There are a number of online e-commerce shopping carts available, and it seems the number grows frequently. osCommerce is one of the earlier carts and is based on PHP and mySQL (as many are). There are literally thousands of installations of osCommerce around the world today and it’s often a favourite because it is open source, the software is free (although you may need to pay for help with installation, design and customization), and there are a tremendous number of modules available which provide added functionality.
Recently, there’s been a surge in using the WordPress platform for E-Commerce sites, however we’re not terribly keen on that. WordPress is wonderful as a platform for general websites and blogs but using it for a full fledged e-commerce website has some drawbacks. While there are often plugins available that are helpful (such as Shipping rates in real time, credit card merchant gateway support, and others), technical support for these is quite often poor to non-existent, even though you will likely be paying for the plugins. But with Google’s new requirements about responsive design, WordPress can be a temptation when thinking about a shopping cart for your E-Commerce site.
osCommerce Gets Responsive Update
One of the problems with osCommerce up to recently that coming up with a fully responsive design can be difficult. However, that all changed when one of the contributors began work to change this, and released the osCommerce “Bootstrap Gold” version which has had many months of work and testing done on it. We’ve been playing around with it as a client of ours has two osCommerce websites that are presently Version 2.2MS. Upgrading these sites to a more recent version is important as it is not compatible with the most recent versions of PHP and MySQL.
While looking around at upgrade options, we discovered the Bootstrap version of osCommerce and so far, are very pleased. But what would be involved with some important modules that are required for this business? So far, we’ve had good luck with an older gateway plugin that handles real time credit card processing. But could we also get Canada Post Dimensional Support for shipping rates?
osCommerce & Canada Post Shipping Rates
One of the biggest headaches for online retailers is often getting accurate shipping rates. Some very robust shopping carts like Jshop don’t have support for obtaining shipping rates in real time so that an accurate shipping price can be added to the final total when a customer checks out. This is unfortunate because in every other way, Jshop is wonderful.
osCommerce has had modules that would query Canada Post and obtain rates, but both have problems. The old module, which is based on Canada Post’s old “Sell On Line” system, doesn’t have dimensional support. Shipping/mailing rates are estimated based on weight only, but the dimensions of a package are also included in the calculation of shipping rates.
This often results in some whacky rates being provided by Canada Post which are not like reality. For example, we’ve found that the quotes provided by Canada Post with this system can severely under quote to some locations, while dramatically over quoting to other cities.
There is a newer Canada Post module that also is supposed to proved dimensional support (using the UPS module as well), but it does not work with osCommerce 2.2x. It also does not work well with the most recent version of osCommerce… and not only that, Canada Post has changed some things since that module was written back in 2012 by Sean Zhuang.
And therein lies a bit of a problem especially for new Canada Post accounts: It is likely impossible to get a Canada Post ID using the old “Sell On Line” system, but the most recent module for the new Canada Post system does not work.
So could we hack away and get it to work with osCommerce Bootstrap version? Mr. Zhuang was informed that the module was not working correctly anymore, but he replied that he did not have time to take a look and fix it up to meet the new Canada Post criteria and also ensure compatibility with the most recent versions of osCommerce.
So, we did it. With some troubleshooting from the very helpful folk at Canada Post and along with some experimenting, we now have the Canada Post module with dimensional support working as it should. The changes are actually minor but weren’t very intuitive at first, and it took some hours and experimenting to get it to work.
If you’ve been using osCommerce and need the package dimension support for accurate Canada Post shipping rates, give us a call. Additionally, if you need to have a responsive site – with osCommerce, we can help with that as well!
When we get the script cleaned up, we may upload a newer version to the modules area of the osCommerce site so that others can also use it. But give us a few days or more before that happens!