Sunshine has been in “cruise control” for a while. My focus on Sunshine coding has been on small tweaks to usability and fixing bugs. I have also been focused heavily on marketing so Sunshine can grow it’s user base and “get bigger” so I can spend more time working on it (more income Sunshine generates for me, the more time I can spend on it) However, not any time in the past 6 months or so has been spent working on a huge new feature or add-on. I’m ready to get started on something big again.
So, please vote in this poll and I will take the results incredibly seriously but at the same time doesn’t guarantee which one I will work on first. If the second most voted feature/add-on will only take me a few weeks to develop compared to the first which will take a few months, I will go for the few weeks first.
One feature request I get on occasion is for guest checkout. To be honest, this request has always baffled me. Here’s why:
It is definitely true that many users will abandon a checkout experience if they are requested to register an account before they are allowed to checkout. In reality the number of fields to fill out for a guest checkout versus creating an account first on any e-commerce website is exactly the same except for a single additional field: password. All the other fields (email address, billing address and shipping address) are all still needed to complete an order in either situation. The problem is on many e-commerce websites it takes the user to a separate registration area which is a pain. In fact, previous versions of Sunshine (< 1.9) the checkout process did redirect the user to a separate registration page if they were not already logged in. That was not ideal, so I changed it. With the current version of Sunshine, a non-logged in users on the checkout page will see the same one-page checkout screen that a logged-in user would see but with the addition of that single password field.
Sample checkout page using Sunshine with the single, extra password field
If a user does not yet have an account, then one is created for them when they complete the checkout page using the email/password provided. On submit, the account is created, the user is automatically logged in to the new account and then checkout proceeds as normal all in a single process invisible to the user with no extra steps. Checkout simply can’t get any easier for your users.
A new feature being added for 2.0.7 is if a user already has an account and reaches the checkout page without having logged in yet, they can enter their email address and password in same the “Account Information” section as if they were registering. If they give valid login credentials, they are automatically logged in and checkout continues seamlessly. There is no link to a separate login page making this incredibly easy for users to give you their money regardless of already being logged in or not.
Why not just make a Guest Checkout option anyway?
The main reason is more security for digital download purchases. By associated every order with an actual user we can then require the user be logged in before being able to access digital downloads from their order thus making the digital download feature more secure. Yes, some of you are not using the digital download add-on but most of you are.
Another reason is having an order associated with a user creates an order history for that user which they themselves can access. I’ve used guest checkout on many sites, ones where I thought to myself “I am not going to buy anything from this store again, no need for an account.” And sure enough I never did buy anything from that store. Except I got the wrong product in the mail. I had deleted the order confirmation email and was having a hard time finding it. If I had an account, I could have simply logged into the website to check what I had actually ordered. Instead, I had to sit on hold for 20 minutes waiting for a customer service rep. Not the end of the world really, but it’s those small things that make an impact on the overall user experience.
Sometimes we have to help people help themselves and I believe having every order associated with a user account is helpful all around.
If it wasn’t for our work on 2.0 (and already calling it 2.0), this release would get a bigger version number. We have added some new features and enhanced other areas resulting in significant theme integration improvements.
A very popular request was to make galleries display using the Masonry style (think Pinterest). Now, with a single option in the settings, you can have your gallery thumbnails displayed in this style. This is available only to Sunshine Pro users.
Printable Invoice / Packing Slip
Within the admin, every order now has a printable invoice or packing slip (whatever you want to use it for). The layout is formatted especially for printing and should work very well with most home printers. This is available to all Sunshine users.
Sales Tax Report
This new feature is not huge in all honesty, but with tax season here it seemed work adding. A very simple breakdown of all the sales taxes you have collected from sales through Sunshine. This is available only to Sunshine Pro users.
Better Theme Integration
Sunshine has taken a new approach to how it structures URLs and determines what content to display. Previously, Sunshine used custom post type permalinks but then tried to use the page template assigned to the main Client Galleries page. However, far too many themes ignored the built in page template system and made up their own which Sunshine was not able to handle. While Sunshine still worked, it resulted in some inconsistencies between how pages were displayed when going from the main Client Galleries page, to a gallery and then to an image.
Now, Sunshine makes use of rewrite endpoints. Instead of using the custom post type permalinks, we add endpoint rules to your main Client Galleries page. This results in every Sunshine page acting as if it is loading the Client Galleries page. Then, we display different content based on what is in the endpoint URL. This is the same approach WooCommerce 2.1 recently converted to using.
