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WordPress eCommerce Plugins: Shopp vs WP e-Commerce — 12/30/2008

WordPress eCommerce Plugins: Shopp vs WP e-Commerce

Update (10/21/09): Comments for this post have been closed.

Thanks for your comments everyone! It has been nearly a year since I wrote this review. It is based on WP e-Commerce 3.6.9 and Shopp 1.0. Both plugins have had significant upgrades since then.

I bought a developer license for Shopp and have used it in several projects. I still love it.

When I have some more time, I am hoping to give WP e-Commerce another try and post a review the new version.

I have been working on a large project for the past couple of months. It is a custom WordPress site for a client, which includes a store. I have never used WordPress for an ecommerce site. The closest I have come is to create a WordPress site and an ecommerce site with matching themes, so that the end user would have the experience of a single site. This solution is not ideal because the site administrator would have to do store administration separately.

I had been experimenting with various beta and RC versions of WP e-Commerce (WPeC) from time to time. When I began working on my project, there was a relatively working version of the plugin available. After paying $25 for a single site license for the “Gold Cart” files, my nightmare began. The Gold Cart adds multiple image upload, a product search option, and some additional payment gateways including authorize.net.

The first challenge was customization. Making (what should have been) the simple change of showing the product images on the right instead of on the left of the product description involved some pretty insane CSS. And then some more for IE7. And more for IE6. Luckily, I find a CSS challenge to be a fun learning experience.

There were a few bugs at first, but nothing that seemed like it couldn’t be fixed. It is here where I would like to mention Shayne from S-Tastic Designs. Anyone who has had the frustrating experience of working with WPeC has probably gotten help at some point or other from Shayne. He is not one of the developers, but I think he may be a top reason why people do not run screaming from this plugin. That, and the fact that there are were no alternative ecommerce solutions for WordPress that offer as many features and payment gateway options. WPeC seems to get buggier with each new release.

Enter Shopp, a brand new ecommerce plugin for WordPress. So new that it was just realeased earlier today! Shopp costs $55 for a single site license. Payment gateways other than PayPal Express and Google Checkout require an additional $25 module.

I have been beta testing Shopp for a while and have been impressed from the very beginning. The developer, Jonathan Davis, has been amazingly supportive of the beta testers. He has been available through various means of communication every day and always answers questions in the forums. If you have ever had the experience of trying to get help through the WPeC forums, you will know the joy and satisfaction that this kind of support can bring.

So, on to the comparison! Versions tested are current as of today. Shopp v 1.0 with Authorize.net module and WP e-Commerce v 3.6.9 with Gold Cart addon.

Support

As mentioned above, Shopp wins. No contest.

Features

Display Options – Shopp offers a choice of list view or grid view for store pages right out of the box. The customer has the option to change the view. It took under a minute to make the same display change that I made in WPeC.

WPeC has a module called Grid View available for an additional $15. I did not purchase the Grid View module, so can not compare. List view was similar in both plugins: product thumbnails and descriptions. Product links in WPeC were constantly breaking. There is a link in the administration settings to ‘Fix Product Group Permalinks’. Why can’t they fix themselves?

Both plugins offer the option for downloadable products. These are handled very nicely in Shopp. After purchasing the download, the client is sent to an order completion page that includes a link to the download. They also receive a nice looking email with order details and download link.

WPeC’s implementation of downloadable products was so buggy that I am not even sure I can describe what it is supposed to do. Different versions of the plugin contained different bugs, including no download link in the emails received by the client. One place where WPeC wins over Shopp is in the downloadable product administration interface. WPeC incudes a list of available downloads to choose from, while Shopp wants the product path.

The product upload feature did not work for me in WPeC due to the large file size of the products. I did not test this feature in Shopp because the files were already on the server.

Product Variations are included in both plugins, but once again Shopp’s implementation is miles above WPeC’s. Product variations are things like different colors or sizes available for a product. Shopp offered more options for per variation settings, such as different shipping fee, product weight, sale price, etc.

WPeC’s product variation interface consisted of a few blank text fields with the labels of ‘Name’ and ‘Variation Values’.

Promotion handling such as coupon codes and other types of discounts is another place where Shopp shines. WPeC offers the option for coupon codes with a choice of dollars or a percentage for discounts. Start date and end date can be entered, along with additional options to use just once and to apply to all products.

Shopp’s promotion options are pretty impressive. Promotion types are dollar or percentage discounts, free shipping, and ‘Buy X Get Y Free’. Options for start date, end date, and whether the promotion should apply to the catalog or order are provided. The best feature is the conditions for the discount. They are “booleanesque” for lack of a better word and work similarly to setting rules in most common email programs. An example of this would be ‘For products where (all/any) of these conditions are met: (Name, Category, etc.) (is equal to, does not contain, etc.) CD.’

