promoting Drupal Commerce for the cheap or DIY work of which they have no direct experience to keep them up-to-date. If they could somehow find enthusiasts from among developers who do this kind of work to keep that part of the site up to date, that would be great.

They have a "distribution" category. They don't mention whether you can use a script installer on your web server and then press a button to upgrade Drupal to the full distribution; I don't know.
  • drupalcommerce.org/extensions/distribution/project/telekonsum
  • http://www.louisvillewebgroup.com/project/ecommify
  • they don't mention a new one - Drupalife Store mainly in Russian.
  • I doubt these are a first choice for a shopkeeper looking for a cheap e-commerce system because of the fiddleyness of installing Drupal without being able to use a script installer, but they may be good for shopkeepers who want a bit of this and that and some integration.
Drupal Commerce themselves have a "utilities" category. These can be installed onto a Drupal installation that comes from a script installer on a host site. Drupal Commerce mention a module as well as providing a screencast of how to use it, but it remains in Alpha release with no further development planned:
  • drupal.org/project/commerce_product_display_manager (thanks danielhjalmarson.com/wordpress)
  • drupal.org/project/commerce_simple got further (thanks w3shaman.com)
  • drupal.org/project/commerce_auto_product_display is actively maintained I think - this page is a note in progress and I may change it in a day or two. 
      • If the module is perfect, there's still the problem of the people who write Drupal-based shopping cart software, usually for a living as part of some company and think it OK to promote software to small business which is no good for small business; it is a kit for web developers. I don't know if it's chance that Wordpress shopping carts have problems fitting-in to their market too. I haven't tried Joomla-based shopping carts but maybe they don't know what their prospects want either. A bit like most of us in other parts of life but I shall stick to technical discussion of shopping cart software.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

A tourist guide to Royal Mail and small ecommerce shops for web developers

A Tourist Guide to Royal Mail for web developers
 
Introduction

A frustration of using ecommerce software in the UK is that so few web developers write a postage module for the UK, nor even a kit so that a shopkeeper can quickly write a table of shipping quotes by weight or price for the four zones:
  • UK
  • "Europe".with a fiddly "UK zone B" for the Channel Islands
  • "Worldwide Zone 1", and
  • "Worldwide Zone 2",
All a bit like the London Underground. There's one main parcel weight in the UK which is 2kg with size constraints, and a more fiddley table of weights and prices in the other zones. From what I can see of other post offices' web sites in Europe, the follow the same pattern of a few world zones priced by weight, with a fixed size and price for 0-2kg parcels on home ground, plus letters, large letters, and loads of decoy services that no sane person would use.
Large-scale UK shopkeepers or their warehouse contractors will know about a whole kaleidoscope of  prices and services and simply tell a developer what they want. This page isn't for them. This page is just is a tourist guide to every-day Royal Mail services for individuals, ebayers, stallholders, crafters, smaller-scale shopkeepers, and developers who write for them. The stuff that ebay sellers and shopkeepers have picked-up just by living in the UK and hope that software developers around the world will happen to know too. They might post in a forum or send you an email. This is what they take for granted.

I've got a shortlist of shopping carts on another post: http://veg-buildlog.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/shopping-cart-software-for-ecommerce.html Most don't help much with shipping or even hinder in order to sell you an over-priced module. Individuals are offered a kaleidoscope of options from Royal Mail, that seem to overwhelm the people who try to make the clear on Royal Mail's web site let alone the people who have to read all this detail. Most of these prices and services are decoys designed to charge more for the person who doesn't care how much something costs. Basically Royal Mail sends 2nd Class 0-2kg Small Parcels to the UK at a fixed price for delivery in 3-5 working days and airmail to three other world zones with a table of prices by wieght. Simple as that. Other shopkeepers might have other favourite services like the 2.5cm thick large letter, but probably not many more. The prices are low for everyone. The only discounts are 0.5% cashback on some visa / mastercards held in individuals' names, (no Amex) and lower prices for bulk sorted mail to Royal Mail direct or some companies that feed-in to their sorting offices.
  • You might think that Royal Mail would offer to write modules for free, but no
  • You might think that the Department for Business and its https://www.gov.uk/e-exporting drive would make sure it's easy, given that the taxpayer still owns most of Royal Mail and the Department for Business is there to sort-out market failures, but no.There are now several departments for business or for economic development, because devolution is fashionable, and any one of these development agencies or departments could do a bit of lobbying or funding, but no.
  • You might hope that the people who write shopping cart software would make it easy, but no: they're often based in the USA and get tied-up in obscure US tax rates before they have time to think about obscure non-US post offices. Sometimes they are the sort of people who buy a T-shirt by UPS. Americans can be like that.
 Zones - only 4 of them and the fiddley Channel Islands.


