WP Shopping Cart NextGEN Gallery AddOn Review

This post offers a short review of our recent experience using the WP Shopping Cart Addon for the NextGEN Gallery.

The addon is a WordPress plugin (WP Simple Paypal Shopping cart) and a template file which allows you to add to your NextGEN gallery a simple shopping cart function to sell items.

Basically it provides the ability to set a price, a product description and an Add to Cart button which then appear in the caption for the NextGEN thumbnail/s. The user can Add to Cart any number of items then go to the Checkout page to review their selections and complete their payment in PayPal.

We’re not going to describe how to setup the shopping cart as that is well documented here http://www.wordpress-ecommerce.com/wordpress-shop-using-nextgen-gallery-and-wp-shopping-cart-7.

WP Shopping Cart is simple to install and easy to use, however, there are some things to be aware of.

The WP Shopping Cart Template.
The template is invoked by using shortcode [nggallery id=nn template=wp-eStore] on a gallery page (or post) and adding shortcode [wp_cart:the-product-name:price:the-product-price:end] in the Description field for the image.

Using the wp-eStore template makes the Description of the image it’s Caption and causes the Add to Cart button to appear as part of the thumbnail caption in grid view.

Whilst this is consistant with NextGEN’s – in our opinion, flawed – handling of using the Description for the Caption it can be problematic for two reasons.

(1) If like our client you use long Descriptions then that screws up the grid view appearance. The image below shows a simple version of this problem from our test site, the left hand thumbnail is what you get if you use short Descriptions, the right hand thumbnail is what you get with longer Descriptions. Our clients desciptions are in fact MUCH longer and MUCH wider than the sample shown and contain HTML formatting.

NextGEN WP-Shoping-Cart Grid View

(2) If you’ve customised your NextGEN code (eg. gallery-caption.php) to facilitate having short captions and long descriptions by using the “Alt & Title Text” field (variable ‘alttext’) as the Caption rather that using the “Description” (variable ‘description’) field then the WP Shopping Cart template nullifies that change for any gallery its used on.

Essentially you can’t have long descriptions if you wish to use the WP Shopping Cart template and maintain a sensible grid view appearance. This is not a fault with the cart plugin but is unfortunately how NextGEN works by default.

WP Shopping Cart page corruption.
Most NextGEN gallery implementations work by displaying a group of thumbnails, the user clicks on one and the full size image for the thumbnail is displayed.

Our clients NextGEN galleries work slightly (and very usefully) differently to the norm. When you click on a thumbnail, you are taken to a page (generated by NextGEN) that shows a larger image and description of the image with details like the artist name, year it was taken, edition details (if applicable) and so on. Clicking on the larger image then takes you to the full sized image.

This ‘middle page’ is slightly corrupted by the WP Shopping Cart addon whereby the Add to Cart botton appears both above and below the image and the top one includes some extraneous visible HTML like characters. The image below shows an example of this (nb. the picture itself was shrunk by me to reduce the file size to make it more viewable).

NextGEN WP-Shopping-Cart Description Page

WP Shopping Cart Addon and the WordPress Gallery System.
Although the WP Shopping Cart NextGen Gallery AddOn says “NextGEN Gallery” you can actually use it anywhere by installing plugin part and ignoring the NextGEN template for it. Then just put the [wp_cart…] shortcode on any page or post or other gallery you like.

We tested WP Shopping Cart Addon using the standard WP gallery system using the [wp_cart…] shortcode. It worked much better for us there than with NextGEN as WordPress uses Captions as Captions and Descriptions as Descriptions so it works perfectly.

The first image below shows an example WP gallery setting for an image using the [wp_cart…] shortcode, the second image shows the thumbnail grid view with Add to Cart button display and the final image shows what you see when a grid view thumbnail is clicked – very nice. This is really how NextGEN should work!

WPGallery WP-Shopping-Cart Gallery Settings

WPGallery WP-Shopping-Cart Thumbnail Page

WPGallery WP-Shopping-Cart Image Page

Summary.
Overall the WP Shopping Cart Addon for the NextGEN Gallery works well for those gallery sites that use short Descriptions and where clicking a thumbnail takes you directly to the full size image. For the rest of us there are problems as note above. It works very well with the standard WordPress gallery system.

I expect the long Description problems are not easily solvable. Potentially NextGEN could be enhanced to allow shortcodes (eg [wp_cart…]) to be used in the “Alt & Title Text” field and fixed to correctly use the “Alt & Title Text” as the thumbnail caption. WP Shopping Cart could then be updated to also use the “Alt & Title Text” as its thumbnail captions. I might get keen and raise a bug report on the Caption/Description issue with NextGEN.

WP-eCommerce Transaction Results

WordPress Version: 3.3.1
WP-eCommerce Version: 3.8.7.6.2
Plugin Author: GetShopped / Instinct

WPEC Transaction Results Layout

When using WPEC 3.8.7.6.2 the Transaction Results Page is built from three different parts of WPEC – two from with-in WPEC configuration settings and one from WPEC code.

The following screen capture shows the three areas of the tranasaction results page and where the content for those areas is sourced from.

WPEC Transaction Results Layout

WPEC Transaction Results Layout

Having used WPEC on a number of sites I find that the way the layout of the transaction results is built to lack flexibility.

Issue 1: As the top section of the transaction results layout is hard coded in a php program it’s always present and its content is fixed. Given this content could simply be supplied by the user in either the gateway settings under the Payments tab or in the purchase receipt settings under the Admin tab I fail to see what possible use it serves and why the authors of WPEC would bother setting it up. It also tells the customer they will be receiving an email once the order clears but orders don’t clear, payments clear. It also assumes we will be emailing our customer at that time but that might not necessarily be the case.

Issue 2: The bottom section of the transaction results page is also somewhat of an issue because the content is set once and it then applies to all the payment gateways. It would be very useful if each payment gateway could have its own purchase receipt content. How would this be helpful? One example would be: a number of WPEC users (myself included) have wanted to use WPEC to allow users to request quotes for some products. Having unqiue settings would allow a ‘quote’ payment gateway to be setup which does nothing but send the site admin and customer an email.

Issue 3: Another issue I’ve run into is that sometimes you want the content to only be displayed on the WPEC transaction results page but presently the content is displayed on that page and also emailed to the customer.

These are pretty straight forward changes (especially the first one) so hopefully the WPEC team will look into implementing them in a future release.

WP e-Commerce Purchase Report Subject

WordPress Version: 3.3.1
WP-eCommerce Version: 3.8.7.6.2
Plugin Author: GetShopped / Instinct

Problem:

WPEC Email subject not unique

There’s nothing I like more than getting a notification of a new sale from one of my WP e-Commerce (WPEC) sites. One thing that really bugs me however is why? why? why? can’t they add the sale ID number to the subject of the emails they send out to the site administrator and the customer. Surely thats a very simple change.

My email filing for WPEC purchase reports looks like this…

Purchase Report
Purchase Report
Purchase Report
Purchase Report
(not very helpful if your looking for order 101 is it?)

In my opinion it would be more sensible if it showed in my email as..

Purchase Report 100
Purchase Report 101
Purchase Report 102
Purchase Report 103

It seems pretty basic to me that you’d do this automatically – without really needing to think about it. Well a sys admin would. Having worked in IT for many years if someone in the support team did this they’d certainly be sent off to fix it. Who knows, maybe its a mindset difference between sys admins and apps developers.

It’s easy to understand or accept why a major change can’t be made but its the small things that could be changed but aren’t that drive people nuts 🙂