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Thread: Mess of a site

  1. #1
    charlesh's Avatar
    charlesh is offline Master Glow Jedi
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    Default Mess of a site

    I just inherited a web store that has increased in sales to the point that they need to make some changes. The person who designed the site originally did it in such a difficult, backwards way, that I just have to vent here a little about this behemoth of a site.

    Basically, what the old designer did was to use an online service as a shopping cart, basically, a shopping cart server from ewebcart.com. They handle all the ATM transactions and SSL and all you have to do is to put a small form on your product's page with the proper web id to post to their site. The user is redirected to the cart server without even knowing it. All of the headers and footers are located on the cart server, so if they click another category or product, they are redirected back to the original site. They also have a registry that behaves the same way.

    The owners of the store said that their designer no longer wanted to maintain it and that it was difficult to maintain. They were right... What made my jaw drop wide open was the fact that all two (2) thousand products each had a static HTML page and are all in the same directory, not any organization to it at all! There is not one bit of dynamicness to this site, all static HTML pointing to a shopping cart server.

    Now, I have to make this into a proper cart. If anyone can offer any suggestions, I'm all ears. I like zen cart because it is easy to customize, but it is a little clunky. Magentocommerce.com is the most awesome cart, but then the learning curve on the template system they use may be a bit much for this project and their first release just came out a couple of days ago, mostly it has been in beta for the last year or so. I'm eager to become knowledgeable with it, but I don't think this project is the one to do it with.

    CharlesH

  2. #2
    Matt's Avatar
    Matt is offline GlowHost Administrator
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    Have you looked into CS-Cart yet?

    It seems like a decent shopping cart system. I'd like to hear some feedback if you go that route.

    Here is the link to their site. http://cs-cart.com/
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  3. #3
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    jmarcv is offline Cranky Coder
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    You didnt mention OSCommerce. Good. Dont bother. I dont like their coding and query style and it is definately not a very scalable product. I have had to make some hacks to their inneficient code to keep them from crashing a Glowhost customer with thousands of inventory products. Not to mention, they took forever to be compatible with mysql 5 (if they even are now!)

    I see CS cart makes specific note of easily handling 10K items.

    Also saw a product OpenDNS - supposedly designed to scale, but site is down, writers can't spell, and so probably a bit on the scarey side.

  4. #4
    charlesh's Avatar
    charlesh is offline Master Glow Jedi
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    Matt,

    That really looks robust. I have already put in a couple of questions to their support to see if they support local taxes, etc. I will let you know if I decide to go with them. It certainly looks a lot more robust than zen cart does. The problem with zen cart is that it is very added onto over the years by multiple developers who are more like volunteers - true open source, right? The good thing about open source is that it is free, the bad thing about it can be that sometimes it is inconsistent and new features take a long time to get added.

    I don't mind paying for something that will be well supported.

    Reminds me of the old story of the time back in the 20's where the power went out in a major city and they had to bring back this old guy that was in retirement. He went into the power station and took a hammer and tapped on a transformer. Instantly, the power came back on. He later send them a bill for $1,000.05. When asked what the .05 was for, he said, "I charge .05 for tapping and a 1,000 dollars for knowing where to tap."

    CharlesH

  5. #5
    Matt's Avatar
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    LMAO. That story reminds me of old timer friend who recently retired from McDonnell Douglas. He actually was forced into retirement a year or two early due to young new brass to the company looking to tighten up loose corners.

    Turns out he had made some "yellow boxes' as he liked to call them, and he had been using these yellow boxes to perform his daily tasks for the last 30 years. From my recollection of the story, he made these yellow boxes in his garage and they helped rapidly diagnose where potential electrical problems were in the F-15 Eagle.

    Upon his 'early" retirement, he took the yellow boxes home with him. After all, he invented them in his garage. They were his and they were one of the few things he could take with him to remember all the great years he had spent at his job building the F-15.

    Sure enough, the day after he was laid off, some uppity lawyer was on the phone with him the next day demanding he return the yellow boxes. He didn't give them back, I belive the exact words he told the lady were not suitable for these forums.

    About 6 months roll by and guess who is on the phone? McDonnell Douglas, and now they not only want him and his yellow boxes back, they want to give him the originally promised retirement, but to sweeten the deal he would now get a pay raise and other perks for the next year and a half to train the new stock of aircraft engineers how to use his little yellow boxes.

    I think he definitely knew where to tap.
    Last edited by Matt; 04-05-2008 at 02:29 PM.
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  6. #6
    charlesh's Avatar
    charlesh is offline Master Glow Jedi
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    I like that story - especially since Wichita is such an aircraft building sort of town. The old Stearman factory is only a couple of miles from my house, now the site of Boeing where they make the 737 and those get shipped to Seattle for assembly.

    I worked at Learjet for a couple of years and found that if I went above and beyond there was no reward or recognition. As a business owner, what I get out of it is exactly what I put into it - a much better, albeit riskier model.

    It's nice to hear that they called the guy back - most companies that size don't even realize there is a problem for months, maybe years after a person has left who had all the knowledge.

    Kinda along the same lines, I've been debating in my head whether web development is a product or a service or sort of both. I finally came to my own conclusion (draw your own) that it is a product once delivered and when a site is launched, and a service when maintaining a site. I think that it is wiser, from a business perspective to think of the site as a product. When you buy a house, you don't judge the value of the house by asking how many workers did it take to build this house and what was the total number of hours spent on it?

    However, when you charge for maintenance, you have to really go by an hourly rate, don't you think?

  7. #7
    Matt's Avatar
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    Depending on the client, I think there are 2 ways to approach the service side of a website.

    1) Monthly Fee
    2) Hourly

    I prefer the monthly fee option because you can bundle in say 2-3 hours of service per month at "no charge" along with their hosting fees. I think in the long run this is more profitable especially if you have large numbers of clients.

    Hourly is nice but it does not give you stability in your income.

    And yep, the website itself should be considered a product and one way to make it tangible is to give the client a hard copy on CDR. Which by the way, can be a nice upsale for you. "Would you like a hard copy on CD for an extra $99."
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  8. #8
    charlesh's Avatar
    charlesh is offline Master Glow Jedi
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    I usually do count a couple of hours at least in the hosting side of things to cover those nickel and dime requests that inevitably crop up that you can't really send a bill for. I like the idea of a separate fee, especially for the ecommerce stuff.

    On the CS-Cart front, I downloaded a copy of it an installed it on my localhost. Very impressive and great use of Ajax. I was always wondering why didn't anybody use ajax to update a cart??? Now, CS-cart has.

    I get the feeling that those guys are a bunch of really capable programmers from the Ukraine or somewhere like that, most likely with some sort of presence in the US. They say that their timezone is GMT+3. Anyway, great price for what you get and so far I am really impressed.

    I'm going to let magentocommerce bake out there for a while and get a good shakedown before considering it.

    Thanks for the advice,

    CharlesH

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