The Best Global Shopping Cart solution for WordPress MU

Mar 18th, 2012 | By | Category: wordpress

Well I’ve certainly setup my fair share of shopping carts in wordpress over the years but this weekend’s undertaking proved so bloody troublesome that I felt like I was getting my WP e commerce  cherry popped for the first time.. God what a nightmare.

So here’s what I needed to do:  I had a site(www.drrosebackman.com) that I setup and is infact 2 website crammed into one.. There didn’t exist, free or premium, a theme out there that accomplished what I needed to do for her site but there were two themes that if smashed together then I was in business.  My first thought was to call an old friend in Kolkata who had designers and programmers on hand to merge the themes but that would have cost my client over $1000 and delayed the launch of her website by 3-4 weeks.  So in the shower or perhaps while meditating, and after 3-4 days of insufferable trial and error, I came up with the solution:  2 wordpress installs, one for the top 1/2 of the page and the other for the bottom 1/2, the latter loaded in an iFrame.  Of course this took a day or of frustration to realize it wouldn’t work but eventually I had the idea of trying out wpmu for the first time and after all of that everything into place beautifully.

So what I have are 2 wp sites, admined through wpmu, one loading in an iframe at the bottom.  What I need to accomplish is an integrated shopping cart that is seamlessly mirrored throughout the site, no matter of if the user is clicking on the top half or the bottom half.  I need a global shopping cart solution is what I needed and where else would I turn to find top notch WPMU plugins to handle this sort of thing but www.wpmudev.org.  So I bought marketpress as it advertised the exact capabilities I was needing out of the box but alas, much like every other plugin that I bought from wpmudev it seemed as though it was 1/2 finished and wasn’t able to deliver on what it promised, or at least not without some serious hacking.. Unfortunately even the hacking that was said to allow marketpress to work as promised was outdated and no longer did the trick with the latest version of wordpress.’

I then tried eShop in conjunction with twp broadcast and was hopeful when I say my product posts being mirrored properly but then quickly fell into a pit of dissapointment when I realized that it was just mirroring the post as a post and not copying any of the eShop product info over or setting it up as a product page at all.  So that didn’t work.

Finally I went back to a plugin that I had seen at the beginning but passed it over as the store aspect of it wasn’t contained or admined within wordpress but offsite and just accessed  and displayed by wordpress.  It was after all of these trials and tribulations that I realized that might be exactly what I need as it became painfully clear that setting up a proper global shopping system that mirrored itself across multiple sites under a WPMU umbrella was clearly not possible yet.  And i don’t say that lightly mind you, if I say it’s not possible then that means a 3 year wordpress vet, sitting down and ripping out his hair for a solid week could clober a solution together so don’t waste your bloody time trying.  What I needed was a store that was setup offsite and i could just reference it from anywhere and this is where ecwid comes.  The system has nothing to do with your WPMU setup, there is no broadcasting items across multiple sites, there is global shopping cart that is seamless from one site to the next it is all handled off site and leaves nothing for wpmu or inadequate plugins to mess up.  While it’s not perfect as I would like to keep my admin all under one roof it’s better than the alternative which was to manually setup 2 separate ecommerce installs on each site and have to enter the items twice, make changes twice.  This opens up the door to a scenario where there’s a price change and you update on wp site but forget to update the other which was an unacceptable risk down the road when someone else less experienced might be managing the site.

So after the week of pain and suffering the actual ecwid setup was just about as painless as they proclaimed it was.  It was just a matter of installing the wp widget, setting up the store in their website and then creating a store page(that got broadcast thanks to twp broadcast) with an embedded javascript on it to bring up the store items as specified in the ecwid site.  It’s all free, and it’s all fairly painless, you just don’t get to admin your store from inside of wordpress.

The only real issue I found that pertained very specifically to my situation was that you had to specify full urls for your store front page inside the ecwid admin area.  Meaning I couldn’t put ./store as my store url which would allow me to have a store on domain.com/ and domain.com/site1/ and it show up as domain.com/store and domain.com/site1/store automatically.  It wanted me to put either domain.com/store or the other which of course wouldnt’ work because if a user was in the bottom half of the page and they clicked on the store link it would open up the top half of the page in the bottom frame which just looks wrong.. I needed to maintain theme consistency throughout.  The solution to this was just to edit the main .php file for ecwids WP plugin and where it was referencing $page in certain area’s I just replaced that with ./store and viola, worked like a charm!

 

So overall I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out, albeit a little frustrated with how long it took to get there.  The plugin and the shopping cart are pretty slick.  It’s 100% ajax which might not be the best of SEO but I’ve got a massive hardon for AJAX, it’s just so god damn sexy.  You can customize the CSS a lot to make the store your own which is nice and as an added bonus they have a facebook app that will allow me to integrate a store directly into the clients facebook fan page.  Very cool.

Again the only real downside is that the admin is not handled inside of the wordpress install but in all honesty if I’m going to be handing over the administration duties of this store to someone else it’s probablyi best to compartmentalize the damage they can do.  Sure they might be able to mess up the price of a few items but the rest of the site will remain intact.

 

So that’s my harrowing tale of overcoming pain and suffering and emerging on top with a functioning shopping cart system.  I hope I can spare you the same troubles of trial and error that I went through.  Cheers

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