ShopSite Tip – Add a Contact Us Page

Our customers all need to reach us at some point.  Maybe they need to call, send an email, fill out a contact form, or visit in person – and a Contact Us page allows them to get the information they need to reach you.

In this blog post we’ll show how to easily add a Contact Us page to ShopSite with sample code for a contact form and other details.

contact-us-form

Contact Form

Part 1 – The Contact Form

All LexiConn accounts come with a form processor called formmail.php which is used to parse contact forms and email the results.  Below is some sample code you can paste into the Text 1 field of the page you want to use for the Contact Us page in ShopSite.

Notes:
- Be sure you are not in the “editor” mode when you paste this in, it should be pasted as plain text without the editor active.
- Update all the “your-domain.com” lines to the values appropriate for your site.
- Update the “subject” line to what you want the email subject to be.

<div style="float: left; padding-right: 40px">
<!-- Contact Form -->
<form action="http://www.your-domain.com/scripts/formmail.php" method="post">
    <input type="hidden" name="recipients" value="info@your-domain.com" />
    <input type="hidden" name="email" value="info@your-domain.com" />
    <input type="hidden" name="subject" value="Demo Store Contact Form" />
    <input type="hidden" name="good_url" value="http://www.your-domain.com/thankyou.html" />
    <input type="text" required name="realname" /><br />
    <label for="realname">Name</label><br />
    <br />
    <input type="text" required name="replyto" /><br />
    <label for="replyto">Email</label><br />
    <br />
    <textarea required name="comments" cols="25" rows="7"></textarea><br />
    <label for="comments">Message</label><br />
    <br />
    <input type="submit" name="submit" value="Submit" />
</form>
</div>

For more details about formmail.php:
http://support.lexiconn.com/kb/questions/56/formmail.php
http://www.tectite.com/fmdoc/creating_forms.php

contact-us-details

Contact Details

Part 2 – Address & Contact Details

If you have an office or storefront where customers can visit, don’t forget to include the address on your page.  You could also include your phone number, fax number, and important email addresses.  Here is the code we used for our sample:

<div style="float: left; padding-right: 40px">
<!-- Address & Contact Details -->
<strong>OUR ADDRESS:</strong><br />
My Company Name<br />
123 Main Street<br />
Colchester, CT 06415<br />
<br />
<strong>PHONE NUMBER:</strong><br />
860-555-1212<br />
<br />
<strong>FAX NUMBER:</strong><br />
860-555-1212<br />
<br />
<strong>EMAIL ADDRESSES:</strong><br />
sales@your-domain.com<br />
support@your-domain.com<br />
</div>
<div>

Copy that code and paste it in at the bottom of the Text 1 field, below the code for the contact form.

contact-us-map

Embed a Google Map

Part 3 – Embed a Google Map

Want to make it easier for people to find you?  How about embedding a map from Google Maps on your contact page?  To do this, first go to Google Maps and search for your address.  Once you have that map ready on your screen view (in another browser tab) the instructions Google has here to get to the embed code:

https://support.google.com/maps/answer/3544418?hl=en

Below is sample code for this part of the page, but replace the “<!– Embed Google Map Here –>” line with the embed code from Google:

<div>
<!-- Embed Google Map Here -->
</div>

Copy that code and paste it at the bottom of the Text 1 field, just like we did for the prior code.

A Sample

Now that you’ve seen the 3 pieces of code from our sample, click here to see what they look like when all put together on a page:

http://shopsite-demo.lexiconn.com/contact-us-sample.html

Note: The contact form is just there to show what it looks like and will not submit anything.  When you put it on your store it will send the email and redirect the user to the Thank You page that you configure in the code.

Just a note about the <div> you see we used in our code: The code for the first 2 steps includes some padding and a “float: left” setting.  This tells the browser to display the 3 div blocks in a row across the screen and to insert some padding between them.  If you change the order of the blocks you may need to adjust the float or padding values to get the layout you are looking for.

W3Schools.com is a great site for learning and testing CSS code:
http://www.w3schools.com/cssref/pr_class_float.asp
http://www.w3schools.com/css/css_padding.asp

That’s all there is to it.  In just a few minutes of copying & pasting some code you can have a Contact Us page with not only a contact form, but a map showing your customers how to find you.

Magento Go Shutting Down – Where to Go Next?

magento_go_closing

Back in July 2014, Magento (owned by eBay) announced that it would be shutting down its Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) ecommerce platform known as Magento Go. Merchants on Magento Go have until February 1st, 2015 to move their stores to another application. Magento will be focusing on their standalone products – Magento Community Edition (CE), a free open source software application, and Magento Enterprise Edition (EE), a commercial application geared for large merchants.

This sudden closing of Magento Go came as quite a shock to many ecommerce merchants…

The question many Go store owners have is – which company / application should I choose for my online store?

Don’t make the same mistake twice

Other SaaS ecommerce providers like Big Commerce have announced they can help Go merchants migrate to their platform. It may sound like a good idea at first, but realize that it’s exactly this type of company that decided to shut down thousands of stores.

