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Integrate OSC with existing site?


jbeech

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What's the general philosophy of using OSC? is it as a standalone replacement, or as a supplement (to add shopping cart functionality) to an existing website?

 

We've been building websites for our products using HTML for several years. they've usually been coded by hand, not with Frontpage, or similar. Then we started added javascript menus to ease the burden and now we're contemplating building a site with GoLive (similar to Dreamweaver and Frontpage).

 

Anyway, GoLive is certainly an attractive premise as a way to work since I'm the designer and am thus pretty comfortable building print catalogs, print adverts, brochures, etc. using other Adobe tools like InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator. GoLive also make it easy to repurpose my creative work for use in websites - and I have many assets already made which I might just have to lighten up from tiffs to jpegs or gifs, etc. - before I can use them for the websites.

 

However, they (GoLive) make no mention of e-commerce (perhaps Dreamweaver does, I've not investigated to any depth). It is, however, designed to also produce CSS (said subject I know little about at present - remember, I'm the graphics wonk, not the web wonk - that's my wife) pages.

 

Anyway, I was thinking I could perhaps make up the websites in Golive (or even use existing html sites) and just add the OSC shopping cart (and perhaps a php forum as well) and more quickly get something done (i.e. presentable) than tryying to figure out how to make a website look like I want with OSC (said subject I am tired of beating my head on - to the point I am considering a move to Interchange and away from OSC altogether).

 

Can anybody share some experience and issues I should consider?

 

John

407-302-3360

John Beech - GM (and janitor)

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Nope. You're going to want to take your html coded templates, and split them up and insert them into OSCommerce, to make OSCommerce look like your template.

 

Also, I'm afraid that Interchange isn't going to make things any easier, lol.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

NOTE: As of Oct 2006, I'm not as active in this forum as I used to be, but I still work with osC quite a bit.

If you have a question about any of my posts here, your best bet is to contact me though either Email or PM in my profile, and I'll be happy to help.

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There are template systems that can be added to oscommerce that would allow you to easily add your look to it, but I have heard it can be a pain expecially when you want to add additional contributions, there is a topic in the forums somewhere about the different template systems. I believe they are STS and BTS

 

osCommerce is really a stand alone system, not a plug n play like say paypal offers... by just placing buy now buttons and some code on existing pages.

 

There is a ton of information on this forum about designing, with tips and tricks and so on. Personally I don't think you will find a better system but I may be a little biased, I have been using it for years now. Tried a couple of others but absolutely hated them.

 

GoLive is ok, not sure how well it would work with oscommerce though. I use dreamweaver for editing the pages.

Wendy James

 

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

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said subject I am tired of beating my head on - to the point I am considering a move to Interchange and away from OSC altogether).

 

 

Hi John,

 

I will tell you from experience (Interchange is where I started) that you will be much happier with osC if you give it a little effort.

 

Iggy

Everything's funny but nothing's a joke...

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Everybody, especially Vger, thank you for taking of your time to write!

 

Interchange 'is' a pain in the rear - but so is osCommerce (OSC). It seems almost every OSC site I see presented as new always has the same old fashioned look. Also, the way products are described seems a little limited. Meanwhile, I keep hoping it's my poor understanding of how OSC works because for some products I NEED to add expanded product descriptions - to include technical specs, manuals, product videos, extended descriptions, magazine reviews (in PDF format and with permission from the publishers), as well as purchaser reviews, etc.

 

What's nice about the Internet is we have an unlimited space for marketing - vs. for example, a magazine advert which is 8-1/2x11 and costs thousands a month. I'm not sure how to make extra information available within OSC but remember, I'm the guy tasked with making a site function and look decent, i.e. I'm the graphics wonk - not the coding guru (we don't have one, so I'm trying my best and I'm also willing to pay for some help).

 

I have beat my head against three things with OSC and I'm frustrated. One is understanding the "template" system. Second are the space limitations for extended product descriptions, and third (and most important), how long it takes to enter a manual order.

 

For example, I am a freak for simplicity so as to minimize confusion and wasting time. With OSC it's always many, many steps, i.e. step 1, step 2, step 3 . . .

 

This seems out of date - and it's slow. For example, we installed the manual order entry mod so we could handle phone orders. Unfortunately, it requires 5 steps for entry of a single product! yes, just adding a single product means going through many pages. Here are the steps . . .

 

 

Step 1 is customer information. Press to confirm at the lower right.