http://www.royalmail.com/international-zones
Royal Mail has 4 world zones: UK including Isle of Mann and Northern Ireland (with a fiddley exception for the channel islands - a tiny extra zone), Europe, Worldwide Zone 1 and Worldwide Zone 2.
It's rather hard work for the shopkeeper to attach prices by weight to every single country, and for the customer to choose a country from a long alphabetical list including countries like Aruba which I only discovered from lists like this. A module to assemble these countries into 4 zones for a table quote by price or weght might be enough of the job done to get your software company a hug from a UK merchant, or their business anyway.
(There used to be a cheap and green rate for surface mail that could take months. A vestige survives in "economy" mail, but it is only a few pence cheaper usually; there is more or less one price now.)
http://www.royalmail.com/surcharges
Highlands and Islands postcodes can attract a fuel surcharge on contract prices while courier quotes can be slower or more expensive. I haven't come-across this myself; it doesn't apply to the rate that most people pay.
Northern Ireland is in the UK postal zone.. Royal Mail and Parcelforce couriers are the same company and you'll probably get the same postal zone for Parcelforce too.

UK private couriers for parcels over 2kg

There is an ever-changing range of several private couriers including obscure shop-to-shop services, shop-to-door, and the upmarket quick and signed-for ones, and a locker-based one which may accept your returns and not loose them forever with luck. The rule of thumb is that they are cheaper for parcels over 2kg. They are cheaper quicker and more reliable if you drop-off in a shop, and if your customer collects at a shop but few have yet got used to this idea. There is a postcode search for shops where you can drop-off parcels on the link in the next paragraph.

People tend to buy odd purchases through brokers to save the trouble of opening an account and hoping for a discount, although Hermes is cheap on its own web site. There is a list of brokers on http://veganline.com/parcel.htm. Some write modules or ebay add-ons. None sells Royal Mail because they can't get commission, and they can offer reduced services from other couriers - such as no direct contact about lost parcels or lower compensation - in order to pay a lower price than they charge.  One offers a discount if you pre-pay, but doesn't let you use the full amount without a large top-up so you can never get rid of them. Parcel2go is the name.

 Addressing - no need for counties.

http://www.royalmail.com/addressing
Within the UK, the administrative list of areas isn't used by Royal Mail nor couriers; there's no need to ask the customer their county or any local government area from any drop-down list, nor worry about whether an area is part of  "greater london", or "london". Just leave-out the whole process of selecting an area. There is an RM recommendation to write the post-town, in capital letters, to help sort mail where the postcode is wrong or illegible, but it's not necessary. If you do want to add an optional area to an address, use post towns if you can find a way, or a paid-for service that matches an address and postcode from Royal Mail's database that they sell-on. There are services that ask a customer to enter a postcode, then select a street number, to get an address formatted exactly as on the Royal Mail database with all the extranious information. http://m.royalmail.com/mt/www.royalmail.com/find-a-postcode works for a limited number of addresses per day per customer.

Customers have a number or name for each letterbox, and a postcode. Just write anything sensible in between if you want, as any address format is accepted. When pushed, Royal Mail say they need a "thoroghfare" next to the number or name of the letterbox, again as a backup.
name
John Smith  Deputy Assistant Director of Finance Northern Irish Grant Artist Federation
address and thoroughfare - on one or more lines
Unit 1 Grant Artist House Verycranky Trading Estate Long Road Verycranky Antrim
last line postcode
AN1 1AA

John Smith, Rose Cottage Rose Lane, AN1 1AB would be another example

Bar-code systems exist for large scale mailings. For smaller scale, any typeface such as OCR-B works well. Mail very seldom gets lost if the address is clear; I can't remember the last time. http://www.royalmail.com/sites/default/files/Guide_for_clear_addressing_August2012.pdf gives more detail and proves me wrong in suggesting Univers or Franklin book address fonts if you want to go large-enough for a postie to read in the rain, like 14 or 15 point.
Prices: mainly one price for small parcels 2nd class; table by weight for 3 zones outside UK

royalmail.com/prices
royalmail.com/sizes
..quote dozens of sizes weights and services in a format called "handy guide" that may change year to year; the Royalmailtechnical web has released a spreadsheet, but only for large scale services so far.

