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We're running CubeCart v4 and have been for some time, both on our own websites and those we manage for clients. Now 5.1.1 is out I feel that the new release may be stable enough to consider an upgrade, so I have started testing it. The first test has involved creating and population a v4 store on a temporary domain name, and upgrading it to v5 to see how it went. I wouldn't describe the upgrade as smooth, but after some hacking-around we got prices and product precis etc. working again. Why this doesn't work by defualt after an upgrade is beyond my research, but disappointing.

My perception is that the principle problems with CubeCart v5, i.e. things that make me feel I don't currently wish to upgrade from CubeCart v4, are broadly as follows:

Visitor Perspective

  • To my mind most of the new v5 themes look awful, and give the impression of being included for the sake of it and not properly tested, so we're effectively stuck with the default Kurouto and my comments are based on that.

  • (After factoring out the height of the banner) Where v4 displays 8 products in the height of my desktop browser window (4 in my Netbook), v5 displays just 6 (3 in my Netbook). The loss of two products, 25% of the total, from the all-important "above the fold" screen real estate is caused purely by white space and padding, nothing more, certainly nothing of value. So v5 will give 25% less products on immediate display for visitors to view without scrolling, i.e. a reduced sales potential: Why??? For what benefit???

Admin Perspective

  • When editing a product the Main Image is not shown on the Image tab. I have tried this with three different browsers (Internet Explorer, Chrome & Firefox) and on two different operating systems (Windows 7, Ubuntu 12.04LTS) and the problem is consistent. With several thousand products in our stores (more than 5,000 in one), and a multi-tier structure of image directories, it is not realistic to go hunting for the main image. It was clearly shown before in v4 when creating/editing a product, so why isn't it now in v5?

    If there is a single show-stopper than will prevent us from upgrading to v5, it's this, as it will effectively render our shop unmaintainable.

SEO Friendly?

  • v4 offers the ability to set product meta-data (URL, title, meta-description, meta-keywords) per product when either creating or editing a product, but this didn't work by default in v5 (and checking the generated source confirmed this). This is yet another example of something that didn't upgrade properly! In v4 we have been using "Apache Directory Lookback" method but this doesn't exist in v5 (only "Apache RewriteRule"). Will all our hard work on SEO really be lost if we upgrade? NOTE: I appear to have got this working after a lot of fiddling around, albeit not the same way as it was before (Rewrite rather than Lookback), but it's very disappointing (and suggests a very immature migration process) that it doesn't work by default.

  • Following on from the above, why have the SEO data-entry fields been reordered to the new v5 sequence? The v4 ordering of URL-title-description-keywords made far more sense that the new v5 ordering of title-URL-keywords-description. The title and description are closely linked (and are the two critical things that appear in search results). They used to appear together for editing, so why do they now have the URL and (irrelevant to modern seacr algorithms) keywords separating them in the editor and no longer appear in the same sequence as they do in the generated source? On the face of it, this is a really silly design change and again has me asking: Why??? For what benefit???

Design, Development & Testing Quality

My perception is that while some little thought has been given to design (and I don't mean the new admin tabs in which I see no benefit so far), very little effort has been expended on ensuring quality of development (where has the "Apache Directory Lookback" option gone?), and even less on testing (numerous settings lost in upgrade, missing product images in editor etc.)

What to do now?

As there is a clear statement that support for CubeCart v4 End of Life is road-mapped our options appear to comprise:

  1. Upgrade all stores we manage to CubeCart v5; or
  2. Migrate to a different shopping cart CMS.

Where we are already using it we'd like to stick with CubeCart, but are frustrated by some of the new design changes and absolutely cannot do it without product images being properly displayed in the product editor. Does anybody have this working in their v5 installations?

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Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts. I have responded to the main areas and I am happy to discus any concerns you have and put development steps in place to address such issues.

Skins

We do get quite mixed reactions about the skins. We hired a very renowned designer to come up with them who has a strong portfolio for well known household names like BMW, Nikon, Blackberry, Mini etc.. Maybe we should get some more added to suit other tastes and go over the existing ones with a fine toothed comb.

Admin Perspective

The main image is highlighted with a star. Clicking the image name will show a preview in a modal window. It should also be possible to view the master image from the list view by clicking the image icon. Open to suggestions to improve this.

SEO

CubeCart v5 has all the same SEO features as v5 but with improved flexibility in the SEO paths. You can have literally any value where as in v4 it was crucial the path had either cat_(n), prod_(n) or info_(n) in the paths which could not be customised. In essence CubeCart wrote them for you and you have no choice in the content. Keywords, description etc can still be set on a per product, category or document level.

Apache Lookback was removed as it was rarely used and poor in results compared to Apache mod_rewrite which is FAR superior. It is very rare web hosting companies do not support mod_rewrite. We no longer recommend Windows hosting for compatibility issues over SEO tools and most hosting companies who do not have apache compatible web servers in our experience can provide it on request (e.g. http://www.names.co.uk/).

Upgrade Issues

Older stores have had latin_swedish-ci encoding of the database but v5 uses UTF-8. We have encountered issues where the old encoding has become "double encoded" in the database and converting this during upgrade has proven to fail. We have spent huge amounts of hours trying to find a solution to this but have not been able to do so yet. This means that some older v4 store with certain characters in the config database table can have upgrade problem. Unfortunately the only solution to this is to submit the software license key again after upgrade and manually set the stores settings. We are continually working on this.

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Al, Thanks for your response. Addressing the issues in reverse order of priority:

Upgrade Issues

I'm reasonably satisfied that the primary database content (products, customers, orders etc.) survives the upgrade without damage, and that is clearly the most important thing. Some users have reported issues around the periphery of the upgrade process, and we have seen some ourselves in testing, but I feel comfortable that there is nothing we won't be able to fix within a reasonable timeframe of encountering the problem. I think an official and maintained knowledgebase of such issues may help some users of CubeCart, if you have the resources to do it, but I believe we have the capability to upgrade successfully without. So this issue won't stop us.

SEO

For legacy reasons we had been using Apache Lookback, because Apache Rewrite didn't function correctly when we first installed our first copy of CubeCart V4, and I'm a great believer in making my life simple by avoiding inconsistency across sites where possible. However, some recent hosting upgrades have seen Apache Rewrite working happily, so I have no problem with using it going forwards. For the record though we have had great success with our rankings whilst using Apache Lookback, and for many keywords hold the top two places in Google results.

I'll investigate the potential effect of turning off cat_(n)/prod_(n)/info_(n) going forwards, my primary concern being the affect on existing links (both internal and external) if it affects pre-existing pages too.

You don't say why you decided to re-order the SEO data-entry fields in v5 from the v4 ordering of URL-title-description-keywords to the new v5 ordering of title-URL-keywords-description. The old order made far more sense. Is there any possibility of changing it back, please? This isn't a show-stopper, but it is an inconvenience as it will affect our existing data entry processes.

Skins

I'm less concerned about the aesthetics (sorry to disappoint your very renowned designer) than I am about the marketing aspect. Even if we accept that some of the new skins look better than Carretta/Carretta-Bright, there's no getting away from the fact that the redesign results in 25% less products for sale being displayed in the all-important above the fold area in my test screens when viewing a category. And the primary purpose of a CubeCart store is to sell things, for which they need to be seen at a glance. To reduce the risk of any possible negative impact on sales resulting from an upgrade to CubeCart v5, is it possible to introduce a variant of the now-default Kurouto (perhaps call it Kurouto-Condensed or similar) that uses less pixel-height per product than Kurouto, thus enabling as many products to appear above the fold as was the case with Carretta/Carretta-Bright? Or just reinstate the look of Carretta/Carretta-Bright?

Again, this isn't a show-stopper for us. It is however significant enough that if we do upgrade to v5 I will be carefully monitoring any effect on conversions, and prepared to engage a programmer to develop us condensed skin as above if we see any negative impact. Obviously though it would make more sense for you to do this centrally, so that all customers can benefit.

Product Admin

I appreciate what you say about "the main image is highlighted with a star" and, having just tested, I accept that when I click an image it does indeed appear in a form of modal window. However, with literally thousands of products in a store, and even more images (some products have several) supporting them, the problem will be trying to find which image has a star next to it. It will become like looking for a needle in a haystack!

The shop I'm testing on at present only has a few hundred products, with images organised across a dozen or so directories, and it's inconvenient to go hunting in each of them looking for a gold star. Our chances of persuading a client with 5,000 products on the site, and 50+ images in each of 50-100 directories to go hunting for that star, is nil. The real-world effect then is that it is not possible to see which image is associated with a product from within the admin console "at a glance" in v5, in the same way it is when editing a product in v4 where the image is clearly and constantly displayed *as an image* while editing.

There is a substantial amount of screen real-estate to the right of the listbox on the Product Images tab in CubeCart v5. Is it possible to programatically determine which image has the gold star, and then display it (say 300x300) to the right of the listbox? This would then replicate the very useful functionality in the CubeCart v4 product editor, where the assigned primary image is visible *as an image* throughout the entire product-editing exercise.

This is our show-stopper. Due to the number of products/images in two stores that we manage, not having this (existing v4 feature) available and working in v5, will leave us with options of either: coding it ourselves in our test store and then applying the changes to our v5 production stores after upgrading (and a code maintenance problem thereafter); or simply not upgrading to v5. I can't believe others wouldn't benefit from this functionality though, so is there any possibility of using the spare screen real-estate to provide it, please?

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There is a substantial amount of screen real-estate to the right of the listbox on the Product Images tab in CubeCart v5. Is it possible to programatically determine which image has the gold star, and then display it (say 300x300) to the right of the listbox? This would then replicate the very useful functionality in the CubeCart v4 product editor, where the assigned primary image is visible *as an image* throughout the entire product-editing exercise.

I would love to see the starred image show on the listing page!

Since it doesn't, I've added a bit to the listing code to help myself. With one click I can see the front page listing from every tab of the Product Listing pages.