Merchants on Go cannot simply pick up their store and move it to another provider. SaaS companies like this run proprietary software that can only be used on their system. If they close up shop or change direction, their clients are left stranded with no easy migration path, and no ability to continue using the store software they rely upon.

Using a third-party SaaS provider is risky due to the lack of control you have as a store owner. There are also many other risks to using an ecommerce SaaS solution.

Own your code!

Instead, look to solutions where you are in complete control over your store’s software. Make sure you own the code that runs your store. This way, if the web host / service you’re using is not to your liking, or decides to shut down, you can simply take your store and move it to another provider with no downtime, and no re-work needed.

Having been a web host that focuses on ecommerce for over 18 years, we’ve seen SaaS companies come and go. We’ve seen the horror stories of online merchants that were stuck or essentially put out of business by companies that held them hostage, or changed focus suddenly.

The best way to combat this effect is to make sure the ecommerce software solution you choose is something *YOU* control.

Which ecommerce solution to choose?

Magento CE

Just because Magento chose to close down Go does not mean they are out of the running as an option for migration. Magento has created an open source, freely available solution known as Magento Community Edition (CE). Magento CE will look and feel like Go in many respects. It is a full featured solution that you can run on almost any web hosting platform. We have helped a number of Magento Go merchants migrate over to Magento CE hosted with us. The process isn’t 100% seamless, but products, categories, and images can be exported and imported into CE.

If you choose Magento Community Edition as your next platform, you will be in complete control of your destiny. The software will run on any server that supports MySQL and PHP, so you are not limited to just one company. Of course there are certain hosts (like us) that specialize in Magento, that can help you migrate, make sure your store runs fast, and help you get the most out of your ecommerce store.

Magento CE has a very strong community of developers, designers, and lots of add-ons and extensions. If you can think of a feature for ecommerce, the odds are good it has already been developed.

ShopSite

Another option for a migration solution from Go is ShopSite. ShopSite is a standalone ecommerce software package that can run on most web hosts as well. Its strengths are it is blazing fast, very easy to use and set up, and is one of the more reliable and feature-packed solutions out there today.

With ShopSite, you can import your products, upload your images, and convert categories to what ShopSite calls “pages” for an easy migration from Go. We’ve helped a few Go merchants take this route to keep their stores running far into the future.

ShopSite can run on any server that supports cgi scripts (compiled C programs). As with Magento, there are hosts that specialize in ShopSite hosting (we’re one of them). With us, we have developed many add-ons for ShopSite, and know the software quite well. This allows us to help our ShopSite clients when they have questions, or run into a problem.

Whichever solution you choose, make sure it’s an option where you won’t find yourself in the same situation as Magento Go. Avoiding a SaaS service like Go can help you have more control over your store, and give you the freedom to upgrade and grow on your own terms.

Not sure what to choose? Get in touch with us, and we can help you decide.

 

Google Shopping Adds Product Reviews

Last week Google announced plans to begin displaying aggregate product review information within Google Shopping Campaigns (formerly known as Product List Ads).  Meaning Google will display stars and review counts next to each paid product listing.

review-stars

You can read the full announcement at:
http://adwords.blogspot.com/2014/07/helping-shoppers-decide-with-product.html

This is a BIG, long awaited development, that is sure to help merchants increase conversion rates.  If you are currently using the Google Shopping service, or plan to, now is the time to act.

In order to give merchants time to share their review content, we’re offering a grace period from late July through October, 2014. During this grace period, we’ll allow product ratings to be shown across all Product Listing Ads where we have product review data available. After the grace period, we’ll only show ratings for products from merchants who choose to share their reviews with us.

To get started, you will need to complete the merchant opt-in form at:
https://services.google.com/fb/forms/productreviews/

Google does not guarantee product reviews will always be displayed, as they have (or plan to have) additional display extensions that may take precedence in certain scenarios.

Product ratings are one of several extensions we may show with Product Listing Ads, so please note that just because a product has reviews does not mean that we’ll always show ratings.

Note: At present, product review data will only be displayed for merchants targeting the United States.

 

ShopSite

shopingcartAs many ShopSite merchants are already aware, the Product Review module does not natively support exporting of review data.  For LexiConn hosted clients, if you are currently sending a feed to Google Shopping and your merchant opt-in form has been approved by Google, let us know and we will help you obtain the necessary review export.

Magento

Magento merchants should also be aware that Community Edition does not natively support exporting product reviews.  However, several extensions (free and paid) are available from Magento Connect.

Here a couple of popular choices (as rated by users of Magento Connect:

Don’t let the opportunity to get in early slip by! :)

photo credit

Shipping API Monitor – What Does 1 Year Tell Us?

One of our projects here at LexiConn – www.ShippingAPIMonitor.com – just had a birthday.  The website recently passed 1 year of monitoring the FedEx, UPS, and USPS shipping APIs, and we thought – why don’t we take a look at some of the stats and see what we’ve tracked over the last 12 months?