Shipping Options were similar for both plugins except that the options actually work in Shopp. Some of WPeC’s shipping options are broken and seem to break even more with each new release. I have been trying to get support for shipping problems for a while now, along with other folks having similar problems. No reply from the WPeC developers. Stores remain unusable.

Administration

I like Shopp’s administration interface better than WPeC’s. The WPeC admin interface is unusually wide. I have a 24″ monitor at 1900 x 1200 resolution, but I like my browser windows at a more manageable size.

The WPeC admin is a little clunky, but overall works pretty well. One feature I really liked is that on the Products admin screen, editable product details appear on the right when you click a product link on the left. I do realize that it is the wide interface that makes this possible. This made switching products and adding or changing details very easy. As far as the actual Product Details section goes, I found it cluttered, but usable.

The Shopp admin is much cleaner and for the most part, more intuitive. One thing I found confusing is that you need to select a product type of ‘Shipped’ for items that are not donations or downloads, even if they do not require shipping. It is easy enough to use since all you have to do is uncheck the Shipping box to make shipping options go away and remove shipping references from the cart and checkout.

Conclusion

Shopp wins. Do not use WPeC if you value your time and/or sanity. Up until now, WPeC has been the only game in town, but not any longer.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Shopp after finishing the beta testing. Other than that, I have no affiliation with Shopp and do not receive commissions on sales. Since I have been using Shopp for a shorter period than WPeC, I will update this article if any undiscovered bugs pop up. I am also currently biased against WP e-Commerce due to the weeks of irritation, frustration, and annoyance that it has caused me. It would really be a great plugin if it wasn’t so buggy and had better support.
Chinese Food on Christmas — 12/27/2008
Shutdown — 12/24/2008

Shutdown

I was reading an article called “Shutdown: A Specific Type of Meltdown” written by Gavin Bollard this morning. Shutdown is a pretty hard thing to put into words, but he did a pretty good job of it.

Technically, there aren’t too many differences between meltdowns and shutdowns. Both are extreme reactions to everyday stimuli. … While a meltdown could be described as rage against a situation, a [shutdown] tends to be more of a retreat.

Shutdown and meltdown have always had the same meaning in my mind, the only difference being one of intensity. Gavin describes them as two separate things. I can kind of see the difference when described like that. When I was younger, I used to have both meltdowns and shutdowns. I don’t think I have meltdowns anymore. I could be wrong about that. I still have shutdowns.

There are things that affect the frequency of having shutdowns. Medicine has a pretty huge effect. If the meds are working okay, it happens much less often. Stress always makes it much more likely to happen. If my head gets loud enough, there is close to a 100% chance that I will shutdown.

For me, a shutdown is very scary. My distance from the world and everyone in it is greatly increased. Often I can not speak at all. I can hear, but the delay is longer than usual. It hurts in a way I can not describe. Almost equal parts pain and numbness. I’m not even sure that makes sense, but it is accurate. Emergency medicine can stop it, but it makes me very groggy, even into the next day. I hate that.

Gavin wrote of having “what if” and “if only” types of thoughts when shutdown. I do not have these thoughts or any others. Sometimes it is because the screaming is too loud. Sometimes because I have no ability to put words together into thoughts. I think I would like to coin the term “wordled” to describe that particular situation. Or maybe that is copyright infringement.

It is interesting to read how other people experience these types of things. When they happen to me ‘out in the wild’, I find myself in a position where I need to escape as quickly as possible, but can not communicate that need to anyone. It makes for some awkward situations and sometimes leaves people wondering what is wrong with me or thinking I am an unfriendly freak.

Unlike meltdowns, where it’s best to leave the aspie alone but in a safe place, it’s generally ok to talk in a soothing voice during a shutdown.

I agree with Gavin about the “cure”, but I wish there was a better one. For me, shutdown is often a matter of overstimulation. There is a filter that people seem to have that separates sights and sounds and colors and words and smells and textures and motions and other supposedly inconsequential stimuli. Mine does not work right. It makes the world a whole different place. Sometimes that is a good thing. But not today.

Poetic Prophet | Design Coding — 12/11/2008

Poetic Prophet | Design Coding

Stumbled across this while reading about browsers at molly.com. I am not completely sure if it will appeal as much to the non-web designer/developer crowd as it did to me.

