Zen Cart custom software development, Zen Cart modules, Zen Cart Expert eCommerce with Zen Cart!

2007 January to June

Required changes to discounting modules for Zen Cart 1.3.8

(12/2007) Quantity Discounts, Better Together and Combination Discounts all require a patch to run under Zen Cart 1.3.8. Take this function and paste it right above the function calculate_deductions() in the file in includes/modules/order_total The latest versions include this patch, but if you haven't upgraded, you must manually apply the patch. Big Spender, Big Chooser and Military Discounts do not require this patch.

Changes to Gift Wrap

(12/2007) A small bug was found in version 2.2, so I released version 2.3. This will be the FINAL version for Zen Cart 1.3.7. In the new year, I will release the required changes for Zen Cart 1.3.8.

Big Chooser getting closer ...

(12/2007) I made a lot of progress this week and buttoned up version 0.0.2 of Big Chooser/Conditional Discounts. It should be ready for final release soon. Take a look at the awesome cross-selling power it gives you.

Search Helper

(12/2007) Looking for a way to correct typos and use additional keywords in your cart searches without the headache of having to update meta tags on every product? Take a look at Search Helper!

Passing the Century Mark

(12/2007) Not my age - although it seems that way some mornings - the number of newsletter subscribers I have. If you'd like to join this awesome group of over 100 clued-in Zen Cart users, go ahead and sign up today! Looking for even more style points? Read my blog!

What's in a name?

(12/2007) Like a father confusing his children's names, somehow I got mixed up the other day writing about Combination Discounts and Conditional Discounts. So I thought I'd give them more easily differentiated names. Conditional Discounts is now Big Chooser - Conditional Discounts. Not only does this provide some separation from Combination Discounts, it also re-enforces the similarity with Big Spender.

New Gift Wrap features for VAT liable shopowners

(12/2007) Gift Wrap at Checkout has been enhanced to allow the display of gift wrapping charges in a tax-included format. If your tax regime requires this, download Gift Wrap at Checkout 2.2 from the Zen Cart downloads area.

The Perfect Gift

(11/2007) I wrote a fundraising appeal on my blog for the Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades, in response to a challenge grant generously made by Mr. Henry Rowan. Please take a moment to read it and respond if you're able.

Quantity Discounts by currency per item

(11/2007) I've updated Quantity Discounts to provide per item discounting on a currency basis. So instead of saying "10% off for over 10 items," you can now say, "$5.00 per item off over 10 items." A number of people asked for this in the past week, so I thought it was about time to add it.

On one condition!

(11/2007) .... or three or four. People seem to like the specification flexibility of Big Spender, so I am refactoring it into a discounting module that looks at cart contents rather than dollars spent. I hope to have it ready by December, but you can get started reading the documentation on Big Chooser - Conditional Discounts now.

Updates to Gift Wrap at Checkout

(11/2007) I have added a series of user exits to Gift Wrap at Checkout which allow you to disable or surcharge wrapping services for specific categories or product ids. It's available from the Zen Cart downloads area as version 2.1.

Welcome, Google Searcher!

(11/2007) I wrote a small contribution that recognizes when surfers arrive at your Zen Cart and generates an internal keyword search for them based on their Google keywords. Here's the help for Welcome Google Searcher. Happy Googling!

Super Orders Fixes

(10/2007) Thanks to Frank Koehl (Blindside) for incorporating my changes into Super Orders. These changes fix the bulk status update issues that some users have reported. You can download them here.

Magento and StoreSuite

(10/2007) I've gotten a few questions in the last month about Magento. Magento looks very promising, and as soon as it's released, I'll be talking more about it, both here and on my blog.

Of course, it never rains, but it pours. Web Solutions provider Interspire is building momentum in the development of their own shopping cart, called StoreSuite.

Please see my most recent blog post on StoreSuite for more information.

It's a wrap!

(10/2007) A frequent topic on the Zen Cart forum was how to provide (and bill for) gift wrapping services. I wrote up some suggestions, then wound up writing a small contribution, but I wasn't satisfied with either of them. I really wanted to follow the Amazon model of wrap selection at checkout time. Finally, I took the bull by the horns and developed an at-checkout gift wrapping selection interface. I hope it helps your Christmas sales!

thecartblog.com - A blog about shopping carts, e-commerce and all the rest

(09/2007) I keep coming across things I think are interesting that I want to share, but I'd like to keep my business home page for business matters. So I started thecartblog.com. Take a look!

