I have a client who wanted a dealer locator added to a Zen Cart site. They weren’t able to locate a Zen Cart extension that met their requirements, so they asked me to build one from scratch.
Their specifications for the dealer locator were as follows:
- The dealer locator must blend in with their current Zen Cart template.
- The dealer locator must display dealers within the United States as well as Canada.
- Users must be able to find dealers either by zip code or city and state.
- Users must be able to quickly map the location of the dealers.
This is one of those times when it’s good to have a programmer building your web site instead of a web designer without a programming background.
The client had quite a few dealers in the United States, though they currently only have one in Canada. It would have been impractical to build a static page listing all of them, so I went with a database-driven form using jQuery and AJAX to make the form function smoothly for users.
Users are able to select a range within which to search by zip code, or they can search for all dealers in a given city and state. The output includes a link to the Google Maps listing for the dealers’ addresses.
You can see the solution I came up with in action on Q-Logic Direct.
This month, I was asked to migrate an ecommerce site to a new host, a new platform, and to split the site into ecommerce and blog sections, each on a separate hosting account and domain. This time, the client chose the template for both Zen Cart (my recommendation for the ecommerce side) and WordPress (the client’s choice for the blogging platform).
The main challenge to this job was the complexity of the organization of categories and products in the ecommerce section of the site. In order to populate the many categories, I wrote a series of PHP-based utilities. The images including watermarks and resizing to accommodate Zen Cart’s requirement for multiple image sizes were built using local Bash scripts and Imagemagick. Although the client had to pay for my time to produce the PHP utilites and the image processing scripts, they enjoyed a substantial net savings over having to use their employees’ time or mine to populate the store with their products.
Sometimes, it’s good to be a programmer.
The other programming project for Q-Logic involved producing a new application guide for them from the Zen Cart database of their products so they wouldn’t have to manually create one each time there was a product change. I used PHP, MySQL, and PDF to create the application guide which updates once a day via a cron job on the server and can be downloaded on the site.
There are a lot of shopping carts these days, but when called upon to build a full-functioned ecommerce site, I choose Zen Cart. It may not be the most user-friendly shopping cart solution out there, and the default templates leave a lot to be desired, but in terms of sheer functionality, security, payment methods, and shipping methods, I haven’t found anything better.
This month, I was asked to build an ecommerce site for a manufacturer of parts for classic Mercury Cougar and Ford Mustangs. The client also wanted a one-off site built to facilitate product development with his manufacturing contacts overseas.
I include these sites simply to show a basic Zen Cart site linked to a one-off site. A one-off site is often necessary to extend the functionality of an open-source site when the functions desired by the client can’t economically be included by modifying the open-source software.