Life happens

I haven’t written a post in over two years but to be fair, life happens. So cliche I know… So what’s happened?

I started a new job

I started working at Buddy Media in 2011 which has since been acquired by Salesforce on August of 2012. It’s been really exciting and challenging learning about new technologies and how to scale application and infrastructure. I really feel it’s important to challenge yourself everyday. That’s how we grow as individuals and improve our skill-sets. So do yourself a favor, try not to remain stagnant in anything you do. If you aren’t being challenged, it’s time for something to change.

I bought a house

Home ownership is very exciting. It’s probably one of the biggest investments you can make in life. My only regret is not doing it sooner. My daughters are in better schools, we have a better life, we are building equity and we aren’t contributing to paying off someone else’s mortgage. Often, we are reluctant to make such a big commitment. After-all, it is 30 years. There’s also fear of not being able to afford all of the expenses that come with home ownership.

In my case, this was so far from the truth. I realized that I was spending money on foolish things and could cut-back on some expenses. When my wife and I decided to buy instead of renting, we took some time to go over our finances and see what our expenditures were to determine what we could afford (this is important to do at least once a year). We realized things that we could sacrifice for the sake of home ownership. We did it, and couldn’t be happier!

I unplugged

I went off the grid for several months. I didn’t use any social networks and stayed off-line. Spending quality time with those that are important to you is necessary.

One Of The Best Arguments Ever!

An atheist professor of philosophy speaks to his class on the problem science has with God, The Almighty. He asks one of his new students to stand and…..

Prof: So you believe in God?

Student: Absolutely, sir.

Prof: Is God good?

Student: Sure.

Prof: Is God all-powerful?

Student: Yes…

Prof: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to God to heal him. Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But God didn’t. How is this God good then? Hmm?
(Student is silent.)

Prof: You can’t answer, can you? Let’s start again, young fella. Is God good?

Student: Yes.

Prof: Is Satan good?

Student: No.

Prof: Where does Satan come from?

Student: From…. God…

Prof: That’s right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world?

Student: Yes.

Prof: Evil is everywhere, isn’t it? And God did make everything. Correct?

Student: Yes.

Prof: So who created evil?
(Student does not answer.)

Prof: Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don’t they?

Student: Yes, sir.

Prof: So, who created them?
(Student has no answer.)

Prof: Science says you have 5 senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Tell me, son…Have you ever seen God?

Student: No, sir.

Prof: Tell us if you have ever heard your God?

Student: No, sir.

Prof: Have you ever felt your God, tasted your God, smelt your God? Have you ever had any sensory perception of God for that matter?

Student: No, sir. I’m afraid I haven’t.

Prof: Yet you still believe in Him?

Student: Yes.

Prof: According to empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your GOD doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?

Student: Nothing. I only have my faith.

Prof: Yes. Faith. And that is the problem science has.

Student: Professor, is there such a thing as heat?

Prof: Yes.

Student: And is there such a thing as cold?

Prof: Yes.

Student: No sir. There isn’t.
(The lecture the after becomes very quiet with this turn of events.)

Student: Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, mega heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat.. But we don’t have anything called cold. We can hit 458 degrees below zero which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it .
(There is pin-drop silence in the lecture theater.)

Student: What about darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?

Prof: Yes. What is night if there isn’t darkness?

Student: You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light… But if you have no light constantly, you have nothing and it’s called darkness, isn’t it? In reality, darkness isn’t. If it were you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?

Prof: So what is the point you are making, young man?

Student: Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.

Prof: Flawed? Can you explain how?

Student: Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can’t even explain a thought.. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one.To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life: just the absence of it.
Now tell me, Professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?

Prof: If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes, of course, I do.

Student: Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?
(The Professor shakes his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument is going.)

Student: Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you not a scientist but a preacher? (The class is in uproar.)

Student: Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor’s brain?
(The class breaks out into laughter.)

Student: Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor’s brain, felt it, touched or smelt it? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain,sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir?
(The room is silent. The professor stares at the student, his face unfathomable.)

Prof: I guess you’ll have to take them on faith, son.

Student: That is it sir… The link between man & god is FAITH. That is all that keeps things moving & alive.

I believe you have enjoyed the conversation…and if so…you’ll probably want your friends/colleagues to enjoy the same…won’t you? This is a true story, and the student was none other than…

APJ Abdul Kalam, the former President of India

No one wants to die

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

-Steve Jobs

Why do some startups fail?

