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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.
Review: iPhone 1.0 — 07/09/2007

Review: iPhone 1.0

I cracked. Didn’t even last a week. I tried to resist, but every day I went to the apple store to play with an iPhone. The 8GB models were continuously out of stock. Usually the 4G models were too. It compelled me. Like the iMac did nearly 2 years ago, and like another mac most likely will at macworld 2008.
iPhone 1.0
I checked the apple store iphone availability link every morning. Finally, on saturday, the dot was green. it was still only 8am and apple store opened at 9. We got there around 8:30 and there was already a line outside. I got on line while k parked the car.

About 5 minutes after we got there, an apple store employee walked down the line handing iphone shaped tickets to everyone. The ticket was a guarantee of 8GB iphone availability if purchased by 10am. We didn’t even have to stay on line, but stayed anyway. Less than half an hour later, me and K walked out of the store with a pretty iphone bag containing a beautiful well designed iphone box. I was kind of in shock.

We went across the street to the cingular store to add the iphone data plan ($20/month for unlimited data and visual voicemail). They let me log in to my itunes account from there and activate the phone so they could make sure the att account end of things went correctly. It did. Before we left the store, my iphone was working and my motorola was dead.

When I opened the box, there was a beautiful shiny iphone packaged in a very neat and elegant way like most apple products are. On the way home, I took photos, called my folks, and surfed the web. Don’t worry, Karen was driving 😉

The screen is beautiful. The video quality is amazing. The sound is clear. The screen gets lots of fingerprints on it, but you can’t notice them unless the phone is off or sleeping. A small cloth was included to wipe it. The cloth did an okay job, but the one that came with my case was much better and wiped off every smudge.

I could open a Word doc in email with no problem. The wifi speed is relatively fast. The edge network connection is more like dialup, but definitely usable. It is amazing to be able to look stuff up from anywhere that a cell phone signal can be had. This is something I think will come in very handy. I can look up directions from google maps when I get lost. I get lost a lot.

The touchscreen is fun, especially the pinchy thing where you can zoom in or out. I started out slow on the keyboard, but can type much faster now. Still using one finger, but I have read that typing with 2 thumbs can be much faster. There is a good video on the apple site about the keyboard.

One very cool thing that the video mentions is that the iphone will dynamically resize the letter tap zones for the most likely letter, and make the adjacent letter’s tap zones smaller.

Something that is essential to know is that you can zoom in on the text and cursor on the screen by holding your finger down in the area you want to magnify and moving the cursor. This makes it MUCH easier to move the cursor to where you want it to be.

Word prediction is much better than it seems at first. The trick is not to doubt it and refrain from backspacing to fix your own errors. Sometimes that is necessary, but most often, the keyboard will guess what the misspelled word was supposed to be, even though the guesses it makes while you are typing are not even close.

Word auto-complete sucks. While the late guessing of correct words works okay for typos and spelling errors, it is terrible for completing words. Sometimes it doesn’t guess the word until the last letter, making it useless, or even worse, guesses the wrong word on the last letter. In that case, you have to cancel the suggested word or it will replace your correct word. Easy to miss this if you are looking at the keyboard instead of the message. To auto-complete a guessed word, tap the spacebar on the keyboard. To get rid of it, tap the word on the screen.

I am loving the Notes app. For the non-mac people, an app is the same thing as a program. Usually, I have about 10 random scraps of paper in my back pocket, and another 100 or so on my desk, all containing information that I want to remember, but will most likely never see again. The iphone offers a very easy way to keep notes in one place.

This past week, I have been taking notes about things I have been noticing and learning about the iphone. For the most part, I think this is the coolest phone I have ever had or ever seen. I am very lucky and happy to have it. Even still, there is definitely room for improvement.

I knew going in that this is a version 1.0 product, so was expecting things to be missing or broken. I don’t think anything is broken. Some of the things that are missing surprise me very much and I am guessing (and hoping) that at least some of them will be added in a software update.

Some things that are glaringly missing:

  • Text select – This is so basic. It is hard to believe it is not possible. I have checked, and it really is not.
  • Cut/Copy/Paste – See text select.
  • MMS (multimedia messaging – text messages with pictures) – Basic mobile phone feature.
  • Notes do not sync with anything on the computer. Very strange. I should note — haha, note. that’s funny 🙂 — that you can email a note easily, so it is not that hard to get it on your computer, but syncing seems pretty basic.
  • You can not add attachments to email. I think it would be better to include the ability to email pictures, notes, and other attachments directly from the mail app, while still keeping the option to email them from the pix and notes apps.
  • No Select All option for email messages (or anything else). There is no way to delete a bunch of mail at a time. Why?

