Help! Attributes, Templates, Stylesheet

Maureen asks;

I have a sign and apparel shop, we sell tshirts and would like to do some interactive designs online. I can’t seem to find a good contribution to make this change within osc.

OK, I’m guessing that you are trying to use the “products attributes” and you want to change the image of a product when a different attribute is selected? If so, take a look at; http://addons.oscommerce.com/info/5456 – I have not tested or even used that addon, but it looks OK to me.

Second I’m not sure how to even go about downloading and uploading a template when I do find one.

Once you find a template, you’ll need to follow the instructions. You need to note that applying a template should be done as the very first thing after an install otherwise any changes you make might knock the template off base…

Hopefully the template provider has just provided changed files rather than a whole oscommerce install! If you can, avoid the “osCommerce Templates” from the likes of Template Monster – they are good looking, but poorly coded.

Third, yes there is a third, I read about changing colors for the shop but can only seem to change the background color. I’ve been reading for weeks about ‘how to change colors’ and it doesn’t seem to work for whatever reason. One day I can change lets say the background but nothing else will change. Even when I go through every option there is.

Everything that you’ll need to change would be in the stylesheet.css file – but as osCommerce was coded so long ago (the year 2000) the files and stylesheet are kind of outdated. So you have lots of redundant code in them.

The easiest way is to open up an osCommerce page, then do “view source”. Find the area that you wish to change the look of and then work your way backwards to find the “class” that is applied to it.

As an example, let’s say you wanted to change the footer area where it says “158 requests since Monday 07 April, 2008”, I’d open up the source and find it;

[php]

158 requests since Monday 07 April, 2008

[/php]

You can see that the nearest “class” before it is `footer`, so then you find this in the stylesheet.css file and change it. Hope this makes sense?

I’d also advise you to have a think about getting your hands on a tutorial – this will help you to really get up to speed with osCommerce really quickly. My own tutorial on “How To Design osCommerce” is a good read, well worth the small cost to save banging your head on the keyboard.

Gary

How Much Should I Pay?

Randy asks

Hi, I want to have a nice looking website, I don’t know how much I should pay for a nice design. I have 3 quotes for a design ranging from $99 ! to over $1000 – for much the same thing. Any advice would be great.

Randy, what you are asking is “how long is a piece of string”. As an example, you could buy a template from the likes of Template Monster, then ask 20 different designers to quote for integration to osCommerce – and I guarantee that those quotes will be entirely different.

My advice is as follows;

add up the total of your quotes, then divide by the number of quotes you have. This will give you your median quote figure. Go for the quote which is nearest to that median figure.

This *should* give you the best of the designers ability and the price point. It’s not an exact science though! Ask to see the designers previous work with osCommerce. He should be happy to show you at least a few stores!

Let’s look at some pricing;

Stylesheet Changes – getting someone to install osCommerce and make a few stylesheet changes – this is no more than 1 or 2 hours of work, so you should be looking at paying no more than £50 – £100 (about $100 to $200). Maybe even less. A good developer who knows osCommerce should be able to do this in less than 15 minutes – but I expect he or she would charge for at least 30 minutes of work.

HTML Template Integration – getting a developer to integrate a “Template Monster” – this should cost between £200 and £400 – about $400 to $800. Depending upon the complexity of the design the price will be towards the higher end of the scale. If you need extra coded bits to suit the design, expect to pay more.

CAVEAT: Watch out for the “osCommerce Templates” from the likes of Template Monster – they are usually coded very poorly and they have non-existant support – hence the high number of “I’ve bought a Template Monster and it doesn’t work” threads in the official osCommerce Forum.

Bespoke Design – getting a developer/designer to make a design just for you – the best way to get a one-off look to your store. Expect to pay at least £750 (to £2000) for the design and another £300 for the integration. The good thing is that most osCommerce developers will know what osCommerce is capable of and will adjust their design accordingly.

osCommerce Template – buying an “off the shelf” template for osCommerce – possibly the easiest way to get a good look and pay only a tiny amount for it. This is NOT the same as buying an osCommerce template from the likes of Template Monster. You would be dealing with an osCommerce expert, not a bunch of no-marks. A decent osCommerce template bought from an expert will cost you between £50 and £100 ($100 to $200) usually. You get support within the price!

My advice;

If you have the cash, go for a bespoke design, made by a true osCommerce developer/designer. I can list some names of such people (there are not many) if this would help.

If you don’t have the cash, go for an osCommerce Template from someone who knows osCommerce inside out. This would be a good base for making further changes to make the site your own.

In other words, deal with osCommerce experts and you won’t go far wrong.

Any help to you?

oscmax zencart creloaded – bewildered!

Henry asks;

I am about to set up an OSC site but which one to use Oscmax, CREloaded, Zencart

CRE seem to have the best support but I like the Xshop software that goes with OSCmax.

