Get a FREE Book from osC Books

Here’s another special deal that I’ve been able to come up with.

If you order any book at osC Books, you’ll get another one to equivalent value for FREE.

osc-designing.gifSo, if you were to order “Designing for osCommerce”, you could choose “SEO for osCommerce” or “Faster osCommerce” for free!

All you have to do to be eligible, is purchase an eBook at osC Books and then send an email stating whichever eBook you want for free to email address;  shop AT oscbooks DOT com

Remember – this offer is only good for readers of this blog, and the offer only applies on equivalently or lower priced eBooks – so you can’t buy a $1.99 tutorial and get a $25 eBook for free – sorry!

I particularly recommend “Designing for osCommerce” as this one takes you on a journey of discovery from the first awful gray/blue osCommerce look to a design that is much nicer.  You’ll certainly learn enough to apply the principles of what you learned to any site design…

You want a FREE osCommerce Template for RC2 ?

Ade asks;

Do you know of free templates for the latest rc2 of oscommerce?

Put simply, I don’t – for starters there are not that many outfits who are yet supporting RC2 and those that are charge a fair amount.

However, I’ve struck a deal to offer you this template:

rc2_green_top_left.jpg

rc2_green_screenshot1.jpg

For NOTHING!!!

free_delivery_blue.gif

This is an instant download, and you install this yourself by doing the following;

  • install a new RC2 osCommerce
  • upload the files supplied when you buy this green template!
  • if you cannot manage this, I can install for you – see the readme file

Enjoy!

Horrible or Awesome #6 – SSL

All that junk about customers “Caring about their privacy” and being “Worried about identity theft” is unfounded. Just ask my friend “John” from Indonesia. Hey, by the way, he has $30,000,000.00 he wants to send you- he just needs your credit card number along with your name and billing address.

Never mind that SSL certificates enable the 128bit encrypted tunnel between the customers computer and your payment processor – all that stuff can just be sent plain text across the internet. SSL certificates cost money, and you are on a budget.

Sure, the customer can sue you after your website is responsible for their identity theft, but that’s not very likely to happen. After all, you treat your customers like they are dumb and their personally identifiable information is worthless, so they probably don’t have the smarts to hire a lawyer to sue you into the poor house. After all, $50 is a lot of money for security and peace of mind!

If you didn’t already realise, all of the above is supposed to be tongue in cheek.  Adding SSL (Secure Socket Layer) to your website is just about THE most important thing that you can do.  I recently saw an offer at namecheap.com for SSL for $15 per year.  At those prices, can you afford not to add SSL?

What’s that you say – you don’t know what SSL is?!?  In very basic terms, it’s the little padlock you see when you are on some websites…makes sense now?

Read on, to find out why you MUST add a SSL Certificate to your site…

It does not matter if you plan on using Paypal, Authorize.net, Worldpay, ProtX or some other provider. Your site is going to be collecting personal identifiable information in the form of shipping addresses, phone numbers, and customer names. You need an SSL certificate. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

padlock.gifSSL certificates vary in price from $20-$400 a year. Make sure you get a minimum 128 bit security certificate- the rest of the price variation is in name brand recognition of the certificate issuer.

I personally think that Geotrust is the best balance of value for price, but there are many others much cheaper and more expensive. Do your research, and buy the one that would make YOU must comfortable as a consumer.

Most of this post is courtesy of my good friend Jason over at JC Commerce.

How to use PHPMyAdmin to load SQL

Sometimes it is necessary to action a SQL file when installing contributions into osCommerce. This is really simple, and consists of you making changes to your shop database.

You will need to have access to a piece of software called “PHP My Admin” – thankfully this is supplied as standard on 99.9% of all hosting accounts. So you should log into your control panel and find it! You can see some general screenshots by clicking here.

All you need to do is click the name of your osCommerce database in the small left hand pane. This will bring up the right hand pane which has tabs along the top. One of these tabs is called “SQL”. Click that, and then paste the contents of the SQL into the box and press go. DONE!

Here’s a video that shows how to do this:

However, you should note that PHP My Admin is a VERY powerful tool and it would be quite easy to nuke your whole database if you did something wrong. For this reason, I suggest that you BACKUP your shop database before making any change to it.

Another 4 sites added to the HOT 100

Another 4 sites have been added to the HOT 100 list, bring the grand total up to 54 best osCommerce sites.  We still have another 46 to go before the magic 100 is reached!

Todays additions are (in no particular order);

And the Top 5 best osCommerce Stores presently look like this:

  1. TexereSilk
  2. 3hmp3
  3. Assault Shirts
  4. Kustom Tees
  5. Punk Baby Clothes

Go visit these sites and see just how they look – none of them look remotely like standard osCommerce.

I really need every reader of this Blog to submit any osCommerce sites that they feel have a chance of being one of the Best 100 osCommerce Stores.  Let’s get to that Magic 100 sooner rather than later!

Adding A Delivery Date

Over in the official osCommerce Forum, someone wanted the ability to add a “delivery date” that the customer can choose to select.

I have no doubt that there is a pre-existing contribution that can handle this, bt I thought it would make an interesting exercise, to see if I could come up with something that is coded cleanly and, most importantly, works easily…

Introducing the Club osCommerce Date Picker!

This little mod took me about 15 minutes work. I added a text input using javascript on the checkout_shipping page, and created the value as a session. I input the session value into the database. Then pull the value from the database to display the customer preferred delivery date in the Admin area.

Here’s a short video showing this;

If anyone wants the code, please let me know – it does involve some changes to core osCommerce files (though the changes are very minimal. If anyone wants it, I’ll package it up ready for download.

