Archive for the ‘Web Tips and Tricks’ Category

When we do a design for our customers, we make sure that you have the capability of sending HTML emails out through your zen cart store that has your logo on it.

For those that have had someone else do their design, here are some instructions on how to make your emails “pretty” for those customers that have selected HTML as their default email preference.

  1.  The first thing you need to do is have a logo to put in the email.  We usually name this image email-logo.jpg, and put the image file in your /email folder of your Zen Cart installation
  2.   As a general rule of thumb, the logo should be no wider than 550 pixels and no taller than 200 pixels.
  3.   Once you have the logo up on the server, you will need to edit all of the files that are in your /email folder so that the files pull the logo into the emails.  These files are:
  4.   The code you will want to change in EACH FILE will look like this:
    <img src=”email/header.jpg” alt=”logo” />
    Once you find that code, simply change it to your actual logo image name, which in our case is email-logo.jpg.  Then your code would look like the following:
    <img src=”email/email-logo.jpg” alt=”logo” />
  5.   Log into your Zen Cart admin and mouse over the Configuration menu and go down to Email Options and make the following changes (if necessary).

Enable HTML Emails? – set to true
Email Admin Format? – set to HTML

6. In your admin, go to Configuration>Customer Details and make the following change (if necessary)
Customer Default Email Preference – set to 1, HTML

Keep in mind that the customer has the option to choose TEXT only emails, in which case a logo will not appear in their emails from your shopping cart.



Whether you have 1,000 visitors to your website a day, or just 100, if your website displays images, it is important that those images are optimized for file size (how many KB’s the file is) as well as the image size (800 pixels wide by 800 pixels high).

As I mentioned in a post about 4 years ago, even if your image size is 800 px or smaller width or height wise, the file size can still be huge.  Huge image files eat up huge amounts of bandwidth which can cause your website to be suspended for excessive bandwidth use.  We do Zen Cart Hosting for our clients, and use Zen Cart for our websites, so we completely understand the importance of having high quality product images as well as additional images for your products.  However, you can still have great quality images that are not huge in file size or image size.

I recently had to optimize some images for a client because the website was up to 45 GIGABYTES in bandwidth and we still had another 1 1/2 weeks left in the month.  When going into the hosting account cPanel, clicking on AWSTATS  and looking under the Monthly Report section I saw the following:


This told me that some time in July, something happened to almost triple the bandwidth usage from the previous months.  I then scrolled down to the File type section and saw that 95% of the bandwidth was being eaten up by .jpg files.  That gave me the place to start to get this bandwidth back under control.


Oncfolderse I identified the problem and contacted the customer who gave me permission to fix the problem, I downloaded to my computer all files in the images folder that were 50 bytes in file size and larger.

From that point, I opened each image individually using a free image software called IrfanView and re-sized them to be no larger than 800 pixels high or wide.  This took the file size down dramatically – but not enough.

Then, because the images were a mixture of .JPG (all caps), .jpg, .png, .TIF (all caps) and .tif, I separated all the images into respective folders with those extensions.  There is a method to my madness on this which you will see soon.

Once separated, I created a new folder under each of the separated folders – each folder was simply named “optimized”.  Then I opened another free software called Radical Image Optimization Tool (RIOT) and, using the batch function, pulled in all the images in one folder.  I set up the OUTPUT folder to be the /optimized sub folder, then clicked to optimize the images.  WOW what a difference this made in the file sizes!!!  Wen I got to the folders that were ALL CAP – RIOT automatically renames the file the way it SHOULD have been – which is all lower case.  However, because the Zen Cart is looking for the all caps extension, I had to then use another free software called File Extension Changer to change the files to all upper case extensions.

Whew!!  That was A LOT of work – took almost 2 hours!  But the final results were something to write home about!  This site started out with an image folder that was 94,288,507 bytes and ended up being 22,089,757 bytes after my optimization!  That is more than 75% reduction in file sizes!

What does this mean?  It means that the site is going to load MUCH faster, all images will be served up and visible, AND the site is no longer hogging bandwidth!

I hope this post helps you in your endeavor to make your website fast and not hog bandwidth.







One of the many great features to Zen Cart is what is called EZ-Pages.   EZ-Pages allows you to add information to your website that does not really “fit in” on a product page, category page or your standard Shipping, Privacy, etc. pages that are found under Tools>Define Pages Editor in your admin area.