Using Google Checkout with my discounting modules

(09/2007) If you are using Better Together, Combination Discounts or Big Spender along with Google Checkout in your Zen Cart™, you must be running at least the following versions:
  • Google Checkout: v1.4.1_beta2 or better
  • Better Together: 1.5a or better
  • Big Spender: 1.1.3a or better
  • Combination Discounts: 1.0.4a or better

Buy The Set extension for Combination Discounts

(09/2007) For linkages between products without attributes using Combination Discounts, I have add the ability to purchase the entire set of items with a single click. Not surprisingly, it's called Buy The Set. It does for Combination Discounts what Buy Both Now did for Better Together - making it easy for your customers to buy all your cross-sells in a single click.

Hey, Big Spender!

(09/2007) Want to provide discounts or free gifts based on the dollar total in the cart? Take a look at Big Spender. It is now available.

Promotional Pages for your discounts

(09/2007) A few people have asked for special pages that list all their discounts for the various discounting modules I've created. I've made them available by download and installed them on a test cart so you can see how they look.

See Promotional Pages for Discounts for more details.

Buy Both Now extension for Better Together

(08/2007) For prod_to_prod linkages using Better Together, I have add the ability to purchase both items with a single click. Not surprisingly, it's called Buy Both Now. Amazon uses this technique, so you know it works.

Updates to Combination Discounts (version 1.0.3)

(08/2007) I have updated Combination Discounts to permit item selection on the basis of price. So now, in addition to specifying discount combinations on the basis of product or category number, you can specify them on the basis of price. For instance if you have items that are $1.99 each and 3 for $5.00, you can say
What are you waiting for? Order it! This is a free upgrade if you have purchased a prior version of Combination Discounts; just send me an email and I'll send it to you.

Article on Discounting Strategies

(07/2007) The nice folks at shopping-cart-reviews.com have published my overview of discounting possibilities in Zen Cart. It's a good overview for newcomers to the cart, especially if your idea of a sale is "three for the price of three!"

More MailChimp News

(07/2007) Well, I sent out my first newsletter using MailChimp, and it worked really well. In fact, I was so pleased that I cooked up a Zen Cart sidebox which allows you to integrate the MailChimp Newsletter subscribe mechanism with your Zen Cart. Hopefully this will encourage other people to give MailChimp a try. The MailChimp guys backlinked me on their API page.

My next newsletter will be coming out in a month or two when I'm finished with my next big Zen Cart project.


(06/2007) I couldn't get over the fact that Constant Contact bills by the month irrespective of whether or not you even sent a campaign. What are they thinking? So I searched around a bit and looked at a few things until I found MailChimp. Brilliant! So here's my newsletter. Thanks, Chimps!

Local Message

(06/2007) A client in the grocery business wanted a sidebox so potential customers could easily determine when deliveries were done to their area. After he accepted it, he asked me to release it as a contribution, and Local Message is the result.

Military Discount for Zen Cart

(05/2007) A user emailed me with the suggestion for a discounting module for shipping to APO/FPO locations. What a great project for Memorial Day! So carry on smartly and double time it over to Military Discount, soldier!

Installment Plan for Credit Card Users

(05/2007) I have completed work on the Installment Plan Payment Module and submitted it to the downloads area.

VAT Discounting Conflicts Resolved!

(05/2007) UK Zen Cart owners who display tax inclusive prices can now use the VAT fixes for the Group Discounting module and the Coupon module. Oddly enough, I have never heard complaints about this problem in either Quantity Discounts or Better Together - although they both contain a similar inaccuracy in their VAT calculation.

Checkout Candy works with Combination Discounts

(05/2007) The wait is over. Your upselling dreams have come true. Checkout Candy (which was initially designed to work with Better Together) now works with Combination Discounts. Call now, operators are standing by.

My only concern about these mods is that they will have such an economic impact that the Federal Reserve will have no choice but to raise interest rates. But that's a chance I'll have to take.

Making the leap to Vista

(04/2007) My Windows PC also recently expired, so I called Rajiv at Dell (who goes by "Sam," oddly enough!) for a new one. He told me they weren't shipping XP systems anymore. So now I'm running Vista when I need to use Microsoft Apps. By the way, there's a pretty obvious typo in their latest campaign, "The Wow! starts now." Obviously they meant, "The Ow! starts now."

I am told they have since reconsidered their Vista only policy because of customer complaints. <sigh> Bad timing on my part.

Traversing the DOM with PHP - Pain Reducing Solution

(04/2007) After my wizened RH9 system went to PC heaven, I bought a new PC and put FC4 on it. Well, FC4 comes with PHP5, not PHP4 - and some smart guy decided to just remove a ton of DOM related functions in PHP5. Not deprecate - remove. They're just not there anymore. What a pain! So here I was thinking, "how am I going to write PHP4 code on my PHP5 system?" Turns out this guy in France had the same problem, and so he wrote a DOMXML to DOM translator. Sweet! Or, as they say in France, "Doux!"