None of the above! Why not go with a standard install of osCommerce and then add the functionality you need – rather than start off with something that’s a bit bloated and possibly contains stuff you will never need…

I am a wholesaler so need different pricing for different types of customers.

I use a contribution called “Customer Groups” on one of my osCommerce sites. Here’s a screenshot;

after.gif

This gives me the ability to assign a permanent discout rate to a group of customers! The contribution is right here (it’s not one of my contributions)…I have added some extra coding to give me a list of all the customers in the group though – only to make it slightly easier for me to use.

Also do you know of any contribution that would enable a customer to buy something online and key in a code to say that they were referred from a particular shop that I could then pay commission to that shop whether it be a % or a flat fee or a per item fee and can some products be switched on or off so they not be included in the commission.

You’d probably do better to look at getting this coded from scratch – as, off the top of my head, I can’t think of anything that’s a perfect fit.  I guess that to get a good coder onto making somehting that fits your requirement would be fairly expensive…

I like your featured contribution as well and hope to install it when I get going. Do you do installs for people.

Thanks 🙂 I do installs, the usual cost is about $25 usd or so, but it depends upon what needs to be installed as to the exact charge.

Thanks, Gary

Is osCommerce right for me?

Nicole asks;

1. Should I steer clear of the RC version until it is released? If so which version should I go for?

The RC2a version of osCommerce is no more than osCommerce MS2 with a few bugs fixed and some security updates. I would go with RC2a as I believe it’s stable enough for a live shop…

2. Are there template clubs like rockettheme with professional looking templates?

I don’t know of any template “clubs”, but there are a handful of people selling templates and a handful of developers who are making bespoke oscommerce sites. I myself run an osCommerce Templates site, and I also have a free RC2 template right here

3.How long does it usually take to get OSC up and running?

If you are talking of just getting it up and running “straight out of the box” it should take no more than 5 or 10 minutes! Then of course, you’ll need to add on any extras that you need (such as contributions like SEO Urls, Discount Vouchers etc)…and then you’ll need to implement a design.

And then of course, you need to load the products…

I suppose the average site woner would probably spend a month doing all that?

4. DO you think Joomla/Vitruemart is a viable option considering I already know joomla?

That I cannot answer as I have no experience with Joomla or the Virtuemart addon.

5. If you think OSC would be the best option, how would you go about learning OSC if you were a newbie to it?

I’d install osCommerce and have a play with the codebase. I’d buy myself an ebook to get a good head start on 99% of all other osCommerce users ( ebooks sites: www.oscbooks.com & www.oscommercemanuals.com ) and I’d try my best to learn the in’s and out’s to see if osC is suitable…

Nicole, I think that osCommerce is very suitable for most store owners. It has it’s problems, just like any other cart, but the great thing is that the codebase is open so that you can change it up to suit your needs, and there are lots of people ready to help you out…

Does that help at all?

Cheers, Gary

ps, you can see some great examples of osCommerce sites at the Hot 100 list – so you can see that osCommerce is supremely flexible with the ability to do almost anything. In fact, I’d say that osC is only limited by one’s own imagination and skillset!

Developing osCommerce on your own computer

Caroline asks “the other day I bought an ebook showing how to design a shop, but I don’t have any spare space in which to set up a test shop. Can you help?”

Caroline – yes I can help! Most “professional” coders don’t use a normal website/host to develop websites – instead they use their own laptop or computer.  You might well be thinking “how the heck…” – I’m going to show you how.  It’s really, REALLY simple.

Step 1: Install PHP, MySQL and PHPMyAdmin onto your home computer.  This is simple as all you need to do is go to Fire Pages and download their program called “phpdev”.   Unzip the package and follow the instructions!  Within 10 minutes you’ll have it all installed, all being well.

Step 2:  Download the latest version of osCommerce and unzip  it.

Step 3:  Start up “phpdev” and go to http://localhost/phpmyadmin/ – in here create a database ready for use.

Step 4:  Open up the “www” folder within phpdev and copy al the oscommerce files into it.

Step 5:  Run the usual osCommerce install procedure.  When you get to the database screen simply use the name of the database you just created.

Step 6:  osCommerce is now installed on your home computer!

Step 7:  Right click on /includes/configure.php and set the attributes to “read only”.  Delete the whole /install/ directory.

Step 8:  You MIGHT need to delete a couple of the .htaccess files (the one in /includes/ probably).

Later on, I will make a video of the above so that you can see just how it is done, and how quick you can get an osCommerce site up and running…

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!

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.

Forgotten Your Admin Password? Shock, Horror!

Early releases of osCommerce didn’t have any protection for the Admin area – it was up to the Shop Owner to protect the Admin folder using .htaccess…easy enough in most hosts Control Panels. And easy enough to reset if you forgot the Password…

Jon sent in an interesting dilemma;

When I set up oscommerce the install asked me for a admin username and password, when I came back to the site a week later to do some work I cannot remember the Password that i used. Can you help?