Not glaring, but still missing:

  • Voice memo – probably glaring to anyone who was used to using it on their old phone. It is kind of weird since there is an included recorder for setting voicemail greeting.
  • There is no video recorder.
  • No included games.

Other random gripes:

  • Some things take too many clicks. Navigating through different email accounts really needs to be streamlined. It would also be nice to have a period and comma key available on the same keyboard as the letters for text apps.

    Keyboards for some apps are specialized and smart. For example, the safari keyboard includes period, slash, and ‘.com’ keys.

  • No way to choose which widgets appear on the main screen.
  • Safari does not remember the zoomed screen size so I have to rezoom on every page.
  • The screen does not always rotate from portrait to landscape view on the first try.

3rd party apps!

The way Apple has set up the iPhone to work with 3rd party apps is to run them in safari. To use an app, just go to the app’s url. If you like it, you can bookmark it for easy access.

There are also a few launcher type apps that act as a main bookmark page that is only for your third party apps and prettier to look at than regular bookmarks.

There is a big list of iphone apps here: iPhone Application List and another here: appleopolis.com. You can skip the login on the second one. No login for first one.

I am currently trying out mojits.com, which is a launcher type thing for iphone apps that you access through safari. Hard to tell if I like it because I only tried using it for 5 minutes.

I was pretty impressed with a shopping list app called OneTrip. OneTrip makes it easy to make a shopping list by offering prewritten selections that are organized by category. There is an option to add your own things to each category.

I also added a bejeweled type game, a movie time finder, and an app called iActu that brings the content of 6 popular newspapers in a cool looking newsstand style. When you click on a paper, the newsstand goes away and the news is displayed in an easy to read way.

WordPress iPhone Theme and Plugin by Content.Robot – automatically reformats your site’s content for optimized viewing on an iPhone. Thank you content.robot! I am using it on LBnuke, with the only modification being changing the blue to red to match the site.

Other interesting tips and factoids gathered from around the web:

From iPhone Central at Macworld.com:

“When browsing a web page in Safari on an iPhone, one tap of the top status bar (signal strength, time, etc.) brings you back to the top of the page, complete with the URL field visible.”
–Dan Moren

Airplane Mode … disables all wireless functionality (phone, EDGE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth) but lets you use the iPhone’s non-Internet applications.
–Dan Frakes

If your iPhone freezes…
Reset: Apple’s first reset tip, which is pressing and holding the Home button for about six seconds. This quits any application that may have locked up the iPhone.
Reboot: Press and hold the Home and On/Off for about 10 seconds until the Apple logo appears.
–Christopher Breen (edited by LB for length)

In Safari on the iPhone, holding your finger down on a link pops up a balloon displaying the underlying URL. Also works on HTML messages in Mail. Holding your finger on a link shows you where the URL is really going to take you.
–Dan Frakes

There is a great tip from David Pogue on the The Missing Manual website about how to type punctuation without having to switch back and forth between the letters and the number/symbols keyboard. Basically, you hold down the “.?123” key when you are switching to the numbers keyboard and rather than letting it go, you slide your finger to the punctuation that you want to type and then release it. After release, the letters keyboard returns. Click here to read the full keyboard punctuation tip at the Missing Manual site.

That is all I have for now. Maybe I will write again if I notice more things, find some cool apps, or if Apple releases software updates that adds new features.

Autiblogger 1.2.1 — 05/24/2007

Autiblogger 1.2.1

Autiblogger is a free blogging community for people on the autistic spectrum. Since its initial beta release last August, many new features, themes, and plugins have been added. We have moved from a very unreliable shared server to an excellent dedicated server thanks to donations from the community and lots of help from my family. Thanks everybody 🙂

A couple of new measures have been taken to fight the continuous annoyance of splogs (spam blogs). Splogs are fake blogs that are created for the purpose of either displaying ads or creating search engine traffic and search engine ranking for another website to which the splog points. At one point, Autiblogger was getting about 30 new splogs per day!

I installed an anti-splog script to block users from signing-up if thier IP address is blacklisted at spamhaus.org. That helped quite a bit, dropping the number of splogs per day to around three. Finally, I gave in and added an image captcha (challenge response test to verify that a user is human) to the sign-up page. I was really trying to avoid that due to accessibility issues, but it was hard to keep up with even a few splogs per day. I added a link to the sign-up page for users to contact me if they could not view the captcha image. At this time, splogs are down to just one every few days.

