The all new CSS and Javascript loader for Zencart

It has been a while since the last release of our CSS and Javascript loader for Zencart, the main goals for the module are:

  1. Allowing different plugins to minimize javascript conflicts
  2. Speeding up the site performance by minifying and combining css/javascript files

Since then, we have found certain features lacking:

  1. The ability of loading files that are located outside of the root folder
  2. The ability of loading the files right within the template files
  3. The ability of loading javascript files as late as possible (to speed up page rendering)

Check it out on GitHub and enjoy!

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Ajax Search

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Beware of zencart debug logger!

In the recent versions of Zencart (I think starting from 1.3.9h) you will find that includes/extra_configures/enable_error_logging.php exists by default. This file will turn on the debug switch and will put the logs into your /cache folder. The problem is that it also puts lots of WARNINGS and such inside this, and ZC does generate lots of those. Within a short amount of time (depending on the number of visitors you have and number of warnings etc), this folder will be flooded with log files and will more than likely lead to many performance issues and such.

I recommend that you rename this to enable_error_logging.php.bak and only rename it backs when you want to check for an issue.

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A hosted ecommerce solution

Working with many small to medium business owners as well as startup entrepreneurs we find that initial capital investment put into developing a new site can be rather intimidating. Even free opensource softwares such as Magento or Prestashop, Zencart, etc… requires a considerable amount of work put into it before it can be put into full use. Along with that, the extra work has to be put into researching (and understanding) hosting service, SSL certficates, regular backups as well as other stuffs lead to a steep learning curve which is rather unnecessary for business owners who have limited amount of time (and sometimes capital).

There are hosted solutions out there  of course such as the wonderful with its nice and simple cart for startups. However, many hosted solutions have certain disadvantages:

  1. Most are closed-source, so you can not buyout your whole site at some point when you may have outgrown the service provider and want to fully customize and develop your cart on your own. Instead, you may have to struggle to develop a completely new site and find a way to import all your current data to the new one.
  2. Many lack certain important features such as multilanguage feature on, and there is no easy way to add these features on your own, you have to wait for the service provider to upgrade their own core.
  3. Most are developed for general purpose, which mean if you are in a niche business it’s rather difficult to have the exact features you need (think about custom clothing stores or auto-part stores)

For all the above reasons, we are looking at creating a new solution that can help business owners who want to enter the online market that:

  1. Helps small business owners and startup entrepreneurs to reduce the risks by starting up with the minimum investment (our packages are expected to start from 20usd, which means you can setup a package and start selling right away in with only 20usd, not 2000usd after 2 months)
  2. Customized for your business: there will be different packages for the business you are in, and you can certainly use free or homebrew add-ons on the market. You will also have the option to buyout the whole store to grab the whole database and code and use it on your own.
  3. Developed for the mass: every technical setups and configurations should and will be done under the hood, the extra time that you would have to put into learning the technical stuffs will now be put again into your hand to do marketing researchs, networking with customers and susch,… Things that can help you grow your sales
  4. Fast and reliable: hosted on the clouds, developed with latest technologies under the hood, automatically back-up regularly, you will no longer have to worry about losing customers because of the site slow responsiveness, or loss of data because you forget to do backups.

We would love to know if you are interested in such a solution, and if you are, please take your time to fill in a short survey for this new project, we love to hear from you


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A plugin framework system for Zencart

It has been over 4 years since I have started working with Zencart and the system still doesn’t have a good system in place to support plugins. There is almost no standard, no rules, plugin/module developers have to place files all over the places, sometimes even overwrite core files and clean un-installation of plugins is too time consuming that it’s never done on most clients’ sites we have seen. After using the system for a while, most stores will be “blessed” with a mess of old and codes all over the place which makes upgrading more difficult than it’s already is.

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Why ZenMagick is 1000 times better than ZenCart

First, I will admit I might be a bit biased here, I know the core developer of ZenMagick personally, and have been using ZM on many of our recent projects (we no longer use ZenCart to build a new sites for our clients anymore). But I have also used ZenCart long enough to have a few opinions on it.

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New feature for CSS Javascript Loader

While working on our Zencart modules which make use of jquery and its plugins extensively, I often run into this issue: one module which is released long ago is set to use 1.4.2 version while another module which has just been released is set to use 1.4.4 (or even 1.5.0). This results in multiple versions of jquery being loaded on the same page and slows down the site (or even stops certain things from working correctly).

To resolve that problem, I have added a new feature to our loader, this feature will greatly help in reducing the risk of loading the same library more than once. If you are a developer, feel free to grab the latest version from github and give it a try, you will find lots of sample code inside.

We will continue working on this feature to refine it.

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New Zencart/ZenMagick Admin UI

As you may know already, we are working on the new admin UI, and we have 2 great news for you:

1. We are revising our design to make it even friendlier, we would really appreciate it if you can review and give us comments and advices on the design

2. The new admin ui will be coded for ZenMagick, but it might be possible to use for Zencart as well.

  • home-1.png: this file shows the new admin UI concept. First of all, we want to group everything under a “Start” just like Windows. Each important link has hotkey. At the bottom of the box, you can see a search box: since the menu can grow huge with tons of links this search box will help the users to quickly locate the link they need. On the right hand side of the header navigation bar are the links to the catalog, help and quick search (please view quick-search.png)
  • home-2.png is another variation
  • quick-search.png: users can search for orders/products/customers using the quick search link.
  • category-list.png
  • category-edit.png
  • product-list.png
  • product-edit.png
  • category-list2.png
  • category-edit2.png
  • attributes-manager.png
  • attributes-sets.png

You can view the current design here: (please scroll to the bottom of the page)

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Update for our One Page Checkout module (Ajax Xcheckout)

We are working on a new version (v3) of this module, this new version is based on many suggestions sent to us by store owners who are using this module. There are 3 major changes in this new version:

  1. The shipping and billing method steps are merged into one step. The current checkout process will consist of 3 steps: shipping/billing address (which can be skipped by a setting in admin) -> shipping/billing method -> confirmation
  2. The checkout progress boxes is moved into a horizontal bar on the top so the customers can check their current process easier.
  3. When the users enter wrong coupon code, the module will print out a message but will not refresh the form so that the users can avoid having to re-enter other info.

We also made certain changes to design to make things look nicer, some major clean up in the css file so that you can locate things and edit the file faster, some minor bugs are also fixed. We are still working on the module, and screencaps and screenshot will be released soon.

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While I was working on our new cross sell module, I was kinda bugged by the way I have place files all over zencart (some files for database tables / filenames in the extra_datafiles folders both in admin and catalog site, classes files in various places as well as template files etc). How do I completely uninstall this module if I want to, I asked myself. The installation process is a long one: go to each folder and delete all the files the module uploaded, it just seems like there should be another way.

I ended up spending the time to rewrite/edit many modules so that I can place all module/plugin files in its single/separated folder for easy installation, distribution and uninstallation:

  1. Module manager to add news update feature (you will get the news via your admin page when one of our module has a new update)
  2. CJ Loader to support loading css/js files on admin side
  3. Module manager to support placing plugins’ files in their separated folders
  4. BlockManager to separate block feature from Ajax class

Due to this detour (as well as porting BlockManager to ZenMagick), I will have to delay the release of the new Cross Sell module a bit.

We also have some good news regarding the new Cross Sell: I have finished implementing the algorithm for suggesting top N products to a specific customer based on past orders info. The algorithm can be read in more details here:

Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter and rss feed, I promise this new cross sell will be the best tool ever available on Zencart to increase your sales.

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