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Miva, Shopping Carts in General

Anyone got a heads up


brotherhood of LAN

2:01 pm on Nov 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator brotherhood_of_lan is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I'm new to the whole shopping cart/ e-commerce arena..I've been scanning over older WW threads and reading info here and there about the various carts out there on offer.

One of the more known carts out there seems to be "Miva", a certain well-known host around these parts offers the cart as part of an e-commerce solution.

I was wondering if any of you have had experience with Miva, I vaguely remember someone mentioning their name on here many moons ago.

It seems to be well established in the market, and from looking at various .pdf's on their site, their is a lot of customisation that can be done too.

What is the final word though, good for beginners? Nice starter package to learn from?

I'd usually get my hands dirty and download code and play around with it, but since a cart would be dealing with other peoples money, I figure I'll not tinker ;)

All those threads in this forum look much more relevant to me now ;), I hope this Q doesnt overlap some of the other ones going on.


2:41 pm on Nov 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

My server, the dreaded Westhost, just added free MIVA to all its packages. I tried setting it up just to see how it worked, and it asked me if I wanted to send a confirmatory email to customers. I said yes, and it shunted me off to the MIVA website and started trying to sign me up for a $20 a month email-sending service!

I've been told this is just a sucker option and there are other ways to do it, but no one has explained how. As far as I'm concerned, this rules out MIVA for me.

Oh it also turned out that the MIVA they offered on the cheaper accounts didn't work with Westhosts SSL so you really had to upgrade to a $20 a month acct unless you wanted to be restricted to Paypal.

There are a lot of free/cheap shopping carts that do all the basics and are a lot simpler to configure than MIVA. A lot of hosts offer one or two of them for free (check first to be sure that they know if they really work of not before wasting your time - the free one my host offered turned out not to). They make a lot more sense for a startup/low bucks operation to me.


2:45 pm on Nov 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

best to get an understanding of e-commerce sites before getting stuck into any particular application.

every e-commerce site has 3 main components:

1) catalogue - this is where the products are displayed with "BUY NOW" buttons or links. the catalogue can be static HTML or dynamically created using server side scripts (ASP / PHP etc) to pull data from a database and display it as HTML.

there are infinite ways to build an online catalogue, but the choice will depend on your needs. sometimes it will suit you to write a couple of static HTML pages, other times you'll need a full blown bespoke database solution, and other times you'll find it best to purchase an off-the-shelf catalogue system.

2) shopping cart - this is the bit that "remembers" the products selected by the customer, totals the amount they have to pay etc. when the customer clicks the "BUY NOW" button on your catalogue pages, the product information and price is sent to the shopping cart.

shopping carts can be standalone scripts that can be added to your existing site, or they can be combined with a catalogue (MIVA / Actinic / OsCommerce etc are combined systems). you could also use remote shopping carts such as Mals-E and others - these are "standalone" carts hosted elsewhere that can be hooked up to payment providers or can use SSL pages to accept card numbers.

3) payment processing - data is sent from the shopping cart to the payment pages where the customer will enter their card number and make their payment. following payment, the retailer normally receives an email saying the purchase has been made.

the easiest way to process payments is normally with a payment processing company (worldpay, 2checkout etc). if you have a bank merchant account, you can take card numbers via SSL (https) web pages and process payments manually through your bank merchant account.

once you understand the basic components of an e-commerce system, you can pick and choose what particular scripts / software / solutions suit you best.

the easiest way to learn? try setting up a few demo sites to mimic real life e-commerce sites with different products etc. that way you learn what each product can do and what it cannot do. nothing wrong with trying Miva. it may suit your needs, but then again, it may not. the same applies to most solutions - it's all trial and error.

remember that if you find a site that uses a particular catalogue or cart, that particular catalogue or cart may not be the most suitable system for that type of site. would you do things differently? is there anything about the site that makes it good or bad for the customer? is the ordering process too long winded? just keep looking and you'll learn :)


2:47 pm on Nov 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

The host of webmasterworld, westhost.com, has an excellent deal on Miva going right now.


4:21 pm on Nov 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I was playin with Miva a bit just a couple weeks ago. It's pretty cool but to configure the look an feel can be a real pain. I came across www.designextend.com (no affiliation) - they have a whack of custom modules and stuff you can plug into Miva - some very cool stuff. Also they will do you setup and config for you for a resonable rate.


5:13 pm on Nov 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Miva is a transition right now from open source to the new compiled version.
The only way to play with the code in the compiled version is to pay for a complete developers kit, way pricy if your only doing a few stores.
The code is very simple to learn in the older versions and I have done alot of work with it.
My personal site is still running version 3 and the newest version is 4.14.
Personaly I found it very easy to learn and set up for non techy clients with a little training.