Monitoring your Zen Cart with phpTrafficA

(04/2007) I recently installed the open source web analytics tool phpTrafficA on a client's site. He was using StatCounter, which is a superb tool but is unfortunately (mis)reported as spyware by some A/V and A/S apps. Of course, the other advantage of using phpTrafficA over any third party tool is that because it's open source, you control it and can tune it to your own needs. Anyhow, here are the instructions for installing phpTrafficA on your Zen Cart. The phpTrafficA maintainer was kind enough to provide a backlink to my site.

Combination Discounts

(04/2007) Ever since the release of Better Together, people have been saying, "Please sir, may I have some more?" More combinations, more options, more everything. So I thought I'd create Better Together on steroids. I'm calling it Combination Discounts. It should be ready soon. It's ready!

Document and Article Manager for Zen Cart

(03/2007) Need to be able to easily add documents and articles in a variety of formats to your Zen Cart site without custom programming? Take a look at Document and Article Manager, which automates the process.

Each article has a little icon representing the filetype. I got these great icons from a fellow in Germany named Andi, who was kind enough to provide a backlink.

That Software Guy, Inc. joins the JSWeb team!

(03/2007) That Software Guy, Inc. has become an official subcontractor for JSWeb, a partnership of freelancers working under the umbrella of JSWeb Hosting (the UK's only Zen Cart Certified Web Host).

PMP Exam Success

(03/2007) I just passed the Project Management Institute's Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam. It was grueling. If you're studying for this exam, visit my PMPExamGuide.com website, which is a treasure trove of study notes and tips.

Per message delete for Email Archive Manager

(02/2007) Were you aware that Zen Cart can be configured to automatically archive emails that are sent from the Contact Us form? It's easy - just go to your Admin screen to Configuration > Email Options, and set "Email Archiving Active" to true. The interface to see these emails is a contribution called Email Archive Manager. Prior to my enhancement, only date-based ranges of emails could be deleted; now emails may be deleted one at a time.

More Levels, More Automatic Marketing Text for Quantity Discounts

(02/2007) I have wanted to increase the number of levels for Quantity Discounts for a while, so I added this feature to Quantity Discounts version 1.4. But I didn't stop there; I added two new flavors of Quantity Discounts Marketing Text to give you even more ways than ever increase your sales volume. I even provided some sample code to make integration a snap. Download version 1.4 of Quantity Discounts today!

Switching SMS on Sale on and off

(02/2007) I got a lot of feedback from people who said they liked SMS On Sale, but since they had to pay for every SMS message, they wanted the ability to turn it off during working hours (when email notification of a sale would suffice). So now SMS on Sale can be turned on and off from the Admin screen. Download version 1.1 of SMS on Sale today!

More bookmarking capabilities in Zen Cart Social Bookmarking

(01/2007) I added support for the bookmarking interface from AddThis to my social bookmarking contribution for Zen Cart. The AddThis implementation is very much like the Socializer's, but it also has bookmarking statistics that show you how many users are bookmarking your pages. The AddThis guys were even kind enough to provide a backlink to my site.

SMS on Sale not enough? Get SMS on Message!

(01/2007) If someone sends you an email through your Zen Cart "Contact Us" page, you can now get an SMS text notification containing their name and telephone number. This will be useful for shopowners who are away from their computers for extended periods of time. See SMS On Sale Extensions for more details. Only $19.95!

Improved Better Together Cross Selling Text

(01/2007)The ability to automatically make an upsell prompt based on Better Together product linkages was always great - but it only worked in one direction. If you've linked product A with product B, then product A's page had the capability to suggest the purchase of product B at a discount, but not vice versa. In Better Together 1.3, this limitation has now been removed; marketing text can now upsell in both directions. Product A will say, "Buy this item, get a product B at 50% off." Product B will say, "Buy product A, get this item at 50% off." Of course, this works for product to category and category to category linkages too. Upgrade to Better Together 1.3 today!

Get an SMS message when your Zen Cart store gets a sale

(01/2007) I have wanted to write a text messaging application for a while, but the Clickatell setup seems like such a pain that I never pursued it. Then I realized that most North American providers give you an email address with your mobile that you can use for text messaging. So I wrote SMS On Sale for Zen Cart. Check it out. Want the upgrade to get even more data in the text message? It's only $9.95.

Updated Afternic Prices Realized for 2006 Q4!

(01/2007) The latest sales results from Afternic are posted on my domains page (no longer available).

Interesting e-commerce sites

(01/2007) Over the break I had time to do some surfing and ran across Shopping Cart Reviews and Practical E-Commerce, both of which were very interesting reads.