royalmail.com/price-finder is a route into
royalmail.com/discounts-payment/online-postage/create
https://parcel.royalmail.com/ is a new shorter url to do the same thing:
print a stamp and address from an address and postcode, and tell you a clear price if you don't buy. It can also import addresses, but only from ebay according to the help page.
The first url gives more information about sizes: Second class 1-2kg small parcels are the best value, along with letters and a thing called a large letter which is 2.5cm thick. There's probably some way of getting a robot on the customers' computer to transfer names, postcodes, and first lines of addresses onto the online postage page but no need. Tracking is only available on expensive signed-for services for things like passports, so proof of posting can be important. You have to queue-up at a post office and ask for proof of postage, which leads to the next service, run by a separate organisation called Post Office Counters Ltd.
http://www.postoffice.co.uk/drop-and-go-branch-service allows shopkeepers to open an account, then then jump the queue at a post ofice branch and leave parcels to have stamps stuck-on by the staff. They can print a sheet of addresses and have it stamped as proof of postage, for collection later. There is a rough .pdf format to copy or use as a form for hand-writing. You have to leave a clue whether something is first or second class for the counter staff to work from.

Free collections at the ground floor exist for sacks, or more precisely "free weekly collections for customers who spend over £15,000 a year with us". If you only send the cheapest £2.80 parcels, five days a week, 50 weeks a year, that's just under 22 parcels a working day. Comments on message boards say that the £15,000 limit isn't stricktly enforced, and of course the few customers who opt of for first class or export parcels will reduce the minimum number, as will use of a specialist pick-and-pack mailing warehouse out of town, or collaboration with one or two other firms in the same office block: I don't know if that ever works..

Bulk customers can get small discounts for doing some of the sorting. They also have a long pre-computerised tradition which may still have its odd jargon or options for manual book-keeping. I don't know what a "docket book" is for example, but they do.

Royal Mail's Europe zone is very large, including non-EU countries like Ukraine
Other english-speaking government post offices - Ireland - Channel Islands - Isle of Mann

ANPost in most of Ireland is separate as you'd expect, working in Euros for the Republic's 4.6 million people and collecting from post offices there.
It's zones are Ireland - north or south, GB, Europe, World.
It's addressing guide is at http://correctaddress.anpost.ie
It's free collection services is for 30 parcels a week or possibly less in Dublin.
Like the UK post office, it is keen to avoid formality for its customers who are used to freehand addresses, and it goes further to do without postcodes except a few numbers in Dublin like "Dublin 5". Counties are named after the county town, so you can leave out "County Limerick" if the town is "Limerick". I don't live in Ireland and might be out of date; Wikipedia says that postcodes are expected soon

The Channel Islands' 164,000 people use the UK pound in three independent states. They do not have a Channel Islands post office. They have two:
https://www.guernseypost.com/
http://www.jerseypost.com/
E-commerce is a regular business in the Channel Islands because of a VAT tax loophole that the UK government has not yet found the clarity of thought or originality of ideas to stop. Maybe someone in the Channel Islands is a Conservative Party donor. Perhaps in revenge, the state-owned Royal Mail adds a separage "sub zone" price to all mail from the UK to the Channel Islands

The Isle of Mann's IOMpost.com is a separate post office for the 80,000 people who live there. The island has its own government and tax rates but shares the UK pound while its post office seems to share the same postal zones of UK, Europe, and world. Letters are cheaper to send than from the UK; parcels more expensive.

If you're a web developer targeting english-speaking customers, Gibralterians always use english first. Their post office is Post.gi

http://www.postnl.com is the english or german version of the Netherlands (Holland) post office with a main site in dutch on post.nl . I don't live in the Netherlands and might have got this wrong, but the main service seems to be 3.5cm "letterbox size" 0-2kg parcels delivered cheaply in Holland or the Benelux countries, with another zone for Europe and I think another for "world". People in the main dutch towns often do business in English by default - or more often than in other countries anyway. Postnl.com own the TNT Post courier service in other countries, and briefly tried doing a door-to-door delivery round in parts of London, as well as touting for the sack collection trade under the name whistl.co.uk.  It was unreliable, had no collection points or letterboxes for single items and didn't catch-on.