With the splog problem under control, I was finally able to add some new features and update some old ones. Today I added a flickr post bar plugin which adds thumbnails of the most recent photos from a user’s flickr account to the post-writing page, making it very easy to insert a flickr image into a blog post. I also added a LiveJournal cross-posting plugin which automatically copies new posts to a specified LiveJournal. Editing and deleting cross-posted entries causes the same changes to be made on the LiveJournal.

Other changes include an update to the Friends List feature which fixes a few bugs and an update to the admin bar that appears at the top of a user’s site when they are logged in, providing easy access to their blog administration. Unlogged users will see a link to Autiblogger and a ‘Get a Blog’ link. A Random Blog link was also added. Click on it and guess what…

If you are interested in helping to support Autiblogger and other Autistic Planet sites, please visit the Support Autiblogger page.

Why Autiblogger 1.2.1? I was almost going to call it Autiblogger 2.0, but the changes didn’t seem large enough to warrant a whole new version number. 1.2.1 is also the current stable version of WordPress MU, which is the excellent open source application that powers Autiblogger.

WordPress 2.2 Upgrade — 05/16/2007

WordPress 2.2 Upgrade

WordPressI am starting to believe that the days of the fast and easy WordPress upgrade have come to an end. Version 2.0 brought some problems for upgraders. Version 2.1 seemed to bring even more due to some database changes breaking certain themes and plugins.

The 2.0 upgrade went very smoothly for me. 2.1 did not. My theme had some db calls to fetch page links using post_status='static' which no longer worked after the database changes. Calling them with post_type='page' instead fixed the problem quite easily, but it took a while of troubleshooting before figuring that out. The 2.2 upgrade was the worst yet.

After having trouble with the 2.1 upgrade, I decided to follow the upgrade instructions for a change and turn off all of my plugins. I have never done that before and have never had a problem because of not doing it. This time, after uploading the new files and running the database update script, I was greeted a by a PHP fatal error message in place of my website. Pretty. This was due to the call in my header.php file to the Ultimate Tag Warrior plugin, which was not activated. No problem. Easy to fix. Comment out the UTW code in the header.

I started reactivating plugins one by one and then testing to make sure nothing went wrong. Everything was going smoothly until activating the King Categories widget. Another fatal error. This time, I emptied the active_plugins field from the bee_options table and tried again with the same result. It occurred to me later that I probably could have just renamed the widget instead of messing with the db, but why do things the easy way when you take the scenic route?

I gave up on the King widget and instead downloaded and installed Breukie’s Categories widget. This worked fine except that every time I made a change to the widget in the admin section, it would forget my exluded categories, so I had to reset them every time. Too annoying.

I was about to hard code the categories into my sidebar just below the hard coded search form and above the widget test statement when I discovered my new favorite widget, the Executable PHP widget, while reading Aaron Brazell’s 10 Things You Should Know About WordPress 2.2. It was also in this article that I was notified of a workaround by Ryan Boren for this widget that is required if you want to use more than one PHP widget in wordpress 2.2. This widget rocks! Endless possibilities. I used to use the King Text widget to include PHP in widgets, but was too afraid to activate it after the trouble with King Categories. I created 3 execPHP widgets to replace the King Categories widget, a King Text widget, and one to add my RSS links. I am not sure why I didn’t just use plain HTML in a text widget for that last one. Never even occurred to me. Finally my sidebar was back to normal.

One more thing about widgets in wordpress 2.2. They are built in, so do not try to activate the widgets plugin ten times like I did. It will never work.

There is a very cool new Plugin Sandbox feature in WP 2.2 that evaluates the plugin code on activation for fatal errors and does not activate the plugin if any are found. This kicked in for the widgets plugin, but not for the King widget. I suppose a widget is not technically a plugin. Or is it?

I still love wordpress as much as ever and will always upgrade my own site at first stable release of each new version. There are always changes for the better and bug fixes.

I will no longer be upgrading all of my wordpress sites at first release. It has become almost impossible anyway since the 120-day release schedule has been in effect. Most of them are client sites that I do not want to break or cause to have any downtime beyond uploading the new files. It is not part of any agreement I have to keep sites updated with the latest files, but sometimes I like to throw it in as a freebie for increased security and ease of future upgrades, not to mention access to new features. Now that it is not always a fast and easy job, I will probably only do it at a client’s request and for a fee. It is probably best that I charge for my work anyway!