I have seen sites with over 100 EZ-Pages in my line of work.  And I have seen sites that don’t have any.  It really just depends upon the needs of individual businesses.

In versions prior to 1.5.2 of Zen Cart, you could leave an EZ-Page “disabled” by not putting a sort order number under header, footer or sidebox.  BUT, you could still LINK to that page and it would show up for everyone to see.  It just did not have a link in the header, footer or sidebox.


Recently, when doing an upgrade for a customer from 1.5.1 to 1.5.3, my customer discovered that if the link was clicked, it went to a dreaded white page – and no error log was created.

After doing a quick file comparison between version 1.5.1 and 1.5.2, I discovered a “fix” to be able to continue doing a direct link to a disabled EZ-Page.  The fix is as follows:

Open includes/modules/pages/page/header_php.php and scroll down to about line 29

Change the following code:
// comment the following line to allow access to pages which don’t have a status switch set to Yes:
$sql .= ” AND (status_toc > 0 or status_header > 0 or status_sidebox > 0 or status_footer > 0)”;

To this:
// comment the following line to allow access to pages which don’t have a status switch set to Yes:
//$sql .= ” AND (status_toc > 0 or status_header > 0 or status_sidebox > 0 or status_footer > 0)”;

Since there is no “override directory” for this file, be sure to change the original header_php.php filename to header_php.php.txt to save it as a backup just in case something messes up.

Once this code is changed, you should now be able to link successfully to deactivated EZ-Pages


emailIf you have a Zen Cart website and do not use a domain specific email address (eg:  sales@ whatever your domain name is here ) you may have noticed an increase in emails from your cart bouncing back to you as undelivered since April 2014.

If you are getting an error that says something like:  This message failed DMARC Evaluation and is being refused due to provided DMARC Policy from your AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail or other free email provider, this post should help.

It is ALWAYS more professional to have a domain specific email address.  Period.  However, a way to get around the DMARC Policy if you absolutely must have your email go to your non domain specific account is to do the following:  (instructions are for people with cPanel hosting)

1.  Log into your hosting control panel – if you are hosted on one of our cPanel servers, the link would be your domain name followed by /cpanel.

2.  Click on the FORWARDERS icon that is under the Email section

3.  Click on Add Forwarder

4.  Enter a domain specific email address… such as

5.  Under Destination, click “Forward to Email Address” and put the non domain specific email account here.

6.  Click the Add Forwarder button to save it.

7.  In your Zen Cart admin, go to Configuration>Email Options and change all of the email addresses to your domain specific email address that you entered in step 4.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  DO NOT actually create an email account in your cPanel.  If you do, the emails will pile up and you will need to periodically log in and clean all the forwarded emails out.

Read more about DMARC Policies

Happy 2013 to everyone!

I know from many years of personal experience that New Year’s resolutions are easily made but hard to follow through on! However, when it comes to your business, sometimes it is a little easier to stay with them, because we all want to grow our businesses and be successful online.

To that end, I am putting together a recommended list of things that may help you with maintaining your Zen Cart website for 2013 and onward.

1. First, and by far the most important, is to make sure that you are using the latest version of Zen Cart that is available, ALWAYS. When a new version comes out, contact a professional such as myself and get your site upgraded – no ifs ands or buts! This not only protects YOU as a vendor, but also your customers as well as your hosting company’s server.

Believe it or not, I still see people who have websites that were built in 2004, 2005 and they come to me frantic because their websites have been hacked! Granted, they are few and far between now – it is mostly 1.3.8 websites I have to intercede with that have been hacked. In a lot of cases, the paypal address that the customer’s money goes to for orders has been changed to a “hacked” one – and then they are not only out that money but still have to ship the product.

New versions of Zen Cart (or any other software for that matter) are released for a reason. Security and bug fixes are two main reasons I can think of. I still am amazed sometimes at people moaning and groaning about having to do an upgrade. This should be a STANDARD COST OF DOING BUSINESS – not a luxury.