Other european countries have english language post office web pages and english-speaking clients, but I don't live in any of them or have any off-the-cuff knowledge to add to googling. Each country has an income per head and population that comes-up on a Google box. North European countries and those with coastlines are the more mercantile.

O here's a thing. The Italian post office is not yet as reliable as the others - see Time Out Guides, Rough Guide, or Lonely Planet for details about the Italian post office and whether it has got any better.

John Robertson sells vegan shoes online at Veganline.com

Monday, 15 June 2015

Free Fast and Pretty: which shopping cart?

This is a note of all the shopping carts that are free & pretty, to install automatically on a site.
My fast site is on lchost and test ones are on hostinger.co.uk, which allows 2 database sites per account.
Promising shopping cart software is red. I have 2 F-words & 4 P-words for whittling-down choice.
Free, Fast & Pretty; Postage, Payment, & Product management are essential too.
Product management sub-divides into another five points to whittle-down the shortlist.

http://www.shopping-cart-migration.com/images/articles/ecommerce-shopping-carts.jpg puts shopping cats into categories, with this category at the top - known for being free, but without hosting or customer support and known for being harder to set-up than a hosted shopping cart.

Free
The cost is hidden in the price of modules. Open-source ought to be cheaper I guess, as well as being a prettier idea to deal with than something corporate.

Fast
Not that I know of any measurements, but Magento gets bad reviews for this.

Pretty
Not that I know of any measurements, but the ones with "specials" on the front page of the demonstration are always ugly for some reason.

Postage = shipping
I want to sell in as many countries of the world as possible with cheap and greenish postage. I don't want software from a developer who says "use the Fedex module, UPS, or role your own with this bit of rubbish I provide. Or search the forum in case another shopkeeper sorted this problem ten years ago for a previous version".

The developers who say this are so over-paid that they don't even use the post office to buy mail-order T shirts in their native USA. Post offices are usually cheaper and greener because they have a delivery round to most letterboxes on a street rather than one in my street and another a few streets or miles away. Post offices are usually public sector and not geared to writing free plugins for Posh-o-cart. So anyone paid under a zillion pounds a year ought to know that plugins for different post offices, or to help shopkeepers write their own plugins for post offices, are essential for promoting shopping cart software.

Royal Mail has 4 postal zones of UK, Europe, Airmail, and Oceana with various different services that change in price. My next post is a guide to Royal Mail's main services for individuals & small-scale e-commrece trading. I want to offer a simplified version that has a basic price per weight or price per weight to each of these zones, or at least to three out of the four. 2nd class to the UK. Probably standard rate to the rest of the world. This should not be much to ask but most shopping cart software fails the test - including all or most of the Wordpress plugins and including the one written in the UK I think. Here is something about Drupal shipping modules and here is something else and another thing. The developers get carried-away thinking about US taxes while ignoring worldwide postage.

Payment.
I want to use paypal for testing and then my merchant service provider - Elavon - for most real orders. If I get enough real orders I hope to shop-around merchcant service providers, but you can't haggle if you don't have the turnover, can you? No. We agree. And I do not want to pay a hundred pounds for the privilage of using the merchant service provider I am already signed-up to. Luckily this is getting a lot easier than it was a few years ago and some shopping carts do fit free Elavon modules.

Products.
If the top few points are OK then I'll play with the site and see if it can tell me things I want to know about stock, like
whether an advert helped a product sell. Remote-hosted checkout forms are bad for this - they confuse the tracking code.
whether a product has run-out.
If my software refuses to sell a sold-out product, then maybe it can automatically charge a customer at each purchase and save me a job.
when to re-order. This can only be a prompt, but still a useful one and I'm not sure how subtle the different stock control systems are or how to use them. Maybe they're add-ons. One version of Prestashop can even remember where a product is usually found in the warehouse and write that on a picking sheet. I don't know if that's the free version.
I'll have to learn the system for attributes = sizes as well. Some programs track a shoe as something that can be adapted to different sizes, as though these were like different sorts of laces. Others track a shoe as a range of several different products, one for each size, but sharing a supplier. I'll learn as I go. Presumably most software offers both options as a shoe in one size definately can't be re-sized to another, even with a broom handle and lots of leverage.
I want to search for products in several ways - whether my shoes are made in a democratic welfare state for example, or how well that country scores on a democracy index. Some shopping carts just have a tag for brand which they mis-label "manufacturer".

