One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is helping small businesses build a professional-looking web presence inexpensively and efficiently from the ground up.
The Oregon Dreamery is one such project. The Dreamery did have a site, but it was a conventional HTML web site on a somewhat limited host with another domain name that was difficult for them to manage, hard to upgrade, and limited in functionality. Although they knew from the outset that they wanted to do limited ecommerce on the site, WordPress was the best choice for a platform for them.
They’re pleased with the site, actively involved in growing it, and also now benefit from the automated nightly database backup, automated monthly database optimization, and off-site backup that I offer.
This site isn’t completely vanilla WordPress, however. They also opted to have me build a quote database for them, and to include a quote-of-the-day on the home page drawn from the database. Not only that, but the site itself is pure Oregon. Even if you’re not interested in seeing a WordPress example, you should check it out.
One of my clients asked me to quickly set up a site for car stereo clearance sales that could be handed over to his employees for management. Essentially, he wanted a user-friendly ecommerce site with a professional look at minimum cost.
I considered various options, but at present the way to go for him was clearly a combination of Joomla! and Virtuemart. Zen Cart would have taken longer to set up–and cost more–and Virtuemart is much more user-friendly. Joomla! also has good template support for a custom theme that would be inexpensive and stable.
These days, there isn’t a better option to quickly create a user-friendly professional-looking ecommerce site than Joomla! and Virtuemart.
I had a client approach me with what has become a common request of late. He wanted an ecommerce site for a set of products he was developing, but his budget didn’t allow for a web developer long-term; he wanted his employees to take the reins once the site was built and configured, using me only for keeping the site platform up-to-date and dealing with any issues that might come up.
The result was Tactical Storage. I built the site using Joomla!, Virtuemart, and a commercial template from RocketTheme, then handed it off to his employees to add content and products.
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.