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Discouraged with Zen Cart

2741 Views 12 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  the funk
I have setup Zen Cart and went through all of the settings I could figure out and feel so discouraged. I feel that the menus in the admin are too spread out and deep. The information to get it working is out their but the FAQ on the website is a series of scrambled thoughts.

When you first started in Zen, how did you get it going to the point you were happy? I am at the point right now where I need a get-up-and-go solution. I am thinking of signing up with DigiShop.
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I just sent you a PM to try and help you out.. The thing is, Zen Cart (and other open source carts) are NOT an out of the box solutions. You can streamline the admin and the user end by isntalling contributions that make your life easier.. but yu need to have some kind of a handle on web design to do that
I have a pretty good handle on web design, although in the past it has been through my "day job". I have been using custom eCommerce solutions for a while but they cost thousands of dollars. They are a lot less overwhelming and easier to use than these free ones!

I just took another look at Magento and will try that one to see how fast I can pick it up. The interface is less complicated.

Has anyone else had this trouble when first starting that found a good solution that didnt require weeks of reading the product forums?
That's the first I've heard someone say Magento is less complicated then Zen-Cart lol!

osCommerce/zen cart is used by thousands already. I'm not sure what you mean by the admin menus being too 'deep'? If it was simpler others would complain theirs not enough features, so has to appeal to alot of people.

Plenty of Admin contributions which might help simplify things for you. Once you have finished setting it up, its really a great package to use.
I am a Mac.

I guess coming from the logic of "less is more" for the menu Magento wins. Everything is where you would expect it to be and it is not overwhelming. IT has a very beautiful user interface. I already have the cart setup and ready to go. I just have to get the design finished. That only took 4 hours.
I have been using custom eCommerce solutions for a while but they cost thousands of dollars. They are a lot less overwhelming and easier to use than these free ones!
Well, that's why they cost thousands.

Zen Cart is not for the faint of heart. The learning curve is steep and to get it to do custom stuff you're going to have to get your hands dirty. Php code is ugly as sin and Zen has lots of it. Once you figure out how it works, it does start to make sense.

What is it that you want to accomplish that you're having a hard time with?

I don't have a lot of experience with other solutions, but they're all pretty much the same. There are only so many ways to skin the shopping cart cat.
Has anyone else had this trouble when first starting that found a good solution that didnt require weeks of reading the product forums?
I've installed zen cart, oscommerce and cubecart a few times and each time it took me days (if not weeks) to really "learn" each one.

Although they say "time is money", for me it was much easier to spend my time learning the systems than it was to spend money on a different system. I think part of it depends on your personality. For some people, those type carts will just be too much work and too much reading. For others, it is a challenge that they welcome because they prefer the time invest over the monetary one or they just like learning that way.

Me personally, I love learning on my own via forums, that's how I've learned most of what I know :), so reading through the various help forums for the different softwares and asking questions made me feel right at home.

If you don't have the time to mess with stuff like that, more "out of the box" solutions that don't require a lot of tinkering or research would be the ones like bigcartel or shopify.
I think the major factor that makes Magento a lot easier for me to use, has to be their user guide. They have a very detailed step by step guide from install to your first sale. It is very easy to read and no bogged down by unfamiliar wording. I guess the way they built it, was for people like me...

Magento - Home - eCommerce Software for Growth, Powered by Open Source
I have used both zen and magento (and messed with many others), so I think I can give some good comparisons of the two.

Zen is a great cart, it has been around for a while so it has a ton of mods. I dont know what you mean about the admin panel, but I agree that they are a little deep. To me, Zen is pretty easy to skin and modify. Zen's forums are great too, absolutely great. The downside (for me) was dependent attributes. Yes, I can get them to work, but it was WAY to time consuming.

Magento on the other hand has a lot less mods, but doesn't need a whole lot either. A lot of the features "every" cart needs are out of the box. Dependent attributes are a lot easier to function. Scriptalicous and jquery are built in - so its pretty easy to add a lot to it (though that is not my direct expertise). IMO, the magento forums are not as friendly as zen. There are a lot of unanswered questions, but magento is a cart more for developers than end users. The biggest drawback of magento is speed - it is slow. No cheap hosting accounts here. Simple Helix claims to have the fastest php in America (I have an account with them, among others) and another company (I forget the name) claims to have the fastest magento speeds in America. I would at least recommend a vps for magento, it is heavy on php and js.

The biggest advantage to magento is the multi store feature. That is awesome. Nothing else comes close. But I think it does take a little longer to learn than zen. The way everything is setup does not always make sense. There a bunch of different files with the same name, just in different locations, which can be a little confusing. It is harder to skin, but again, it does need a whole lot to look good. The next best thing about magento is that I have never once had to modify db tables, I like that.

I dumped zen a while for magento, but I still peek in on the forums to see what is new.
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Great reply! I Agree 100% with you.

The Magento forums, user guide and video tutorials have been a huge help in figuring out where to find what I am looking for. One big issue for me on both is all of the Javascript! Phew. I thought CSS and HTML where enough. Either way, I am a day or so away from opening the shop with only about 10 hours of reading and working.

I find that Magento had everything I needed out of the box for my store with only one add-on for the product photo zoom (I didnt like their version).

Thank you everyone for helping me along the way.

I think that Zen and Magento are both great, it all just depends on your preference and which you feel is easier to use.
I like magento's zoom feature, but I dont like the double click to pop up feature.

Just out of curiosity, what did you go with? I checked out magic zoom and a few others. If I knew more about js I would just disable the double click (really it should not be that hard to do, but it's buried somewhere not at all setup the way it should be). theclimbingshop.com has a pretty cool product page, but still at over 10sec load time on the product page is a bit slow for me. That's the last thing holding me down right now, the image swapper.
Well I went with Magic Zoom. For a while I was playing with the JS trying to get the thumbnail to swap into the larger area when clicked instead of the ugly pop-up. Then I found a great module that did what I wanted AND had a customizable zoom. There is very little JS needed as you just add some files into designated folders to install.

Magic Zoom - Magento module for images

Magic Zoom is amazing because all of the settings are laid out so clean its as simple as reading what the setting is for (will be identified) and altering the value. See photo below.

Easy as pie.


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Yea I like magic zoom too.

To get the image to swap in magento it's actually not in the js, but rather the media.xml (or .phtml) file. You just replace one line of code. But the popup is ugly - that's where Im stuck at. I hate the "double click to enlarge" function - thats what the slider is for!
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