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How to build your web empire


kenkja

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Hi all, Ken here

 

I have been using osc since october 2011, so I to me, I am still a newbie and definetly can not claim to be an expert.

 

Since then I have noticed on the forums and chat facility many of the same problems recurring over and over again, so with this post I am going to try to present a way forward for all newcomers to osc, as I see it - ie. - a relative newcomer to both osc and e-commerce.

 

This is just going to be my personal opinion and it may not be supported by some of the more experienced users - but I hope it will help some of you who are talking the first steps towards building your empire.

 

Its going to take some time for me to say all I have to say, so please do not post any replies to this string, just let me construct it in the most methodical way I can.

 

Best Regards

 

Ken

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1. Its all so new and exciting

 

Yes it is, you have chosen your new career and are buzzing with excitement, in a weeks time you will have your site and will be selling products every day, the whole garden will smell of roses.

 

STOP RIGHT NOW

 

Take a little bit of time to think, it will be of enormous benefit in the future.

 

Your website, at this moment is like a child in its mothers womb, everything you do now will affect its development into an adult, so think long and hard about it

 

So you planned to have a child, both of you have taken great care not to affect its health and now you are think about names, your on google checking out the most popular names, looking up meanings etc., this is where you start with your web empire

 

Firstly go to google, and type a search string which typifies want you want your site sell, lets say you want to sell earrings, I just googled "earrings" there are 213,000,000 results, so you have your work cut out to climb the google ladder

 

Now look at all the first, lets say 40 results, see what they have and compare with what you are going to sell. In the uk the first result was swarofski crystal, a google ads result that they will no doubt be paying a fortune for - the first non google ad result was H Samuel, a well known high street jewellry shop, again they will have paid a fortune to get so high in google.

 

So you have checked out the first four pages of results and probably many will not be you direct competition, but they are already there every time "earrings" is searched for, so now you have to get a bit more specific, try searching say "goth earrings", now your down to 8,820,000 results, the first 2 results are gothicstyle and alchemygothic.

 

So heres my point in each of the 2 searches not one of the top results mentioned "earrings", and its just a thing I have, it may be true to the rest of the world and it may not be, but if I search for site which has in the name the thing I am looking for, then I am most likely to go to it, for example, 2 hyperthetical results are

 

1. fredbloggs.co.uk

 

and

 

2. fbearrings.co.uk

 

Just a personal thing I will always go to the second result, no matter what google has picked up from the meta(will get to explain that more later)

 

Now, it is time to get a bit more clever, find Google's keyword tool, it is an amazing bit of kit, search many of the first results in your previous google searches to see what word(s) drive(s) people to their site, (enter the site name in the website box) if you do this for swarofski, none of the first 50 results included the word "earrings", but yet they are still the top result, money talks ...

 

Keep at it with keywords, search some of the results for "goth earrings", and see what search strings were appropriate to them

 

By now you may have a good idea of what your site name is going to be, so now use Google keywords to search for it or parts of it, add your name to the word or phrase box and see how may results come up, first try fredbloggs, you will see almost no one searches for this, now try fbearrings

 

As I have said before, the more experienced guys may not agree with me, but I think a domain name is very important, it should say what you do, in as few words as possible...

 

I hope this is some help to you all

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2. So where is your new baby going to live

 

All of us, the world over, want our children to live in the best possible environment...a country mansion...penhouse suite..., but that is not always possible, we have to make comprimises and live in the best location we can.

 

Your website host is your newborns house, research as much as is possible, find the best deal you can and not necessarily on price, cheapest is not always the best.

 

On the other hand your site will be brand new and to be fair not likely to sell for a while so it may not be best to go for a dedicated server with the most bandwith and storage space, right now.

 

treat this decision about your host, just as you would a choice of your home for for your newborn child, do the best you possibly can at this moment in time.

 

I can not comment on who is good host or a bad one, it is absolutely up to you to find out ...

 

Good Luck

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3. Pre natal classes

 

So now the time to practise..

 

You have your domain name and host, so again your just burning to go ...

 

STOP RIGHT NOW

 

It takes practise, good practise to do anything...

 

So download the most up to date version of osc - currently v2.3.3

 

http://www.oscommerce.com/Products

 

then download Uniform Server

 

http://www.uniformserver.com/

 

and practise on your own computer, installing osc ... remember to read the v2.3.3 documentation

 

I have to go now, next up how to install uniformserver... v2.3.3 and how to do it again

 

cya soon

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4. Get yourself an unzipper

 

If you have read 3 above, you have proably noticed you need a program to unzip the files I suggested..