Horrible or Awesome #5 – Your Market

Ignore the market you are going to sell in at YOUR PERIL…

Sure, there are 50,000 computer stores online, but yours is going to be better! Market research is for people who don’t know what they want to sell, right?

You didn’t research for your term paper in high school and you passed, so why should an online business be any different? Don’t invest time or money in unique products or services, and don’t even think of developing some sort of unique selling proposition.

Just bang out a site with the exact same products as your competition, only make yours more expensive, lesser known, and harder to deal with!

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been researching osCommerce sites for addition onto the Hot 100 – and I cannot tell you the number of osCommerce stores that do NOTHING to differentiate themselves from others (in terms of USP).

In the osCommerce Live Shops list, I would guesstimate that at least 15% of ALL the stores no longer exist – which says much for the amount of planning that potential business owners actually put into their business. Another 25% are running osCommerce out of the box, and a further 25% are using “Monster” templates which give no USP at all. Come on people, wake up and smell the coffee!

For the uninitiated, a USP is a Unique Selling Proposition. In layman’s terms, it’s what makes your website special for the customer. It’s why customers would buy from you instead of the big guys, and it’s probably the single most important thing for your sales.

You may want to make a website that sells computer parts, but you have to understand that there are 50,000 companies selling computer parts.

Just what is going to set your site apart? Great shipping deals? Lower prices? Advanced configurations? Whatever it is, you need to do your market research, find out what your USP is going to be, and implement it successfully to make money.

Most of this post is courtesy of my good friend Jason over at JC Commerce.

Hot 100 New Additions…

I found another 5 sites today that I feel are deserving of an entry into the osCommerce Hot 100 – taking the total number of exceptional osCommerce sites upto 50. Surely there are 50 more to complete the Top 100 ??

The 5 added today are, in no particular order:

I particularly like The Mozilla Store!

As of right now, the Top 5 osCommerce Stores are as follows:

  1. Assault Shirt 7.1/10
  2. Punk Baby Clothes 6.1/10
  3. Oh Cheri! 5.8/10
  4. Vital Skin Care 5.2/10
  5. Xavier Master Cheese Refiner 5.2/10

Got a site that you think can make it onto the Top 100 list? Submit it!

So long as it has something “different” that takes it away from being standard osCommerce, it’ll be added.

Currency as Flags, not Dropdown Menu

Darryl has sent in a very interesting situation and it’s one that I completely agree with;

Hi, I’d like to get rid of the currencies menu and instead have flags which relate to the currency, so Dollars would get a USA flag, Euros would get the euro flag and so on. Is this easy to do?

Well, it is simple to do! All that needs to be done is a quick change to the currencies page in your admin section, a change to the currencies class and a change to the currencies infobox code. I got all this done in about 5 minutes!

Here’s a video showing the new system in action;

I have written about this before on one of my other blogs – here’s what I had to say;

Some people like to use images. If that’s you, then that’s fine. Why not use images as an indicator of CURRENCY. After all, a USA Flag would be considered US Dollars. A French flag would use Euros’s and so on. I have no doubt that some countries probably have more than 1 legal currency, but this is (to me) not the same problem as with LANGUAGE…

Here’s some more reading;

My Code

Once I have tested my code on MS2 and RC, I will upload it to the official osCommerce Contributions area. I’ll post the link here once I do that.

Horrible or Awesome #4 – The Checkout Process

Who needs a quick checkout? People love clicking through 8 pages of forms they have to fill in before buying stuff. Better yet, add in a couple more pages and hoodwink the customer just when they think they are finally through!

Sure, you need the customer’s age, gender, and the name of their first born son to sell them your hand painted dishrags. Make it as hard as you can for the customer to actually complete a sale and pay you money because that’s how you can tell if a customer is truly dedicated (or if they love pain).

Have you ever been to a website and realised that they want you to give over more details than you are prepared to part with?  Sure, a site needs your delivery address and payment details – but anything more than this?  No.   Quite often, I make it a mission to NOT shop at osCommerce stores as I know the checkout process is so crap.  As a shop owner, have a think about that!

There are numerous industry studies and reports that say shorter, fewer page checkouts improve conversion rates. I personally think the ideal is a two or three page checkout- Enter your stuff, confirm, you’re done.

There is a long and still active thread (after 5 years!!!) on the official osCommerce Forum with many code hints, tips, and tricks. It covers checkout, account creation, making the customer log in, etc. It’s a great read, and I would say a requirement for anyone wanting to run an osC shop.

So, my idea for a simplified checkout would be as follows;

  1. Change the in-your-face “Account” functionality.  Who wants to set up an “account” when they are only going to buy from your shop one time.  Change the wording to “Your profile” or “Your details”.
  2. Show the shipping cost (even if it’s an estimate) BEFORE the Account Creation.  So obvious and yet almost ALL osCommerce stores FAIL BADLY at this.
  3. Redirect to “account set up” rather than “login”.  Known to increase conversion rates substantially.
  4. Remove Passwords from “account set up”.  Have a tickbox that says “remember my details for next time”.  If they tick it, send a randomly created password by email.
  5. Get rid the welcoming email.  They already know that they are shopping at your store – why tell then again?
  6. Get rid the useless checkout pages, like “create account success” and “checkout success”.  What the heck is the use of “checkout success” anyway?  The product notifications don’t work!  If you have to have it, make it useful.  How about an UPSELL, or a miling list signup?  Or maybe a special offer discount code for their next purchase!  Come on, THINK ABOUT IT.
  7. Merge multiple pages.  Merge the shipping and billing page.  Marge that into the customer details page.

The point of this post is to get YOU, the shop owner, to think like a CUSTOMER.  Make shopping at your site as painless as possible.  By cutting down on crap, you won’t hurt your sales, but you might just increase them.

Most of this post is courtesy of my good friend Jason over at JC Commerce.