Think of your Zen Cart store as you would your vehicle – you keep the oil changed, you put gas in it, you make repairs to it when a part breaks down and you fix the breaks when they are squeaking…. so why wouldn’t you maintain your income stream software that same way? Additionally, if you collect payment via credit cards – there are PCI Compliance regulations that must be met. If you aren’t PCI Compliant and your site is compromised, there are very stiff penalties that are assessed to you in the thousands of dollars PER OCCURRENCE!

Scary stuff – you could lose that car that you so lovingly take care of (and your house, shoes, shirt and everything else you own) – by neglecting to take care of your online software!

We offer Zen Cart Upgrade services starting at $400.00 and possibly going up from there depending upon how many modifications are installed. We offer 1/2 off all mod installs if ordered with an upgrade – whether NEW mods or upgrading current mods you have installed.


2. Clearing out your debug log files. One of the many things I like about Zen Cart is that it will generate log files that can help you out if you know what you are looking for – like say an error that is going on with the template, or a payment processing error. Because these logs build up, I always recommend that my customers log into their admin, mouse over the Tools menu and click on Store Manager and click the confirm button to clear out these files on a monthly basis or more often if a busy shop. Of course, if you are having problems with your Zen Cart store, you don’t want to delete these until you have a Zen Cart Expert look at them.

3. Optimize your database. Many times database tables will get “overhead” and need to be optimized or repaired to get rid of that overhead. Overhead is usually temporary space that is used to run the queries from Zen Cart or installed modifications. Over time, these queries can build up and should be removed. Again, back to using a vehicle as an example…. you regularly get oil changes and tune ups on your vehicle to keep it running efficiently. Same concept here – each month (at least) go into Tools>Store Manager and click the button to optimize your database.


4. Clean out your admin activity log. Zen Cart is intelligent enough to create logs of the activities of admins that are doing things in your administration area! This is another great troubleshooting tool that a Zen Cart Pro can use to “backtrack” or look at to see what might have been changed when you have a problem. Zen Cart records these activities in a table in your database. While Zen Cart will automatically prompt you after so many days to clean out your admin activity log, I highly advise that you just get into a habit of doing this on a monthly basis. Starting with Zen Cart 1.5.0 (which, by the way you SHOULD be running at the very least), you now have the opportunity to SAVE this logging of activity to a file on your computer. This can also help you with a “gotcha” moment if you have several people working in your admin and something is changed and everyone says “I didn’t do it!” LOL It will show EXACTLY the username, date and time of what was done!

5. Make sure your images are optimized. One thing that can slow down any website, no matter how good/fast the server is, would be images that have huge file sizes! I always tell my clients – first you should make sure that you are not uploading images that are any larger width wise or height wise than 800 pixels. I have seen sites that have images that are 4000 x 4000 pixels and this breaks their page that the images are on. This makes the filesize of the image (how may KB it is in size) so large that it cannot even be served up to your visitors.

6. Remove old images you no longer need. Having old images on the server can cause duplicate “additional images” to show up in a product that has an image with a similar name. By routinely removing old images, this gives you more disk space for your hosting plan. Keep in mind – merely deleting a product does not delete the image off the server.

7. Don’t let just anyone work on your Zen Cart. Boy, oh boy… is this important! I have people come to me all the time after working with a supposed “zen cart pro” and they have all kinds of problems with the work that was done. On top of the work being incorrectly (or not at all), they are treated VERY BADLY and unprofessionally! They are cursed at, called stupid, or just simply ignored. I see proof of this all the time as people forward emails to me from other so called professionals! Last year I had a customer contact me that was completely out of business because he paid $34.99 for an upgrade and they wiped out his template, simply uploaded new 1.5.0 files that overwrote modifications and did not bother to remove the old 1.3.8 files that were no longer necessary!

Because I have to collect a lot of information from customers regarding their FTP access, Admin access, etc., the easiest and most secure way I could find to do this was to use google docs. I recently had someone ask me how to embed a google docs form into their website, so here are some instructions that will help you do that.

embed google doc in zen cart

1. Create the form at in your account
2. Click on the link to the form to see the spreadsheet
3. Mouse over the form menu and a dropdown will appear, go down to embed form in a webpage and click on that link – (see image)
4. Copy the iframe coding it gives you in the popup
5. Go into your ezpages and set up an ezpage for the form (Tools>Ezpages) – make SURE you are using Plain Text as the editor
6. Put a title in, put a sort number in the header, footer, sidebox, etc wherever you want the link to be, paste the code from google and save the ezpage
7. If you do not want a column to show up with this form, go to Configuration>Ez-Page Settings and you will see EZ-Pages Pages to disable left-column and EZ-Pages Pages to disable right-column where you can enter in the number of your ezpage.
8. When someone fills out the form, the information will be displayed on your spreadsheet in your google docs area of your Google account.