There are many variables that are instrumental to the failure of a startup. Having a failed startup myself, I studied and analyzed my thoughts and actions during this period to see what I did wrong; and what I could have done to improve the process of beginning and maintaining my startup. I wish I would have been more knowledgeable or had a mentor to coach me through some of the surprises and feelings I encountered but, sometimes the process of learning is a lonely and difficult one, and one that you’ll never forget. So, I would like to share some of the insights that I’ve gathered from my journey and hopefully, you won’t make the same mistakes I made.

My first mistake

I was 22 years old and not thinking large in terms of starting a full scale business.my-first-mistake I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but lacked the knowledge of starting, running or even owning a business. One thing was certain though, I wanted to be a free man. We all want that freedom; freedom of money to buy what we want, freedom of time to go to the gym, spend more time with our families, kids, friends, travel, etc. Although all achievable, freedom doesn’t come easy; it’s something that you have to work hard to attain.

While I was working in a residential building I came up with an idea that was so simple and useful that I was surprised nobody had thought of it before. This also made me think twice about the success of my idea. Like most inceptions of startups, scarcity and necessity are the catalysts of invention. Regardless of this fear I had, I decided to go with my gut instinct and move forward with building a beta version.

My idea was to build an application that would aid in the automation of the day to day tasks of building staff. I quickly saw the need for this type of an application and how it would make the staff work more efficiently, while providing better service to the residents. I was in school taking programming courses and saw this as the perfect opportunity to perfect and hone my skills in programming and venture into the startup world.

I finished writing this software, a touch screen based access control system, pitched it and successfully sold it for under 20k. This was a huge achievement for me in life and my dream of being an entrepreneur. I was so sure of myself and proud of my creation that I made the biggest mistake in my life. I got comfortable with paying myself meager wages and never grew the business or continued to market my product. Not before long, other companies sprouted up providing software based on this idea.

What I learned from my experience

You should always run your business in startup mode. What I mean by this, is that you should never stop improving or evolving the ideas or features of your product or service. Your business is like a child; It constantly needs nurturing and direction. Just like a parent’s job never ends, you should never get comfortable just because your business is doing well, or not. Avoid being stagnant at all costs.

Fear

fearFear is one of the biggest initial drivers of startup failure. As much as we all want to be successful in life, success-fullness and fear are synonymous. Early entrepreneurs are fearful of their idea and all the hard work and hours spent on building their startup; all with the possibility of failure. I have to admit it’s frightening! Before my co-founder and I launched Nice Emails, it seemed like it took us forever to launch and it did. We wanted everything to be perfect and wanted to keep adding features to make certain that we had a product our customers would love. This form of fear, is what kept us from launching so long.

Your idea or product isn’t viable

It’s not what we like to hear of course, but sometimes our ideas don’t flourish into something successful. Take it as a learning experience and before you invest your time or money, question some friends or even strangers about your idea. A fair amount of market research should also be performed before you invest resources into your idea. A lot of people have this notion that if they share their idea or put it out in the open, that someone will steal it. That’s very unlikely and should not stop you from doing market research. You can lose much more pouring time and resources into a product that won’t amount to anything.

There are several things you can do before you release your full-scale product to get a feel for how your audience will take to your idea:

  • Create a Coming Soon Page – Before we launched Nice Emails, we created a coming soon page with a sign-up box. This helped us inform people when we launched, letting us know if we had a product that was viable and if people were even going to be interested in our product.
  • Release a closed Beta Version – Provide special invitations to industry blogs, people, PR/News outlets and anyone influential that can help you get the word out. If they enjoy your product, they’ll be sure to let you and everyone know about it.
  • Don’t be afraid to do things manually at first. Not everything needs to be automated in the beginning. Think big, but start small.

Focusing on too many features

focusing-on-too-many-featuresAs I mentioned earlier, focusing on too many features caused the delay of launching Nice Emails. This Feature Creep can destroy your product or idea from having any chances of survival. As an entrepreneur or developer, you want your product to be the best in the market right? So we load it with every imaginable feature for the customer to fall in love with. This philosophy is incorrect. People like features but, features that are useful and usable. Nobody likes features that are bloated and make it more difficult or complicated to use your product.