Afterthoughts:
  I want any blogs and other bits to be part of the same web site if possible, as Drupal allows and possibly carts that can be slotted-in to other sites. Perhaps Cubecart.
I want to have a wholesale shop and maybe some others using the same software and looking different to the end-customer, while a supplier might want to share my shop so it looks the same to the end-customer but stuff is sent from another place. So carts with the word "multi" in them would be good.



Avactis.com/pricing/
Not quite open source?
Paid-for version has a bundle of modules including language translation and a "custom" mobile version.

Abantecart
http://www.abantecart.com/shopping-cart-demo
promising

Allegrocart
Alegrocart.com/demo
Ugly. The developer is also a car and car parts dealer in Canada, so the program should be well set-up for that trade.

Agoracart
Agoracart.com/demos.htm
Unusual in being based on perl rather than php. Long established. Available through one of my web host accounts on a special menu for Perl scripts, but not on the other. Ugly.. Is it fast? I have not tested the thing or installed.

Axis
Part of a hugely corporate suite of programs sold from Amercia. This software is presented as open source. It installs OK from a script installer but I haven't found the admin logon to test it at all. I haven't found a demo site.

CS cart
Cs-cart.com/demo-item.html
Fast and pretty with smooth back-end data for shopkeepers, it says of itself.
One installer doesn't include it.
One installer includes it, but when I try to install I get "licencing mode"; the program doesn't seem to be open source and has a free version or a $385 version.

Cubecart
Cubecart.com/demo
promising. More to follow. The developer pays UK tax and has never had private equity funding, so he probably knows what a post office is. Canadapost and United States Postal Service have free modules. Royal Mail has to be dealt with through the all-in-one module which I have used to set-up zones.

Drupal Commerce
http://demo.commerceguys.com/
You can now install Drupal from something like Installatron and the instructions for adding shopping cart modules are getting better. I tried Ubercart. It needed a shipping module. At that point the developers left, so there is still no shipping module. The developers wrote Drupal Commerce, which has neither a good Royal Mail shipping module nor a  way of connecting products on the admin database to products on the front-end. You have to enter them twice or install some kind of module for doing it. I tried it in 2013-14. The customers are exepected to be developers and the support takes the form of videos by people who don't say how they have set-up their demonstration before the video started, so you can follow it to the letter and find that your lack of something-or-other stops it working for you. You can see transcripts of the videos and links to them as earlier posts on this blog. Commerce Guys, developers, have received $7.3bn of private equity finance so they haven't heard of the post office except as a potential client - they haven't heard of it as a place where you post parcels. A pity because at first glance they look good people to write free software. It's just the way they're set-up that doesn't suit open source shopping carts for small business, and not enough people have found a way to jump-in and fill the gap of writing software cheaply or for free to help small shopkeepers on Drupal. My next post http://veg-buildlog.blogspot.com/2015/06/a-tourist-guide-to-royal-mail-and-small.html might encourage.

Magento
Magento.com/explore/demo
Slow. Reviews state that the extra features are at the expense of a multi-layered slow database structure.
http://veg-buildlog.blogspot.com/2012/01/building-awesome-e-commerce-site-in-25.html for example
A review says that https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smarty smarty templates are hard to learn-about too.

For all the money spent on this huge bundle of code, I don't see any great ease of use over other similar programs. I tried to train my Magento to recognise shoe sizes in my particular way. I even got hold of a textbook to train me in how to train Magento. On page 72 if gets difficult. I could probably have cracked it in the end and learned how to add my particular attributes to products, but I got bored of page 72 and then read reviews about bloat and slow loading.

Mals-e.com/featuresChart.php
Much liked by enthusiasts including me for ten years or so because it is free and stable, but it is also a shopping cart on a remote website that allows you to write order buttons that you can stick on your web site. In other words it is limited. I want to stop using Mal's because I want to link my orders to a stock control system. I also want a stock layout system that shows a shop window of my products with order buttons next to them, in some slick way that also works on mobiles an tablets and any other format that people invent over the years, and has some of the bells and whistles like better tracking of advert performance or slick one-page checkout on the same url. I don't want to loose the ability to rabbit-on like someone who always wanted to be a journalist. This makes my site easier to index. So, ideally, I will be able to keep a lot of text on the new more formatted site.

