Anyone toying with the idea to sell something online, must learn about topics such as payment gateways, shipping interfaces, the integration of the shopping extension into an existing website and of course, need to get familiar with the existing laws concerning e-commerce in the country/countries targeted.
Online shops are in many cases operated separately from the existing website which is often driven by a content management systems (CMS).
The large open-source systems (Joomla, Drupal, Wordpress) offer enhancements that allow you to integrate the online shop in the CMS (website). The integration has the advantage that other existing CMS extensions can be used, for example, the management of news.
In this article I would like to introduce VirtueMart, the e-commerce extension for the CMS Joomla.
E-commerce with VirtueMart
When it comes to the integration of e-commerce in Joomla, VirtueMart is the most common extension (http://virtuemart.net/). The extension exists since many years and was originally a separate project (PHP shop), which was adapted from the German developer Sören Biermann to the Joomla predecessor system, Mambo. Over the years, VirtueMart was developed more closely to the Mambo / Joomla system. Today it is well integrated into Joomla and it uses in many places the Joomla Platform.
Worldwide, there is a big fandom, that operates their online businesses with Virtuemart.
Opinions are divided on VirtueMart. Some believe it is simple and useful, for others it's an inoperable monster.
After the release of Joomla 2.5 the Virtuemart team has released version VirtueMart 2, which is a completely new development. Users of the old version 1.x (which is based on Joomla 1.5) are forced to update, because the status of Joomla 1.5 is "End of Life (EOL)" since fall 2012.
So the question is not whether you're upgrading to VirtueMart 2, but when you're upgrading.
Interview with project lead Max Milbers
How many online stores worldwide use VirtueMart ?
There are different numbers depending on whether you check Vertical Pigeon ( verticalpigeon.com ), Alexa (alexa.com) or BuildWith (builtwith.com). But about 250,000 users (shops) have emerged. Of these, around 70,000 already with VirtueMart 2.
What are the reasons why so many people use VirtueMart?
VirtueMart is free. We mean not only that it is available for free download , but also the design patterns we use are known and quickly readable for experienced programmers . It contains no restrictions, such as maximum number of products or a limited category depth. Another very important reason for our users is the VirtueMart community, which provides countless free code snippets . A large number of free e xtensions make s VirtueMart 2 one of the most flexible shop solutions in general. Because of the modular architecture VirtueMart 2 is very slim and requires only few resources , no large server is needed and therefore VirtueMart suitable for almost everyone.
What are the main differences between VirtueMart version 1.x and 2.x ?
The main difference for most Web developers will be the revised templating. VirtueMart 2 uses completely the template system of Joomla . Many adaptations can be made directly with the template override system of Joomla . Due to the extended plugin system , which is also based completely on Joomla plugins , the core can be adjusted easily without "hacking" it .
For each shop owner perhaps the biggest change is the rule-based price modification system that provide s abstract rules to calculate taxes , discounts, rebates and suchlike . Also for different types of product variants , a new system was developed, which is more flexible and appropriate plugins leave nothing to be desired ( yard goods, p roduct configurator , ... ) .
Is there an upgrade path from Joomla 1.5 / VirtueMart 1 to Joomla 2.5/ VirtueMart 2 for a standard VirtueMart 1 store ?
There are different ways, that depends a bit on the other components used. VirtueMart 2 runs on Joomla 1.5 ( new features are not tested anymore) and on Joomla 2.5. My preferred way is to update Joomla 1.5 to Joomla 2.5, then rename the com_virtuemart folder and install VirtueMart 2 easy on top of the VirtueMart 1 installation . Than you can run the native migrator. No files are deleted and if required, the old state can be restored relative quickly. We provide a detailed tutorial .
Are there any countries where VirtueMart is used most often ?
To our knowledge, these are the USA with 25 % of users, Russia, and some Asian countries. They often have their own communities. The German-speaking countries are catching up .
A big issue in in e-commerce is "legal compliance". In which countries you can run a VirtueMart shop "legally"?
VirtueMart "out of the box" is probably nowhere "legal" but everywhere with a few adjustments. It also depends on which lawyers you have to advise one ;)
What are the biggest challenges in developing an e-commerce extension ?
Most VirtueMart users use only 20% of the package and often know only 30% of the options and of course everyone else uses other 20% than the rest. So often you have to develop and share a common vision between different, but very similar user ideas.
We want to present in the next few articles VirtueMart and explain its operation. What topics do you think are the most important ones ?
The calculation rules, the self-generated fields, the template overwrite system, the language system. The most important thing in the end, the basics. Which session do I need in Joomla ? Can I use the cache? etc.
How many developers are currently working on the VirtueMart project ?
Very difficult to say. Officially, we have two main developers (Valérie Isaksen and me) and about five people that regularly send patches and implement a whole feature. There are also about 30 developers who were only working on a particular feature and now they left the project. In addition, we have been received and integrated improvements and fixes from about 100 forum users. Additional to that, about 100 translators and more than 60 companies, or freelancers provide free and commercial extensions. It can be said that around 200 people have been inolved. If you want to count the users who helped each other i n the forums , than we are talking a bout 10,000 contributers.
So to answer the question conclusively , let's say five people are working constantly on the project .
Are there VirtueMart events?
Currently not. We are taking part and support the national Joomla Days. A larger event centered on VirtueMart is planned.
There was a seminar in Madrid for Web developers to obtain a certificate. This was a great success, we are planning at least two more of such seminars for 2013.
How can you help the VirtueMart team ?
A very big help to us is to participate in the forum and help other users to discuss errors and maybe directly provide a fix.
Are there other comparable Joomla , Drupal, WordPress extensions used at similar rates ?
According to the official figures, no. However, I'm very busy with VirtueMart, so there is no time to investigate such things seriously.
How do you see the future of VirtueMart ?
Currently I am very optimistic. Since version 2.0.14 the code has hardly serious bugs , since version 2.0.18a the code has become more robust and faster. I already have seen a VirtueMart 2 market place with 820,000 products, which runs on a normal VServer with acceptable speed.
In two weeks (March 18 ) we continue with the topic : Installation of VirtueMart and configuration of base settings .