 

There are many winzip, 7zip, winrar etc, to name but a few, google them

 

Most of them are free programs but try to add other stuff such as Ask Toolbar, just make sure you do not allow this to happen if you do not want it too

 

ken

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5. Install Uniform Server

 

In your downloads folder you should find the file you downloaded from Uniform Server, at the time of writing this was Coral_8_8_1.exe, double click it and it should start with your unzipper program, however if you have not used the unzipper for this type of file before, you operating system may ask you to choose a program to open it with.

 

Small word of caution here, I think technically the unifrom server should be extracted onto your c:/ folder, but i did it from with the downloads folder and it appear to work ok

 

When its finished close the unzipper, go to you downloads folder and you will find a new folder called UniServer, thats it done

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6. Start the Uniserver

 

Go into the UniServer folder, you will see a list of folders and 3 files, double click start_as_program, the uniform server control panel will appear, at the

top right you will see, Start Apache, Start MySql and Start Both, click start both, you will see the boxes to the right of Start Apache and Start MySql go from red to green and your browser will open at the Uniform Server Spalsh screen, and in the browser bar you should see http://localhost/us_splash/index.php

 

Thats it your computer is now set up to emulate a hosts web server

 

On first starting Uniform Server it will give you the opportunity to "Set New MySql Password", take the opportunity - it is your first lesson in security and its always good practice to be as secure as possible BUT write down the password you choose and perhaps make a notepad file with it in and you second lesson in security is DO NOT save the notepad file as passwords.txt make it something a little less obvious and save it in an obscure place as well

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7. Install v2.3.3

 

Download the zip file from oscommerce/products, and no where else, this is the only way you can be sure of getting the latest version

 

Use your unzipper to extract the file, then open the folder you just extracted, in it you will see various folders and file, one is documentation.pdf - all of the following is in that file, you will need adobe reader to open it.

 

It is a must that you read this file, but given the number of installation errors we see posted on the forum, it is pretty clear that most newcomers do not

 

Anyway here goes -

 

A. Start Uniserver, as in 6 above - then in the right hand column third from the bottom you will see phpMyAdmin, click it, a new window will open in your browser and it will probably look pretty scarey. I think if I remember rightly the first time you open phpMyAdmin, in the main body of the page you will see Databases in fairly large type and beneath it Create database with empty box below and a collation drop down box to the right - if this is not the case just click the databases tab and you will be directed to this page

 

Type a name in create database box and write it down you will need it, then in collation drop down select utf8_unicode_ci and click the create button

 

Again a word of caution, as far as I know, this collation is universal and should cope with virtually all languages, perhaps a visit to chat line just to ask someone if it copes with yours might be in order or alternatively check it out on google.

 

B. Go back to the v.2.3.3 folder, open it, right click on the catalog folder and select copy

 

C. Go back to the UniServer folder open it, open folder www and in a blank space, right click and select paste, this will copy the v2.3.3 files into UniServer - www folder, when finished

 

D. Go to you browser, open a new tab and in the browser bar type localhost/catalog - this should start the installation procedure - click continue

 

E. The next page, defines how osc will connect to the database, there are 4 boxes

  1. Database Server - should be prefilled with localhost
  2. Username - type root
  3. Password - type the password which you created when you went through the "Set New MySql Password" in 6 above
  4. Database Name - type the name of the database you created in 7A

If you have entered correct password and database it will copy osc's database structure - if not you have done it wrong

 

F. The next page should be prefilled, click continue

 

G. The Online store settings

  1. Store Name - for example "test site"
  2. Store Owner Name - for example "test site owner"
  3. Store Owner Email Address - for example [email protected]
  4. Administrator User Name - Select something obscure to the world but memorable to yourself, write it down, do not use your own name
  5. Administrator Password - as in 4 above
  6. Administration Directory Name - will be prefilled with admin - ALWAYS change it to something obscure
  7. Select your time zone

Just a word on passwords try to included at least 8 characters, include numbers and letters some lower and some upper case

 

Click continue

 

H. Thats it you have finished, click both the catalog and administration tool buttons, and start playing

 

My advice would be to do this whole procedure several times, the first time you do it will seem a bit daunting, by the third time you find it easy

 

Next topic Post Installation - coming soon

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8 Post Installation Procedures

 

You have got to the Installation finished page, just beneath the catalog and administration tools buttons you will see a heading "Post Installation Notes" and beneath it 5 recommended things to do.

