If you're setting up your site to handle online sales, you could do worse than to use osCommerce. This article explains how to configure the software to get you up and running. It is excerpted from Building Online Stores with osCommerce: Professional Edition, written by David Mercer (PACKT, 2005; ISBN: 1904811140).
Take my word, there's a fair old amount to do in terms of configuring your individual osCommerce installation to suit a new business. Fortunately, the people at osCommerce have made a lot of default choices which are pretty sensible, so provided you have a good look at everything that is up for configuration, and ensure that you understand what all the settings do and mean, quite a bit of it can go unchanged. Apart from actually making a decision about the multitude of settings that go into defining osCommerce's look, feel, and behavior, you also have to physically implement your choices. For this, we are given the excellent administration tool (found under the admin folder in your installation), which you can think of this as osCommerce's command center.
From the administration tool, we can perform just about any configuration task our hearts desire. I say "just about" because there are always fiddly bits that aren't easily dealt with from the standard administrative interface. Consequently, in this chapter, we won't perform every bit of configuration needed to get our site up and running—that would involve a lot of work, which we don't need to concern ourselves with until a bit later on.
Basically, in order to be as efficient as possible in terms of our overall development of the site, we are going to work with the 80/20 philosophy in mind. This means we should aim to get roughly 80% of the configuration done with about 20% of the overall effort. The remaining 20% of configuration work will get done when we look at different or specialized bits of functionality, and for that we may need specialist knowledge, third-party software, or simply more time than we want to spend on configuring our setup for the moment. So what is it precisely that we are going to get done in this chapter? Well, we are going to discuss and modify the following sections found under the Configuration tab of the administration tool:
Maximum and minimum values
What are we not going to look at in this chapter? Well, we aren't going to run through each and every option available in osCommerce in detail. Many of the default settings are pretty self explanatory, and require nothing more than a quick decision on your part. The ones which have slightly less clear meaning or are more complex in their action will be scrutinized more closely. More or less it's fair to say that it's the default behavior of osCommerce that's going to be modified in this section of the book. Things like changing the look and feel of the site, or populating the product database are left to their own chapters a little later.
One final thing to bear in mind is that if you still, at this stage, don't have a clear idea of what you expect from your site, you will find that it is hard to make some of the decisions concerning how you want certain aspects of osCommerce to behave. Now, it is understood that sometimes it is simply not possible to know everything in advance, so you might wish to take notes of what you are and are not modifying, and what you think you will need to come back to at a later stage. Having a quick reference of what you have and haven't done at any given junction in the development phase will make your life a lot easier if you ever do need to take a step back.
Anyway, it's certainly exciting to be finally working on the actual site; so without further delay, let's begin…