Magento eCommerce Software

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Up until this past week, I only owned one five letter domain name and I wanted to do something special with it. I came up with an idea for a product that fit with the name and at some point I plan on setting up an ecommerce site on this domain to sell this item. I installed Magento and am truly blown away by all the features available, not to mention how simplistic it is to find everything in the administration area.

Magento is a full content management system in the form of ecommerce software. You can built new pages on to your site, configure the sidebar blocks, and create interactive polls for your visitors. The look and feel of the site is clean and organized which is a big plus for me. I like a lot of white space on my websites. It ensures that the content you do see is not missed in a wave of clutter. Sometimes content management software shoots for the moon by including every single bell and whistle they can think of and this can be counter productive. If you don’t need something, get rid of it. With Magento, it appears they have found the perfect balance of necessity and functionality.

You have your standard sections to manage like orders, invoices, shipments, and tax. Then there’s an area to manage the catalog, the products in it, and their individual attributes if needed. You even have the ability to put customers in groups if you wanted to offer different price points to select buyers such as wholesalers or retailers. You can also set promotional rules so the price is updated in the shopping cart to the promotional price.

Magento has newsletter functionality built in so you can create and save templates, have a queue of newsletters in various stages lined up, manage subscribers, and address problem reports. Speaking of reports, there are quite a few options for creating reports with your data. The top level choices are Sales, Shopping Cart, Products, Customers, Reviews, Tags, and Search Terms. With those options alone there is a wealth of information that can be displayed, but the majority of them have additional sub-options to drill down even further. I haven’t even mentioned the system settings which is quite in depth. Then there’s the alert center where you get notifications about critical patches or major revisions and updates so you always are aware of the latest versions or security fixes of the software.

As a hack, there is one thing that I don’t like about it. For those of you adept at creating and editing images in PhotoShop or Gimp, you’ll probably laugh. The logo is layered or something, so I can’t just copy the image, alter it, and upload. I gave it a shot in Gimp and it just came out horrible looking. I suppose I can change that with some reading on my part, but I guess I’m just not that crazy about becoming a logo designer. Still, I should know the basics about how to cut up and image.

After a few days of playing around with Magento, I was thoroughly impressed. I almost feel like it would be too much for my simple little idea. I have one product with a bunch of attributes (color, gender, size, etc.) so to have this incredible ecommerce platform for one product seems like overkill. However, if you’re going to sell anything and take it seriously, why not arm yourself with the best tools in a rock solid piece of ecommerce software. Without having used this on a live site yet, I would have to say I would recommend Magento for its features alone. If and when I do go live with my idea, I will be sure to follow up and let you all know how I feel after getting some real time Magento action under my belt.

osCommerce Ecommerce Software

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I installed osCommerce many moons ago for a project I had running around in my head where I was going to become one of those Ebay Platinum powersellers and run a massive store website in parallel. That idea must not have been a very good one because I don’t even remember what I was going to sell. I remember the shopping cart script enough to write about it years later, but I have no recollection of the products. It just goes to show you that I was meant to demo new software for a living or something as equally satisfying for the adult with ADD.

The install went fine, and there was definitely a learning curve, but nothing that seemed impossible for the neophyte to figure out. I liked the layout even though it was a common one I had seen many times before on other sites. One of the great things about having software so attractive and usable out of the box is that all of us jerks who don’t know how to program are going to use all the default settings. All I did was change some colors and I had a brand new (to me) custom online retail store.

As I was writing about changing the colors, it helped me remember the products I was going to sell with osCommerce. I recall changing the site to a pinkish color, but that’s all I’m going to say about that. I’m the type of person that looks for opportunity without worrying too much about what people think. If someone told me I could make millions of dollars selling Depends undergarments while being absolutely fulfilled, I would jump at the chance. The fulfilling part is really the one part that matters, and that’s why the cliche’ about doing what you enjoy is pretty true. As always, I digress…

The one thing I did not like about osCommerce is that it made your customers (or would be customers) sign up for an account. This was a major turn off and I had a hard time getting past this based on personal preference. I know not everyone is like me, but the fact that I will often blow off a purchase if I have to create an account first made me wonder how many sales I would lose to people like me.

Another road block that I experience with any ecommerce shopping cart is that I never fully understood how all the parts fit together. There are so many different variables that I never knew what I needed to have or needed to provide in the script. Did I need a merchant account? Do I need a gateway? Do I need a programmer to add something? This is still the one aspect of building functional websites I still cringe about. I recently set up a WordPress site with one thing for sale, so I used a popular ecommerce plugin. All the settings for the plugin are fine, but PayPal is just so cluttered with information on their site that I can never find any answers. I tried emailing support and they wanted me to call instead. Last time I called PayPal, I hung up with more questions than I started with, so I completely blew it off.

I think the two issues noted here are extremely minor and osCommerce is ideal if you want to go the free route. I’m sure there are lots of people that don’t mind signing up, so that’s not a deal breaker for most people. The problem I have with payment processing is not even really a problem since it’s my own lack of understanding that keeps me from embracing ecommerce sites of my own. As long as you can change some colors or a bit of the layout to make it your own, I would definitely recommend choosing osCommerce for making millions selling your Depends undergarments online.