If that was all way over your head, just know that the end result is a significantly better integration with more themes.
Here is the full changelog breakdown:
= 1.9.5 =
* Add – Masonry option for thumbnail display!
* Add – Show discounts applied in admin order detail page
* Add – Reports page, extremely basic sales tax report to start
* Add – Add noindex meta tag to order pages to help clean up past security issue of order URLs being indexed
* Add – Invoice / Packing slip available for all orders
* Change – Use rewrite masks for handling Sunshine URLs, should now support any theme better even if not built to WP standards
* Change – Text when showing the required registration form to checkout or add to favorites
* Change – Always show Add to Favorites link, send user to register if they are not logged in
* Fix – Various PHP warning fixes
* Fix – Fix tax calculation when discount is greater than taxable amount
* Fix – Further fixes to handle some servers and their case sensitivity issues with image file names
* Fix – Currency symbol in admin for products to use settings, not always show $
* Fix – Media Gallery was still displaying images from Private galleries
Update: 2.0 has gone on down a different track. 2.0 itself will actually not contain a single new feature and not be a complete rewrite of Sunshine as many have been asking about. Instead, it will be a fundamental shift in how Sunshine is marketed and structured as a plugin – that is the most I can say right now. Instead, we have been releasing all the new features of Sunshine as incremental 1.9.x releases.
We are in active development on version 2.0! We are in the process of completely overhauling how your clients interact within Sunshine. Viewing galleries, images, adding to cart is getting a complete makeover. We hope these changes will make it much easier for your clients to hand over their money to you. If you would like to help us test 2.0 and provide some direct feedback on the direction of Sunshine please let us know! Submit the form below and we will let you know when the beta is at a point where it is ready to be tested.
Sunshine requires user’s to register an account in order to mark images as favorite and to make a purchase. Some photographers seem to not like this approach. Here is our take:
When a user wants to make a purchase with Sunshine Photo Cart, they need to provide email, name and shipping/billing information. The difference between guest checkout without an account and creating an account is just a single field – password. Having an account allows users to come back to the site to reference their order after they purchase and also allow them to download files associated with the order (if using digital negatives).
As far as favorites, this is very important for users to have an account first. This way if they access the gallery with another computer or device on another visit to the site (because you know clients visit their galleries repeatedly after they are posted) they can then see all the images marked as favorite from a past visit. If it was not tied to a user account, every time they visited your gallery they would have to redo which images they mark as favorite and clients would get extremely frustrated.
On some other proofing platforms they ask for an email address only to either see a gallery or mark images as favorites. This is extremely insecure. Everyone knows everyone else’s email addresses. In a wedding, what if a guest from the wedding decides to enter the brides email address – they suddenly can see all the bride’s favorited photos, and essentially their entire account. While it’s not like this would give other people important information like credit card numbers, it could still be sensitive information that your clients simply don’t want others to see. This is why a password is important – it ensures that the favorites are actually only seen by the person intended.
What if a proofing system only asks for email address and automatically creates the password for the user’s account? How frustrating is it when you try to login to your account and it is some random character password that you can’t memorize and have to dig up that email you got weeks ago which has the password in it? Better to let clients choose their own password so they can more easily remember it and gain access to their account with no frustration.
Registering in Sunshine takes 10 seconds and requires username, email, password. There are WordPress plugins which allow users to register with just email/password, removing even the username field. Sunshine always redirects the user exactly to the page they were before being asked to register so they don’t have to navigate back through several clicks to return to the previous spot.
Are you getting registration spam (fake user accounts being created)? I highly recommend the Stop Spammers plugin.
We finally caved, you can now setup an automatic watermark feature for your photo cart galleries in Sunshine
For a long while we resisted adding a watermarking feature to Sunshine. We believe clients should be shown the highest quality images when making the decision to buy. When you let a web server add a watermark, the web server is saving the image and results in colors being severely distorted. It’s one of the main reasons we created Sunshine as we wanted a proofing and photo cart system that didn’t mess up our images.
However, it’s a feature that enough people have requested or decided not to buy Sunshine because it was missing. While we felt creating a Photoshop action to add watermarks and getting proper colors was more important, it appears not everyone agrees. So now you can make that choice for yourself. Learn more on how to add watermark images to galleries in Sunshine Photo Cart.