If there are ways of hosting one or two shopping carts with different urls but access to the same stock, that's unlikely to happen but worth thinking about. Mal's allows me to sell to a trade customer at 50% discount, and we would probably have met and found a way to work-around some of the limitations. It doesn't provide that trade buyer, or me, with a way of knowing what is in stock or anything like that, so it's better suited to goods I make than goods I buy in batches and sell-on.
Did you know that there is a $35 program for making shop sites with stock control out of an Excel spreadsheet? It can use Mal's for checkout. Xlecom.com.

Opencart
demo.opencart.com
demo.opencart.com/admin/index.php
(type "demo" in both boxes to log in)
Promising at first. There is a Royal Mail module free. (post about Royal Mail here)
The installer provides an old version, but a new one can be unzipped on a hard disc, stripped of two files that have "config" in the names, and moved with a file transfer program to my server over the top of the old files.
Much praised by reviewers.
I've had a couple of bad days trying to make it accept stock, mock orders, categories, attributes, or shipping details - anything really. One online suggestion is that installing a module can trigger a loss of editing privilages which can be restored by ticking various boxes. I have done so. No joy.
Googling "Opencart Faults" I find a review on a site called techchattr.com that doesn't like the code. As I know nothing abut code, I rely on the review. Another on a site called websynn.com which likes the code but says it doesn't work for upgrades, which comes to the same thing. I think a free service needs to be solid because of course there's no technical support

Prestashop
http://demo.prestashop.com/en/?view=front
http://demo.prestashop.com/en/?view=back
Promising.
Reviews compare it to its rival for most-used shopping cart, Magento, calling it smaller and faster.
Works in different languages by default by the look of things.
The backend has various mottos for self-employed people and might have a lot of feedback about how products are selling and why; it's well integrated with a tracking system. I haven't tested this carefully but that's my impression. The front end is good looking too.
Easy to test on the yourname.pswebshop.com site, but you have to use their expensive Hipay payment system if you do that or pay over £100 to switch to Paypal.
Compulsory add-ons are expensive - over £100 each - and one review says that Prestashop's source code is written in some complicated way, so that add-ons are hard to write and are likely to remain expensive.

Spree Commerce
https://spreecommerce.com/account
Not on the installer systems for either of my web hosts.
Uses software I'm even less used-to than PHP, called Ruby.
Mentioned here because Bonobo is site that sells $100 jeans in the USA and their main man makes a lot of videos about the how and the why - https://www.google.com/search?q=%22Andy+Dunn%22+Bonobos&tbm=vid - so if you use Spree Commerce you are well-placed to follow his advice about how to get a picture of the product on the shopping cart to reassure the customer or whatever other idea he tells us and his video camera about. He's a bit like a private dentist. He talks in a very relaxed, re-assuring way, and ends by charging too much. I don't know how to install Spree Commerce or want to learn more about software than necessary so I haven't used it.

Tomatocart
Tomatocart.com/products/store-demo.html
Mentioned by reviewers and available on installatron.
Multi-zone table-rate shipping is a freebie with a thread of comments and requests on their forum.
With luck that can be adapted to Royal Mail.
Payment  is not available for free via paypal or elavon. The forum has lots of comments about far-eastern payment methods but not about European ones.


Wordpress add-ons were un-finished last time I tried them in about 2014. They were presented as free with the most basic functions like postage modules costing £50 extra, and then card processing £50 extra, and then something else again, with nothing at the end of it beyond what you can get for free on hosted shopping carts: the functions were basic. This is a quote from Jigoshop about their free postage options "allows you to set five levels of weigh-based shipping fees for your products. Simply set the upper limit for each required level, with the fee for that weight range, and those fees will then be enabled. If you require more complexity or want to have shipping rates automatically updated in near real time from your shipping provider, please check out our other Jigoshop Shipping extensions." I liked the customers - Wordpress is aimed at part timers - but not the software. I tried the traditional product from Instinct Entertainment - a wonderful name, and a new one based in the UK then woocommrece which is a fork of it. I tried these things about 2014 when there seemed to be too many wordpress shopping carts trying to make a living for too many developers. Things may have moved-on since, and the Jigoshop web site's history page says that it's run by part-timers. In contrast my last cart provideer, Mals-e commerce, provides one living to a developer, no support, no office landlord, and a solid system that doesn't break down.


