Hello and welcome to our community! Is this your first visit?
Register
Enjoy an ad free experience by logging in. Not a member yet? Register.
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 21
  1. #1
    New Coder
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    NYC (Manhattan)
    Posts
    16
    Thanks
    1
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    First Project: Custom Online Retail Store

    Greetings my fellow coders,

    Starting off 2012, I received my first freelance project for an online retail startup. I'll be independently coding the site with my girlfriend (who's a graphic designer) providing the designs. I'm pretty sure that's why they even considered giving me a shot, she's amazing

    Anyways... I do have experience coding my own personal sites using PHP, MySQL, Javascript, JQuery and HTML/CSS. But this will be my first site that I'm actually selling items online and also the first one I'll be coding and handing off to someone else to maintain.

    Being a business consultant by day, I am very much into designing a strong and flexible solution upfront rather than piecing it together as I go along. I'm stuck in this design phase right now! And am wondering if any of you much more brilliant and experienced minds out there might be able to give me some advice/guidance.

    Here are the basic requirements:
    -Online retail store
    -After I hand the site over, the founders will need to be able to add more products, modify existing products, modify existing information (like descriptions or prices) ...this is the requirement I'm struggling with as I've never "handed a site over" before

    My Open Questions:
    1. What is the best way to code the site to allow the founders to add new products or take existing ones away without them delving into code? Perhaps I could create the products page as more of a framework in PHP and pull product images/information from a MySQL table? Is this the best approach and would there be an easy way for them to modify the MySQL table (because even that may be a little too technical for them)?
    2. What shopping cart plugins have served you best before and do you have any recommendations (Magneto, OpenCart, OSCMax, etc.)?
    3. What credit card plugins have served you best before and do you have any recommendations (Merchant Plus, PayPal Website Paytments Pro, etc.)?
    4. Would I need a separate plugin to calculate Salestax?

    Those are some of huge questions I have that define the foundation of this project. Any help would be GREATLY appreciated. Thanks so much for your time. Let's make 2012 a big year!!
    “First, solve the problem. Then, write the code.”

  • #2
    Master Coder
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Cottage Grove, Minnesota
    Posts
    9,502
    Thanks
    8
    Thanked 1,089 Times in 1,080 Posts
    Your shopping cart options will determine the inventory control. So no matter
    which one you pick, the owner will be upload photos, description, price, etc.
    Those shopping cart scripts have plug-ins for various CC merchants, UPS, USPS
    calculators, sales tax, etc.

    So, I recommend you research Magento and find out how it works, what their
    admin part looks like, and if they can play well with your CC merchant.

    As far as merchant ... first contact your own bank and discuss it. Sometimes, a
    person's bank already has a service that can meld with their existing accounts.
    Otherwise, there is wide variety of fees between different merchants. I've worked
    with Authorize.net (a very good one in my opinion), but if your business is small,
    without many transactions, maybe PayPal is the better choice. It will be important
    to research it and compare.

  • Users who have thanked mlseim for this post:

    easypeasy (01-12-2012)

  • #3
    New Coder
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    NYC (Manhattan)
    Posts
    16
    Thanks
    1
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    mlseim, thanks for your reply. It was very enlightening to me. Being that I've always custom built everything, I knew I was disadvantaging myself... didn't know by how much. Always spent my time on learning how to build more myself, maybe should spend it researching what existing tools I can research.

    I'll certainly research Magneto and see how much of the puzzle I can solve using it, and which pieces still need to be built afterwards. Will post back here with results of my research.

    Maybe a stupid question... are there any other glaring shortcuts I'm missing in terms of general development of an online store? Or is it mostly Shopping Cart App plus CC Merchant... and I can build the other pieces I need around it or use other smaller apps?

    Thanks again!
    “First, solve the problem. Then, write the code.”

