This morning I was working on migrating an old set of Paypal forms to a new site. I needed to create a shipping dropdown menu, something not supported by Paypal’s hosted buttons.

But after looking around for a bit unsuccessfully I found the Button Code Example Site, an amazing treasure trove of code snippets and examples for customizing Paypal cart form elements for Website Payments Standard.

I used (and modified) a few examples for my page – the script for local shipping selection and the one for radio button product selection.  It took a little tweaking because I needed script variations for multiple forms of the same type, but I’ve got it all working fine.

I have a WordPress project that’s drawing to a close. This morning I’ve been working on the last few items and thought I would share.

This site uses FoxyCart for ecommerce. I really like FoxyCart – it’s very easy to integrate into a static website, and thanks to the FoxyCart + WordPress integration screencast tutorial I found it was not that difficult to get it into WordPress, too. If you’re using only simple input elements like buttons, you can set it up so that the editor can easily add/update product using a custom template page and custom fields. However, in my client’s case we’re using checkboxes, select menus, etc. so I opted for just creating a template that included the form. You can customize the CSS of the checkout pages without a lot of effort.

I needed to hide one of the categories in the blog from both the sidebar ‘Categories’ widget and the blog home page itself (this category’s posts are only visible from links in the site’s Archives Gallery). I found this very short and easy way to hide one or more categories in the blog.

Finally, I needed to add a favicon to the site. I got this .ico plugin for Photoshop, but then discovered I didn’t really need it because I can make a favicon as a .png. I created it, saved it as favicon.png in the WordPress theme’s images directory, then added it to the header.php file for the template like this:

This was easy and looks really nice. The site’s almost ready to launch.

I need a cart (must be customizable PHP/MySQL/open source) that can do this:

1) Needs to be able to download order info in an Access-friendly format (this is easy).

2) Needs to interface with Authorize.Net (also easy).

3) This particular client will never have more than 10 products but often gets orders of 200 to 400 boxes to separate shipping addresses from a single customer, like holiday corporate gifts. The client wants the product page to look like this:

  • the list of products is always visible on the page
  • a radio button at the bottom – ‘order for myself’ or ‘order a gift for someone else’
  • the customer should be able to fill in the address on the same page where the product is selected (the full list of up to 10 products)
  • the process would be: customer selects product, selects ‘order a gift’and sees the address box to fill in. Customer fills in the address, seesanother set of ‘order for myself’ or ‘order a gift’ buttons, selects one, sees a new page (maybe) with a full list of products and another empty address box, and so on. The important point is, the customer doesn’t have to jump back and forth between product pages and addressing.

4) The total including shipping charges is displayed as a running total at all times while the customer’s in the cart (like when they’re entering their 200 addresses by hand).

Does that make any sense? On his current site, he has it set up so that a customer can enter 8 addresses on his order form and then has to place another entire order for more.

Now I’ve been checking around at the usual suspects – X-Cart, ZenCart, Cubecart – and haven’t found any that can do the hard parts here. Someone pointed me to Magento, and this one looks very promising, but it’s beta and the working version won’t be available until early 2008 (which might not be a problem). This is the best-looking one so far…

But does anyone else have suggestions? Ideally I need a built-in address book with an unlimited number (or 500, say) addresses per customer. It’d be really cool if they could provide my client with an Excel spreadsheet full of shipping addresses that my client could dump into a database and ship to, but I’m not sure if that’s even possible.

Last Friday I met with the owners of my latest site design, C and T Iris Patch, for a launch meeting. It went really nicely. I like it when clients are gung-ho to learn something new, and enthusiastic about the fact that I try to use applications that make it as easy as possible for them to conduct their business.

In this case, I used OptionCart for their 3000+ item catalog, with the Mal’s E-commerce backend. I’ve talked about both before. I really can’t say enough about OptionCart – I love it because you can drop it into any existing HTML or PHP-based site using includes and it works. It looks pretty good right out of the box, but with a minimum of customization it blends right in with the look and feel of the site in general.

The admin panel for OptionCart is very simple, compared to other products like X-Cart or ZenCart. It’s intuitive, doesn’t have that many functions, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

This client in particular is selling a product without a lot of options associated with it (i.e., the flowers don’t come in multiple-sized containers) and just needs an easy way to manage selling online. OptionCart is perfectly suited to a catalog that’s very robust, works great but doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. Clients are comfortable with it because it has an intuitive interface and the choices on what to do are well-defined and fairly obvious.

In short, it’s a cart that makes the administration end of things easy to deal with and kind of ‘invisible’ – it works without you being aware of it most of the time. That’s my favorite kind of website functionality.

I’ve been using OptionCart as my shopping cart frontend for awhile – I’ve used it for two clients plus my own retail site.  It’s a frontend for Mal’s E-commerce, which I’ve used since 1998 and about which I have nothing but good comments.

These two work together much like ZenCart or X-Cart by itself, but OptionCart has an advantage for me as being totally based on PHP includes. I can drop a cart interface into any existing HTML or PHP-based site, there are no templates to create.

However, there are a lot of include files to edit. The first time I used it, for a site with about 500 photos for sale, it took me weeks and weeks to get the formatting done.  It’s all in tables (a disadvantage) and I’m a CSS user so that took some getting used to again.

The results looked really good, but I ate a good number of hours getting it the way I wanted it to look.

The second project I used it on was my retail site. Since I’d written down every procedure I used for editing and reformatting each included file, this one was easier – it probably took half the time of the first one, and looked as good.

Over the weekend I tackled the formatting of a site that’s just about ready to launch. I’d already installed OptionCart a few weeks earlier but had done no formatting. I sat down on Saturday morning to start on it, took a break to see a movie that afternoon, and finished it all up on Sunday night.

It looks really nice, and it took me, again, far less time. I think I’ve done it enough that I know where to look for what needs changing (there’s a lot of PHP code to wade through). 

I’m building my first X-Cart site now, so it will be interesting to see how the two compare. I know that X-Cart has many more features, but for most of clients, OptionCart is an inexpensive and very attractive package. Even more so that it’s becoming so easy for me to customize nicely.

I’ve used OptionCart for a number of websites in the last 14 months. It’s an administrative front-end for Mal’s E-commerce, a cart provider I’ve used since 1998 for my retail website.

OptionCart is inexpensive, works quite well and as open source software has a LOT of potential for customization (all written in PHP using a MySQL database).

But what really sets them apart is their outstanding tech support. Susan and Sherri have sent me many lines of custom code to accomplish some pretty demanding requests from clients… They are always exceptionally helpful, timely and polite and go way beyond the call of duty.  No other company I’ve dealt with as a web designer even comes close.

If you’re a user of Mal’s cart system (which I also highly recommend) and need more functionality for your clients, really consider checking out OptionCart. They offer a reseller program for web designers and developers too.