OSC_step_1.jpg

 

 

Step 2 is confirming payment information. I'm not sure why this page and the previous page can't be combined into one page. Way down (you have to scroll on most computers is Step 3. Select Step 3.

 

OSC_step_2a.jpg

OSC_step_2b.jpg

 

 

Having pressed Step 3 previously brings you to this new page. Now you use a pull down and select a category. Then mouse over to press "Select this category"

OSC_step_3.jpg

 

This brings to this page. It looks almost the same, except now you use a pull down and select a product. Then mouse over to press "Select this Product" Right about here the customer starts to ask, "What's taking so long?"

OSC_step_4.jpg

 

This brings you to this new page - also looking very similar to the previous page where you type in the quantity and press, "Add Now!" That brings you back to that long pagf where you have to mouse over to slide it down to where you can press Step 3 and start the proicess all over again!

OSC_step_5.jpg

 

Contrast this with a the simplicity of any POS system (POS - point of sale) where you can just type in a product code, quanity, and bingo, go to the next product. Or better still, you can scan the products in using a cheap bar code reader.

 

Please understand, a customer will call and say, "Hi, it's John Doe and I need to place an order." Fine, I find him or add him as a customer. Next he starts, "I need . . . "

 

2 ea PDR 0016

3 ea PDR 0074

2 ea AUD 0055

1 ea AUD 2501

4 ea AUD 0016

4 ea AUD 0004

3 ea AUD 0001

36 ea MSX 0701

4 ea RCB 0004

.

.

.

etc. Thus, imagine if I have to go through all those stpes for each product!!!! What happens is the custome rinterrupts and asks if I can't just write his roder down because he has something else to do.

 

Meanwhile, I found another open source package (similar to OSC) called Interchange (IC) and entering a phone order is as fast as a POS system.

 

This one screen is all you have to do fill to place an order over the telephone using IC. It too is a little long (and Photoshop split the image into two), but it's just one screen!

IC-create_order-step-1a.jpg

IC-create_order-step-1b.jpg

 

 

Now, I'm not trying to start a war, or sling mud here. Instead I offer this so you can understand what I mean and perhaps help me come up with an OSC based solution. Can we make OSC work as simply as IC? If yes, then I'd rather continue with OSC. But at present, I just can't work with OSC with this manual order entry mod and without it, I cannot use OSC for phone orders at all.

 

Here's why - and this is from actual experience - not theory. A customer calls to place an order. I open the manual order screen and get his account number if he's an existing customer or his account info if he's not. Then we start taking his order. Before long they interrupt with, "What's going on? What are we waiting for? Can't you just write my order down? I have things to do!"

 

Please understand, we run our business with the understanding the customer is always right. Hence, I cannot force my customers to be patient or they'll just call someone else instead. Is there any hope for OSC, or is this level of simplicity (equivalent to that of IC or any POS system) for entering phone orders just not possible with OSC and thus, I'll may be forced into IC?

 

Frankly, I too wish everybody would use the Internet to place orders, but for us telephone orders are an ongoing fact of life.

 

Help!

 

John

407-302-3361

John Beech - GM (and janitor)

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Hi John,

 

Well, first thing first. There is no templating system in a stock osC installation. It's all inlined html spread through 5 or 6 files and then some classes that generate display of the boxes. This is the source of much hair-pulling and gnashing of teeth. There are a few templating contributions but they too cause some pain depending on your application.

 

As far as product descriptions go there are a few more mods to simplify that.

 

Lastly, and this is going to be the same across osC and Interchange, if it doesn't work the way you need it to DIY (Do It Yourself) rules the day at any open-source project.

 

The major reason there is a manual order mod is because somebody needed it and created it. The reason it is the way it is mostly revolves around their skillset and it only awaits someone with a better vision and greater skills (whether in programming or conceptually) to come along and "fix" it.

 

YOU can be that person, John. In fact, YOU will HAVE to be that person. Pick up the torch. osC needs you.

 

Iggy

Everything's funny but nothing's a joke...

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Heh-heh, I rather suspected that would be the case. The issue is I can conceptualize it, I can even mock up exactly how it should look (in Photoshop or InDesign) so that we know what we're working towards . . . but I don't know how to even begin actually coding it.

 

I kind of figured the reason the Manual Order Entry mod is working like it is might be more a function of limitations of who worked it out (and for a small volume of orders, or a limited number of items it's probably workable. However, for orders which consist of 10s of items at a time, it ain't happening!

 

I most especially have no intent to "disrespect" whomever sweat blood to make the Manual Order Entry mod work in the first place . . . God bless them, in fact, for even creating something I can criticize in the first place!

