Thursday, 25 June 2015

Is Drupal Commerce still a pig for adding products?


Sometimes when walking around, it's easy to re-run an old journey just to see if anything has changed. It seems to happen on autopilot. I really meant to see if X-cart installs from Drupal, from among the shopping carts mentioned on another page, but I think it only links in some way.

I remembered why I started writing this blog about Drupal for ecommrece a few years ago, thinking it would be a temporary set of notes kept for a month until I could get a better veggie shoe shop site online - hence the blog name "buildlog". I remembered that Drupal plugins are rather exciting in inviting you to a techie world rather like the script installer on your web host. Drupal has a pre-arranged "distribution" for daily deals and another for a hotel selling bookings. It's easy to hope that there will be some module soon for whatever trade you are in, or maybe a developer could write something for you that would be much harder to write for standard shopping cart software, like a link to your accounts program or something more exciting perhaps. There is a chance to collabrate, which is more interesting than just competing. I remembered that you can install Drupal from there, then go to its admin page to install more modules. You can see the "Modules" link near the top right of the picture. Click on it and this is what you get:


You can find modules and themes on drupal.org.
The following file extensions are supported: zip tar tgz gz bz2.

For example: http://ftp.drupal.org/files/projects/name.tar.gz


If you can find the right module from the modules link, right-click to "copy link location", then go back to paste it into the "Install from a URL" box. Press "enter". If all goes well you get a barbour's-shop bar accross the screen for a while, then some message that includes a linke to "install new modules", which takes you back to the modules section of your admin screen.

Names of required but now missing modules are in red that you now have to track-down and install from the same site (it's not automatic). Then you can tick the box next to Drupal Commerce, press enter, and automatically the thing installs all the relevant modules with a the odd hickup where you have to press control+backarrow and try again. Finally you have a new admin column called "store" and an option to "add product".


It's not a lot of good is it? A bit liked a stipped-down racing car or a quadbike for someone who really wants a delivery van or a market stall or some other wheeled retail thing as a metaphor. In the USA where they watch films of cowboys and covered wagons or carts, they call the things shopping carts. The term is well-know in the internet retail trade. It is not what you write from the screen shown shown above.

There's no help about related issues like the categories of the catalogue and how they are laid-out, nor attributes, nor any warning on the page about this instruction:
On a clean install of Drupal Commerce, simply adding products to the backend is not enough to display them for sale with an Add to Cart form. Drupal Commerce separates the definition (on the back end) from the display (on the front end) of a product.

I tried a google search by date in case there's anything recent to say "this new module irons-out the techie awkwardness of doing the most basic things on this software", but not much came-up. Only one thing came-up in the last 12 months from 2015.06 .26 backwards.
No results. Except something 10-months old about writing your own php code, which very few shopkeepers are likely to want to do, unless they are sick of being shopkeepers and want to build a new career in php code-writing. Not many people would want to do both at once for long.

I tried searching modules on Drupal.org but find the search system hard to use. The Drupal Commerce site itself has a list of modules so I tried reading the title of every single one, loosing track a little.

DrupalCommerce.org still set themselves a dual role in bidding for big-budget work while promoting Drupal Commerce for the cheap or DIY work of which they have no direct experience to keep them up-to-date. If they could somehow find enthusiasts from among developers who do this kind of work to keep that part of the site up to date, that would be great.

They have a "distribution" category. They don't mention whether you can use a script installer on your web server and then press a button to upgrade Drupal to the full distribution; I don't know.
  • drupalcommerce.org/extensions/distribution/project/telekonsum
  • http://www.louisvillewebgroup.com/project/ecommify
  • they don't mention a new one - Drupalife Store mainly in Russian.
  • I doubt these are a first choice for a shopkeeper looking for a cheap e-commerce system because of the fiddleyness of installing Drupal without being able to use a script installer, but they may be good for shopkeepers who want a bit of this and that and some integration.
Drupal Commerce themselves have a "utilities" category. These can be installed onto a Drupal installation that comes from a script installer on a host site. Drupal Commerce mention a module as well as providing a screencast of how to use it, but it remains in Alpha release with no further development planned:
  • drupal.org/project/commerce_product_display_manager (thanks danielhjalmarson.com/wordpress)
  • drupal.org/project/commerce_simple got further (thanks w3shaman.com)
  • drupal.org/project/commerce_auto_product_display is actively maintained I think - this page is a note in progress and I may change it in a day or two. 
      • If the module is perfect, there's still the problem of the people who write Drupal-based shopping cart software, usually for a living as part of some company and think it OK to promote software to small business which is no good for small business; it is a kit for web developers. I don't know if it's chance that Wordpress shopping carts have problems fitting-in to their market too. I haven't tried Joomla-based shopping carts but maybe they don't know what their prospects want either. A bit like most of us in other parts of life but I shall stick to technical discussion of shopping cart software.

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