RC (recent) releases of osCommerce include an inbuilt password – so the installation procedure asks for a Username and Password. If you forget your Password, it’s impossible to get it back, as it is entered into the MySQL Database encrypted.

BUT…it is easy to get around, so long as you have access to PHP My Admin (which is standard on just about every host that I know of!). Here’s what you need to do.

1. Open up PHP My Admin, and EMPTY the Administrators Table totally.

2. Go to your Shop Admin, and the login page will now ask you to set up a NEW admin username and password. It will show this text “No administrators exist in the database table. Please fill in the following information to create the first administrator. (A manual login is still required after this step)“. Obviously, you should follow this instruction!

3. You can now log in using your new username and password.

Easy as 123. Here’s a video I made of me doing exactly these steps;

Paypal payment but no order

Dani asks;

I use oscmmerce to sell downloadable stuff like ebooks and software, i’m finding that i get lots of paypal payments without an order so I have to contact the person to find out what they ordered. Maybe half of all my paypal payments don’t have orders and i dont know how to fix this. Please help

Dani – this is a problem that is not just localised to you. The standard osCommerce Paypal payment method just sends your customer to paypal to pay. Once they’ve paid they are expected to click the “return to merchant” link. If they don’t click the link, then the order is NOT written to your database at all!

It’s easy to fix! Simply install Paypal IPN (Instant Payment Notification) – this is an “upgraded” version of the Paypal Payment method, which sends a signal back from Paypal to your store, which then writes the order to the database. So whether or not your customer presses “return to merchant”, you’ll receive the order.

If you are running a very old version of osCommerce, you might not be able to use the IPN version – in this case, probably the best you can do is to put a message on the “checkout confimation” screen saying something like “IMPORTANT: You have selected to pay via Paypal. Please make sure that after paying at paypal, you press the “Return To Merchant” Link. Thank You!”.

You can enwrap this in a PHP “if” to only show if the selected payment method is Paypal; if ($payment_modules->selected_module == “paypal”) – this small piece of code will onlyshow your message if the selected payment method is Paypal.

I hope this helps!

As an aside, I also sell lots of digital products, like scripts, ebooks, templates etc – I wanted to point you at www.diycovers.com – for selling digital goods, a good product image can easily increase the number of buyers by a good 10 to 20% in my experience. Even if you are selling products that you have sourced elsewhere that come with a pre-made graphic, it’s always wise to try and differentiate yourself from all the other people who are selling the same thing.

PWA & STS – Merging osCommerce Contributions

Joey asks;

I saw your admin contribution and went to your website. I am having an issue {&} if you can help that would be great.

I made a nice shop but I am new to php and can’t figure out how to merge {PWA and STS}…THANKS!

Where do I start? 😉

PWA (Purchase Without Account) is a totally un-necessary contribution that adds no value to the average osCommerce shop in any way, shape or form. What you need to do is think about how a customer perceives your site and move on from there. Within the official forum there is a very long thread started over 5 years ago by myself, which is ongoing – search for “Customer Login Routines”. My suggestions is as follows;

  1. Rename parts of the checkout procedure so that they are less “in your face”. Eg, chenge “create account” to “your details”.
  2. When starting the checkout, start on “your details” NOT “login”
  3. Remove the password input boxes from the “create account” page. Add a checkbox saying “remember my details” instead.
  4. Create a random password for EVERY customer.
  5. IF thy checked the “remember me” checkbox, then send an email with the password. If they did not, then don’t send that email.
  6. Sanitize the rest of the checkout procedure, by removing some of the unnecessary pages.

If I can find some time, I will make an optimised checkout that does exactly this.

Simple Template System – the ability to design an osCommerce store by amending one file, rather than 30 or 40. This is even more un-needed in the average osCommerce Store.

It’s a pointless contribution that serves only to make your learning of PHP and osCommerce almost NIL. You say that you are new to PHP, and yet you want to use STS to design your site – meaning that you’ll never get to experience the “joy” that working with core code brings to you. You can only learn by getting your hands dirty and you simply cannot do that with STS.

If you already have STS installed, you’ve already stumbled across another real problem that STS brings to you – it’s harder to add contributions – and as only “newbies” and “lazy designers” use STS, it’s almost impossible to find good help.

Also, it adds more layers of code to an already over-coded piece of software – it makes sites load slower – it’s an all round mistake to use it.

Suggestion: Remove STS. Go back to standard osCommerce. Take the time out to learn at least some of the code within osCommerce. You’ll then be able to add Contributions easily.

osc-designing.gifDid you realize that I don’t like STS ? 😉 It’s the WORST templating layer presently available.

In V3 of osCommerce will be included it’s own templating engine, could be worth waiting for, but who knows when v3 will arrive?

For anyone reading this who wants to properly learn a bit about how to lay out an osCommerce site WITHOUT using some flaky templating system, you could do a lot worse than have a read of “Designing for osCommerce” available from www.oscbooks.com.