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We started with a vanilla install of oscommerce at Artsmart-Online.

 

It became clear that we needed to make a few modifications to use the site as we wished. After a few months of learning mysql and php we believe the site is now at a point we can take some useful input.

 

All products have an artist and a set of keywords associated with them. The standard search function searches for keyword and artist name along with title. Most product descriptions are just generated from other info.

 

Artist bio and picture will show up in the product description if that info is in the artist table (only for a few specialty artists, such as Ralph Verano and Damon Burke). There's also a search link at the bottom for other products by that artist.

 

We've scaled to 50,000 products and our search times are typically under 1 second. We will probably be bumping that up to 100,000 after we're done parsing through the list of products and deciding what we want to keep.

 

We made a bunch of minor changes, such as removing the window resizing when clicking the product image (was pretty broken in Firefox), decent sized product image in the product description, built-in live chat, popular searches and popular artists available in columns, etc. Searches appear in order of relevance, for instance, a search for chickens shows products with "chickens" in the title first, then products with "chickens" as a keyword.

 

We've also created static pages which give the search engines something with a unique filename to parse through. The page is ugly, I haven't had time to go back and rewrite it.

 

The static pages are actually just one file which pulls the product_id from the filename. The beauty of linking.

 

On the back-end we keep track of MSRP so we can apply realtime discounts on the entire database. We're starting to roll out a new method of maintaining products which allows us to keep a master table on another machine and dynamically create all new tables and import them into OSC. Since we get regular product updates we need to process thousands of additions and deletions regularly. On top of that, we export a number of feeds (such as froogle) for advertising purposes. All this is done on a different machine to keep the database parsing from slowing down the site.

 

The site is hosted on a VPS "Essential" from ServInt. This allows us to put our full compliment of products online and provides enough power to keep the database queries typically under one second.

 

Our question: How does it feel? Does anything seem nonintuitive? Is anything confusing? Does something not make sense?

 

We'd hate for all this work to be wasted on a site that doesn't feel right. This is my first ecommerce site and my first taste of mysql and php. It's amazing stuff. The oscommerce package is really impressive.

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We've also created static pages which give the search engines something with a unique filename to parse through. The page is ugly, I haven't had time to go back and rewrite it.

 

The static pages are actually just one file which pulls the product_id from the filename. The beauty of linking.

 

Go look at the "Ultimate SEO URLs" by Chemo. He has some other very good contribs as well, but I think that you'll particularly like this one given your post.

 

Things I noticed:

1 - your site seems slowish to me. Could be network latency between me and thee, but you can definitely speed things up a bit by using Chemo's Page Cache contribution and turning off the category counters.

2 - " 154727 requests since Friday 01 October, 2004 " in the footer - - is this statistic important to your customers? If not, take it out.

3 - Since you're selling art, shouldn't you spice up your colors/layout a bit? There are many many contributions and forum threads on how to do this. There isn't anything wrong, IMO, with the stock osCommerce looking layout. It works, it's clean, etc. It's also a fairly common look, and I'd think you'd want to differentiate yourself a bit given your target audience. Maybe not. Whatever your target audience will be most attracted to.

4 - There are contributions to put the search and shopping cart in the header.

5 - There is a contrib or forum thread somewhere (sorry for the vagueness - - let me know if you can't find it and want it) on how to hide the shopping cart when it's empty. No point in using up the screen real estate for an empty shopping cart.

6 - At some point, turn off the parsing timer that you display in the bottom left. It's helpful during development, but distracting to customers.

7 - I like the "popular searches" and "Popular Artists" ideas, but the don't look like the rest of your site. Yes, this does make them stand out, but you may want them to look similar to the rest of them for cohesiveness' sake. You have already created a couple of your own custom infoboxes, so it shouldn't be too bad to make a couple more (if that's what you want).

8 - Some shoppers, like me, have absolutely no idea what Zapp is. If it's important, create a page somewhere that explains it. http://artsmart-online.com/shopping/juried...how_entries.php sort of does this, but I still don't really know what Zapp is after reading this page.

9 - You have your shipping address on shipping.php, but not on contact_us.php .

10 - with that many products in your catalog, and that many images uploaded, be sure to have regular backups.

 

-jared

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I agree with what has been said by jcall.

 

Other few points:

1 - Smaller images must "wheigh" less then full size ones. You better install a thumbnail contribution ( there is one that caches the thums also )

 

2 - Home page loaded in some 20 secs or so ( on adsl ) . far too much... I think you should get rid of the javascript in mainpage. It is too heavy and not really necessary

 

3- product_info images are bigger then popup full size images ; that is a nonsense.

 

4 - graphic is virtually non- existent. Try to customise the look a little bit. Work on your CSS ( that includes changing buttons )

 

Cheers

Franco

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