By Poetic Prophet – SEO Rapper (aka Chuck Lewis)

Lyrics:

Design Coding

Your site design is the first thing people see
it should be reflective of you and the industry
easy to look at with a nice navigation
when you can’t find what you want it causes frustration

a clear Call to action to increase the temptation
use appealing graphics they create motivation
if you have animation
use with moderation
cause search engines can’t index the information

display the logos of all your associations
highlight your contact info that’s an obligation
create a clean design you can use some decoration
but to try to prevent any client hesitation

every page that they click should provide and explanation
should be easy to understand like having a conversation
when you design the style go ahead and use your imagination

but make sure you use correct color combinations
do some investigation, look at other organizations
but don’t duplicate or you might face a litigation
design done, congratulations but it’s time to start construction

follow these instructions when you move into production
your photoshop functions then slice that design
do your layout with divs make sure that it’s aligned
please don’t use tables even though they work fine
when it come to indexing they give searches a hard time

make it easy for the spiders to crawl what you provide
remove font type, font color and font size
no background colors, keep your coding real neat

tag your look and feel on a separate style sheet
better results with xml and css
now you making progress, a lil closer to success
describe your doctype so the browser can relate
make sure you do it great or it won’t validate

check in all browsers, I do it directly
gotta make sure that it renders correctly
some use IE, some others use Flock
some use AOL, I use Firefox

title everything including links and images
don’t use italics, use emphasis
don’t use bold, please use strong
if you use bold that’s old and wrong

when you use CSS, you page will load quicker
client satisfied like they eating on a snicker
they stuck on your page like you made it with a sticker
and then they convert now that’s the real kicker
make you a lil richer, your site a lil slicker

design and code right man I hope you get the picture
what I’m telling you is true man it should be a scripture
if it’s built right you’ll be the pick of the litter
everyone will want to follow you like twitter
competition will get bitter and you’ll shine like glitter

if you trying to grow your company will get bigger
design and code right man can you get with it

WordPress 2.7 — 12/08/2008

WordPress 2.7

Earlier today, I updated this site to WordPress 2.7. It was a completely smooth upgrade, even though I forgot to disable my plugins and 2.7 is only a release candidate. I have been using the beta version, and now RC1 on a website I have been building for the past couple of months. It has been amazingly stable since even before it was in beta.

The administration section is completely overhauled for the way better, in my opinion. The main admin links are moved from the top to a sidebar with dropdown panels for each section. Here is a screenshot of the ‘Add New Post’ page as it appears while I am writing this:

WordPress 2.7 Add Post Screen
WordPress 2.7 Add Post Screen

One of the most exciting new features is the automatic core upgrade. Amazing! Better than that. For someone with a single site, it is amazing. For someone who is responsible for many WordPress sites, it is a dream come true. It has been working, but behaving strangely on the site I have been building. For some reason it always fails on the first two tries and works on the third. No harm is done on the failed attempts. I will see how it goes with this site.

Another handy new feature is the ‘Install Plugins’ page where you can search the WordPress Plugin Directory by keyword, author, or tag, or browse by tag, featured, popular, newest, and recently updated. You can also upload .zip files of plugins you have already downloaded.

There is much more to say about WordPress 2.7 but I am too tired to say it now. Maybe I will post again when the final version is released. I was kind of impressed with myself for holding out this long before installing it on LBnuke. Don’t think I would have made it if not for having another site to play on. I mean work on.

Prop 8 – The Musical — 12/03/2008

Prop 8 – The Musical

All star cast! Queers! John C. Reilly, Margaret Cho, Neil Patrick Harris, Maya Rudolf, Jack Black! Song, dance, props!

“Never underestimate the power of a musical”
–Lori B, editor-in-chief, LBnuke

Credits:
Conceived and Written by Marc Shaiman.
Directed and Staged by Adam Shankman
Produced by Adam Shankman, Marc Shaiman and Mike Farah
Edited by Bradly Schulz and Drew Antzis

Cast (in order of appearance):
California Gays and The People That Love Them
Jordan Ballard
Margaret Cho
Barrett Foa
J.B. Ghuman
John Hill
Andy Richter
Maya Rudolph
Rashad Naylor
Nicole Parker
Proposition 8’ers and The People That Follow Them:
Prop 8 Leader – John C. Reilly
Prop 8 Leader’s #1 Wife – Allison Janney
Prop 8 Leader’s #2 Wife – Kathy Najimy Riffing
Prop 8’er – Jenifer Lewis
A Preacher – Craig Robinson
Scary Catholic School Girls From Hell – Rashida Jones, Lake Bell, Sarah Chalke
The Frightened Villagers – Katharine “Kooks” Leonard, Seth Morris, Denise “Esi!” Piane, Lucian Piane, Richard Read, Seth Redford, Quinton Strack, Tate Taylor, Brunson Green
Jesus Christ – Jack Black
A Very Smart Fellow – Neil Patrick Harris
Piano Player – Marc “Marc” Shaiman

Thanks to K and Estelle for the link!