  • #4
    Master Coder
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Cottage Grove, Minnesota
    Posts
    9,502
    Thanks
    8
    Thanked 1,089 Times in 1,080 Posts
    Some ecommerce scripts are easier to "blend" into existing sites than others.
    Check out several of them and compare. In all cases, they are built around templates,
    so you need to customize the template to match the look of your remaining website.

    You could always "build your own", but the time it takes is extremely consuming.

    You'll also need access to a MySQL database (usually provided free with webhosts).
    The ecommerce script uses MySQL ... the user doesn't need to access it directly.
    Everything the user (site owner) uses is within the admin section ... where they log-in
    on their website to access the online store operation.

    Running an online store is exactly the same as a real store. You have inventory
    control, pricing, packaging, shipping. They need to deal with damage goods returned,
    payment problems, items not received, dissatisfied customers, phone calls, website
    problems, email issues, etc. It's basically a full-time job for at least one person.

    If they think they'll post their items, photos and prices ... then sit back and roll in the
    money, they had better think again. Depending on what they're selling, it's going to
    be tough to sell. Jewelry and clothing ... good luck. People like to touch, see, and
    try on items before buying (can't do that online).

    What will the retail items be? Is it something that 1 million other people are selling online?

    =====
    EDIT:
    You'll be facing a decision about how to handle credit cards ...

    Processing credit cards comes two ways ... depending on whether or not you use a secure server,
    and who your merchant is ... the prices of these vary between merchants and webhosts.

    1) SIM - simple integration method, like PayPal, where the user leaves your site to enter
    their credit card information, pays, then returns back to your site. You get the transaction
    results, but no private information is saved on your site, or transmitted. You do not use a secure server.

    2) AIM - advanced integration method, like Authorize.net, where you own or use a secure server,
    and you are able to save all customer information yourself. They never leave your site ... but the
    built-in API scripting transmits and receives data from your CC merchant in a secure manner.



    .
    Last edited by mlseim; 01-12-2012 at 04:22 AM.

  • #5
    Regular Coder
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Posts
    462
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 20 Times in 20 Posts
    You need to define exactly what your client is looking for in an online store. Many webhosts these days offer store fronts free with account signup and allow you to make changes to visitor/admin templates. Like you I'm use to building my own sites and apps and have built an application to run my small business offline. Some conciderations are 'inventory control'. Online, inventory control does not sound feasable unless you're on a closed network. The store may have plenty of a single item in stock (locally) but multiply that times a million people (online) who may/may not order it. I believe Best Buy had that problem???

    I have inventory control on my app but I don't allow things like back orders, so I have an inventory item limit setup. When my the item reaches it's lowest point I'm alerted to order more. When the item is at zero it's unavailable! Accounts is another thing, I allow accounts and keep track of the amount spent, when an account is paid off etc. So if an account has say a $30.00 balance ifthey try to purchase anything over that amount using their account the app asks for another type of payment. Generally cash.

    Clients need to be aware of what all is involved in an online buisness just as much *** their offline one.

    You have payment gateways, merchant accounts, open source store projects like zencart, OSCommerce etc. and even with these they will need someone who can work coding/database modifications if needed.
    NO Limits!! DHCreationStation.com
    ------------------------------------------------------------
    Broken items wanted for tinkerin'! PostItNow@BrokenEquipment.com
    Global Complaint Dept.

  • #6
    New Coder
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    NYC (Manhattan)
    Posts
    16
    Thanks
    1
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    Thanks for your replies. The founders own a few real-life coffee shops and are using the website to supplement sale of beans+merchandise, so they are fully committed to the business.

    I looked into Magneto, the first “e-commerce platform” I checked out. It hit me like BAM, I’m way behind the times… Glad I spent time learning how to code everything from scratch in PHP, but I don’t think I’m ever doing that again. At least for an online store.

    I was extremely impressed with the functionalities included in Magneto. From product mgt, order/shipping/payment mgt, customer account mgmt/crm/newsletter… even little things like product ratings, customer reviews, etc. c1lonewolf, it also looks like inventory mgmt is covered as well, although I’m still a little confused on what you’re referring to with the “offline” piece.

