Practical Ecommerce

Ten New Years Resolutions for Open Source eCommerce (OSC) Makers

I’ve been an evangelist for users of Open Source eCommerce (OSC) programs for almost a decade now, and for users of other OS programs since I worked at Netscape in the mid-90′s. As a user evangelist, my job is to speak up for users when they cannot or will not.

I have watched the makers of these programs make the same mistakes over and over, starting out like a shooting star then plummeting to the ground.The line between OSC and commercial programs will be blurred this year like never before, and the OSC makers need to learn from the commercial guys or be wiped out.

“OSC makers” include programs like osCommerce, Zen Cart, VirtueMart, PrestaShop, Loaded Commerce, Magento, UberCart, OpenCart, TomatoCart, WP e-Commerce, eShop, Jigoshop, Cart66, WooCommerce and many, many more ready to move up in the OSC world.

To make it easy for OSC makers to be one of the successful ones this year, here are my Top 10 New Years resolutions for you to give to your favorite OSC maker. I hope this list will help to make this new year bright for you, my dear online merchants, administrators, and store owners.

2012 New Years Resolutions for [Insert YOUR favorite OSC program name here and send]:

1. I resolve to get back to basics. My biggest audience is NEW USERS. Every hard-core fanatic today was once a newborn baby to my program. I will treat with them respect, and they will stay loyal to me.

2. I will make it easy for new users to love me. My website will get a demo (and it will actually work), a complete list of features, list of NEW features, technical specs and how to get support from me or from third-party developers.

3. I resolve to be less condescending to potential customers. I will not use technical words on our website if a non-technical word will do; lingo is a customer repellent. I will save it for the MUST-HAVE technical specs section.

4. I will document, document, document. A forum is not a substitute for user documentation. An install manual is not a user manual. Most documentation “Wiki’s” are unintelligible without an editor. At a minimum, I will get simple, on-site text documentation for each menu in the Admin to reduce repeat questions in my forum. TIP: there are people who love to do this.

5. I resolve to have a kinder, gentler support forum this year. I will not allow techies to sneer at users with “RTFM” or “didn’t you see THIS POST?” … newbies don’t know the lingo yet to find that post (see Item 3). TIP: multiple repeat questions does not mean that users are stupid, it means that your program is not intuitive.

6. I promise to get organized this year. Put things in the Admin menus where they make sense to new users, not where osCommerce put it twelve years ago. TIP: many new users have never heard of osCommerce.

7. I will reduce wasted clicks. Most OSC programs are way too clicky for todays’ users; when added together, each and every wasted click represents hundreds of unproductive hours that my users could be working for their favorite charity instead of pulling their hair out. I promise to reduce, re-use and recycle clicks.

8. This year I swear to stop the bloat! I will not add more and more features just because I can and it’s a challenge. It’s not as fun and sexy, but I will work on product reliability rather than adding more features. I will be handsomely rewarded next year.

9. This year I will be more predictable. I will give good advance notice to my beta testers, template makers, manual writers and even super-users or (gasp) users before I make radical changes to our product, version, colors, pricing, etc. I realize that thousands of people earn their living with my program, and they depend on me.

10. I will delight my real customers. In 2012 I will create a delightful experience for the store administrators who collectively spend millions of hours each year staring at my Admin, even more time than developers do. I admit my Admin panel may be so painful to use, it’s like customer torture. NOTE TO SELF: Admin templates will be big this year! I will get in on it on the ground floor.

Do you agree? Send this to your favorite OSC maker. Do you have ideas to add to this list? Please comment below!


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Comments ( 3 )

  1. Marcus McConnell January 4, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for a great list Kerry! Good advice for OSC makers.

  2. Sean Ible January 5, 2012 Reply

    This is an excellent article – thank you

  3. 3D Architectural Rendering August 27, 2012 Reply

    Thanks Kerry ! your information would be really helpful to E commerce web developers and also for the web owners as this post is dedicated a lot to new users.

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