 

I just am asking first, if it can be done, and second, if we know anybody who can do something cleaner and more streamlined? Like I said, I'm willing to pay. Something very elegant already exists in the IC, and kicking and screaming though I may be dragged to IC, I know I cannot operate my business with OSC unless I can do somthing about this Manual Order Entry problem.

 

Don't other folks using OSC have issues with telephone orders? Surely I cannot be the only one, am I?

John Beech - GM (and janitor)

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Well, I don't understand why you would have to keep customers waiting on the phone while you do a manual order entry. Just write down the order on an order form, take their card details and a phone number, e-mail address if they have it - and then advise them you'll confirm the order in the next 15 minutes.

 

Then go to your POS terminal (offline/online), input their card and address details and if it validates you can confirm their order. Just subtract the stock from your website via the control panel - no need to set up an account for them. If you really, really want to set up an account then run the order through using the Pay By Check/Money Order module, and e-mail them their password.

 

Vger

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The issue with writing it down on an order form and then later entering the order afterwards are errors. Furthermore, I pay a living wage so I cannot afford to have order takers using more than twice the time to enter an order (more than twice the time because of how clunky the present manual order entry process is)

 

Anyway, using a piece of paper is exactly how we've been doing it for years and I want to get away from that because the multistep process of taking an order occasionally results in erros and finger pointing and is costing me time and money.

 

I would use an ordinary POS sytem, but they don't take into acconut shipping. While I can estimate pretty close what the shippping will be becasue of my experience, what am I supposed to do with a new employee, suffer teh time and errors to train them? What are computers supposed to do other than free us fomr routine calculations anyway?

 

hence, if OSC isn't capable of performing this task in a streamlined fashion then I can proceed to explore other options. Like I said, I'm not trying to start a war, or complain about the wonderful OSC effort. All I'm trying to do is ascertain whether this manual entry process can be cleaned up in OSC or whether I am forced to abandon efforts and experience with OSC and try something else.

 

I like OSC, I think it rocks! But I am a businessman, not a programmer. I am quite willing to pay for the help, but first I need to know if it's even capable of performing as we need it to. This is just the investigation proecss.

John Beech - GM (and janitor)

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There are paid coders/programmers with experience in OSC, but this isn't supposed to be a forum to solicit paid help.

 

You know, you could just have your order takers surf to your store and run an order in real time while the customer is on the phone. It seems much faster than the manual Order Entry contrib as long as you have high speed internet in your office. The checkout process is a little outdated, but will go quickly once they do a few. They'll get the results of the credit card process and it will generate an e-mail confirmation to the customer automatically.

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Thanks Dan, I appreciate the idea. We've tried that but it's not efficient. I didn't know I was asking in the wrong area. Which forum should I ask in?

John Beech - GM (and janitor)

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A couple of things I wanted to mention.

 

First, Go-Live produces the most absolutly horrible code I've ever seen in my life. I've recently started working on integrating a template created by go-live into an OSC cart, and I've needed to practically re-write everythign from scratch. Serious, this is worse than Frontpage!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

NOTE: As of Oct 2006, I'm not as active in this forum as I used to be, but I still work with osC quite a bit.

If you have a question about any of my posts here, your best bet is to contact me though either Email or PM in my profile, and I'll be happy to help.

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Chris, thanks for the feedback. I didn't know this about GoLive. Any tools you would recommend?

 

Have you read this thread to see my query about manual order entry? Is this within your area of expertise?

John Beech - GM (and janitor)

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Honestly, I don't do alot of design. I'm more into integration and back end utility. For html, I normally write everythign by hand, and use as much php as possible, reusing html 'modules' over and over again, similar to the way golive uses 'components'. For example, in the header.php, you write it once, and call it from every page.

 

The other thing I wanted to mention is that there is little known manual order entry/editor contribution for the admin section written by my partner 'Dreamscape' that's a million ties better that the one you are talking about. I'm not sure if it's up to date, and I think some of the things he put in there might be custom made specifically for our store, and our fork of oscommerce, but it would definatly be worth a look.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

NOTE: As of Oct 2006, I'm not as active in this forum as I used to be, but I still work with osC quite a bit.

If you have a question about any of my posts here, your best bet is to contact me though either Email or PM in my profile, and I'll be happy to help.

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The other thing I wanted to mention is that there is little known manual order entry/editor contribution for the admin section

 

A link to the contribution might help.

