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Magento Customization

Magento is one of the most popular ecommerce platforms for businesses of all sizes. If you need to open an online store or transition an existing store to a new platform, using Magento will simplify the process by providing you with the tools you need to build and manage a store. However, while using Magento is easier than building a store from scratch, the platform has multiple customization options that impact how your store performs and how you manage it.

Using these options to create a better online store is often self-explanatory. However, there are also customization options that are less intuitive — or not as well known — as others. To help you make the most of your Magento experience, let’s explore some of the lesser known customization options. You will probably be able to use some of the options on your own; utilizing others may require the help of a Magento partner, such as Coalition Technologies.

Administration Session Lifetime

If you spend hours editing product descriptions only to find that your administration session has timed out when you try to save the changes, you need to increase the number of seconds before administration sessions automatically shut down. You can do this on your own by following the commands: System > Config > Admin > Security > Session Lifetime. Customizing the time of administration sessions makes it easier to spend time fine tuning your store’s copy.

Nesting Static Blocks

If you have lots of data in your website’s CMS > static blocks, you can divide the content in each block by using Widgets to combine several blocks into a single block that is displayed on a category page or a product page. Nesting static blocks makes the information in the blocks more digestible for end users, which can help reduce the bounce rate for your website. If you need help customizing your store’s static blocks, Coalition Technologies will help.

Ratings Management

Because people tend to trust the opinion of their peers more than they trust the opinion of businesses that are trying to sell them something, customer ratings are some of the most powerful pieces of marketing content you can have. To add more rating criteria for what you sell, just use the following commands: Catalog > Reviews & Ratings > Manage Rating. Then enable star rating criteria. The ratings management function can be managed at the store view level.

Tier Pricing

A helpful Magento customization option for sales promotions, tier pricing lets you price items by quantity. For example, you can run a promotion where a single item sells at regular price but five of the item sell for a discounted price. You can do this by using the commands: Admin > Catalog > Managed Products. Then select the item you want to discount. Go to Prices > Add Tier. Enter the quantity of the item (“qty”) to enable tier pricing. Enter the “price per item” and click save.

Customized Landing Pages

Hundreds of Magento design templates are available from third party designers that target the shopping cart software market. However, these templates typically score low on the originality scale; unless you buy an exclusive license to a template, you probably won’t be the only one using it. Pre-designed  templates’ lack of originality combined with a $2,500+ fee for acquiring an exclusive license is why many companies opt for custom templates.

If you want your Magento store to stand out from the crowd, designing custom landing pages is the way to go. If your business doesn’t have a web design department, partnering with a web design firm that understands the Magento platform, such as Coalition Technologies, is the best option. We’ve helped hundreds of companies with Magento customization projects that entailed designing unique landing pages for Magento Enterprise and Community editions.

Product Alerts Notification

This is a Magento customization option that notifies customers when a product goes on sale or arrives back in stock. You can allow customers to sign up for an alert notification by going to the Product Alerts section and setting the “Allow Alert When Product Price Changes” to “Yes” and setting the “Allow Alert When Product Comes Back in Stock” to “Yes.” Product alerts notification is a dynamic feature that can truly help your store sell more products.

Contact Us Today

Magento powers the online stores of some of the most successful retailers, such as Fiji Water, Vizio, and Paul Smith. Whether your company is large, medium size, or small, Magento will help it successfully compete in its market space, especially when the right customization measures are used. If you need assistance with Magento customization, call Coalition Technologies today at (888) 993-7639 to schedule a free consultation, or click here to use our contact form.

Coalition Technologies Partners with App to the Rescue

In this mobile generation, apps are big business. From Angry Birds to Shazam, there’s an app for every need, desire and occasion. App to the Rescue specializes in app creation, primarily on behalf of small businesses and nonprofit organizations. They design applications for the iPhone, the Android, and even HTML5, and they pride themselves on their ability to connect businesses with their customers and supporters in the 21st century digital landscape.

App to the Rescue reached out to Coalition Technologies because they need a complete design and development effort for their website within the Shopify platform. This created an exciting challenge for the designers and developers at Coalition, as this was our first full-fledged Shopify project. Though our teams have worked with Shopify for years, it’s not too often that a client requests a full Shopify build. Fortunately, our experts were more than up to the challenge.

Shopify is an all-in-one content management system and shopping cart platform. It’s perfect for businesses like App to the Rescue, because it allows them to easily manage their site content while accepting and tracking payments from customers. Shopify doesn’t require businesses to code their sites or handle custom designs, but customization is still important for businesses that want to set themselves apart from the competition and build their own brand.