    It does look like I would only need to add a CC Merchant to sit in btwn the Magneto store and the founders’ bank. If we choose an appropriate Magneto theme though, it looks like the rest of coding will just be tweaks on top of the template.

    I do still have some questions though:
    -Everything in Magneto seems to be managed from the admin area that’s on the web host. How can you “test” locally or in a test instance online as you’re making modifications to the site? Right now I do everything locally with Dreamweaver and Wamp… not sure if it will work like this with Magneto?
    -Do you know if Magneto themes are written in PHP? Or which language will I need to learn to make modifications to the templates?

    Lastly, am I understanding everything right or missing anything glaringly obvious? I’ll continue to research other e-commerce platforms and post here… Thanks again for the comments and discussion
    “First, solve the problem. Then, write the code.”

  • #7
    Master Coder
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Cottage Grove, Minnesota
    Posts
    9,502
    Thanks
    8
    Thanked 1,089 Times in 1,080 Posts
    If I were you, I would do it like this ....

    Find a nice, inexpensive webhost ... like cleverdot.com, 1and1.com, or similar.
    Create a brand new website subscription and install Magento. Create the whole
    thing on that new website ... even without a domain name. They will give you a
    URL to access the site without a domain name.

    Do all of the install, config, customizing online ... using FTP (FileZilla) to transfer
    files back and forth. Get the MySQL database configured and working, upload
    coffee items, do everything. Most of your coding will be by hand (using Notepad
    or Notepad++ ... better yet). It's all PHP and MySQL, so Dreamweaver won't do
    much for you. You'll be editing templates and uploading changes to the site.

    Create a few admin logins and let the client go in and upload things, learn how it works.
    You can set-up a test with your CC merchant to process real transactions using fake
    accounts ... to make sure the gateway works properly. Your CC merchant will guide you
    with all of the pre-testing you will be able to do. They are happy to let you test things
    so it reduces problems later on.

    Once it's all done, you go to the existing host that handles your client's domain name.
    You point that domain name to your new website. You then turn-over the entire
    account to your client. They can resubscribe using their own credit card.

    If you client does not even own a website right now ... you're going to have to do
    all of that anyhow, so do it that way, and they can register a domain name later on,
    or do it right now.

    They can search for a good domain name that is not yet taken if they don't already
    have one. The webhost you choose will have a feature to check for domain name status.
    They won't let you register a domain name that is already taken.

    Note: the domain name and website account are two separate things. You can register
    a domain name with any host, and pay for it using a credit card. You can subscribe to
    a webhost (for the web site) with any host. Any domain name can be "pointed", or assigned
    to a specific website. To make it all easier, if a person doesn't have a domain name or a
    website, most webhosts allow you to do it all with them, in one place, to make it easier.

    Just know that your client will need to pay twice each year or opt extend the subscription to X years.
    Two payments, because they pay for "domain name hosting" and "website account hosting".



    .
    Last edited by mlseim; 01-12-2012 at 06:29 PM.

  • #8
    New to the CF scene
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    United States
    Posts
    1
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    Hi i think you are the best online store dealer.... I wish to be your client forever.

  • #9
    Master Coder
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Cottage Grove, Minnesota
    Posts
    9,502
    Thanks
    8
    Thanked 1,089 Times in 1,080 Posts
    Nomi123 ... what does that mean

  • #10
    New Coder
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    NYC (Manhattan)
    Posts
    16
    Thanks
    1
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    Thanks again for the reply. I haven't gone away - I've been researching a bunch of the platforms (like Magneto) that I could build this site on top of.

    Looks like there are e-commerce platforms, with the 3 most popular looking like Magneto, OpenCart and PrestaShop. Out of these, it seems like OpenCart is in fact the cleanest and allows a developer to work with the code the best. As for Magneto, it looks like the code is inefficient/buggy and incredibly tedious to customize.