 

Also, mention of your own 'fork' of osCommerce on the forum is pretty much guaranteed to get posts deleted. I'm sure the word 'fork' is actually monitored on these forums, along with the word 'loaded'.

 

Vger

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A link to the contribution might help.

 

Also, mention of your own 'fork' of osCommerce on the forum is pretty much guaranteed to get posts deleted.  I'm sure the word 'fork' is actually monitored on these forums, along with the word 'loaded'.

 

Vger

 

Yeah, well, now I know why it's so 'little known'. It looks like it was never contributed. So, I guess we'll need to scratch that.

 

And you're right, 'fork' really isn't the correct term. More like our over 'version' of oscommerce, where just about every single block has been re-written. It's not publicly available or anything. I only mentioned it becuase the difference might be significant when talking about the functionality of an admin order entry form.

 

In any event, it's his code, so perhaps we can ask Dreamscape about his order entry/editor module, and see if it's compatible with osc 2.2.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

NOTE: As of Oct 2006, I'm not as active in this forum as I used to be, but I still work with osC quite a bit.

If you have a question about any of my posts here, your best bet is to contact me though either Email or PM in my profile, and I'll be happy to help.

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Thanks Dan, I appreciate the idea.  We've tried that but it's not efficient.  I didn't know I was asking in the wrong area.  Which forum should I ask in?

Well, this whole gig is free. Download, Contributions, Code help, Support.

Google OSCommerce and look at all the results and ads to get paid help. Just be careful, there are plenty of hackabouts out there!

 

As far as efficiency of ordering, OSC is starting to fall behind some other carts. Newer ones integrate checkout into fewer pages and steps. I've seen them where I shop on-line, but I don't know the platforms. best of luck with your project!

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Believe it or not, the most frequent complaints we get about our OSC-based website relates to how many steps it takes to check out. Another issue for us is the limited way you share extended information about a product. Combined with the problem of the manual, or administrative, order entry, the other big issue for us is the old fashioned look of an OSC website.

 

These are such serious issues for us that we've been looking at other solutions with which to replace OSC. A serious contender for us is a cart which lets us add tabs with product description, technical specs, and even extended descriptions as well as a larger picture. Naturally, we don't give this much info for all products, but we can and when a product is complex enough we feel it needs more than the few lines of text you can use with OSC, then this is crucial feature.

 

Below are some screen shots demonstrating what we are able to do with this other cart for a product. First up is the product description for one of our products, and this is important to realize . . . at present, we're just fooling around with this. We certainly haven't finished figuring out how to format things for a better presentation (and the images which I ahve cut and pasted poorly for these links - don't match up perfectly because when I printed them to pdf before making jpgs, they did'nt coe out right and I didn't care enough to go mess with them since they're only serving as an example of what I'm talking about).

 

First, note that the breadcrumb shows we're not at the home page but are several levels deep at the product level. Next, note the three tabs below the small info box (the one with the price). The tabs are the "product description", the "tech specs", and the "extended description". The default view is the product description.

 

 

Product_Description.jpg

 

 

 

Selecting the tab for technical specification results in this page:

 

 

Technical_Specs.jpg

 

 

And when a product benefts from an even more thorough extended description, we can have something like this:

 

 

Extended_Information.jpg

 

 

Granted, all our products don't get such an exhaustive treatment. I.e. replacement parts, or most hop up parts don't have the need for such exhaustive information and thus, have only have one tab, the default product description. But as you can see, the product description cam be as full and rich as we want, or it can be fairly sparse also.

 

Remmeber, with the Internet, we finally have a medium where we're not limited to a 1/2-page advert in an expensive magazine, or a 2-page spread if your pockets are deep, or a very expensive to make and distribute printed catalo, but instead we finally can have as much space as we desire for describing and selling a product.

 

Finally, we also can load a large graphic image so that when a customer wants to see a really nice detailed image (and are willing to wait on it if they have dial up), they can click on the larger picture button and get something like this:

 

 

Product_Image.jpg

 

Please reflect how I'm not mentioning what this product is - that's because I'm not pumping or selling for them. I'm only showing you guys this so you can see what I mean vis-a-vis my frustration with learning how to make OSC look and present my products in a more modern way. Frankly, these kinds of things make my website more functional as a sales tool since it precludes many questions since we try to answer them wbefore they need to ask them.

 

By the way, we can similarly insert video links, pdf files of the manual, product reviews from print magazines, and also customer reviews.

 

Folks, I'm not sure how to make OSC perform these functions as well as this other product does . . . but I would be keenly interested in learning how as we really like OSC because it's served us well.