Shopify allows for tremendous freedom when it comes to design and development, and so we were able to create and customize every facet of the site: wireframes, custom design mockups, full development. We made suggestions to the client about possible layouts and explained the functionality of the Shopify platform. As we educated them about the inner-workings, benefits and limitations of Shopify, the client provided valuable input that allowed us to create a satisfying result, The finished site accurately reflects the vision of App to the Rescue.

As a result of this successful collaboration, our friends at App to the Rescue are extremely satisfied with the finished product, and even left us a glowing review on the Shopify partner platform. Additionally, they have reached out to us personally to express their satisfaction and gratitude, and that type of feedback is always very rewarding for us.

If you’d like to check out our work for yourself, or learn more about App to the Rescue, check out apptotherescue.com.

The Bank of Facebook, that will never be

Emergent by Design recently did a post on the future of Facebook Credits, and how they are an emerging ‘currency’ or how they might emerge as a currency. (Thanks Aaron Wall for the tweet to bring it to your followers attention).

I do believe that there is a certain truth in the ability of major web marketplace players to establish themselves as an alternative to many things we otherwise rely on physical presence for. We can avoid shopping, driving, talking, reading a book, going to a library, a concert, and more, all because of the amazing power and breadth of options available online today. One quick search in Google or Bing (and Yahoo, Bing’s fat cousin), and we can find almost any piece of information or resource that we are looking for today.

However, I think the analysis offered of the future of Facebook in the Emergent by Design blog post was rather simplified and far too easily greased the wheels of advance for Facebook. I know that there is a book in the works, so no doubt this was an attempt to drum up interest and start a conversation. (Which is working, based on this post alone).

Currency in its earliest forms had to have value, and really didn’t need backing by any major states. Gold coins, jewelry, and trade goods all had intrinsic values associated with them, nearly universally across the globe and in almost every cultural history. If Rome was overthrown, the spices, the gold, the jewelry, the weaponry and armor, the livestock, and the land all still held value. In this simplistic view of currency, perhaps Facebook itself does have value as a currency. It is a good, (information and communication), that is easily exchanged and would hold value regardless of nation, region, or government form. The only reason that Facebook, or Google for that matter, hold any value is in their ability to operate as a provider of goods or services.

Image of World Currency
Notice that Facebook Credit isn’t one?

The prime reason that Facebook and Google especially will never offer a meaningful alternative to currency is that they inherently have no way of securing or backing their funds. Google’s beating in China by the government is a perfect example of how easily their ‘value’ can be upended. If Google had offered its own currency, Google +1Creds (since Facebook has Credits, Google would poorly copy), it would be senseless for 90% of the world’s population to invest or exchange their dollars/yen/yuan/pounds for. If that particular government, limits access or participation in Google or Facebook, then that investment suddenly becomes worthless, and the means for withdrawal become nearly impossible. In democratic ‘developed countries’, we might argue that the government would never be ballsy enough to limit or restrict internet connectivity. But they already have, and with the latest US Congress, they seem even more interested in doing so.

As long as their are physical controls on how people can access the internet, established and overseen by the governments of the world, there will never be a currency based on the full faith and backing of Facebook or Google. Will their be Credits or +1 Creds, that are backed by a real currency, that is backed by a real government? Absolutely. Will they grow in popularity and use? Absolutely. Will any strong, central government, like those of developed economies like Japan, the US, the UK, China, and the EU (if the tourism industry countries don’t bankrupt it first), allow those online currencies to supersede their own? Absolutely not. Through taxes, regulations, and other restrictions, your world wide web will be very carefully controlled and guided, regardless of how democratic your country.

Facebook, Google, and Everyone Else- Come up with something new!

I’m spending a lot of time reading articles these days about how the web marketplace is evolving. As a marketing consultant and business planner for our LA web design firm, I have to stay up on what is occurring in the expanding microcosm of the world in which I live.

The news stories that usually catch my eye are the ones that relate to how the major players in my industry, or that affect my industry are doing business. Most of the time, these processes and approaches lead me to be disappointed that I’ve joined a massive sandbox with one or two or three different companies throwing sand in one another’s eyes or drawing lines and daring the others to cross. Because my last visual interpretation of these events proved so popular, I’ve drawn another:

Google versus Facebook in the sandbox
Can’t they just grow up?

Okay, so maybe Mark and Eric and Larry don’t really throw sand at each other. But they kind of do….

Big companies all seem to view the market as it stands as being relatively fixed. No one really is looking to innovate in such a way that the marketplace online grows any larger. Instead, Google wants to build a social network. Which will probably be different in some respects, but not in most. And Facebook wants to build a search functionality for its social network. It will be different than Google in some respects, but not in most.

