Basic configuration of osCommerce - Maximum and Minimum Values
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The maximum and minimum values deal with a variety of things ranging from governing customer information, to determining how many search results to present, to customer order history. Fortunately, most of these settings are pretty straightforward, so there isn't much that should cause problems here either. Before we show the default settings for Contechst Books, it is worth looking at a couple of things when determining the type of settings you want to put in place here.
The first thing to do is to navigate to the customer registration page, which you can reach by clicking on the create an account? link on the site's index page. This will bring up a page consisting of a list of textboxes that your customers will use to enter their information in order to create an account. It's a worthwhile exercise to actually fill this information out with legal and illegal values (illegal values are those which do not meet the stated minimum requirements in your Minimum Values configuration page) to check how your application behaves and to give you a better appreciation for the values you are setting.
For example, the minimum length of the date is given as 10 by default in the configuration section. Why ten? This is a bit strange because you only need six, or at most eight, characters to specify a date. Without looking at the "create an account" page, you might well change this value not realizing that osCommerce requires the user to input forward slashes to separate the days, months, and years provided in birthdates.
With that said, there is nothing we are going to modify in this section for now, since all the default minimum values represent sensible options. It is recommended, however, that you still look through each and every setting and ensure you understand what each one does, as there are still options you may wish to consider at this point. Looking at the password setting, you might consider upping the minimum length to 6 in order to encourage greater security amongst customers—obviously, enforcing longer passwords reduces the risk of customers' accounts being hijacked.
The Maximum Values section does not deal with customers, but more with how osCommerce behaves in terms of the number of items it displays in a variety of categories. While the default settings are pretty much spot on, there are a few settings worth looking over. The first two are self explanatory, although at this stage you might not be aware that Address Book Entries refers to the fact that customers can add several addresses to their account. This allows them to specify different mailing addresses depending on where and who they want purchased good to go to.
The Page Links value specifies the maximum number of links that will be shown on a results page. For example, if you set this to 5, then assuming you have enough products or results, you will get the following link structure:
1 2 3 4 5 [Next >>]
If you set it to 10, you would get:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 [Next >>]
Categories to List Per Row might cause some confusion as it is not particularly clear what this refers to. To see how this influences your site, go to any one of the default links under the Categories section of the index page in your catalog site. If, for example, you go to the Hardware option, you will be presented with the following screen (notice that the background color is still darker than the original color, since we changed the setting for this in a previous chapter):
The main thing to note here, though, is that there are three columns of subcategories shown. If you don't already have a window open with your Maximum Values settings page in the admin tool, then open one up and change the default value for Categories to List Per Row to 1. Refreshing the Categories page will give you the following result:
From this you can see that this setting governs how many columns are used to present the categories of products you have in your store. Simple once you know, but it can be tricky to find this out if you don't. Some things to consider when deciding on this setting are:
- How big your product category images (if any) are going to be
- How wide your page is going to be
- How many product subcategories, on average, you are going to have
Once again, the default setting is fine for the demonstration site, but this illustrates quite well that some thought should go into each and every setting—even if the end result is simply leaving the value as is.
The rest of the values in this section are pretty self explanatory, and it is left to you to go through each one and make a decision regarding what your preferences are for your own site. If you have any doubt about what a setting does, then leave it as the default. Remember, you can always come back to this section and change the values to suit your needs at any stage.
Please check back next week for the second part of this article.