 

of course, it may turn out to be a question of having outgrown OSC, but I doubt it. I hopee it's more a matter of us just not knowing enough to make it perform like we want need.

 

Anyway, I'm sharing this in the hope of learning because we would like to stick with OSC if possible.

John Beech - GM (and janitor)

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osc has a contribution that will do the tabs on the description page. =) I use it on a a site and it works great. Pop up image is standard with osc too. Guess i dont see the problem?

Wendy James

 

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

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As for the manual order mod, just mod it further to get you the products by sku search instead of through the drop down sequence.

 

Or you might checkout turbocash which has a pos and is easily integrated with osc, there is a integration module availlable in the contribution section.

 

You can ofcourse also add the one click checkout, master password and quick batch order contribs and do the telphone orders quickly that way too.

 

The design of osc is easy to change and is more or less based on only 5 files, there are alot of design tips in this forum. For a start you can look at the links in my signature.

 

As Wendy did mention, there is a product tab module available, which gives you the posibillety of extended description and technical data.

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JBeech,

 

You bring up some very good points, many of which we've rehashed ourselves.

 

Yes, the checout process is completly outdated. 8 clicks for a checkout process in this day in age is crazy. Most of those of us that realize this is a problem have shortened it some, by removing the login page and placing a login form at the top of the create account page.

 

On the 'Create Account' page, I normally change that to a 'Shipping Details' page, with a radio button at the bottom to 'remember' the information provided along with an 'appearing' password field when selected. The next page, the 'create account success' is useless, and alot of us have eliminated this completly. The shipping page and payment details page used to be on the same page, but in perhaps the biggest mistake the osc team has ever made, they made the checkout LONGER by seperating them.

 

Another problem here is that the customer has to provide the cc details *before* they see a complete total. While you can tweek the checkout quite a bit, it's *very* difficult to modify. Even experienced codes have had difficulty coming up wiht a better solution.

 

There is a 'one click' checkout mod, but it's really not very realistic, and doesn't come anywhere clost to looking professional. Again, it would need considerable modification.

 

The product detail presentation is rudimentary, as you suggested. The cart that you've detailed looks interesting from this aspect. How much of that cane be done through the admin panel? I mean, I've made many of those very features on my old wizardsandwars site, http://www.wizardsandwars.com/pc_game_info...products_id=244

 

However, that was quite alot of modification.

 

The bottom line is, this code hasn't changed alot in over 2 years, and even with the upcomin release, I don't see many of these issues addressed. If you wnat to use OSC, and need the features you've described, you will need to do quite a bit of the development yourself.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

NOTE: As of Oct 2006, I'm not as active in this forum as I used to be, but I still work with osC quite a bit.

If you have a question about any of my posts here, your best bet is to contact me though either Email or PM in my profile, and I'll be happy to help.

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Yeah, the long checkout is kind of clunky, but I hesitate to open my yap too far to criticise because the guy who authored OSC in the first place was a) on the leading edge, B) not supported by budgets the likes an Amazon can command, c) didn't have me to help, and of course, because d) hindsight is 20/20.

 

However, while I'm careful to express with great care what I desire and need without coming off like I'm just moaning and groaning, the fact is I'm usually not shy in voicing my opinion either. In this case though, I'm asking for help. By the way, that cart I'm testing as a candidate to replace OSC with has a fairly streamlined way of placing a phone order (though not as clean as the one in Interchange in my opinion). This is what a phone order page looks like.

 

phone_order2.jpg

 

Of course if I weren't such a cheap son of a gun I wouldn't be trying to roll my own with OSC either . . . but that's part of the fun!

John Beech - GM (and janitor)

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1) Instead of Manual order entry, just install master password, and log into your customers account. Then you can input the order as usual and go throught the checkout process. Pretty quick and painless.

 

2) There are 1-3 contirbutions that will simplify the checkout process. I kinda like it the way it is because it seperates the sections.

 

cheers

Jud

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Jud wrote ". . . master password . . . Then you can input the order as usual and go throught the checkout process. Pretty quick and painless."

 

I'm not familiar with master pasword, but will go look for it. When you say input the order as usual, do you mean using the mouse and selecting category, then another page and pull down for product, etc. . . . or can we enter the SKU of the items?

 

Entering SKUs would be quick and painless while mousing around and selecting from pull down menus would be too slow.

 

Thanks in advance for clarifying this for me.

John Beech - GM (and janitor)

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