Feedback on Option Combinations and Product Variations

I guess I just don’t get the implementation.

First off let me say we only used option combinations for inventory tracking of items of different color or size. Worked great for us.

Why does a variant need to be tied to a feature. It seems variants and features should be handle completely separately.

Once, you convert a feature type from product filter to variant, product features for filters that had the same name can no longer be imported to that feature anymore. It creates a new feature with the same name. If you are like us and use import files with thousands of products in them you’ll have to create a new feature even though you used to have one shared. For instance color is a big one. We do not simply sell T-Shirts. Color is used a for a variety of different types of products many of which are not variants. Some things only come in black or white etc. and do not need a variant but it is proper to have a filter set up for them.

Having features and variants in the same products/features area of admin also is messy if you ask me. Why not have a separate section for them.

Importing features for a product is also super simple. Nice inline style separated by “///”. Super simple and easy to configure in an import file.

Importing variants which are supposed to be similar to features are not so easy to import. I followed the instructions and I could not get it to work. The format also leaves a lot to be desired.

I upgraded to v4.15.1 and really didn’t recognize we were even using option combinations. Went through the store upgrade process and found out I had an issue that I could not control. The upgrade process wanted to make the changes to variations for me and quite frankly I do not like automations that I know nothing about so I had to abort upgrade and eliminate our options combinations that were only used for inventory. At this time, I was already committed to upgrading. I had paid for several of our addons to get made compatible with V4.15.1 Now I am trying to go back and create the variations that I need for inventory purposes and just don’t feel it is as straight forward as it should be.

Yep, I am a newbie on variations but not CSC and perhaps just getting on a soapbox here. Just not happy about how this is implemented. Also, not sure I could do it better. I am not a developer. I am an end-user and have been rolling through with CSC for a very long time. Frustrated, by many useful features getting stripped away over the years and now this. Gone: Dynamic filling of categories, suppliers, can’t take phone orders etc etc etc Just take it all away.

I’ll get through it and no response is needed. Thought CSC should have my user voice.

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I’ll still reply, if only to thank you for your feedback, confirm that we’ve heard you, and that we’re sorry for the difficulty of this process. Moving from combinations (based on options) to variations (based on features) is indeed one of the biggest one-time hurdles when you upgrade from older CS-Cart versions. Especially for those who were just fine with product options. So much so that we had to create a rather complex mechanism for that.

I think CS-Cart made that move required in version 4.10.1 (released 3.5 years ago, in May 2019). As someone who was around back then and was involved, I feet like I have to reply, and maybe offer some suggestions and insights that might help with newer versions. Because there were many changes associated with variations. Some of them might help with the problems you’re facing.

Besides, I just would’ve felt bad leaving a detailed and well-written feedback post unanswered. We can’t reply to every post at the forum, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t want to.

I can shed some light on that. There were two iterations of variations:

  • Variations 1.0 (still based on options)that’s the topic we’re in — got released in version 4.6.1 in June 2017. They existed alongside option combinations and brought:

    • Ability to set prices, quantity discounts, and taxes independently for each variation.
    • Multiple images for a product variation (as opposed to one for option combination).
    • Ability to import products and their variations in a single file.

    Those things were requested by the community very often until 2017. This forum still has plenty of long topics from those times.

  • Variations 2.0 (based on features)these are the variations we’re actually talking about — got released in May 2019. We gathered feedback on Variations 1.0 and added the things requested by the community:

    • Product filtering by variations (that was the most requested thing, and required the move to features).
    • Showing some variations in the catalog, as separate products.
    • Easier import of variations.

I tried to describe the reasons and benefits of that move in the topic about Variations 2.0. Technically, it was the best way to implement filtering, and logically it made sense (with features being inherent properties of the product, and therefore affecting quantity).

There are a couple of possible workarounds and related improvements here:

  • Starting with version 4.12.1, product features can have 2 names:

    • Internal name for the admin panel and import purposes.
    • External name that appears to customers and can be the same for different features.

    Ideally, different features with the same external name should be assigned to different product categories.

  • You can use “features for variations” like “Color” in other products as well, even if the color choice is not needed for a product. They’ll appear on the product page as ordinary features, until you either create variations, or group this product with others through variation group code.

