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  • Zen Cart Mobile Choices

    There is no one mobile solution for Zen Cart even though responsive templates are the biggest rage right now. But I keep being asked what can be done and thus this post so that I don't have to write this over and over.

    The choices are still quite clear:

    • Responsive templates
    • Adaptive templates
    • Dual Templates

    Responsive templates 

    Now that Zen Cart 1.5.5 has been released, there is now a built-in responsive template so if your desire is for fast and free, have at it. I don't like the template looks or how it's done at all but at least the choice is there and it is integrated properly with zen cart. If you have a previous version then you of course would have to upgrade and change templates – which isn't usually free or easy. 

    I have written about responsive templates before and I am adamant that this may not be the best solution for your shopping cart. The main reason really is because of the mantra Mobile First. This just means responsive is normally design for mobile first and then slap something up for desktops. Since your customers may not even be worrying about mobile yet, that would be a poor approach to take for many cart owners.

    I just recently developed a responsive version of my base template (http://deliatest.com/readytogo). My approach was desktop first. It still satisfies google and gives cell phone users something easier to look at. It does not address tablets on purpose as the site will still be relatively viewable on most tablets simply due to width. Though I offer the template as a package, I usually do all the install and configuration, plus advise you on the best logo and/or deliver a color version to match your present logo. Just contact me if you are interested.

    I can also probably convert your present template to responsive, preserving the present look. Again, it will pass the Google Mobile Test.

    Since the only way to really do a responsive template is to just hide parts of the website, I still say this is a poor way to approach mobile design – but that's responsive for you.

    And, I have to really caution you about what is available for sale now.

    Both templatemonster and themeforest have attractive looking templates but I have yet to run across one that actually is truthful about versions. Many say they are for 1.5.x – and as those versions are different, then they are never correct for your version of zen cart. I haven't seen one yet for 1.5.4 (that does not mean one doesn't exist). Recently I ran into a popular one on themeforest that claimed it was 1.5.3. They lie. The files are still 1.5.1.

    Rarely are they actually full integrations. All have slideshows which frequently are not full integrations, dumping tons of code in the page source. The ones that allow you to change theme colors in admin – well, I discovered the way they do that is to once again dump tons of code into the page source. This is simply poor practice – the more page code the search engines have to wade through, the worse your site SEO gets. 

    Oh, yeah, some don't even pass Google Mobile Friendly test. 

    Dual Templates 

    There have been companies who have figured out some code to allow for template switching in Zen Cart. This has never really caught on and I don't know what's still available.

    Adaptive Templates 

    I still offer this kind of template. I still believe this is best solution. Using an adaptive template requires no changes to the Zen Cart core and can provide a great experience for the mobile buyer. You can retain your entire website and simply add this on. In order to get Google's Mobile Friendly designation, you have to automatically send your visitors to that version.

    I will not be offering a version for 1.5.5 unless someone requires it of me (footing the bill). This means it will probably die a natural death at some point. It's really well done but developing an adaptive or upgrading requires more time of the developer than can ever be recouped in sales. A loss leader. The 1.5.4 cart, however, will be around a long time * (years!) as a viable version. The demos for this are located here at http://mzencart.com.  And you can buy the adaptive mobile template here.

    All three pass muster with Google. Who really doesn't care about your users' experience. They only want your site to pass their testing devices. Turns out that wasn't hard to do, by the way. 

    Author: Delia Wilson Lunsford, Founder & CEO, WizTech, Inc.