In a previous Miva Merchant blog post, we discussed the basic principles behind the category spreadsheet for a Miva Merchant store upload. As I stated then, the spreadsheet upload is a powerful feature but rarely done properly on first attempt. My goal in this post is to give a quick overview of each field on a typical product spreadsheet and point out the common mistakes web developers and store owners make when creating their spreadsheets. (This process was covered briefly by a guest speaker at our recent Miva Merchant Conference; DVDs of the conference will be available soon). Let’s get started!
This is the unique code that the database will use any time the product is present or referenced. The code in this column cannot contain special characters or spaces! If there are multiple words or phrases, use a hyphen “-” or an underscore “_” to separate them. Adding spaces between words is definitely the most common mistake in this column. Remember that this code is commonly displayed in the URL and should be somewhat descriptive of the product to follow best practices for SEO.
This field identifies the product the user will see on the website, whether on the category page, the product page, or even the basket. This field can contain special characters and spaces, but be aware that not every special character is web safe!
This field is very flexible in the content it allows. HTML formatting can be used, but it is highly recommended that the formatting be simple to avoid breaking the HTML layout of the overall page! For example,
<strong>bold</strong> or <em>italic</em>
are simple HTML formatting tags that will not affect the overall layout.
or tables have a much higher potential to break the layout, so use caution when attempting to incorporate more complicated elements. In my experience, the description can be highly stylized and look great while limiting HTML to simple tags like:
<ul> <li> <strong> <em> <br>
Common mistakes for this field arise when one uses Microsoft Word to format their description and pastes it directly into the spreadsheet. Word, and many other HTML formatting tools, often enters additional and harmful coding that will break your page layout. If you wish to use Word to format your text, be sure to paste it into notepad or a plain text editor to remove any excess coding.
Category Assigned To
This field assigns a product to the appropriate category. Seems simple, but is often very confusing. This column needs to contain the Category Code that the product will be assigned to. You can assign a product to more than one category, but be sure to separate the Category Codes with commas and no spaces (e.g. categorycode1,categorycode2). Common mistakes in this field arise if you place the category name instead of the code in this region. The product will not assign properly, and thus not appear where it should!
This column is self-explanatory; however, be sure that this is the price you want to charge the user when they add the product to the cart. If you leave this field blank, the price will be zero. Also note that you may not use negative prices. This will cause the database to function improperly when the user tries to purchase the item.
This column can be used in many different ways, but is not required for the product to function properly. Some store owners use this column to display the MSRP and strikethrough this value using CSS, while others use it for internal price/cost tracking. Regardless of if/how you chose to implement this field, formatting is the same as for product price.
This column is used to help determine shipping costs when the user checks out. The unit of measurement needs to be consistent for all products, and because most shipping modules use pounds, your products should be in this unit as well. Try to be as accurate as possible with this value to keep shipping estimates accurate for your customers. The most common mistakes I see with this field are 1) not using pounds or leaving the field blank and 2) rounding weights up to 1 when it should be .125 or significantly less. (This problem is noticeable when users are purchasing multiple items and suddenly their order of five small boxes of paperclips comes out to five pounds.)
This column will typically have a “1″ to tell the database that the product is taxable if the user is from an appropriate state or region. This field exists to account for products that are not taxable. If you do have such products, simply insert a “0″ instead of a “1.”
This column communicates to the database that a product is accessible to users from the public side of the website. If the product is going to be visible (typically you should have the products active), this field will contain a “1.” If the product is not released yet, or is something you want to upload but not be visible to the public side, this field needs to contain a “0.”
The next two columns are somewhat difficult. This field needs to contain a valid image filename, as well as the directory path to the location of the image on your server. The default folder for images in a Miva cart is graphics/00000001/. If you are not familiar with the structure of your server, it is highly recommended that you stick with the default image folder and not change the imagesâ€™ location.
Similar to product and category codes, image filenames need to be free of special characters or spaces. For example, “fishing rod red.jpg” will appear as a broken link. Removing spaces or substituting the spaces with “-” or “_” is the recommended action to correct this common mistake. The product thumbnail appears when you have a category listing of many products. This image is typically 100-200px in width and using “-th” or “_thumb” is suggested to help keep you organized. Another common mistake is not using a different image for the product thumbnail on the category page than the main image on the product page.
This column is exactly like the product thumbnail, except that it lists the filename for the image that will appear on the product page. This image is typically much larger than the thumbnail, but be careful that it is not so big that it breaks the template of the page. We recommend that your product images are the same size for all products to reduce the variations in page display.
There is no limit to additional fields that can be associated with each product. Remember when adding custom fields that they will be applied to all products. If you add a “manufacturer” custom field, this field will then apply to all products. There are some advanced conditional statements that will hide a field if there is no value in it, but that’s a different topic. Similar to the product description, custom fields can contain HTML tags and therefore come with all the warnings and recommendations mentioned above.
The product spreadsheet is a useful tool once you have mastered the basic elements within it. One recommendation if you are filling in the information for the first time is to complete a few products and upload them to the cart. Look over the category and product pages to determine how the data you inserted is displayed and whether it’s displaying properly!
You can download a sample product upload spreadsheet here!