Are you referring to this instruction? How To: Import Product Variations — CS-Cart 4.15.x documentation. Ever since we moved to features, we’ve allowed importing feature variants in separate columns.

Not all of these features are fully gone:

  • I can’t speak about dynamic filling of categories, may’ve been something before my time or gone without a big public discussion or a lot of messages to us in Help Desk. Otherwise, I would’ve probably remembered that.

  • “Phone orders” (or rather, entering credit card data by phone) got hidden rather than removed. With a way to bring it back for those who need it.

  • “Suppliers” got marked as deprecated, but likewise won’t be removed until we’re absolutely certain that we can offer something that does the job better. Deprecation is also a signal for third-party developers not to rely on the functionality too much, because it might get revamped.

Generally, we try to let people keep using the functionality if they want, or provide alternatives. There’re plenty of ways to do that:

  • Some things can be brought back with a quick and easy code change (entering customer’s credit card data in admin panel).
  • Other things just get marked as deprecated, but remain in the product for everyone (“Suppliers” are still included in every new installation, and will be for the foreseeable future).
  • When there’s more certainty, we keep the deprecated functionality only for those who upgraded from the old version (like the old checkout).

For example, we added new “Product reviews”, but kept the old “Comments and reviews” to handle the things that “Product reviews” didn’t have.

Option combinations and product variations coexisted for at least 2 years as we gathered feedback and improved variations. Only then did we phase out the option combinations. Unfortunately, it is something we have to do, because we can’t afford to maintain 2 pieces of functionality that do the same thing, and it makes CS-Cart as a platform more difficult to learn.


I understand that this answer might not be ideal. But I hope it provides at least some transparency as to how and why we make certain decisions. And if it can help you make the best use of the new variations and other changes in our recent updates, then it was worth writing at least.

P.S. I’ve also moved your feedback from a very old topic to a separate one.

Ikoshin,
Thanks for taking the time to respond.

Dynamic categories were primarily used for subcategory navigation. I know there are addons for filters that do this similarly but when it was stripped away and no options were there as a replacement. I have tried the addons for filter category navigation and they are not as expansive. I also believe SEO is better on actual category pages than on filtered pages. We do use filtering quite heavily in conjunction though so we have all the bases covered. I paid a developer to bring back dynamic categories.

Here is an example of dynamic categories.

Yes, we got it back. Fortunately, someone else did not like the change before we got to it and a solution was already provided by CSC. Still, don’t feel like we were warned about it and I had to poke around to find out there was a solution. Phone orders in the US is extremely common.

Yes, these are the instructions I used without success on two tries. I need to spend more time on it. My products have features that can be converted to variants so it isn’t a huge issue. Was primarily looking to see if we could import inventory quantities to the variants.

I did a jump from V4.11.5 to V4.15.1 all at the same time. I had been avoiding because of the changes (variations). Didn’t like what I was seeing. Don’t really like it now either. I don’t think it fits well into our products. I’ll use it though and get better with it because I need to for inventory. If not, then I will break out our variant products into standalone products and completely avoid variants.

I’d like to show you what we have done with options. We have done some fairly extension development on options. Not sure how this could be done with variations. I feel it would be a pain staking process. You’ll see in the example some of the options would be considered a variation but others are not. Some of the items in the example are inventoried items and we just have to manually adjust inventory of those items listed separately. You’ll see we are able to provide a lot of detailed info with our options as well.

Suppliers is a giant issue in comparison to variations!!! We use it in several ways. Some of the items we sell are inventoried by us and shipped by us but some of the items are also drop shipped. When a customer orders a drop ship item and a stock item they are shown both shipping costs. We also sell very small items and long extrusions. The cost of shipping is drastically different and suppliers allows us to set ourselves up as more than one supplier shipping from the same location. We tried the methods of boxes and items in boxes etc. It just doesn’t work well for us.

Lastly, I have seen similar statements about many CSC changes thoughout the years but you aren’t polling. You are getting comments from avid users of the forum most of which are developers that can work around the changes somewhat easily. The developers spend much more time on the forums than the general user like myself. I only use the forum when I have problems or when I am trying to find a workaround that someone might else have experience with. Anyhow, truly polling (inviting all your customers) will give you a better look into what users want. Maybe it has been done in the past and I don’t remember it but I certainly have not been polled in a long time if it did happen.

Thanks again for your time.
Ken