What Does It Do?

ShippingAPIMonitor.com provides real-time tracking of the shipping API systems for rates being returned from the big three – FedEx, UPS, and USPS. It monitors for their system being up and returning valid rates every minute from 2 geographically diverse locations. Any outage is displayed on the site, and after 3 consecutive rate failures, we mark the shipping API as down.

For this post, we’ve summarized the outages from July 1, 2013 through June 30th, 2014.

How Long & How Many?

In the 1 year of tracking we monitored a total of 1,559 minutes of downtime across all 3 APIs, which is just under a total of 26 hours.  26 hours may seem like a lot, but since that is over 1 year it’s just 0.3% of overall downtime.

Luckily most of that was at night, but you don’t want any downtime when it means a customer could fail to place an order and you therefore lose a sale.  Let’s take a closer look at our big 3:

FedEx had 173 outages comprising 1,308 minutes (21.8 hrs) of downtime.  61 of those outages totaling 1,188 minutes (19.8 hrs) were over 3 minutes long, resulting in a “Down” rating on ShippingAPIMonitor.com.

They had 6 outages last longer than an hour, with the longest being 4-1/2 hours.  That outage of was one of their planned maintenance windows, lasting from 10pm Eastern time on 8/3/2013 until 2:30am the following morning.

USPS had 130 outages comprising 250 minutes (4.2 hrs) of downtime.  18 of those outages reached our 3 minute threshold, which accounted for 123 minutes (2 hrs) of their downtime.  Their longest outage was 32 minutes, during the afternoon of 3/26/2014.

UPS had 1 outage of 1 minute in length.  That was it!  It was not even long enough to trigger a “Down” rating on our site, just a “Warning” notice for 1 minute until the next test completed as passed.

What Have We Learned?

We started this project to help our customers when they found shipping errors in their shopping carts, but we never knew how often the shipping APIs really went offline until we started tracking.  During the first month of going live (July 2013) we tracked 18 minutes of outages and then August followed with 2 scheduled maintenance outages by FedEx and a variety of smaller outages which allowed us to tweak our code when needed and confirm everything was monitoring correctly.

We quickly learned that FedEx has a lot of little outages, mostly going unnoticed by merchants since they are short and if a customer did receive a shipping error but tried again they would have been able to submit their order without ever letting the merchant know an error occurred.

USPS also has a good number of outages, but with so many being 2 minutes or less they mostly go unnoticed.

It took over 5 months before we finally tracked an outage with UPS.  What does UPS do that is different than FedEx and UPS?  We can only assume they are load-balancing their API servers with a method where at least 1 location is always (almost!) up and serving rates, as having just 1 minute of downtime in a whole year of tracking is remarkable.

Want to know when shipping APIs go down for your store?  Visit ShippingAPIMonitor.com to view stats or sign up for the newsletter to receive emails anytime an API goes down.  You can even follow us on Twitter for notifications as well.

7 Common Reasons Why Products Don’t Display in Magento

In this post, we will be reviewing some of the more common reasons Magento products do not display in the frontend.

1.  Product updates have invalidated the cache

When using the Magento cache option, a refresh is required after product updates.

System > Cache Management
 
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The invalidated cache will be displayed in orange.

Also, if you are running FPC (Full Page Cache), be sure that it has flushed the page where the product is expected to appear.  Some modules require a complete manual flush of the FPC, while others are more automated/selective.

2.  Product is not assigned to a website

Catalog > Manage Products > Website (tab)
 
product-website

3.  Product is not assigned to a category

Catalog > Manage Products > Category (tab)
 
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4.  Product is out of stock

Catalog > Manage Products > Inventory (tab)
 
(click to enlarge)

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By default, products with a ‘Stock Availability’ of ‘Out of Stock’ (OOS) are not displayed on category pages.  Though, they can be accessed directly via the products URL.

You can change the default setting to display OOS products System > Configuration > Catalog > Display Out of Stock Products (change value to Yes).

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Once the setting is changed, Indexes need to be rebuilt in System->Index Management.

Also, remember to update cache (System -> Cache Management, etc…).

Reminder: When making changes to system defaults, be sure the scope is set correctly.  This is especially critical if you have multiple sites, stores and/or views…

global_setting_scope_change

5.  Product status is ‘Disabled’

Catalog > Manage Products> General (tab)

Set Status to ‘Enabled’

product-status

6.  Product visibility does not include ‘Catalog’

Catalog > Manage Products > General (tab)

Set Visibility to either ‘Catalog, Search’ or ‘Catalog’

product-visiblity

7.  Category page Display Mode is set to ‘Static block only’ (and the assigned static block does not contain support for product display)

Catalog > Manage Categories > Display Settings (tab)
 
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Set Display Mode to either ‘Products only’ or ‘Static block and products’

If you have frequently experienced other scenarios where products have not displayed on Magento catalog pages, feel free to send us the details!