    There are also CMS platforms, with the 3 most popular looking like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. They all have e-commerce plugins that would allow these sites to be turned into an online store. Based on my research here, it looks WordPress is the simplest of all 3 platforms while Drupal is the most complex yet flexible. Joomla, like Mageneto, doesn't appear like a good option.

    Based on the nature of my site - being a strict online retail store - I think I'm going to settle on using an e-commerce platform and adding blog and forum extensions if needed (rather than going the other way around by starting with a CMS platform). I think I'm going with OpenCart for ease of use as a developer.

    This is just what I've found so far... please let me know if you have alternate suggestions for an approach. I will continue to update progress here. Thanks!
    “First, solve the problem. Then, write the code.”

  • #11
    Master Coder
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Cottage Grove, Minnesota
    Posts
    9,502
    Thanks
    8
    Thanked 1,089 Times in 1,080 Posts
    Sounds like you picked the one you want.
    I usually pick the one I'm most experienced at, but not necessarily always the best choice.
    Since I've never used OpenCart, I can't speak for that one.
    I agree that Drupal is the hardest ... and I have never had the nerve to tackle it.

  • #12
    New Coder
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    NYC (Manhattan)
    Posts
    16
    Thanks
    1
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    I think I'm having a change of heart now. I'm thinking the site may be more flexible to expand in other ways besides a strict online store if I use a cms platform (Wordpress probably) and add a shopping cart extension.

    Does this make sense? Can anyone see any disadvantages to this?

    I'll probably install both and try them out
    “First, solve the problem. Then, write the code.”

  • #13
    Master Coder
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Cottage Grove, Minnesota
    Posts
    9,502
    Thanks
    8
    Thanked 1,089 Times in 1,080 Posts
    I can help more with customization if you pick WordPress. But which is better? ,
    that's something I don't know. Installing both might be hard to manage, since they
    both can't be installed in the same directory.

    The thing about WP is, you should first see if you can find any free (or purchased)
    themes that look fairly close to what you need ... in terms of layout. The graphics
    can always be changed, but layouts are a bit harder to customize. Many WP sites
    are not used like blogs anymore, so you might find some good ecommerce WP themes.


    .

  • #14
    New Coder
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    NYC (Manhattan)
    Posts
    16
    Thanks
    1
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    Will try out WordPress. Out of curiosity, when you build a wordpress site, how much of your work is configuration (point and click, adding new extensions, etc.) and how much is custom coding?

    Also, do you build your site directly on the Web Server? Seems like the most common method with all these platforms. And you simply pull down pages and modify as needed.
    “First, solve the problem. Then, write the code.”

  • #15
    Senior Coder
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Ilkley, West Yorkshire, UK
    Posts
    2,956
    Thanks
    9
    Thanked 727 Times in 721 Posts
    I've just built an e-commerce site with WP using WP e-Commerce, and I although it's OK I found it far less flexible than using Opencart - which I've used on another installation.

    The Opencart site doesn't have a blog but it does have a number of custom pages which are user updateable. Overall it isn't as user friendly for updating pages as WP is, but I'd rate it considerably higher for ease of managing shop products. You may find there's a blog extension for Opencart.

    Probably boils down to the main purpose of the site - if it's a blog with a shop for occasional use, maybe WP, if it's a shop with a blog bolted on, maybe Opencart.

    In terms of customising the look and feel I'd say Opencart is pretty much the same as customising a WP theme.

    I considered Magento but it felt a bit over the top for my needs - depends on what your clients need.

    EDIT AFTER SOME GOOGLING: Seems a few people have tried to combine WP and Opencart - but in most cases this seems to require the client to log in separately to each application - which for me would be a big no-no. There are Opencart blog plugins as well (e.g this one)- once again it probably depends on how sophisticated a blog you need.
    Last edited by SB65; 01-17-2012 at 10:22 AM.


  •  
    Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

    Posting Permissions

    • You may not post new threads
    • You may not post replies
    • You may not post attachments
    • You may not edit your posts
    •