 

Whenever osc recommends you do something, do it, it is not practise that makes perfect, Vince Lombardi (the American Football coach) said "only perfect practice make perfect"

 

But just for now lets see what happens if you do not, go back to the installation finished page (please do not shut this page yet), click the administration tool button, log in, you should see another warning box with 2 warnings. log out of the admin.

 

A. Post Installation Note Number 1

 

Go back to your Uniserver Folder, double click the www folder, double click the catalog folder, single click the install folder and delete it, log back into your admin, you will see that one of the warnings has disappeared - thats Post Installation Note number 1 done

 

Notes number 2, 3 and 4, are a little more difficult, as if like me you are working on a windows platform, there is no real function which replicates changing the permissions by chMod, as you will do on your live site.

 

Post Installation Note Numbers 2 & 3

 

Go back to your Uniserver-www-catalog folder, double click on the includes folder, right click on the configure.php file and select properties, the file properties box will open, at the bottom of the box, check the tick box next to "read only", click apply and then ok, Now log back into you admin, instead of a warning you should now see a green box with "this a properly configured installation of osCommerce Online Merchant", thats post installation note number 2 completed

 

Now repeat the process above for your catalog/your renamed admin/includes/configure.php file and thats post installation note 3, done

 

Post Installation Note Number 4

 

Firstly you need to open the documentation.pdf, that comes with your v2.3.3 download, at the bottom of page 10/top of page 11, you will find a table of directories which need to be writeable

 

There are four, all you need to do is create a new folder in the catalog folder called cache. The permissions do not matter until you go live

 

Post Installation Note Number 5

 

Go to your admin, click configuration, administrators.

 

I suggest you make a print screen copy of the page

 

Click Edit add a password and save

 

Thats all the post installation procedures done

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9. A few Tips and Tricks.

 

A. Do read the forum, many of the answers you will be looking for right now, are there. The forum search facility can be quite frustrating with its flood control and minium word size, so search in google, it generally finds what you are looking for in the forum and read the documentation.pdf

 

B. You are going to need a reasonably good image manipulation program and you will need to get good at it. By default a newly installed v2.3.3 requires that every time you add a product it wants you to a small image 100x80 and a larger image, which could be any size but the larger it is the more impractical it becomes. If you do not upload and image, the system will just continue to look for them and you will see one of those irritating circular rotators indicating that a search is taking place.

 

If you do not resize the small image, and say upload a 500 x 400 image, your page speed will slow down as the system then has to resize the image itself and lets say you choose an image size of 800x200, when it is resized to 100x80 it will look completely skewed.

 

Also ensure you have the permission of the image owner to use the image, you do not want to infringe anyones copyright.

 

C. Find yourself a good php editor, notepad, wordpad etc, will open php files, but they are not easy to work with as they usually do not show the code line numbers and often do not highlight the various different components of the php code in different colours. So get on google and search for "free php editor" and as usual with free programs, make sure they do not add anything else you did not want. Your life with php will be much improved by having such a program, personally I use Winsyntax but I am sure there are many others out there that are just as good, if not better

 

D. If your anything like me, by now you will have been looking at the add-ons and I have thought I want that, but having downloaded it and opened the readme.txt file, have thought Oh My God this is a different language, I will never manage this.

 

This is just my personal opinion, but despite that first thought, you will manage it, if you are very methodical. Most add-ons (but not all) advise you to back-up your system before you do anything and you always should, however the beauty of working offline is you can just create another v2.3.3 install and try it, if it messes up, delete and start again.

 

The better add-ons almost always have a support thread in the forum...probably a good move right now is do not try to add one which does not - also make sure that the add-on is compatible with v2.3.+

 

So lets say you have found an add-on which you like the look of, it has a support thread and is v2.3.+ compatible, you can save yourself quite a lot of pain by downloading another program which will compare php files for you.

 

And the readme.txt says find a line catalog/includes/functions/general.php, it is a huge file nearly 1400 lines long and if you get it wrong it will almost certainly break your offline install, nows the time to find yourself another piece of software.

 

Again get back to Google, look for programs which can compare 2 php files against each other, they highlight the differences for you and make life much easier.

 

Personally I use WinMerge, because I am cheap and it is free, but I am sure you find others if you search hard enough, once you have such a program you will never know how you managed without one.

 

More to follow soon

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