The World's Shortest FAQ

Just one question!

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Here it is, folks, your most frequently asked question:

"I want Miva Merchant to do ___(fill in the blank)___. Should I hire someone to do custom work, buy a module off the shelf, or modify Miva Merchant myself?"

The answer depends on how complex your need is, and your own level of computer skill & knowledge.

Hiring a developer

This is often the best way to get what you need. The price of custom work is likely to be higher than buying a module off the shelf, but not excessive: a custom module may cost a few hundred dollars, or less in some cases. The result will do exactly what you want: the screen layouts will provide what you (and your customers) want to see, and the menus and buttons will be tailored to help you do what you want with the minimum amount of typing and clicking.

Buying software modules "off the shelf"

This is often an attractive option. There are hundreds of modules available, some for as little as ten to twenty dollars. However, there are a number of problems with this approach.
  • The module may not do exactly what you want, forcing you to accept some sort of compromise or work-around.
  • Conversely, the module may have a lot of extra features that you don't need, making it more difficult to set up and use.
  • If you want your store customized extensively, you may end up with a large number of modules from different companies. There may be interactions and side-effects from one module that cause problems for others. Also, each new module adds some overhead in terms of processing time and disk usage. At some point, it makes more sense to get a single module, or a small suite of modules that are designed to work together, from a single source.
  • The more advanced modules may be tricky to install and use. This may make more work for you than if you had a module that was designed for your exact needs. You may end up paying extra to have the installation done by a pro.
  • Many off-the-shelf modules require you to also install OpenUI, a sort of helper module that provides other modules with "hooks" to perform their custom functions. OpenUI is not expensive (about $40), but the installation is a little tricky. Keep this in mind when figuring out the costs of an off-the-shelf solution.

Editing the source code of Miva Merchant

The last alternative is to edit the Merchant software yourself to get the desired results. This is often tempting, especially if you already have some familiarity with HTML and scripting languages. After all, if the only thing you want changed is one little line of text on a Web page, it seems silly to spend money for professional help. Why not just search through the files till you find the text, and change it on the spot?

There are several reasons why not. Miva Merchant is a very complex program, and "minor" changes sometimes have unexpected side-effects or complexities. Changing one line of text might not be too difficult, but it's easy to get in over your head. For example, it might turn out that that one line of text is generated by some Miva Script code that is used on several different pages, and you only want to change the text on one page. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that, if you have changed your source files, and you upgrade to a new version of Merchant, or move your site to another host, all your changes may be lost; you'll have to re-do them. I hope you kept notes on everything you changed ... There are a few sites out there that are still running very old versions of Miva Merchant, because they've done so much customizing, the idea of re-doing it all on another set of source files is daunting.


If you want some enhancements for your Miva Merchant store, I recommend the following steps:
  1. Start by checking to see if there is an  off-the-shelf module available, or a combination of several modules, that can do exactly what you want. Study the documentation, and/or contact the companies, to clarify any uncertainties.
  2. Look at the off-the-shelf options, and figure out how much it will cost to purchase and install the needed module(s), including OpenUI if necessary.
  3. If the cost of the off-the-shelf solution is more than a trivial amount, or if you have some doubts about whether the module(s) will do exactly what you want, or if the solution involves several modules that may have problems working together, it's time for some comparison shopping. Contact a developer or two for quotes on custom work.
  4. Once you have a quote for custom work, you can compare it to the off-the-shelf option. Even if the custom solution is more expensive, it may turn out to be the better choice, because it can keep your system "clean" and uncluttered.  Also, it can be tailored to do exactly what you want, with just the right page layout, buttons, etc. to make using your Web site a pleasant experience.
  5. Modifying Miva Merchant yourself is an option only for users with some programming and Web-design experience, and who want relatively minor changes.

    I hope this information is helpful. If you have more questions, feel free to

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