WordPress SEO and WPEC Blank Products Page

In the process of upgrading a test e-Commerce website I came across a small issue with the WordPress SEO Plugin by Joost de Valk and the WP e-Commerce Plugin by Instinct Entertainment / GetShopped.

The site was running with the following software versions, WordPress 3.5.52 (http://wordpress.org), shopping cart WP e-Commerce 3.8.8.5 (http://getshopped.org/), SEO plugin WordPress SEO 1.2.8.7 (http://yoast.com/wordpress/seo/), and the Elegance Theme 1.4.5 (http://storefrontthemes.com/) in a custom grid view.

After updating to WordPress SEO 1.4.13 the WP e-Commerce Products Page on the website was blank / empty except for the header (with menus/navigation), the footer and sidebar. No products were displayed and no “Products Page” banner was displayed – the Products Page was effectively empty.

All the WP e-Commerce category pages, and individual product pages were correctly showing the products. We had a look for differences between the working pages and the non-working Products Page and saw that there was one apparent difference.

It appears that the WPEC blank Products Page was occurring on our test site because the Products Page in WordPress did not have a meta description set by us.

After entering a meta description and publishing the update the Products Page on the website correctly displayed the sites product grid view. I don’t know if the root cause of this issue lies with the WordPress SEO plugin, the WPEC plugin or the Elegance theme but the circumvention is thankfully nice and easy.

Elegance 145 Theme and Visitor Stats

Since installing the Elegance Theme from Storefront Themes on client sites the vistor statistics records show unusual URL’s being recorded.

We use the Visitor Maps and Who’s Online 1.5.8.1 plugin to provide basic site visitor stats on a customers USANA Canada and USANA NZ health product sites. Both sites use the Elegance 1.4.5 theme on top of WP e-Commerce plugin. The Canadian site has only ever been using Elegance while the NZ site was migrated to Elegance from Thesis a few days ago.

On looking at the visitor stats for both sites the field “Last URL” nearly always shows the URL /wp-content/themes/storefront-elegance-1.4.5/styles/default.css. On other sites we’ve built without the Elegance theme and on the New Zealand site prior to its migration to Elegance the “Last URL” field contains proper site URL’s, not the style sheet file being reported.

The following screen capture shows what our Vistor Stats look like with Elegance installed.

View Visitor Stats With Elegance Theme Installed

How Visitor Stats display with the Elegance Theme installed.

We are assuming that for now that this is an interaction issue with the Elegance Theme so will raise this with Storefront Themes support and post their response here when available.

Update: 14 Oct 2012.
I’ve been very remiss in posting the response that Elegance support gave to the query I raised on the issue detailed. They came back quickly (unlike my update here!) with the following suggestion to circumvent the problem.

“Try making the folder ‘styles’ and adding a CSS file ‘default.css’ to it. make sure it has a comment in it as Opera does not like completely empty CSS files. Just something like
/*deliberately empty css file*/”

They have subsequently advised that this issue will be addressed in the forthcoming update of the Elegance theme so thats good news. I have to say that the support team for Elegance (Mark and Matt) are excellent and can highly recommend the theme to other users of the WP e-Commerce plugin. Not only do they handle support queries promptly they also will help users extend/customise the theme. I’ve also seen in the support forum where they will answer a support request and then also offer advice on how to correct another issue unrelated to the theme. It’s very nice to see such a professional level of support being provided.

Update: 6 Nov 2013.
It appears that the level of support provided by the Elegance support team has diminished since our last update to this post in Oct 2012.

In the Elegance support forum there are many support requests that do not appear to be responded to in a timely manner. One person we work directly with is intending to move off Elegance due to a lack of support and similar comments appear in the support forum. We therefore can not recommend this theme to our site visitors and have removed our Affiliate links for the Theme from this site.

WP e-Commerce Migration Off Thesis

How we migrated off the Thesis WordPress Theme on a site using the WP e-Commerce Plugin.

Start point: Thesis 1.8, WPEC 3.7.8, WordPress 3.2.1
End Point: Elegance 1.4.5 , WPEC 3.8.8.3, WordPress 3.4.1

The Thesis theme and the WP-eCommerce plugin do not tend to work well together. As a result we’ve been unable to upgrade a clients ecommerce site using WPEC because of various issues encountered due to the incompatibilty of Thesis and WPEC.

In order to uprgrade we needed to select a replacement theme for Thesis to run the store. The essential requirement was that it is WPEC compliant. After looking at several themes we chose Elegance from Storefront Themes.

After upgrading the development site in the ‘normal’ manner we encountered problems where some CSS was being loaded from several places causing inconsistant page layouts (the page would be part old style part new style). This was particularily noticeable on the checkout page.

After investigating the problems we restored the service to its previous state and started again. The following process was followed and resolved all our issues (not all steps below are mandatory and there’s probably some flexibilty in the order)

(1) Activate theme 2010.
(2) In the WPEC settngs under the Presentation tab ensure the (WPEC) Theme is set to “Default Theme”.
(3) Remove Thesis theme and any Thesis specific plugins (eg. Thesis OpenHook)
(4) Flush theme cache and basic site check.
(5) Upgrade WPEC (decativate current version, ftp up latest version and activate)
(6) In webhosting (or using ftp) rename folder /uploads/wpsc/themes to another name (eg. themes-hide)
(7) Flush theme cache and basic site check.
(8) Install and activate new theme (Elegance 1.4.5 in our case).
(9) Flush theme cache and basic site check.
(10) Configure new theme.
(11) Upgrade to the latest WP release.

We tested this process twice and didn’t encounter any issues. If you find any broken links you should try re-saving your Permalinks settings (twice). The key steps for us seemed to be (2) and (6) – without those we were getting some CSS loaded by the theme and some loaded (iShop) by WPEC . After following the process above all CSS was loading from the correct locations. This worked for us but may or may not work for you. As always, before making updates take backups and test it first in a development service.