Hope this helps someone with adding a form to their zen cart website easily.

Authorize net for zen cartAs fraud runs rampant on the internet today, many online shoppers are looking more and more for “reassurance” that you are a legitimate online business.

If you use as your payment processor on your zen cart store, one way you can give your visitors an extra feeling of security is to display their verified merchant seal.

Here is the way you can do that.
1. Log into your account
2. On your main page once you log in, you will see a menu on the left. Look under Account and you will see a link for Verified Merchant Seal to click on
3. Click on the Sign Up button.
4. Read the agreement (no worries – this seal is free) and click the appropriate places to say you have read and agree with the terms.
Verify Seal5. In the box provided, list any distinct / different domains that you have that are a part of your account. (no need to add sub domains). While I do not know if it is required, it is a good idea to make sure the way you type your domain is the way you purchased your SSL certificate. Eg: or simply with no www before it. No need to put the http:// before the domain name(s). After adding the domain(s) to the box, press the submit button.
6. Copy the code that is provided to you and paste it into the desired spot on your website.

If you want the code in a sidebox, there are a couple of ways to do this. One way is by placing the html code provided to you into your banner manager. Another way is to install the Sidebox Editable in Admin zen cart module.

SSL for Zen CartI have had clients ask me if they should purchase an SSL certificate and dedicated IP address for their zen cart hosting account with us, and my answer is always a resounding “YES”.

My rationale for this answer two-fold:

1. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificates encrypts your customer’s data by scrambling it up in a numeric process so that when it reaches the place it is supposed to go to (eg:, paypal, etc.) it is then decoded and read. This safeguards your customer’s sensitive information.

2. SSL certificates also provides your customers the assurance that a 3rd party verification from the certificate issuer (eg: Comodo, Verisign) has been done to verify you are who you say you are. This is very important today as scammers are stealing people’s money and identities. Any savvy shopper will look for indications that your site is secure. If they do not see that indicator, they will most likely leave the site to shop somewhere else.

In my professional opinion, any web site that will be collecting sensitive information from their clients should have their own SSL certificate for their company. Using a shared server SSL certificate is not even close to professional and should be an indicator to your visitors that your business is not “successful” enough to afford the $100 per year for your own SSL certificate and dedicated IP. For this reason, we do not even offer a shared SSL certificate on our servers.

The latest version of zen cart – specifically the 1.3.9 series, focuses on several things including: security, bug fixes, speed and PCI Compliance.

For example, when doing a manual install of zen cart version 1.3.9, the software will force you to change the name of your admin folder. It will not allow you to log into your administration area without renaming the /admin folder and removing the zc_install folder. This is an important security feature, because hackers know that the standard name for the admin folder is /admin.

If you are using an automated installation program such as Fantastico to install your zen cart, it will automatically rename your admin folder name to zc_admin. Nice, huh? No… not really.

Keep in mind that hackers have the same access to hosting accounts with these automated installation programs. If they were to use Fantastico to do an install… they would see what the admin folder name is re-named to and from there can write their stupid little hacking programs to search for and try to hack into that folder.

It is ALWAYS in your best interest for security sake to rename your admin folder to something meaningful to you. Do not feel secure with the fact that the automated installation program has renamed your admin folder. Change it to something else – and don’t forget to change that information in your admin/includes/configure.php file as well. There are 3 different lines of code that you will need to change in that file.

Zen Cart has a great banner feature that you can use.  But sometimes you may put in a banner and put in a URL for that banner, if clicked, to go to and you will get a blank page and the URL will look something like this:


Solution: Check your includes/languages/YOURTEMPLATE/english.php file and make sure there are absolutely no spaces at the bottom of the file after the closing  ?>

If that does not fix the problem, check your includes/templates/YOURTEMPLATE/common/header.php file and make sure there are no spaces there either.