Focusing on the quality and usability of a feature rather than the quantity of features is the ultimate goal. This will benefit you in many ways such as:

  1. You’ll get to launch your product quicker
  2. You’ll get feedback from customers regarding features that they would love to see and actually use in your product.

Getting feedback from customers doesn’t have to be difficult either. There are several free products on the market that can aid you in getting constructive feedback from your customers. I’ve listed some of them here:

Poor customer support

poor-customer-supportSupport is paramount in having a good rapport and continuing a relationship with your customers. A lot of people dismiss this after the sell. This is what keeps your customers coming back for more. Here are some things you could be doing to improve the lines of communication with your customers.

  • Always make it easy to reach you.
  • Get back to your customers in less than 24 hours.
  • Setup an auto-responder when someone contacts you stating that you received their email and it will be answered shortly.
  • Offer a live chat if you can afford it.

Having a twitter account can also be very beneficial to providing good customer support for your business. It can be utilized as a tool for informing and even customer service.

A couple of months ago, I was having some frustrations with the hosting company SITE5. I tweeted about my frustration (http://twitter.com/#!/rcastera/status/15487334980001793) and got an immediate response from the president (@BenAtSite5) of the company! I was more than surprised and very intrigued. He made sure that all of my concerns were taken care of promptly. This kind of service is what will make me remain a loyal customer.

Presentation and communication

Your home page is the most important page on your site. It needs to effectively communicate what you’re offering and provide call-to-actions to engage your visitors. The copy on the page should be short and digestible. Use images, big headlines and clean fonts to get your point across. Your product page is the next important page. You visitor wants to easily discern information regarding your product or service. The headlines, fonts, colors and layout are all influential on their decision making.

Split testing can be a great tool in determining what colors, button & image placements produce the best results. Here are some that I’ve used or recommend:

Visibility of social networking activity is another important factor in showing that your active and involved in your product. In today’s market people look for social networking sites to see if you foster a following behind your product and if people are speaking positively about them. Make sure it’s easy to find your company’s product or service on your website.

Poor pricing model

Finding the perfect pricing strategy is difficult. This is something that you’ll want to think of carefully before you launch and not change to often after you launch. You’ll have to do a fair amount of research on based on your competitors and the market in general.

I always find it difficult to price my products or services. I usually try to keep it really simple and charge for my time and how useful I actually think it is. There are tons of methods and even software to help you determine the “right price”. At the end of the day, you have to make sure that your making enough to cover the cost of startup, time invested and profit.

Not enough marketing

Now that you’ve spent all of your time working on your fantastic product, don’t neglect to have a solid marketing plan in place. I should take some of my advice on this one because we have yet to market our new startup. Here are some things that you should look into:

Not capable of handling fast growth

There is nothing worse then experiencing failure because you miscalculated stock, traffic or some other issue. But you have to look on the bright side; the fact that your product or service is experiencing this, is actually a good sign. It means your product is viable 🙂 nevertheless, you have to be prepared for growth. Make sure you choose a hosting provider that can scale your account if need be, try to anticipate stock quotas and be prepared to move quickly if something should arise.

Not taking care of yourself

not-taking-care-of-yourselfIt’s something that early entrepreneurs can neglect. Your health is something that can take a toll while building your startup. Taking care of yourself is taking care of your business. Make time for yourself to train, eat properly and sleep. This allows you to be more creative. Working constantly has a negative effect on productivity.

Conclusion

Most startups do not become successful overnight. It takes a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears to end up with a successful end-product so, don’t be discouraged if you don’t start making money overnight like we all hope for our ideas. If you remember anything from what you’ve read today, a startup is like a baby; It has to be nurtured and taken special care of. Good luck!

Magento extensions and modern e-commerce

For an online retailer, choosing an e-commerce software platform is one of the most important decisions. Depending on the size of the business, the key requirements could vary from robustness and scalability critical for large retailers to the need for simplicity and flexibility for small store owners. Perhaps it is the ability to effortlessly meet the diverse needs of disparate audiences that has made Magento one of the fastest growing e-commerce applications globally. Already, the Magento e-commerce suite has carried out over US$25 billion in transactions via the 30,000+ merchants who rely on this platform, including some from the Internet Retailer Top 500 list. No wonder then that the platform continues to receive international acclaim, most recently from well known research organization Forrester Research which highlighted Magento as ‘unique’ among various e-commerce technology providers.

