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Review of the on-line shopping course

April 16th, 2011 No comments
So finally the on-line shopping course has ended. It was an interesting experience, I had a very good time with the students and I think they have learned some valuable content which I hope it’ll be useful for them in the future.

The first lectures were about web usability. I took “Don’t make me think” as reference, and watching several presentations on the subject at slideshare, plus providing my own conclusions after reading the book, I managed to did my own presentation, nothing special though. Among the presentations I saw I recommend these two: 10 things CEOs need to know abotu design, What I’ve learned in the 21st century.

After the presentation on UX, I did an usability test taking www.portosdegalicia.es as an example (download the test). Most of the things examined refer to the “the trunk test”, explained by Steve Krug in the book. Later the students picked several real on-line shops at Shopify and use them for an usability test.

On the second lecture, we tried to apply most of the knowdlege about UX  and built a very simple on-line shop (just 5 main options) using Wix. The students liked it a lot, I was also impressed by the many things you can do with this tool, and since you get immediate results of what you’re doing working with Wix is very engaging. With some more experience, it can be a very useful tool not only for designing your own website, but also for rapid sketching, or to communicate with a designer what are the things you want. After that, the students devoted some time in class to design and pimp up their own shops.

The last lecture was about Prestashop. Prestashop is a wide topic, and I got only 3 lessons of 1.5 hours for it. Definitively not enough. I learned the tool before and wrote down my own guide, covering the options and aspects which I consider basic. Due to the lack of time, I rushed a bit the last day, but unfortunately I didn’t manage to cover all. I’m impressed by Prestashop, it’s growing at a fast pace (it’s deployed now in more than 50.000 on-line shops), and the next upcoming version, 1.4, is going to be a big improvement. During the couse, I also discovered BigCommerce which reminded very much to Prestashop. Unfortunately I couldn’t show it to the students.

So that’s all. Here’s the Prestashop Guide (in Spanish), hope it can serve as a good introduction for others.

Categories: ecommerce Tags:

Teaching e-commerce and web usability

February 3rd, 2011 No comments

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 :)

Categories: ecommerce, web Tags: