Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Why is this difficult?

I thought Wordpress was the simplest fresh start, but found that there is trouble in paradise too -
...tells me that at 4'49" "whatever e-commerce software you use, it's going to be awful in some way", but that e-commerce developing has the best rewards in happy customers when it goes right

The knack of combining various databases into a site for someone who wants to focus absolutely on shopping carts and not learn anything else is, well, asking for trouble when it gets complicated. In the US, tax is complicated for example.

In the UK, shipping is complicated. Royal Mail is not kind to plugin-writers, so any free ones are likely to become out of date. And UK shopkeepers are mercantile people in a little country, unlikely to rule-out selling to Australia or Germany if an order comes-in. All that's needed is a matrix quote system for prices or weights verses zones. Royal Mail has three or four world zones, and you can add more if your products to the UK have different volumes or you use a courier as well. I have a separate post about Royal Mail's zones and prices for ecommerce developers.

Even if I buy a textbook about a wordpress plugin or a good clear set of videos by  on how to use Wordpress for Ecommerce and watch patiently while taking notes, I'm likely to find an un-acknowledged gap where shipping options ought to be. Or an intended gap.

Wordpress has several ecommerce plugins jostling for trade, but all the ones I have discovered tend to charge for vital things like breathing or shopkeeping or posting objects via special essential modules. So these programs are open source crippleware, hoping to make money by charging you for something essential.

On the other hand, wordpress users seem a lot more recognisable as real low-budget people than Drupal users. There are plenty of plugins for hosting your pictures on flickr or to save bandwidth and disk space. This saves money. This saves the amount you have to sell in a recession to break even. This keeps you fed when others fail.

Magento is another easy option, or so I thought, because nearly all my stallholding shopkeeping rivals use it.
I bet a packet of biscuits that it will have some kind of stock reporting system that can be used for wholesale customers as an essential, and for stock control as a desirable option.
I bet one of my hadgehogs that Shipping will probably be sane compared to other carts. You just fill-in a configuration column about how many countries you would like to ship to, and I haven't finished the instructions but I guess that everything might be included in the core program with no ifs and buts and demands for £50 software. I don't know if zones will be allowed, or if every customer has to scroll through a list of countries starting with American Samoa, but something will be available.

Instructions exist, by the way. You type your version and language into a site and it emails you a 250 page .pdf book to read beginning to end, or to page 45 in my case.

A nifty .php file will check whether your test server suits Magento, and none of my 100% free accounts allowed it, but a nearly free one called Freehostia Chocoloate passed the test. (Freehostia Chocolate is free if you have a spare mainstream domain). Officially is allows 250MB equalling 262,144,000 bytes of disc space. Five hours later my attempted FTP upload stopped for lack of space after I tried uploading 6,396,182 bytes from Bitnami as a first experiment. This was just the relevant-looking files in a folder called Magento. This does not come-up in the easiest-to-find comparisons of shopping cart software.

Magento finds cheap servers a problem, as does Drupal. The programs are gross.
My fast UK web server that I want to use for real shopkeeping has these price breaks for disc space. It's smaller than some free but slower ones. Prices are per year (developers please note that servers can be priced per year as well as per month)
0200MB £050 + 20% tax
0400MB £100 + 20% tax
0600MB £150 + 20% tax
1200MB £250 + 20% tax

Further Googling finds that Magento likes to cache a lot. It has complex internal tables. And I haven't yet seen a free plugin that lets you host your pictures on a free website. So, basically, I can see why I am still in business and some rivals who use Magento have been struggling a bit in a recession. Maybe that's why some of them are on slower servers.

As with other shopping cart software, enthusiasts who sell support or blog about the product seem unaware of why it's difficult or even doesn't work for so many users.

I have another post called Free Fast and Pretty: which shopping cart? but it is has no clear conclusion yet.