Server Load, Share-This, and No Trip — 03/26/2007

Server Load, Share-This, and No Trip

Earlier today my site started loading crazily slow. I checked other sites on the server, and they were all like that. I called LiquidWeb and they told me that it was because of having a really high server load and using more memory than I am allocated. Hard to pinpoint the exact cause because it depends on everything that is happening on all of my sites. The guy said that if it keeps happening, I will have to move to a dedicated server (on a VPS now). I really hope that doesn’t happen! It will cost at least twice as much per month as the VPS. Not sure what to do, especially since my next client site will be using tons of bandwidth for playing huge mp3 files and I already agreed on a hosting price of $100/year because I had no idea about the server resource problem. I also didn’t know how gigantic their mp3 files were at the time. Dang.

I finally got the Share-This plugin to work nearly right. Problems in IE. Surprise. Sending email returns people to a blank page. I give up!

Sometimes, I really hate being me. Usually, I like it okay. I am very lucky in a lot of ways. Most ways. But once in a while, I get very down on myself and very jealous of other people. I get tired of having a hard time doing basic things like reading, traveling, talking, leaving the house, working, even playing video games! It makes me feel like an idiot. I know that there are lots of things I am good at, and that sometimes those basic things are not hard at all, but when they are, it is very annoying. How can it be hard to play video games? That is completely ridiculous!
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More WordPress Plugins — 03/22/2007

More WordPress Plugins

The first plugin of today is not actually a wordpress plugin at all, but it works like one (at least like one that has a slightly complicated installation). It is called iBox. Installation is relatively simple if you are comfortable with uploading and modifying files. Kind of a pain if you’re not. There is some code that needs to be added to the header.php file of your theme, an image that needs to go in the root images directory, and two files that need to go into your theme’s main directory.
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Plugin Update — 03/20/2007

Plugin Update

I have given up on the Share This plugin for now. No time to mess with it anymore. I am back to using the social bookmarks plugin, but I like the way Share This works and looks much better. When I have more time, I will try again.

Yesterday, I added the WP-chgFontSize plugin, which is pretty cool. I wish it used ems or percentages instead of pixels for the font-sizes, but can see how that might get tricky with the javascript. I added some code to include a link to return to the default font size. It was bugging me that the only way I could return to the default size was to delete the cookie from my computer. I like to have an ‘undo’ option whenever possible. If anyone else is interested in having this option, here is the code:

In the wp-chgfontsize.js file, right after this else block (around line 82):

} else {
document.write(' A+ ');
}

Add this:

document.write(' default');

Replace the 15 with whatever your default font size is.

Just when I thought I was finished experimenting with plugins for today, I realized that even when using tags, the code was not displaying right in this post. Hyperlinks were actual working hyperlinks, image tags were showing the image, and   html codes were making spaces.

Enter my newest plugin, Code Markup, which makes the code tags work right. It is kind of annoying to use a plugin for something that is supposed to happen automatically, but it seemed like the quickest, easiest solution to make it work.

Still, you gotta love that there is a wordpress plugin for just about everything! I am using 26 of them right now on this site.

New Old Meds — 03/14/2007

New Old Meds

So much going on. New meds. Well, not exactly new. Same as the last meds only in a different formula and dose of pill. Started yesterday. So far, so good. I can breathe. Hopefully the new kind of pill will not give me the same kind of allergic reaction as the last time. I realized when I picked it up this time that ‘trouble breathing’ is listed in the package insert as a possible allergic reaction, not as a side effect.

The good news is that the side effects of strattera are finally wearing off. My body feels more normal and the strange sores that I’ve been getting underneath the skin on my hands and feet has almost completely disappeared just as suddenly as they appeared shortly after I started taking the meds. Mystery solved. All those blood tests for nothing.

It has been very hard to work. Even hard to play. I am half playing while I am writing this. Turning in quests. It has been fun playing warcrack with the mac guild, the Reservoir Dogcows. Nice folks. I still haven’t played much in groups, but when I did, they were very helpful. Tsayad the night elf hunter (that’s me) is almost level 40. That is a cool thing in world of warcraft. For hunters like Tsayad, it means you can start wearing mail armor instead of leather. It also means you can get a ‘mount’, which is an animal that you ride on so you can go a lot faster. For a night elf, the standard mount is one of several giant cats. Cool.

I have so much work to do. I sure hope these meds kick in soon! I wonder if I will ever be able to read again. I suppose I should be patient. There are good things too.

We got a harness and a long lead for Nikkyo and have been taking her outside in the backyard. She likes it 🙂 Mostly she sniffs the other cats and eats grass. Cats sure do like to eat grass.
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