Whats the Verdict? Virtuemart 2.0 Released

After a break at Christmas I thought I would actually spend some time researching the technologies we frequently use at work. One of the things on the list of course is Virtuemart. Knowing that Virtuemart was going to be one vendor releasing a new platform I thought I would check to see if they had released the final to 2.0. Well I was surprised that they had finally got it released.

Naturally I decided to go through and download a copy and set it up on a sample site to test it. To be even more adventerous I decided to download and install a fresh copy of Joomla 1.7 so that I could test the combination and find out how they had gone.

vm2 welcome screen

As you can see the new version has a fresh looking interface. This was actually a great first impression and something that is long overdue. So the first thing to do was to see what things had been added and changed in the configuration screen. This is of course one of the most heavily used links within the whole of virtuemart. Mainly because every site administrator setting up a virtuemart store needs to use it.

virtuemart 2 configuration screen

As you can see they have attempted to simply things and for the most part it looks like they have done a fairly good job of it. Once again it was long overdue. The best thing that I have seen so far with this new system is the fact that they have tried to keep it simple and easy to follow.

After progressing through the first 2 tabs in the configuration area I thought "WOW they have actually thought about the way this whole thing is going to work." Did this thought remain for long? Well... NO!!! it lasted until I got to the Templates and Pricing Tabs. While I do understand that these are 2 tabs that are cruical I doubt very much whether some developers or site administrators are going to know what "default" template to use for categories and general product layouts. On the pricing tab it does not get much better. There are alot of options that I am sure most store owners would not even think about or use in their real retail environment let lone in their online store.

I did go back to the thought of "WOW they have...." very quickly once I clicked on the Checkout tab. They have included some very straight forward questions like "Only registered users can checkout" and "On checkout, ask for registration" (hint I have just given you an example of a new feature). I was on the verge of falling in love with the admin area of Virtuemart 2 when I saw the Product Order Settings. There was about 40 new options that past versions didn't have. Then I went to the SEO settings, while I wasn't expecting much I did see some more promise. It was confirmed I was falling in love with the new admin area.

After clicking on "Save & Close" thinking how good this experience has been I was then introduced to the "Shop" link next to the configuration button in the admin area. My willingness to fall in love with Virtuemarts new admin area was as long lived as a fat kid in a candy store looking at a new chocolate bar offering the promise of the taste of paradise just to find out when you have opened the wrapper it is a relabelled Kit-Kat.

Honestly, what were they thinking. It looks like a new engineer straight from university was put in charge of the next NASA space project that would send man to the edges of the galaxy. It was a messy, hard to follow and to be perfectly honest that confusing that I clicked "Cancel". When I clicked "Cancel" I was thinking "Oh crap I will have to use this if we decide to use this version of virtuemart on customers sites".

None the less I proceeded on to the next section which I would see as vital. This is of course the payment options area. In the past I have been use to seeing a sea of options and just as bigger list of configuration options for the payment options. Unfortunately because it is a new platform and only a few weeks after the final version was released there is ZERO payment options available. Further more if you are disappointed about this fact like I was, then you are going to be left weaping when it comes to the shipping options. It is also empty. Reading the virtuemart forums users are saying "no payment options or shipping options...." or "Does anyone have a module for xxxxx payment gateway". The sad and unfortunate response from developers working on them is "It is only a new version and we are working on these as quick and as much as possible".

After looking through the rest of the system (while I didn't spend much time) due to the fact that there are no payment options or shipping options I must admit I was impressed with the products and categories sections. They have many great presents in there that savvy site administrators will love. I did leave the administration area of the site thinking "Well they have done a good job of rebuilding it and while it does show promise I am going to wait atleast 6 months (when really I will probably last 3 months) before looking at it again.