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Mini Template System for osCommerce v2.3.1

multimixer | work | Sunday December 19 2010

I recently got the idea, and task to my self, to create a basic, generic template for the new osCommerce version 2.3. In other words not “just” a template, but a flexible base that could carry many types of stores and open to any customization.

In detail, the task included:

jquery ui widget compatibility: Since this feature is included in osCommerce it should be kept and wherever possible expanded. It’s a nice, fast and easy way to change the look of the store. The jquery ui themeroller is a great and free online tool, each one can go and pick whatever he like. The point is, that it should be easy to integrate into the store, without having to change anything in the files

Flexibility: The template should be flexible in any way. Unlike other templates, that look nice eg when they have 6 products on the front page, but totally screwed up when having to display just 4, the template should look nice under “any conditions”. It should look nice with wide or narrow columns, with all boxes on the left or on the right, or even with no boxes at all. It should look nice with or without banners, should be able to take a “minimal” or “overloaded”, a pale or strong look without any problems

Common sense: it’s maybe just my point of view, but some things look to me like having a “natural” order. For example, some links, like “login/logout”, or “order history” etc belong to the header. Same the information about what’s in the cart. Same, and most important, for the checkout link. Why? Because they have to be accessible any time from any page without having to search or to scroll. Same also for the boxes: not everything has to be in a box. I saw once a addon to osCommerce that was doing the incredible thing to add the paypal logo to the store in a side box, with border and titles as : “the paypal logo”. So, each template removes some boxes, depending on how it is structured: If there is a search area in the main navigation menu, there is no necessity for a search box, right? Common sense for me, I hope you share my point of view.

Admin controls: The store owner should be able to manage the main structure of the store right from the admin panel. It’s not possible to expect from every store owner to be a php expert, to know about css and who knows what else. Also not possible to expect from store owners to spend hours reading tutorials and asking questions about how to change the background of their store. Also not acceptable no expect store owners to pay a good amount of money for every single change they need.  A store owner should be busy with commercial activities and not with coding

Easy and native operation: Everything should be easy for the store owner. Easily to drop in a new template, easy to activate or deactivate it, easy to modify it. Easy to create various looks of the same template, easy to share them with friends and colleagues to get opinions, leaving the current store operation untouched. But also for developers designers, it should be easy to jump in at any point and start customizing the way they want, without having to spend the half day, trying to understand how everything is structured.

100% osCommerce compatibility: All main files should stay in their original condition without any changes. This was of highest importance to guarantee conformity and easy integration of addons and/or upgrades of the core code. Also, in case somebody wants to uninstall it, the whole system should not leave any garbage behind.  This was also the hardest part, because all design had to be implemented without adding or removing css classes or changing the markup. You can say it had to be a “remote” designing only and exclusively via css and some functions.

The result? Yes it is working. You can just upload a template to the templates folder, go to your admin, click “install” edit any settings you need, then click “activate” to go live with it. Much like in wordpress. A new template installation won’t take you more than 3 minutes, the de-installation (in case you want to go back to the default look) will cost you just one click.

In a first step you can change the ui theme, color scheme, shadow structure, column position and column width. This gives already more than 1000 possible combinations and should be satisfying for most of the cases. Here are some screenshots of combinations I like (It’s possible of course to create incredible combinations too)

The basic template with a dark ui theme, gray background and schadow

The basic template in red gray combination and a decent shadow

The standard redmond theme after passing the mini template system lifting

A very pale combination in light beige using a tweaked ui pepper theme

There are uncountable combinations possible. You see that even I say “base template” it is like having many, really many templates for osCommerce version 2.3.1 available any moment, just a click away.  I’ll create some more shadow/wrapping/color schemes, and of course some more templates. Isn’t that great? To switch for example no, in the cChristmas time, to a Christmas template and then back again to the regular one? Don’t forget that this all is done in your administration panel, easily and comfortable by clicking on buttons. Here is an idea of the environment in admin:

install osCommerce templates with a single click

For “advanced” users it’s possible to “inject” html and css classes to critical points of the page, like before or after the main container, or the columns. This gives you the change to create even more specific designs without even touching the osCommerce files. That’s also great for template designers.

The immediate next steps are to add some nice features, like a modular index page (that’s the front page and the product listing pages), modular product information page, a true menu manager for the main menu,  a boxes manager to control when, where, how and under what conditions each box should be displayed and so on. And also some more nice jquery effects, to take advantage of what is already installed in osCommerce.