Also included in this release is a nifty little feature which allows clients to notify you when they have selected their favorite images. A single click by your client and you get an email with a link to view the client’s favorites in your WordPress administration area.
As usual, lots of other things were updated in this release and here is the full changelog:
= 1.7.0 =
* Add – Automatic watermark images
* Add – Users can now submit their favorites, site admin receives email notifying of submission with link to see all favorites
* Add – Ability to order galleries by custom order, date (old to new, new to old) or alphabetical
* Add – Add cart quantity whenever the cart page name when shown (in WordPress menus, etc). ie, “Cart (4)” instead of just “Cart”
* Add – New filters added for login/registration URLs
* Add – Finnish translation
* Change – Redirect URLs no longer use primary domain as this caused security issues on some servers
* Change – Make sunshine-product custom post type not public
* Change – When the same file name is uploaded twice it results in new file name that doesn’t match high res file name and digital download doesn’t work. Now storing download file name in post meta.
* Change – Make Before/After HTML settings when using WordPress theme WYSIWYG instead of textarea
* Change – When package is completed, it can no longer be selected from dropdown (visible, but made disabled) to prevent confusion display options to users
* Fix – Wrong thumbnail size being used in themes
* Fix – Before/After content in ProPhoto themes was showing on all pages, not just Sunshine pages
* Fix – Bug with hiding admin bar for non-admins
* Fix – If shipping method enabled, but no price entered – defaults to $0
* Fix – When adding item to cart and it already exists in cart, increase quantity instead of adding new line item
* Fix – Registration error when nothing in cart and errors turned on high
* Fix – Update cart when using WordPress theme wasn’t working
* Update – All languages updated
Sunshine Photo Cart 1.6.5 is now available for automatic update. This release does not contain any major new features, but instead a plethora of enhancements our users have been requesting.
So here are the highlights:
See pricing without being logged in
This was by far the most requested feature. Previously Sunshine required a user to be logged in (thus requiring a user to register first if they didn’t already have an account) before they could see the Add to Cart functionality with products and prices. Now, users do not need to have an account to see the products/pricing and can add them to cart. Once they get to the Checkout page, they are asked to create an account before continuing to checkout (so no guest checkout yet).
We were surprised by how many people were using Sunshine solely as a proofing system and did not want any cart functionality. While very much possible in the past, there is now a new option to enable Proofing Only which will adjust everything about Sunshine to hide all aspects of the cart features of Sunshine. Basically all that is left is viewing galleries and (logged in users) adding images to favorites.
When Proofing Only is enabled, we also adjust the layout of the individual image page to not have an empty space where the Add to Cart functionality usually is. Instead, the layout expands the current image to use up that space.
There is now a new field to allow you to upload a Print Release document. This file will automatically be appended to any digital download that occurs. Users download an entire gallery, they get all the images and your print release document all zipped up. Download a single image, users get a zip file of the single image and the print release document.
Media Gallery Management
This is a two prong change for Sunshine. First, there is a new option which you can enable to have Sunshine delete all the attachments/images associated with a Sunshine gallery when it is permanently deleted (images remain when gallery is just moved to trash).
Secondly, some users had thousands of images uploaded to their Sunshine galleries. As a result, the Media Library was loaded with all those images and making it quite overwhelming in these cases. Sunshine now filters out all the images from the Media Library (in both the main Media Library area as well as the popup when editing a page/post). Of course, when viewing the Media popup for a Sunshine gallery, you can still see all the images uploaded to it.
Here is the full changelog:
* Add – Allow users to see products/pricing and add items to cart without registering or being logged in
* Fix – Bulk add products weren’t visible until you resaved each manually
* Change – Redo how content is replaced to display current gallery/image to work with WP 3.8 and ProPhoto themes
* Fix – Remove some more PHP warning messages in specific instances
* Fix – If products disabled, don’t show packages options or any purchase icons
* Add – Proofing only option, disables any cart functionality throughout Sunshine
* Add – sunshine_classes function for theme usage to make unique cases easier to style
* Add – If products disabled or cart disabled in any way, handle layout of image detail page better so no empty space
* Add – Remove main site’s theme JS files from queue when using a Sunshine theme
* Fix – Custom CSS styling in 2013 theme
* Fix – Use WordPress date_format where needed
* Add – German translation
* Fix – Make pages/content on install/upgrade translatable
* Fix – Image download links not working in 3.8.1
* Fix – PHP error when adding order comment from admin
* Fix – Gallery download link visible when gallery is expired
* Add – Hide “Add New” link for orders in admin – can’t manually add orders
* Add – Hide permalink for discounts in admin, can’t view a discount page anyway
* Fix – Showing no shipping options when only digital products are in cart
* Add – Print release document can be added to all digital downloads
* Fix – When multiple of same package in cart, updating/deleting doesn’t update/delete all of the packages
* Add – “Remove” link added for each item in cart
* Change – Redo how images are imported from FTP folder. Large size and thumbnails are put into normal wp-uploads folder, originals stay in FTP created folder.