And everybody is slapping patents on everything- using broad terms and big law firms companies like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook and more all hammer out creativity and innovation. Really Facebook, a patent on social search? And Microsoft, patents on software that makes content more readable? Yeesh.

All in all, we’ll continue to see some pretty mundane innovations come through the pipeline. I played with the Color social networking app and found it odd and obnoxious. I don’t have time to effectively manage or leverage my own Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Foursquare accounts, and I know most of my clients don’t either. Facebook was nice since it killed off Myspace. Twitter is pretty innovative. But I don’t want to be regurgitating again and again and again, the same data spelled a little differently in each of these avenues.

A master social network, perhaps a ‘god’ network, would be great, but everyone is drawing lines in the sandbox by limiting the portability of their data. Of course, I understand it from a business perspective, but why not try and find a way to get back out front Facebook? Why not design or develop a mobile application that makes you the front runner instead of the big fat rich old guy in the room? At one point, no one wanted to be Microsoft- the aging static behemoth. Then Apple came along and became the aging static behemoth in more attractive colors. Google’s getting a little bloated for my taste and seems to be losing its ability to really operate as the best search provider (which is why Bing continues to climb in market share). They keep focusing on making search more instantaneous and responsive but pollute search results with what they assume is relative info. I don’t want them making assumptions for me unless they know me well enough to do it accurately. Even my wife can’t instant predict my search query. We tried, actually, just to test the theory.

Please, for the sake of everyone, not just those of us working in web design or search engine optimization, someone be innovative. I don’t need Twitter with location specific pictures. I don’t need another mapping application with points of interest. I don’t need another site to visit to tell my friends what I did or am going to be doing. Most of them already know from Facebook, or from LinkedIn, or from Twitter, or blah.

Of course, the risk of innovation is that you’ll probably be sued.

I wonder if these companies really are large enough to control the user experience, rather then simply be a tool or conduit for it. Are the masses really as ignorant as these major corporations seem to think?

My prayer is that the next innovation will be intuitive and give the users back the control, and take it away from these incompetent, blundering elephants. Someone hurry up and introduce a creative mouse into the room, that way we can see what happens when the big guys are cleared out. (I made this analogy just to insert another picture).

Scared away by creativity, Google and Facebook flee the room
I should do kids books, no?

Someday our dreams of a rapidly advancing social webspace will come. But then it will be slowed again when the children of innovation become the grandparents of mundane-ness. I just don’t understand why this takes so long. Our processing speeds are up, the capabilities of people around the globe to interact and share ideas is constantly increasing, and yet we have to play by the same rules that applied a decade ago.

I shouldn’t point all the blame at the big companies- the biggest corporation of them all, the US government should get a share of it. They control the patent office that is used as a tool for well financed firms, and they also keep sneaking further and further into our market. Either by getting Congress involved in web privacy law, or by building fake social network profiles to influence people’s opinions, our government is as corrupt and eager to throw sand as anyone.

Microsoft is lawsuit happy!

At least according to Googler Matt Cutts. I think. His exact tweet just seemed to imply it.

What am I talking about? Apparently, Microsoft, overlord and beneficiary to so many coffee drinking Seattle-ites, has taken issue with Barnes and Noble and their tech partners for their use of Android software on Kindle and other tablet devices.

You’re probably all asking the same question that every sane person within a 500 hundred mile radius of our Los Angeles web design firm is asking- why would Microsoft be able to sue anyone over a supposedly open source platform like Android? And apparently Google wants us to think the same thing. According to a tweet that I’m interpreting from Mr. Matthew Cutts, head of Google’s Spam Force Five.

Of course, the problem is that there are always two sides to every story. Microsoft is suing because they hold recognized patents for “natural ways of interacting with devices by tabbing through various screens to find the information they need; surfing the Web more quickly, and interacting with documents and e-books”.

If that sounds like a rather broad statement, you’re right it is. Many major companies, including our beloved Apple and Google, are known for gobbling up useless patents covering extraordinary territory. Happily, our government signs off on them even though these corporations hold no current intent to develop or market any products relating to the patents. They just want to be patent trolls when someone invents something useful down the line that might make money or revolutionize a marketplace.

I don’t particularly Microsoft for these types of moves. It is hard to buy that they are anything but the massive, aging behemoth that everyone perceives. Problem is, I don’t really like Google pretending their much better. Its hard to believe they’re Robin Hood when they do the same thing rather frequently.

Oh well, its not like either of them particularly care. While I typed this blog from our new location in Seattle, they made another billion dollars and launched a few dozen more lawsuits.

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