Thursday, May 26, 2011

Open Cart - FRE(E)-Commerce Open Source Solution

If you don't mind PHP, Open Cart is a terrific full-featured and somewhat mature project. It supports localization, multiple currencies and even multiple stores. The back end is lacking some usability features (but then again don't they all lack something?)

Here is a list of the cart's features. I don't think there is a more comprehensive feature list within any FRE(E)-Commerce software or even proprietary solution for that matter. I dare you to try and find something as easy to use and extend (don't even think about saying Magento, it's a huge beast that will eat your server alive). If you do find something, prove me wrong, I'd like to see it.

  • Open Source (Duh)
  • Documentation (Not complete but helpful)
  • Unlimited Categories (Nested even!)
  • Unlimited Products (Millions)
  • Unlimited Manufacturers (Zilions)
  • Templatable (PHP and HTML easy stuff)
  • Multi-Language (Yep!)
  • Multi-Currency (Yeah)
  • Product Reviews (Deletable even)
  • Product Ratings (How many stars?)
  • Downloadable Products (Nice Touch)
  • Automatic Image Resizing (How cool is that?)
  • Multiple Tax Rates (Nice for USA)
  • Related Products (Amazon like)
  • Unlimited Information Pages (CMS Baby!)
  • Shipping Weight Calculation (UPS,USPS,Etc)
  • Discount Coupon System (Love your customer)
  • Search Engine Optimization (Works great!)
  • Module System (Plenty of expansion)
  • Backup & Restore Tools (No more lost data)
  • Printable Invoices (For tree haters)
  • Sales Reports (For bean counters)

Open Cart's forums are bursting with helpful posts and there are plenty of helpful people trolling them. A little google(ing) and you'll find some great resources for Open Cart. Someone even wrote a book about it available at PacktPub. Adding or extending Open Cart themes is easy due to the simple template system. There is also a plethora of non-free extensions that are sold by enthusiastic PHP developers but I have read some bad reviews so, "caveat emptor."

The code, although not very commented or documented is extremely consistent and easy to understand, even for a novice. The project boasts a solid MVC structure and the plug-in architecture for payment processing makes it easy to extend to meet your objectives.

The database has a consistent naming scheme, however; it leaves little to be desired due to it's lack of referential integrity and normalization. But it does work out of the box and I have successfully implemented a number of carts for clients in all different industries. Although some of my renditions of Open Cart are heavily modified you can see the versatility shine though.

The links below are some of my implementations of Open Cart. Keep in mind most of my customers manage their own content. With that said, grammar and spelling mistakes on the pages or bad HTML does not represent my work (insert emoticon with tongue gesture here) . The customers have complete control of their products and pages via the built in WYSIWYG editor (CKEditor) and CMS provided by Open Cart.

Since this is an old post the majority of carts are now defunct. The links go to images I retrieved from archive.org. (note: this is the best way to view sites that are long gone, I have sites from 2000 that archived, it's really cool to see nostalgic designs and concepts of years past. In some ways it's a bit frightening  too so be cognizant of what you're putting on the web!!!)

Purple Guide
Meyer Media LLC
Specialized Furnishings

Showtime Apparel (Customer was too busy to manage site - out of business)
Red Airplane Aerials (started new business that focused on just calendars)
World Shoppe (perusing alternate business ventures using social media)
World Shoppe Wholesale (Same as above)


It only takes minutes to install and only an hour or two to learn. I highly recommend this software for anyone that requires a cost effective (i.e., free) e-commerce solution.

If this post convinced you or even if it didn't convince you that Open Cart is a great fre(e)-commerce tool; try the Open Cart Demo [ user and pass are: demo ] and see for yourself! If you need help with your implementation contact me via my web form at Ben W Consulting LLC and I'll get back to you.



Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Microsoft Share (disa) Point (ment) Requirements

Keep in mind that I have only spent a few weeks working with SharePoint 2007 and I have no idea if 2010 is any good or has decent improvements. I do know that 2010 requirements are pretty high for a document sharing and web based application portal system. SharePoint Server 2010 requires a minimum for small deployments:
  • 64 bit / four core processor
  • 64 bit Sever (Microsoft 2008 RC 2) if I read correctly
  • 8 Gigs of ram
  • 80 Gigs of hard drive space.
And for medium deployments the hardware requirements for the CPU and RAM are doubled:
  • 64 bit / 8 core processor
  • Same Server because there is not a Server 2016 RC 4 yet!
  • 16 Gigs of ram
  • Still 80 Gigs of hard drive space.
In Microsoft's defense, the hard drive space is variable contingent on your how much content you're planning on serving but still to recommend 80GB by default seems ludicrous. I understand as systems become more powerful and complex that hardware upgrades are necessary and I am actually glad that Microsoft is forcing businesses to upgrade to a the 64 bit architecture. Although it is kind of ironic that the same company that has held back 64 bit computing from the business world is now forcing anyone that wants to use their latest business solution to update to 64 bit hardware.
In 2003 AMD released their flagship 64 bit Server Opteron processor but hardly any businesses could utilize the technology because they were still stuck running Windows 2000/2003 32 bit servers. Alright I admit that the discussion between 32 and 64 bit computing in the world of Microsoft is moot to this post but it is relevant in explaining the my issues with SharePoint's requirements.
Why is the system so resource intensive that it needs a quad or eight core CPU and 8 or 16 GB of memory to function and serve content?  
Disclaimer... I’m not a Microsoft expert and have very little knowledge of their business systems but I know that in today’s computing world and simplified web architecture that there is no reason for any web service software solution to be such a damn resource hog. Especially for small to medium businesses.
Can anyone shed a little light on why SharePoint’s hardware requirements are so high?
I’m sure there are a lot of SharePoint developers out there that have no few problems with the requirements but I just wanted to speak my mind about how ridiculous the minimum requirements are. Microsoft has designed lots of products that make businesses more productive and even intensified our gaming experiences but one day businesses need to realize there is more to technology than just Microsoft solutions.
Also, just because Microsoft’s marketers say SharePoint is the perfect solution doesn't mean that they’re right!
With all this said, I'm sure folks might be wondering if not SharePoint then what? Use your favorite search engine and type "SharePoint alternatives" to find your own solution.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Introduction

I was reading a Search Engine Marketing article and was told to use blogspot.com for free public relations since blogger sites are already heavily indexed in search engines. The concept makes sense, there is no reason not to use free services in order to get some exposure so I figured I'd try it out. I have no idea how many people, if any are going to actually see this blog but it never hurts to try. Please, if you see grammar errors or there is a clear sign of ignorance in any of the posts send a message so I can make this a viable resource and not just another site full of misinformed drivel.