One of the key contributors to Magento’s rising popularity as the platform of choice is its ‘flexibility’ and the control that it puts in the hands of the online merchant. Unlike some of the other ‘closed’ or even open source e-commerce platforms, Magento does not place restrictions on business flows and processes. With over 1700 Magento extensions already available (and counting..), technology complements the business rather than business being shaped by the limits posed by technology.

Possibilities galore with Magento extensions

As the e-commerce and online marketing landscape evolves at frenetic pace, resulting in newer business models and novel marketing opportunities, online store owners need their technology to be as dynamic or risk being left behind. This is where the continuously expanding range of Magento extensions becomes invaluable.

Developers continue to enrich the application with powerful add-ons to fulfill even the not-so-obvious requirements of store owners. Presenting irrefutable proof of the value of the open source paradigm in e-commerce, these extensions help automate and optimize different business processes.

Characteristics of truly valuable Magento extensions

While new add-ons for the different Magento modules become available very regularly, some fundamental and seemingly obvious characteristics differentiate the really valuable extensions from the just OK ones. If you are looking for extensions for your business, run this simple 4-factor test.

  • Usefulness: An extension has to either help contribute to greater sales (revenues), build long-term customer engagement or improve operational efficiencies and effectiveness. Does the extension offer the features and functionality that will help you address your unique business needs or problems?
  • Cost-effectiveness: Is the price you pay for the add-on worth the value you expect to generate from using the extension?
  • Customizability: Can you customize your extension easily both in terms of front-end design as well as functionality to suit your specific needs?
  • User-friendliness: Is the extension easy to configure and use so that a store owner can focus on the business side of things? It should ultimately help save time, not add more work.

Epitomizing the above characteristics is the portfolio of extensions from aheadWorks, one of the largest Magento extensions development companies. The company’s range of free and paid-for add-ons, covers every aspect of the e-commerce process – back-end store administration, user experience, marketing and other operational aspects of the business.

Below, we briefly touch upon some of the most well-received Magento add-ons developed by the company:

Help Desk Ultimate: Deliver unmatched customer support

What do you do to score over your competition when they offer equally good products? Simple: you offer unmatched Customer Support. And that is best done using an extension like ‘Help Desk Ultimate’. Developed after incorporating key lessons learned about online shopper behavior, this extension is a proven customer care and support solution for Magento-based e-commerce sites.

Help Desk Ultimate helps store owners manage workflow better by assigning work quickly through unlimited departments; ensures speedy resolution of customer issues using two-way email parsing; keeps track of the issue’s entire thread and close tickets automatically. The user-friendly interface helps customers log issues and the customer support team to process them with ease and speed.

Help Desk Ultimate is certainly a must-have for store owners who recognize the competitive advantages of superior customer support systems.

Z-Blocks: Excellent content presentation

Static content blocks on the pages of an e-commerce site can help deliver important messages to customers at various stages of the purchase. The ‘Z-Blocks’ Magento extension is loaded with features to maximize the utility of static blocks on the store; and it now comes with a graphic interface too.

A sampling of the features:

  • Predefined positions on each page
  • Flexible block positioning by altering CMS page layout
  • Blocks can be scheduled to appear on certain days/dates
  • Easy enabling/disabling of blocks and items within blocks

Follow Up Email: More power to e-mail marketing

‘Follow up Email’ Magento extension helps store owners to effectively communicate with their customers. The advanced features offered by Follow Up Email extension not only allow them to automatically respond to any customers’ action, but also to always keep customers on their radar. In short, one never loses sight of the customer even if they have abandoned their carts.

Key features of the extension include the ability to:

  • View all information about items before the shopper abandoned the cart
  • Track and send notifications to users with abandoned carts
  • Restore their carts with just one click on the link sent in the email
  • Track customers who placed orders by clicking on the emailed link
  • Get a detailed analysis of selling activity – helps improve sales
  • Access a mail log from the admin area with the ability to preview and manually send/delete emails

Advanced Reports: Intelligent analytics

Successful businesses have a sound information/ intelligence system based on which key decisions are made. Contributing to this need amongst Magento-based online merchants is the Advanced Reports extension that allows businesses to obtain significantly more sales information than before. Advanced Reports is a valuable tool to understand store users and formulate the right merchandising strategy.