Add to line142 Admin/skins/default/template/products.index.php

<br/>      			 

Catalog Listing for <a href="{$STORE_URL}/index.php?search[keywords]={$PRODUCT.product_code}&_a=category" target="_blank">{$PRODUCT.product_code}</a>

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Dirty Butter, Thanks for sharing the code snippet. We've added it to our test site but, whilst useful, it doesn't do quite what we want. I think we're both agreed that displaying the product image, as happened in v4, is the correct thing to do and should happen in v5 too.

The other problem I'm having is that, having now noticed the lack of cat_(n)/prod_(n)/info_(n) on URLs (something it had never occured to me would change), I've tried to turn it back on but can't! Seriously, I cannot see how to get our v5 test shop to use the exact same URLs it was before we upgraded it to v5 (maybe this was something to do with previously using Apache Lookback that's now gone?). This leaves me very worried about the effect on both internal links, and inbound deep links from external websites. It's taken a long time to build those good-quality deep links, and I'm not prepared to throw them away just for a software upgrade! (I could go through an exercise of generating 301 redirects for them all of course, but as the product ids are no longer displayed in the product inventory list...).

So that's now two likely show-stoppers for us.

Al, are you able to advise at all, please? I cannot believe I am the only person who needs to be concerned about these issues.

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I would love to upgrade but with no easy and robust way to do this I have to stick to V4.4.6 .

Upgrading in V4 was always painfull and not simple to do , It seems an upgrade path is the last thing given consideration and I think from a commercial point of view this should have been the first.

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The other problem I'm having is that, having now noticed the lack of cat_(n)/prod_(n)/info_(n) on URLs (something it had never occured to me would change), I've tried to turn it back on but can't! Seriously, I cannot see how to get our v5 test shop to use the exact same URLs it was before we upgraded it to v5 (maybe this was something to do with previously using Apache Lookback that's now gone?). This leaves me very worried about the effect on both internal links, and inbound deep links from external websites. It's taken a long time to build those good-quality deep links, and I'm not prepared to throw them away just for a software upgrade! (I could go through an exercise of generating 301 redirects for them all of course, but as the product ids are no longer displayed in the product inventory list...).

I believe that recent releases of CubeCart V5 contain rewrite rules that map old (V4) URLs to their new ones. If you open up your .htaccess file, you should see that it contains the following:

  ######## START v4 SEO URL BACKWARD COMPATIBILITY ########

  RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} (.*)$

  RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f

  RewriteRule cat_([0-9]+)(.[a-z]{3,4})?(.*)$ index.php?_a=category&cat_id=$1&%1 [NC]

  RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} (.*)$

  RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f

  RewriteRule prod_([0-9]+)(.[a-z]{3,4})?$  index.php?_a=product&product_id=$1&%1 [NC]

  RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} (.*)$

  RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f

  RewriteRule info_([0-9]+)(.[a-z]{3,4})?$  index.php?_a=document&doc_id=$1&%1 [NC]

  RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} (.*)$

  RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f

  RewriteRule tell_([0-9]+)(.[a-z]{3,4})?$  index.php?_a=product&product_id=$1&%1 [NC]

  RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} (.*)$

  RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f

  RewriteRule _saleItems(.[a-z]+)?(?.*)?$  index.php?_a=saleitems&%1 [NC,L]

  ######## END v4 SEO URL BACKWARD COMPATIBILITY ########

I looked into displaying the primary product image in the image tab. I do agree that this should be added. Unfortunately, the $PRODUCT array does not contain the image path. The GUI class does provide a getProductImage method, but the $GLOBALS variable is not available to the templates and is required in order to call this method. The best way forwards is to open a bug ticket if you have not already done so. This is a simple addition and should only take a few minutes for the developers to implement.

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Thanks for listening, Al, this change for images is excellent response to customer feedback & suggestions and much appreciated :rolleyes:

We'll now:

  • restore our v4 test store
  • carefully note a range of deep links
  • wait for 5.1.2 to be released
  • request another trial licence key
  • upgrade test store to 5.1.2
  • test access to deep links
  • enjoy the visible product image

Assuming that all goes well, I propose to investigate alternative v5 skins with less vertical white-space (i.e. more products on display above the fold, as with v4) and give serious consideration to an upgrade of a production website to 5.1.2.

One thing though: have you considered re-ordering the fields used for entering meta-data to be in the same sequence as they were in v4? As I said in my opening post to this thread:

...why have the SEO data-entry fields been reordered to the new v5 sequence? The v4 ordering of URL-title-description-keywords made far more sense than the new v5 ordering of title-URL-keywords-description. The title and description are closely linked (and are the two critical things that appear in search results). They used to appear together for editing, so why do they now have the URL and (largely irrelevant to modern search algorithms) keywords separating them in the editor and no longer appear in the same sequence as they do in the generated source?

Or should I open a bug-tracker for this?

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Guest Viola

Just my 2 cents on the stock skins.... nice as they are, do you really want your Cubecart store to look almost exactly like every other Cubecart store? If you know HTML/CSS, making a custom skin is really not that difficult. And while I'm not a marketing expert, words like "brand identity" come to mind.

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