* Add – Option to delete all images attached to a gallery when gallery is permanently deleted
* Add – Hide attachments for Sunshine galleries throughout WordPress admin except when editing a Sunshine gallery
Lost in the huge 1.4.0 release of Packages was an efficiency improvement: Bulk adding of products.
Several of our users sent us messages asking for ways to create all their products when setting up Sunshine much more efficiently. When you have 50+ products, we were the first to admit that this was a time consuming task with Sunshine. Now, this is been significantly improved with our new Bulk Add Products screen.
In this one screen you could add unlimited products at once. This should greatly decrease the time it takes to get Sunshine ready for you to start selling!
Packages have by far been our most requested feature and today we are happy to announce this feature is finally here!
A package is the selling of multiple products as a single product. For example, you could sell an 8×10 print, 20×30 canvas and a digital download all for a single price (usually discounted from what it would be to buy the items individually).
How users find packages:
Because of our Price Levels system, packages are only visible once viewing a gallery or an individual image. If a user were to go straight from the Client Galleries page to a Packages page, Sunshine wouldn’t know which Price Level to display to the user. Once the user visits a gallery or image, Sunshine knows what Price Level is in use and can then use this information to show the proper Package pricing to the user.
How users interact with packages:
After a user adds a package to their cart, they are automatically returned back to the gallery or image they were previously viewing to make it easy for them to pick right back up where they were in their image viewing experience.
They will now see a new drop down at the start of the Add To Cart form. Selecting a package will present them with the available products from that package. The user can now select a product within the package and add to cart! Sunshine will always tell the user how many of each product they have left (“1 remaining”) and gray out and make inactive products that have already been filled. This lets the user always know what their package includes and what they have yet to fill.
Packages in the cart
When viewing the cart, packages are their own line item. Within the description of the package, Sunshine clearly outlines to the user which items they have filled and which ones remain. A user can also remove one of their package item selections from the Cart page. If a user tries to continue to Checkout but has not filled all the items within a package, Sunshine redirects the user back to the cart and provides a warning message that they must first fill their package with selections before completing their order to prevent incomplete packages from being purchased.
The order administration screen will show you all the images selected for the package to make processing the order simple.
We have released version 1.3.0 which has some large, important updates for our growing international user base. We’ve also worked on improvements to make Sunshine integrate into your custom WordPress theme a little better.
We originally built Sunshine thinking it would be almost entirely US based photographers using it. However, it quickly spread out to Europe where we have started to build a good sized international user base. As such, we have finally put real internationalization into Sunshine.
Instead of user accounts information and shipping being based only around the US, users can now select any country they belong to as well as respective state or province (if applicable).
In the administration area, you can limit which countries users can choose from for shipping and billing information. This can make it easier on your users if you only work out of a single country and don’t want to bother your clients with having more options to choose from than they need. Taxes can also be applied to international state or provinces (if applicable).
Improved WordPress Theme Integration
For improved theme integration, we actually ripped out half the code that handles this aspect – we essentially simplified how it is done. We now simply include the header and footer files from your WordPress theme and put Sunshine between them.
However, this does have a negative consequence for ProPhoto users. While this approach worked great on the 20+ random WordPress themes we used for testing, ProPhoto unfortunately builds their themes not entirely the “WordPress way”. Please reach out to us via Support and we can help change just a few lines of code to make it work at no cost to you. We ultimately made the decision that we cannot make the theme integration worse for everyone else by trying to work with a non-standard theme system like ProPhoto.
PayJunction Payment Gateway
We have also created a PayJunction payment gateway – accept credit card payments on your website via your PayJunction account (requires SSL certificate).