Some of the reports that this extension will help generate are:

  • Bestsellers Report: information on products frequently bought over a period of time
  • User Activity Report: gives data on new accounts, number of reviews and number of orders
  • Products by Customer: shows how many products have been bought at a time by the majority/minority of customers

Reports can be segmented by country, by days of the week, by month and by several other criteria.

On Sale: Special product promotions

The ‘On Sale’ extension is designed to capitalize on the inherent human tendency to be lured by items that are marked on ‘sale’. This add-on allows Magento store owners to add visually attractive labels to any product image, which can be displayed in both the individual product view as well as the catalog view.

On Sale comes loaded with several customization options. For example, store administrators can choose from the software’s pre-packaged labels or upload their own and then add text using predefined variables. It is a great tool for driving customers to make a purchase right away.

AJAX Cart Pro: Create more usable sites

It’s been proven time and again- a good user experience will boost conversions and customer retention. The ‘AJAX Cart Pro’ Magento extension takes a website’s usability a few notches higher by removing the annoying page reloads that often take place when users click “add to cart” and “delete from cart” options. Instead of reloading, items are added instantly with appealing animation effects. This cuts down on customer frustrations and makes shopping at the site quick and smooth.

Refer a Friend: Benefit from ‘viral’

Independent research reports show that online shoppers trust referrals or recommendations from friends than customer reviews posted on a website. The ‘Refer a Friend’ viral marketing Magento module helps store owners make the most of this reality.

Not only does the extension help stimulate store visitors to invite their friends to the store, but it also helps them referral reward programs too. It’s a must-have module in this era of incentive marketing, when customers want to earn discounts, while at the same time ensuring they and their friends get a product that is completely reliable.

aheadWorks Magento extensions are bound to make a difference to any e-commerce business operating on a Magento platform. The popularity of these extensions among e-commerce site owners demonstrates the value addition of these extensions to businesses and the quick return on investment that they offer.

Magento – The best Magento Extensions

Here are some of the best Magento extensions that I’ve come across.

  • Magento Live ChatThis free module will provide LiveChat support in Magento.
  • Fontis WYSIWYG EditorThis extension gives you the option to enable a JavaScript WYSIWYG editor to specified admin pages. Currently available editors are: TinyMCE and FCKeditor.
  • Lazzymonks TwitterDisplays Twitter updates in the menu and allows updates from within the admin panel.
  • Events CalendarWith this extension, you can display an events calendar on your website. Events are stored in the database. You can also display the upcoming list of events quickly by calling a block in your template.
  • BlogFull featured blog extension for Magento.
  • RaffleThis module gives you basic functionality to run your own raffles.
  • Customer Groups Configurable CatalogThis extension enables you to hide categories and products from customers depending on the customer group.
  • Exploded MenuReplaces the standard single column drop down with a multi-column dropdown featuring 2nd and 3rd level menu items.
  • Velite Magento SuperstageFunctionality, intuitive interaction and product presentation with really high detailed images are the main features.
  • Magento EasyLightboxThis small extension will help to install Lightbox widget. Installation and configuration will take approximately 5 minutes. No files are replaced and no codding experience needed to install!
  • Magento Exploded MenuReplaces the standard Magento menu with a multi-column drop down menu system.

Drupal – The Best and my Favorite Modules

I’ve worked with Drupal in the past for several projects and have come across some modules that have become my favorites. Here they are:

  • Tiny MCEThis module was the first to integrate Moxiecode’s popular TinyMCE WYSIWYG editor into a Drupal site for editing advance site content.
  • Simple NewsSimplenews publishes and sends newsletters to lists of subscribers. Both anonymous and authenticated users can opt-in to different mailing lists. HTML email can be send by adding Mime Mail module.
  • ViewsThe Views module provides a flexible method for Drupal site designers to control how lists and tables of content (nodes in Views 1, almost anything in Views 2) are presented. Traditionally, Drupal has hard-coded most of this, particularly in how taxonomy and tracker lists are formatted.
  • PanelsThe Panels module allows a site administrator to create customized layouts for multiple uses. At its core it is a drag and drop content manager that lets you visually design a layout and place content within that layout.
  • Content Construction Kit (CCK)The Content Construction Kit allows you to add custom fields to nodes using a web browser.
  • Path AutoThe Pathauto module automatically generates path aliases for various kinds of content (nodes, categories, users) without requiring the user to manually specify the path alias. This allows you to get aliases like /category/my-node-title.html instead of /node/123.
  • Five StarThe Five Star voting module adds a clean, attractive voting widget to nodes in Drupal
  • Poor Mans CronA module which runs the Drupal cron operations without needing the cron application.
  • Node WordsThis module allows you to set some meta tags for each node, view or panels page.
  • Global RedirectChecks the current URL for an alias and does a 301 redirect to it if it is not being used.
  • Page TitleThis module gives you granular control over the page title. You can specify patterns for how the title should be structured and, on content creation pages, specify the page title separately to the content’s title.
  • XML SitemapThe XML sitemap module creates a sitemap that conforms to the sitemaps.org specification. The sitemap created by the module can be automatically submitted to Ask, Google, Bing (formerly Windows Live Search), and Yahoo! search engines.
  • PrintThis module allows you to generate page, email and PDFprinter-friendly versions of any node.
  • Username CheckThis very simple module allows visitors to check username originality quickly using AJAX request during registration (completing registration form).
  • Node HierarchyNode Hierarchy allows nodes to be children of other nodes creating a tree-like hierarchy of content.
  • Custom BreadcrumbsAllows administrators to set up parametrized breadcrumb trails for any node type.
  • Nice MenusNice Menus enables drop-down/right/left expandable menus.

Magento Beginners Guide – A great book for any Magento Store Owner

Recently I obtained a copy of Magento Beginner’s Guide by William Rice from Packt Publishing. This book is great, I would recommend it to any new or existing Magento store owner. It servers as an excellent reference guide for experienced users and a great beginners guide for new store owners.

Magento is the world’s most evolved e-commerce solution and runs on the Apache/MySQL/PHP platform. From one installation, users can control multiple storefronts, all sharing customer and product information. Magento’s templates and themes enable users to customize the look and feel of their store, even optimizing it for mobile phones. Extensions enable them to connect Magento to a large number of payment gateways and shipping services.

Who this book is written for:
This book is for anyone who wants to create an online store using Magento. If you are a non-technical person and are discouraged by the complexity of this powerful e-commerce application, this book is ideal for you.

What you will learn from this book:

  • Install and configure Magento and add products to your online catalog
  • Create categories and attributes to build your catalog of products
  • Enhance your products with descriptions, images, and inventory information
  • Create product categories to help your customers navigate your online store
  • Automatically apply sales tax rules to different shipping addresses and different types of products
  • Present and sell products in groups and sets
  • Display products related to the one that is being viewed by a customer
  • Offer your customer choices for a product’s size, color, or other attribute and give discounts based on quantities
  • Accept payments using Paypal, credit cards, and checks/money orders and offer a variety of shipping options
  • Create your own, customized shipping rates and connect to shippers such as UPS, FedEx, and USPS

Thanks to Jude at Packt Publishing for inviting me to write this review.

I also cannot underestimate these useful resources:

Apple iPhone Apps for Designers & Developers

I purchased an iPhone about 2 months ago and I must say I love it. The only gripe I would say I have with this beautiful machine would be the Multi-media messages or lack thereof. This is something that Apple and AT&T really need to address. For a phone with all of this great technology to lack a feature that most basic phones come standard with is horrible. Anyway, (I needed to vent) here are a list of some really cool Apps that I’ve come across and use:

  • FTP On The Go – Allows you to Download, Edit, and Upload web pages or any other text files on your FTP servers.
  • List of Cheat Sheets – Cheatsheets for Regular Expressions, MySQL, World of Warcraft, CSS, jQuery, JavaScript, Google, PHP and HTML
  • OmniFocus – OmniFocus Keeps track of actions by project, place, person, or date. Bring up a shopping list, agenda items to discuss at work, tasks for home, and any other lists you need.
  • WordPress – The official WordPress iPhone app, for writing drafts and publishing on-the-go.
  • Ego – A delicious looking app for tracking Google Analytics, Twitter followers, RSS subscribers and Google Analytics.
  • Air Sharing – Mount your iPhone or iPod touch as a wireless drive on any computer, drag-and-drop files, and view them on your device.
  • TwitterFon – is a simple, clean, easy to use, and is a superfast Twitter client for your iPhone and iPod Touch.

List some of your favorites… 🙂