Why Widgets & Sideboxes are a Better Solution than Blog & Shop Embedding for Integration
…embedded blog solutions make Zen Cart/WordPress integration overly complicated mainly because they seek to solve the WRONG problem..
When I was first introduced to WordPress I wanted to try and build a WordPress site linked to a Zen Cart store.
There are “embedded blog” (WordPress on Zen Cart) solutions available which allows a shop owner to “embed” their WordPress blog within their Zen Cart store. However I often wondered why no such solution to embed Zen Cart within WordPress had never been created. When I decided to pursue a “Zen Cart on WordPress “solution (based on a client request/need), I followed the path that had already been established in the world of Zen Cart and WordPress integration solutions. So naturally I initially pursued a solution which “embedded” Zen Cart inside WordPress. After all, that’s how the WordPress on Zen Cart solutions had all worked in the past. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that the opposite is what was needed for Zen Cart and WordPress integration? AKA Zen Cart on WordPress.
em·bed (emˈbed) also im·bed (imˈbed)
v. em·bed·ded also im·bed·ded, em·bed·ding also im·bed·ding, em·beds also im·beds
- To fix firmly in a surrounding mass: embed a post in concrete; fossils embedded in shale.
- To enclose snugly or firmly.
- To cause to be an integral part of a surrounding whole: “a minor accuracy embedded in a larger untruth” (Ian Jack).
- To assign (a journalist) to travel with a military unit during an armed conflict.
- Biology To enclose (a specimen) in a supporting material before sectioning for microscopic examination.
To become embedded: The harpoon struck but did not embed.
One that is embedded, especially a journalist who is assigned to an active military unit.
As I began to explore this, I was shocked that what I got back from most developers and Zen Cart gurus was a LOT of resistance. I was told that what I was asking for was “impossible” — “hard” — “not necessary” or simply not doable at all.. Most of the responses went something like this: “I don’t think it can be done easily as you are trying to merge two very different codesets”
Along the way I was frequently asked, “WHY are you doing this?”. My basic answer remains pretty much the same as when I first tried walking down this path two years ago. I have never been happy with the available options for WordPress e-commerce plugins. While that landscape is changing with the introduction of The Cart Press, WooCommerce and now Ready E-Commerce, these plugins in my opinion still fall a little short in that these plugins still do not match all the features found in other standalone e-commerce frameworks such as Zen Cart, osCommerce, Presta Cart, and even Magento..
Based on my 15+ years of experience as a software solutions Business Analyst, I KNEW that Zen Cart & WordPress integration was totally attainable. However, with all the resistance I was getting whenever I would inquire about or express my interest in Zen Cart & WordPress integration, I began to ask different questions. I began to question if the traditional approach and assumptions surrounding Zen Cart & WordPress integration were indeed correct. Here’s what I found:
Upon hearing that there was an osCommerce plugin for WordPress, I was excited. Since Zen Cart is a fork of osCommerce, I took a look at this plugin to see if I could gain insight on how to accomplish the same thing with Zen Cart. The WP Online Store plugin support forum SAYS you can install any osCommerce add-on module, and upon further research I verified that yes that is true.. BUT a closer look revealed that you may need some knowledge of PHP to modify your favorite osCommerce module so that it works inside the WordPress framework.
Eventually updates to PHP, WordPress, and the version of osCommerce used for the osCommerce for WordPress plugin KILLED the plugin.
NOTICE: As from Summer 2014 this plugin will no longer be supported.
Changes in the latest version of PHP, which was being rolled out across many servers, meant that there would have to be a major re-write to most of the files within the WP Online Store Plugin. The developers could no longer afford to update and support this free plugin.
I don’t know about you, but for the shop owners in the dubious position of having to migrate a site built around a now VERY dead plugin seems like a lot of work JUST to avoid creating matching themes/templates. Not to mention the risk of lost sales because a shopowners embedded solution is interfering with some aspect of their site. (you know interfering with something like SALES!!)
After spending a LOT of time reviewing solutions to embedded blogs inside Zen Cart and looking at WordPress plugins to embed the osCommerce framework inside WordPress, I began to realize that many folks (including myself) walked down this “embedded blog” road simply to avoid having to deal with WordPress and Zen Cart themes/templates. There seems to be this perception that creating a WordPress theme to match one’s Zen Cart store is “hard” or “too much work” or that creating a Zen Cart template was also too much work or too hard.. I believed this too initially, but I eventually realized that blog or store embedding JUST to avoid having to create a matching theme/template was a lot of work for VERY little gain..
At the end of the day I realized what my clients REALLY needed was to be able to display Zen Cart products and a live shopping cart in their WordPress site, and vice versa without all of the headaches that go into maintaining an embedded solution.. It takes LESS time for me to create a WordPress theme and matching Zen Cart template than it does to deal with every single issue that rears it’s ugly head to make sure my embedded solution doesn’t wreak havoc on my site because it doesn’t play nice with some plugins/modules.. Plus, there are plenty of NICE template and theme options (free and commercial) for both Zen Cart and WordPress out there which makes all the fuss over themeing and templating a NON-ISSUE.
My clients know that they don’t need the WHOLE store displayed inside WordPress, but they do need their PRODUCT LISTINGS, PRODUCT CATEGORIES, and LIVE SHOPPING CART TOTALS displayed inside WordPress.. They don’t need their WHOLE blog displayed inside of Zen Cart, but they DO need links to their RECENT POSTS/PAGES, TAG CLOUD, and BLOG CATEGORIES displayed inside their Zen Cart stores.
I realized that embedded solutions make Zen Cart & WordPress integration overly complicated mainly because they seek to solve the WRONG problem.
Unlike embedding plugins/modules, Zen Cart® for WordPress (zen4wp) & WordPress for Zen Cart® (wp4zen) allows siteowners to use the FULL power of WordPress and the FULL power of Zen Cart. This means that shopowners will be able to use any plugin/module for Zen Cart or WordPress without limits or conflicts (like having to implement some gnarly code just to get their Zen Cart module to work inside WordPress).
Author: C Jones