5:21 pm on Nov 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Probably the biggest problem right now is spiderability. Google tends to skip all the individual product pages. I have created static pages to compensate. I do predict Google will take care of this problem eventually.

brotherhood of LAN

7:12 pm on Nov 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator brotherhood_of_lan is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I was meaning to ask about spiderability. I'm guessing that the average shopping cart developer priority list won't mention SEO friendly URL's?

Looks like MIVA doesnt have too many fans here at the moment anyway, he re was me thinking it was a household name around these parts ;)

Ideally I'd use as much of my own PHP/mysql as possible....the catalogue and cart seem *fairly easy to set up.

If I were to design it myself, would it be a matter of catalogue+cart+a little SSL to talk to the transaction server....and that's about it?

I know some carts are very complicated and have all the bells and whistles you could ever want, but is it fairly easy to set up your own? I can picture a few mysql tables holding 99% of the necessaries and then forwarding the transaction deeds to those who can do it securely.


7:25 pm on Nov 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator jatar_k is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Miva is actually pretty good stuff. The url's used to be a nightmare but in one of the recent versions they added the ability to generate static html pages.

Seems to work fairly well, I have used it a few times and found it really easy to use. Some seo compatriots of mine use it quite a bit and love it.


7:51 pm on Nov 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Agree with jatar

I may have over stated the problem. Static pages are not too difficult to create and solve the problem in an acceptable manner.


9:35 pm on Nov 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I've personally had a horrible experience with Miva.
We setup a store with a big host that has a lot of Miva sites running under them.
The store would run fine for a day or so and then it would crash. Miva processes would start hanging on the server taking our whole store down.
We contacted the host and then we contacted Miva. At first, they were blaming a module we installed, eventually we got the store running with no modules, completely stock setup. It was still crashing.
I ended up going through the whole store setup 5 times. Each time having the store crash in a day or so.
The last straw came when the Miva store would crash in the setup.
Miva kept saying they're looking into it and they never got back to us.
We basically wasted about 2 months trying to work out the Miva problem to no solution.
I ended up writing my own shopping cart in php/mysql.

Of course, this is just my experience, I've seen tons of stores that use it with no problems.
I'm just not happy with their support and handling of the situation in general. They kept trying to blame third party modules we installed until they had nothing else to push their blame off on and then they just sat on the problem.

Last point, be careful if you do install 3rd party modules, Miva has a strict policy of not supporting anything with modules installed.
It's almost like buying a car and having the mfr touting it's compatibility with all these different rims, but if you install any rims, you void all warrenty on the car. Doesn't matter if the engine dies the next day..

Sorry if it's a long winded post, I wasted alot of time with Miva and I'm still not happy about it..


7:41 pm on Nov 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


I've used Miva on a couple of sites with good results and I've purchased one or two other modules. One very necessary one was to conduct a "mass-revision" to the catalog. If an entire product line needs to have descriptions changed or prices updated then instead of doing it item by item through the standard Miva interface the add-on really helped.

Not trying to hijack your thread or anything but the comments on spiderability bring up a question that maybe someone here can answer for me:

After I submitted a site to Google, that has a Miva based catalog on it, the search results on Google linked to a page within the catalog/shopping system. The only page that had any metatags and embedded keywords and that was subbitted was the home-page, yet the search results linked into the catalog even when the search term was included on the home-page.

Can this be explained?

Thank you in advance.


7:52 pm on Nov 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Sorry to hear you had so many problems, but it boils down to the knowledge of the host.
There are several different ways to set up Miva Merchant on a server. Some will work 100% of the time and some are a waste of time.
There are so many different ways to configure the thing I would recomend NOT using Miva Merchant on any host that dosent know their way around the program. Most hosts that supply it as part of a package have little or no knowledge how the whole system works.
I have installed 100's of modules and built several myself with no problems. My personal site has been running Merchant for 4 years, since version 1, and never had a crash or data coruption.


9:57 pm on Nov 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I agree with what you're saying about needing a good host.
The host we used has been around, are reputable, have setup Miva before and have other stores running Miva.
The problem we had was I believe a bug in Miva.
When the host couldn't figure it out, they submitted trouble tickets to Miva support.
Miva went in, looked at the installation and said everything was setup correctly, but we were still having problems.
Miva's general tech support couldn't figure it out and it got escalated to a Miva Engineer from what I was told on the phone from Miva.
They kept saying they would get back to us and they never did. I had to make the calls to bug them about it.
We finally gave up on it and they never called us back.

I'm happy to hear that you've never had any problems with Miva. I used to recommend them highly because of everything I had heard about them from other people and from my experience using Miva Stores. I can't say that anymore though after the way Miva Support handled our problems.


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