WooCommerce – an EXCELLENT WordPress ecommerce solution

We’ve had a lot of experience with commerce solutions over the past 20 years.  We were early adopters of osCommerce, done many, many ZenCart installations, and have worked with may other platforms, both custom and SaaS based from Shopify, to Commerce Cloud.  Recently, we have come to find WooCommerce, a solution for use with WordPress, to be a truly outstanding offer.

As anyone who follows our blog knows, we’ve moved away from Joomla! and Drupal and embraced WordPress as our preferred CMS platform.  Both of Joomla! and Drupal have fine ecommerce solutions, too, but it wold be difficult to find something that is as complete and well developed as WooCommerce.  The free offering has provided us with everything we want in an online store and the professional offerings from WooCommerce of extensions and improvements are well worth considering, and very fairly priced.  WooCommerce understands open source, making their offering free, improving it with the user base feedback and developer input, but offering additional services and extensions at a reasonable rate.  This is in our opinion the best path to proceed with open source software.

Let’s take a look at all that one gets from WooCommerce’s free, open source offering:

  • A very clean and highly thought out UI for the store and cart experience.
  • Variable product offerings; virtual, physical, one of a kind or inventory controlled, an protected downloads with owner controlled options for controlling access.
  • A very easy to understand and operate store administration area.
  • Product reviews that may be enabled or disabled, set to have verified owners, etc.
  • Upsell and cross-sell capabilities.
  • A large number of payment extensions — most of which can be added for free.
  • Template controlled and WordPress CMS managed pages.
  • Coupons, including the ability to provide customers with single use coupons as a follow up “thank you” for their purchase or review.
  • Category and subcategory capabilities in addition to tagging.
  • Multiple shipping rate options and integrations with major logistics providers.
  • Tax calculations and variations that should support just about anyone — or the ability to tie into a professional tax engine if needed.

This is all in the free offering!  It is installed in the usual WordPress simply click-and-activate fashion, too.  We’re quite happy with everything we have found with WooCommerce and give it our highest recommendation!  You can see it in action on our new internal project Inquiry-Teaching.com

Inquiry-Teaching.com

Inquiry-Teaching.comOur work is changing, as is really the entire nature of what many of us call work.  Thanks to the World Wide Web, our ability to create and share resources has never been greater.  The Design Mission is going to be getting back to its roots and has started a new project for inquiry based curriculum; Inquiry-Teaching.com

Look for new and returning lesson plans with an inquiry and active learning focus to be live in August of 2017.  We’ll continue to update the site with new lesson plans and resources.  In two years, we hope to be doing nothing but curriculum writing as our work focus.

 

 

 

WordPress Child Themes – When to Use Them

Building a WordPress “child theme” is not all that difficult.  WordPress has a very good write up on how (and why) one should create a child theme.  But if all you are doing is adding or modifying the stylesheet, you may not need a child theme at all.

Check to see if the theme you are using includes the ability to add custom CSS.  Something like this:

 

If it does, you can do perhaps all that you want without building a child theme.   Child themes aren’t hard to build, but they do add overhead to your WordPress site’s load.

So much can be done with CSS alone, especially with a well made template that used CSS as it was intended to begin with. The whole idea of Cascading Style Sheets is to separate the presentation layer from the content and programming layers.  For an idea of how much you can do with CSS, check out the CSS Zen Garden project where people are challenged to take a single HTML and CSS page and only modifying the CSS, make entirely different designs.

If you are a theme creator, please consider using HTML5 and CSS properly and adding into your theme the ability to add custom CSS.  It will make your template used by a wider audience.

OmniGraffle

omni-graffleWhile we like to focus on Open Source software, sometimes, there’s not much offered in a specific category.  So far, we’ve not found a very good diagraming tool in the Open Source world.  Open Office and its children have a fairly good tool, but these don’t have all of the features we really need to work in the business world.  One key piece lacking in the OS world of diagraming tools is the ability to export to Visio format for cross platform compatibility.

OmniGraffle from the Omni Group is what we use extensively here.  It’s made for Macintosh only, but covers more than we could ask for in terms of ease of use and it does export to Visio format for PC users to import and use, too.  With OmniGraffle, one can build complex diagrams for infographics, network diagrams and process flows.  The available objects are easily extended and one can add more “stencils” quite easily.

Simply put, we love OmniGraffle.

Free Meet/Race/Regatta Management Software

events-1The United States is not known for its sprint canoe and kayak racing teams — far from it.  While we have had a handful of Olympic medals, these have been very few and far between.  The sport has only a small following here, despite there being SUP, marathon and outrigger paddling communities with incredible depth.  Despite that, we perhaps have some of the best race software around.  JRaceman written by Jim McBeath is an open source Java based tool that can be used with many different sporting events to provide reports, heats, race results and more.

Check out some of its features:

  • Standalone (single user) or client/server (multi user).
  • Checks data for errors and restrictions (such as max entries per person and age levels).
  • Choice of methods for initial lane draw, including random, seeded, and by category.
  • Automatic, Manual, and Custom Progressions (lane assignment).
  • Supports group events (such as relay races or team boats).
  • Calculates Individual and Team scores.
  • Supports multiple customized per-place point scoring systems.
  • Supports non-scoring competitors (such as Internationals in a National competition), including optional preferential progression for scoring competitors over non-scoring competitors.
  • Produces HTML reports: Schedule Reports, Entries Reports, Lane Reports, Results Reports, Progress Reports, Score Reports, Award Reports, Personal Results.
  • Supports alternate and custom style sheets for HTML reports.
  • Fast web reports to maintain a web site during a meet.
  • Prints labels for awards.
  • Export/Import capability to support distributed data entry.
  • Interfaces to FinishLynx and Omega automated finish-line systems.
  • Integrated on-line web registration.
  • On-line help with built-in browser.
  • Tutorial Wizard simplifies learning how to use JRaceman.

If you’re hosting an event or attending an event that needs help with management, JRaceman is something you should consider using.   It’s an excellent example of open source software and great for anyone putting on a regatta, track meet or other racing event!

Managing Disruptions to Your Work

Not-Available-for-Work-iconI suppose it sounds funny — thinking about how to managing disruptive work. If it is disruptive, how can one manage it, right?  Most people have plans for their day, goals or tasks that they hope to accomplish, and many (perhaps most) people also have the kind of work that one simply cannot plan — things that halt, or turn sideways, all of those big plans you had for your day.

My place of employment has what is known as an “open environment” – no cubicles, an open floor plan, with lots of people in a common area.  The theory behind open environments is that with no barriers, there will be more communication, sharing and collaboration.  In theory, that’s how it’s suppose to work, and it may well do so for some.  For me, however, it means wearing headphones and listening to music or something to provide white noise as a sound blocker is now an imperative.  (This blog post, “Why Open Floor Plan Offices Suck, Hurt Employee Productivity & Satisfaction” nails it for me.)  I’ve consequently become a Ninja at managing disruptions.

Here are the things I find work for making a disruptive work environment less so: Read more