Oh WPEC version 3.8 … why are you such a failure?

I have used the WordPress eCommerce plugin on a number of sites and have been very happy with it but since the change from version 3.7.x to 3.8.x I have been having nothing but headaches from it.

The changes in the plugin were first brought to my attention when one of my clients did an automatic upgrade on her WordPress site and broke her shopping cart. So I logged in to try and fix it and found that they implementation had some major changes, especially in the way you write and manage your products. The reasons for these changes were to make sure that the development stayed within the WordPress recommended guidelines and also allow for easier theming. Two very good reasons indeed.

Unfortunately the changes also meant major changes to the back-end of the shopping cart and this is where Instinct/GetShopped made their first mistake.

While it’s not for me to tell them how to organise their update hierarchy, I believe that the version 3.8 should have been called version 4.0 as many of the changes were drastic. A version 3.8 could have been released as a bug fix for 3.7 and considered an ‘end of line’ version. This would give existing sites the opportunity to gracefully change over to the new version rather than having their existing sites broken.

Upgrading to 3.8 fails because the product structure is different, causing 404 errors in the products, and the theming structure is different, breaking templates.

Unfortunately, Starting a fresh site in 3.8 is not much better because there are some major issues with the template.
Some of the things I have noticed in building fresh sites are –

The plugin breaks some API driven applications such as Google Maps
I have been using the Google Map plugin on numerous sites. When it stopped working on a site I’d been developing I tracked it down to the WPEC plugin. I then attempted to code the Google API call directly into the site, creating but still the map refused to appear. In the end I had to do a screenshot of the map and fix it as a flat image, linking to the map externally. This is a poor compromise.

The plugin breaks some of the WordPress template features such as Custom Page templates
When you’re developing a shopping cart you do not want every single page to have shopping cart features on them.

For example, I don’t want the products list or the checkout appearing on the contact page but I still want to use other sidebar widgets. The easiest solution would be to have a Custom Page and then change the template for all the shopping cart pages, however this isn’t possible because as soon as you use the productpage shortcode call, custom themes cease to work.

Flat rate shipping and per-product taxation does not flow on to variations
While it is possible that some people may wish to charge extra for variations, I imagine that in most cases shipping would be the same for everything within that product. A variation is a way that the shopping cart manages different styles, colours or sizes in a product. Flat rate shipping, applied to a parent product should flow to the variation, which could be edited if necessary. For example: if you’re selling thingamiebobs and you have a size difference which costs more to ship, then you go into your variation and add the additional shipping (This feature actually exists in the variations setup anyway).

The problem would be exacerbated if you’re a tee-shirt seller. Imagine having 15 different colours of tees and 25 size differences. Instead of setting the shipping to one fixed price and passing it to the child products, you would potentially have to click through 40 variations (at least it won’t be all 375 combinations!)

Pagination doesn’t work
The same client who had the issue with Google Maps also has a large number of products and needs to have the pagination enabled. Unfortunately, when it is the category pages display nothing. They are returning a 404 but not even adding in the search bar that the theme’s default 404 page does.
Sub categories are displaying individual products, not even from the same categories.

Live search doesn’t work
This is a seriously BIG fail. Live search is a Gold Cart addition, in other words, it’s part of the paid upgrade version. The stupid thing is, the WordPress default (ie the one that is already included in WordPress) works fine.

Speaking of Gold Cart… Difficult to upgrade!

Gold Cart requires a subscription to activate so why do they need to hide it from people. Trying to upgrade a Gold Cart is a pain because there is no automatic option and clicking on the more details takes you to a generic premium updates page on the Getshopped site.  Why not have a link to download? After all, the product requires activation so it’s not like people can use it for free and, at only US$40, it’s not like it’s prohibitively expensive.

Despite the shortcomings of the current version, I will continue to persist with it as I believe that, in time, the current problems will be fixed and it can go back to being what it was… A really good WordPress plugin

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