Shoplink-QB beta notes



1   Overview
2   Creating a store
3   Shoplink-QB setup
4   Issues with Shopify

1. Overview.

MKP Software develops and distributes E-commerce software. The focus is on applications that integrate Point of Sale and Shopping Cart systems with accounting systems of various types.

As of mid-2012, the software included Shoplink-QB, which connected Shopify (an Online Store host) to QuickBooks (an accounting system). This was a Windows application but the company understood the significance of the Linux and Mac markets and was working on beta versions that targeted those areas.

I was asked to do a smoke-test of the setup procedure for the Linux beta version. So I created a Shopify store, unpacked the Shoplink-QB software, and did a few steps to configure things.

I noticed some minor layout glitches related to the fact that the software was at the beta stage; for example, truncated labels. However, the test as a whole was successful.

This document discusses the procedure I used for possible future reference.

Note: If you're interested and notice inaccuracies, drop me a line.

2. Creating a store.

2.1. The first step was to register at Shopify. I set up a “30-day free trial” account. This worked but I ran into a few glitches. They're discussed in part 4 below.

2.2. The next step was to create a Shopify store. Details for this step are beyond the scope of this document. However, here's what the store looked like when I was done.

Note: This is a cropped screenshot. To get the full-size screenshot, click here.


My first Shopify store

3. Shoplink-QB setup.

At the time that this exercise was done, Shoplink-QB was a Windows application. The point of the exercise was to test basic functionality under Linux.

So, after I created a Shopify store, the next step was to install the Linux beta version of the program.

3.1. For this step, I used Ubuntu 11.10. More precisely, I booted a copy of Ubuntu 11.10 inside VirtualBox OSE, which I ran in my own distro. Ubuntu was selected because the software to be tested had been built for Ubuntu and compatible distros.

3.2. The head of MKP Software provided me with two tarballs named ShoplinkQb.tar.gz and Docs.tar.gz. I unpacked the former and found a directory named ShoplinkQb. I went into that directory and found a program file with the same name, ShoplinkQb.

3.3. I made the program file executable as follows:

chmod 755 ShoplinkQb

3.4. I ran the program as follows:

./ShoplinkQb  &

This brought up the following window:


Shoplink-QB main screen

This is a scaled screenshot. For the full-size version, click here.

3.5. The Run Setup Wizard checkbox was checked initially. I unchecked the box and went to the Setup tab. This gave me a screen similar to the following:


Shoplink-QB setup screen

This is a scaled screenshot. For the full-size version, click here.

3.6. I entered an output-file name in the box. In my case, I used the name: sales.iif

3.7. I went to the Store tab. This gave me a screen similar to the following:


Shoplink-QB store screen

This is a scaled screenshot. For the full-size version, click here.

3.8. I typed my one-word Shopify store ID in the box that said Shoplink Domain.

Note: For Shoplink-QB purposes, a Shopify store ID is the first word in a Shopify domain name. For example, if the domain name is then the store ID is: buzzards

3.9. I went to the Home tab. This gave me the initial screen shown previously. I pressed the Export button. This gave me a dialog box that said I wasn't registered.

3.10. I closed the dialog box and a Shopify login panel appeared. It asked for an email address and a password. I entered the email address and the password that I'd used to register at Shopify. Then I pressed the Sign In button.

image 3.11. The following screen appeared. This screen was familiar because it was produced by a PHP script I'd written for MKP Software myself.


Install confirmation screen

3.12. I pressed the click here link on the screen. This took me to another screen which indicated that setup was successful:


Install completed screen

3.13. At this point, the program was ready to use. To verify that it was working, I went to the Home tab again and pressed the Export button again. This produced the following screen:


Sample export messages

The results shown here were as expected. Note: This is a scaled screenshot. For the full-size version, click here.

4. Issues with Shopify.

4.1. I noticed a few issues with Shopify that may be worth mentioning. I'll list some technical points first. Note that these issues may have been corrected since my initial visit to the site (June 2012):

  1. While I was on the Shopify home page, CPU load went up occasionally to relatively high levels. This may have been related to JavaScript animations on the page, but I didn't verify this.

  2. Some of the text on the home page was too small to be read easily.

  3. The layout on the home page was too wide to be viewed easily in some browsers unless they were maximized.

  4. When I tried to register, I noticed another issue. The associated fields (email address, etc.) contained labels inside the fields as opposed to above or below them. The labels remained there as I typed, making it difficult to see what I was typing.

    This happened because I'd disabled JavaScript as a workaround for the CPU load issue discussed above. My suggestion would be to move the labels outside the fields.

  5. When I added a store to my Shopify account, the system rejected a form at one point because I'd left a required field blank. It displayed an error message indicating that I needed to fill in the field. But there was no way to clear the error message. In the end, I needed to reload the page; this meant that some time was wasted.

4.2. I encountered a more significant issue with Shopify that wasn't technical in nature: the possible plans weren't explained well. Even after I experimented with the site for a few hours and discussed it with somebody else who had a store there, I still wasn't sure I was clear about things.

To explain, Shopify had three different types of accounts: “30-day free trial” accounts, normal accounts, and “partner” accounts. The nature and scope of these accounts and the differences between them needed more documentation.

For example, experiments suggested that only the store owner could see a “30-day free trial” store and that even the store owner wasn't able to test the order system for an account of this type. If the facts of the matter (what was supposed to work or not work) were clearly explained somewhere on the signup screens, I didn't see the explanation.

To clarify the order-system issue, Shopify provided a dummy (fake) payment mechanism that, in theory, could be used to do tests. However, in practice, when I tried to use the system, I was directed to a screen that indicated I needed to convert the “30-day free trial” account into one of the paid plans that Shopify offered.

“Partner” accounts were also confusing. These were apparently free (depending on what was done with them), more powerful than “30-day free trial” accounts, and not time-limited. They sounded pretty good. But if these accounts existed, the point of the “30-day free trial” accounts and the normal accounts wasn't clear.

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