However, more detailed articles about will follow in the next days.

I uploaded a first “demo” version of the template. You can find it here: mini template system for osCommerce v2.3. I hope that the system will be available to download in the next days.

Please do not try to browse with internet explorer, the support for this is under development. Naturally IE users will never enjoy the quality of firefox and safari browsing, but that’s not my problem

If you see something that you don’t like please let me now, if for example you don’t see the header on the top of the page but on the right, or the bottom, thats something I would like to know. You can say it also when you like what you see always nice to hear a good word from time to time.

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  • sergio 21/12/2010 at 18:23

    gracias.

    cuando estara para descargar las plantillas

    saludos

  • sergio 27/12/2010 at 12:32

    si pusieras para su descargar en esta semana te lo agradeceria muchisimo

  • Mark 28/12/2010 at 12:36

    I really like this idea and would love to install it and have a play. Any ideas on a release date?

    • multimixer 28/12/2010 at 14:21

      Release day is planned for before 2011, most possible tomorrow

      Update: Please refer to the mini template system website for news and updates regarding release date and any other issues

  • sergio 31/12/2010 at 22:53

    cuando se pueda descargar te agradezco lo digas.

    feliz navidad

  • Aaron 05/01/2011 at 20:34

    Hey,

    New to OS Commerce here, but very much looking forward to trying out Mini Template system. Trying to upgrade an existing site and feeling a little daunted at the prospect of going in at the deep end just to theme it.

    Can’t seem to find a link on the latest post to MiniTemplate?

    • multimixer 06/01/2011 at 06:34

      Hi Aaron

      Mini Template System has it’s own website : Mini Template System Website. It’s also available to download since yesterday

      More info will be added daily, till everything is complete, feel free to ask any questions, will be glad to answer you.

  • sergio 10/01/2011 at 00:39

    ¿se puede descargar ya gratis? ¿desde donde?

    • multimixer 11/01/2011 at 09:13

      Hi

      I’m sorry, but there is no free download available

      Going to the mini template system demonstration site, you will see a demo tool just on top of the site where you can try out any functions of the system online.

      You will have exactly the same functions and options available in your administration panel

  • Elvis 10/01/2011 at 22:48

    Nice Idea. But sorry to say: 120 $ for that system is way too expensive for me. For a few Dollars more, I could get myself a high end templatemonster.com Template :-(

    • multimixer 11/01/2011 at 10:09

      Hi Elvis and thank you for your comment

      I’m sorry that the system appears to be too expensive for you

      Regarding the option you have to purchase a templatemonster template, it’s up to you to consider their templates as “high end”, in any case be assured that the majority of the osCommerce developers does not share this opinion. Please let let me point out following

      Templatemonster templates may look nice at the first sight, and I guess they will also work without any problems till the moment you will need to customize them. What type of customization this could be?

      For example the design: Their templates are to a very high grade image based. Many background images and graphics make the template to look appealing. There is for example a nice flash movie on the front page displaying some products. Impressive, yes, but: Unless you are going to sell exactly the same products you will need to change that. How? Either you know to do it your self, and that mean you have the necessary photoshop and flash skills to do so, or you will find your self searching for days in forums, blogs and tutorials about how to do it. Last and most possible option: You will end up paying for every single change you want to do to the site. I would check the prices for this too and include them to the end price

      An other example, functionality: Mostly every osCommerce user is adding additional software (known as “addons” or “contributions”) to the core store. Any of this addons is written for a clean and fresh osCommerce installation. Now it happens that templatemonster (like most of the template vendors) do modify like every file of the code base, in order to achieve their design. In many of the cases those modifications are considered, by the majority of the osCommerce developers in the osCommerce community, as “hacks”, bad written code, just to get the desired display. You will agree with me that a osCommerce store, any ecommerce application, is more than just “display”. However, the result is that the code base of the store will not be compatible any more with the majority of the available osCommerce addon’s. So, you will need either to have advanced php skills in order to get them into your store, or, again, you will find your self paying extra money to integrate any additional function you need

      Let me also mention, that the chance to get support in the osCommerce forums for a templatemonster template is very very limited. The most common answer to templatemonster clients who are looking for support is “ask he template vendor”. You can check in the osCommerce forum your self for this.