X-cart
http://www.x-cart.com/shopping-cart-demo.html
http://demostore.x-cart.com/admin/admin.php?target=login
I wasn't sure at first whether this was open source, and how easily if could be used with Drupal. Kiril Marinkov of their sales team helped by writing this.

X-Cart Classic(4.x) http://www.x-cart.com/pricing.html and our new
X-Cart 5 platform http://www.x-cart.com/software_pricing.html are and have always been fully open code. Yes, there are encrypted modules for X-Cart Classic(4.x) created by 3-rd party developers. However for X-Cart 5 we do not accept encrypted modules of any kind to the marketplace.

The core of all X-Cart 5 packages is exactly the same. Higher packages just add extra modules and thus extra features. You can use the Free package for as long as you wish, as it does not have any limitations in terms of the number products, customers or anything else. And you can, of course, add features via stand-alone free and commercial modules http://www.x-cart.com/extensions/addons or create your own: http://kb.x-cart.com/display/XDD/Developer+docs

And speaking about integration with Drupal, we do have the module that lets you insert X-Cart elements straight into Drupal http://www.x-cart.com/extensions/addons/drupal-connector.html That said, with the latest update the module has been deprecated. However if you wish, I suppose we would be able to provide you with the code base to create your own integration.

If you come up with any additional questions I'll be glad to answer them.
I find that X-cart doesn't install automatically on my fast server or my free server; it has a set of instructions.
On the other hand, Drupal installs automatically and I've done similar installations to X-cart's before, with far worse instructions, so this is worth a try.


Zencart

https://www.softaculous.com/demos/Zen_Cart
I've never looked at this. It was a commercial product years ago and then open source.

My next post is a tourist guide to Royal Mail for e-commrece developers who don't live in the UK and don't know the basic services


John Robertson sells vegan shoes online at Veganline.com. Feel free to share with the social sharing buttons below

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Garamond open source font for ink saving - fails a quick standard test

For printer running costs and fonts see also

Does it work for printing paypal payment emails? 
Garamond fails this quick standard test in HP lazerjet draft mode, but so do other fonts.
This is a slightly daft post because I'm not sure how to specify an unusual font on blogspot, so the example is shown in courier. Never mind. The other font links above make more sense.
Anyway I get paypal emails that are a very good practical test of one use for a font. They say:

"someone has bought your item and the address somewhere down the blurb is
name
street numberbla bla bla bla
bla bla
postcode or zip code
bla bla the email carries on, and 12pt font shows
what paid and what for on the same page"
These verbose emails are a good source of customer's delivery addresses in a format you can bung inside a used window envelope and send without re-typing. If you want to avoid editing, then you need about 12pt type to get the payment amount on the same side of paper.

Garamond does not work well on screen at 12pt. Click the link & control+F to "the reason" to see the reason why. I have not read what the link says but it looks plausible.. Larger than 12pt it is still hard to read, and the email needs editing to get the vital payment amount and address onto one side of paper.

Garamond does not print well on HP lazerjet draft mode - that is in grey at 300 dpi. I can hardly read it at 12pt. The chances of it workng as well as OCRB for optical character recognition at a sorting office look low. This is a pity, because I thought while writing previous posts that Garamond provided was the best balance between ink costs and readabiliy. Now I think that if an ebay sale is to be trusted to the
  • scanners at the post office to recognise the right address and get it the right postie quickly without delay and human error 
  • posties to poke it through the right letterbox...

...then spindly type in barely legible grey is not the answer. Never mind.
Maybe there is some way of setting email software to display paypal emails in a certain way.

Infinate wisdom will be available on this blog some time, if not quite yet.


Oh this last bit is just about getting hold of Garamond font for free.
You may well have Garamond as one of your bundle of fonts that is somehow on your computer. If not, google an open source version which exists and copy the unzipped download files to your fonts folder. To find the fonts folder, search your disk for .ttf of .o ... no I've forgotten the second one, but those are the two file name endings most used for font files which are vector graphics of the extended alphabet in whatever font.

I tried copying a sample "notification of payment recieved" email here in Garamond type, but didn't manage to tweak the typeface used by blogspot so you'll have to imagine it.