For the next months I am teaching a seminar about e-commerce at Master in International Commerce at Universidade de Vigo. It’s a short course of 12 hours in total. The idea is to introduce students in different free tools to setup their own on-line shops. Before preparing the material I checked a couple of solutions. Initially we thought of some sort of on-line tool such as Shopify. Actually Shopify seemed like a good solution, there are lots of real business served on Shopify, it’s gaining momentum, and it’s developed in RoR In addition, although it’s not a completely open-source solution, they’ve published several open-source components in GitHub. I think that’s a good way of combining a service oriented tool and free software, not my preferred choice, but much better than kept everything closed. Unfortunately, Shopify requires registration providing a VISA number, even for a free 30 day trial. We felt we couldn’t request that to our students, so Shopify was discarded (Shopify crew if you are reading these lines, think about this missed opportunity to teach Shopify at business schools, and hope you can fix it in the future :)).
So, in favor of Shopify we went for Prestashop and to be honest I have to confess I’m quite happy with Prestashop. It’s a very easy to use tool and yet very powerful, really straight-forward. The documentation is good and the user guide is easy to follow. There’s plenty of modules to extend it although I missed more open-source modules. There’s not much professional documentation yet either, could only find one book: “Prestashop 1.3, Beginner’s Guide“, which I bought it. It’s a good book, if you want to get in Prestashop from the user perspective, I’d go for it. I’m going to teach Prestashop 1.3.X. Prestashop 1.4 looks really exciting, no wonder Prestashop has grown dramatically in the last two years, and no wonder either the Prestashop crew has also moved to a bigger office.
So far I have been playing with Prestashop and tried almost every essential option. I’m writing my own notes which I’ll use to teach Prestashop, still a draft but looks useful for other people too. I’ll put them on-line when I finish them, unfortunately they’re in Spanish.
Before going for Prestashop I also considered other free software solutions such as osCommerce and Magento. Until the new version of osCommerce is released, the most widely adopted ecommerce solution worldwide looks sort of abandon. Most people agrees that the current active version is a heavier tool than more modern solutions like Prestashop and Magento. Magento looks good too, but my impression is that is much complex than Prestashop.
Apart from all this world of on-line shopping tools, I’m going to take some time to teach some concepts about web usability. I’m not an expert on the subject, but as a web developer I’m concerned with good design. Following the advice of Jeff Atwood, I recently acquired a copy of “Don’t make me think” (for my Kindle :P) and read it through from beginning to end. It’s a really worth reading, and a very easy read in fact, concepts and ideas are easy to grasp. The first lesson of this seminar is going to be a small presentation about the book plus a usability test as exercise. Students must take a real on-line shop and do an usability test on it commenting which things they found hard to use, and how will they fix them, based on the concepts exposed on the book.
Today I had the first class and things went smooth. Hope I can teach something useful students can later apply in their real life