      An other effect of this massive modification is that you have to “glue” with your template till the end of time. If you decide to change it one day, this comes equal to a complete new installation. You will have to transfer parts of your database, like customers, orders, maybe products too, to the new store and, unless you know how to do this, you’ll have to pay again.

      Mini template system changes the core code very very slightly. There are just very few files modified, and the modification consist in adding some code, just a few lines, to activate the template system. The core code remains clean and fresh, like just downloaded from the official osCommerce website. Mini template system’s aim is not to provide you with a template designed till it’s last detail, but to provide the necessary tools to do it your self.

      I don’t want to comment on the Templatemonster prices, but I’ll say that I consider the mini template system price as fair and reasonable, taking under consideration that:
      - It include free installation on fresh or modifie osCommerce stores (version 2.3.1)
      - It include any updates and upgrades, and believe me, there will be many
      - It include support for any issues that could appear, and this support if free of charge

      I don’t want to convince you to purchase mini template system, that’s up to you, and up to anyone who is looking for a solution to design his/her store. If you are searching for a template for osCommerce, then make sure hat the vendor offers support . That’s the most important thing in the long run of operating a store.

      Personally I would say that the best choice would be to contact a osCommerce developer directly. Many of them have ready templates to offer, but are also ready to create a bespoke one for you.

      If you need any recommendations, please let me know

      • Elvis 12/01/2011 at 12:27

        Thanky ou very much for your elaboreated and detailed answer. Of course I know how unflexible the templatemonster OSC templates are (allready bought some of those) and I definitive would not recommend buying those unless you have a bit experience with OSC and most of all php. And of cousre I see the advantages that your script will give (if it will be ready fully flavoured). But I stick with my opinion: I find it too expensive for what I believe I get. Plus: I am not willing to pay 120$ just to probably find out that the script is not what I exactly needed.

        Did you ever consier to offer a “light” version for lesser mones, or even better, some test version for free? Don’t get me wrong. your effort on this is very appreciated. And all of th above is only my humble opinion.

      • multimixer 12/01/2011 at 12:54

        Hi again Elvis

        It’s totally up to you to decide to buy , and pay, for mini template system or not. As said, I’m not going to try to convince you to buy it. It’s also not the purpose of this place, my blog here, to discuss commercial issues. This place here I created in order to offer free tip’s trick’s and solutions to osCommerce users, having a “wider” expression spectrum than the forum offers

        Mini template system has it own website with a contact form etc, that you can use to express any concerns, additional requests, questions, whatever, you might have. However, it’s completely your decision what to buy and how much to spend on your store for any type of improvement.

        Regarding offering a “light” version in the future, I’ll take this idea under consideration. Regarding offering a free version: I don’t think this is necessary. There is a demonstration site for mini template system available, where you can try it out your self. You will have the same options in your admin panel + of course the option to drop in any template easily. So you can go and try your self. If you think it’s good for you, you buy it. If not, you leave it.

        Things are very simple some times :)

        Have a nice day

  • Gary 12/01/2011 at 13:26

    Template Monster make good looking templates, but are well known for mangling the code badly. Avoid.

    I hope to review Georges Mini Template system in the coming days, the review will be completely unbiased and will be independent of any external influences.

  • Eddy 28/06/2011 at 12:21

    Hello George,

    I like your MTS a lot. It looks wonderful! I have one question, though. On my current site, I assign different css to different language so that each language has an unique theme. Can this be achieved using your MTS?

    Many thank!

  • multimixer 28/06/2011 at 13:12

    Hi Eddy

    Yes, that is certainly possible to do, you can have a different template per language. Any settings you see on the demo store could be adjusted to be active per language.

    This will require a couple of modifications, but it’s not a problem at all

  • Don 24/09/2011 at 17:28

    I bought this MTS in June or July, I have about 70,000 items and somehow made MTS superfish menu option not to work. I emailed my problem to George and it took a little bit (about 2-3 weeks) but they made a whole upgrade for MTS and made me 2 other custom files just for me so the superfish menu option would work at my site. I choose this template because of option to change the design myself and it worked out great for me.

    Thanks again to MTS team.

    • multimixer 26/09/2011 at 18:46

      Thank you very much for the comment Don.

      There are always cases you can not think of, when developing a solution, so, any feedback is valuable and any new issue a challenge.

      It’s after all a pleasure to see that everything work great

  • robe de soirée 03/05/2012 at 17:50

    everything work great

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