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MIVA Merchant 4 Look and Feel Explained

Please note: The information on this page applies ONLY to MIVA Merchant 4

There are many ways to customize MIVA Merchant 4. Understanding the options and creating a strategy will in the long run make the task much easier and save you money.

The very LEAST you need to know

  • Most 3rd party modules that add features to your store need either Dynamic Templates ( MMUI + ) or OpenUI to be installed first.
  • 3rd party modules add features to your stores using either "Hook Point" or "Token" methods. Many modules support both.
  • You can't always mix and match hook point and token modules in your store - that's why the information here is important to read first!

What are Hook Points and Tokens?

Hook Points are the "old way" of doing things. Hook Point only modules are predominantly for use with stores that have OpenUI installed, but some include instructions on how to integrate with Dynamic Templates ( MMUI+). When you install a hook point module it auto-configures to say "when you get to this point, on this screen, DO THIS".

Token modules are now increasingly common because many people want to enjoy the power of of template products like the Viking Coders Templates, and Dynamic Templates ( MMUI+). These products replace entire screens, allowing you infinite control of your look and feel. In the process they wipe out all the "hooks"! That's why most modules support Tokens. A token is a small string of text. After you install a module that supports Tokens, all you have to do is include the Token ( small string of text ) in your store design whenever you want the module to act.

So.. A key ingredient to your strategy is that if you want to use the power of Template type products to replace a MIVA Merchant screen, then modules have to support tokens to work on that screen.

Let's say that again in pictures..

Default Store

So - you have your store up and running including your products and categories, but you've seen some modules at MIVACentral that you'd like to add.

Let's say that you want to add a specials column to your Categories Page. What should you do?

That depends on your long term goal. Here is how your store looks right now.



You find a module that supports Hook Points that will do the trick - so now you have a choice.

If you are sure that you don't want to later replace your category page with a Template for complete look and feel control, then this module is fine.

You can install OpenUI, then install this Hook Point module, or Dynamic Templates (MMUI+) if the Specials module include specific MMUI+ instructions.



Templates!

Here is where it pays to plan ahead. If you'd like to drastically redesign your category page, then chances are that you'll take a hard look at the Viking Coders Category Page Template, or the Viking Coders Template Bundle to achieve that task.

After you replace a MIVA Merchant screen with a template, you can no longer use Hook Point modules on that screen! You'll need that Specials Module to support Tokens so that you can still use it.

You can install the Viking Coders Template products on top of Dynamic Templates (MMUI+) or OpenUI.

So.. A key ingredient to your strategy is that if you want to use the power of Template type products to replace a MIVA Merchant screen, then modules have to support tokens to work on that screen.



So what are your options?

Default Store Out of the Box

When you install MIVA Merchant, you have a choice of Layouts. The recommended layout is "MIVA Merchant Look and Feel ( MMUI )"

Your store already has many "native" modules installed to handle shipping, payment, sales tax etc. but the MMUI is not built to allow additional Look and Feel modules to be added that change the way your store LOOKS to your customers.

The only modules you can add are more native modules like new payment gateways, shipping calculators etc. including any at MIVACentral that state "This Module Works with MIVA Merchant Out of the Box"

Recommended Customization Configuration 1 - Dynamic Templates (MMUI+)

Templates are the trend now. Most end users demand the flexibility of the Viking Coders Template products, and the most cost effective and server efficient way to achieve that is to:

  1. Install Dynamic Templates (MMUI+)

  2. Install the Viking Coders Templates for all or specific pages that you want to customize
  3. Buy and install Token Modules to add features as needed
Advantages of Dynamic Templates (MMUI+) include:
  • Email Support by MIVA Small Business Support Team
  • Unlimited phone support for MIVA Service Club Customers
  • This small and lite application does not add a significant overhead to your web server
  • Fully compatible with even the most recent MIVA Engines
  • Less expensive than OpenUI

Recommended Customization Configuration 2 - OpenUI Basic or Advanced

Before installing OpenUI check with your host to make sure that your MIVA Engine and hosting platform are compatible.

The advantages of OpenUI are:

  • It is more sophisticated than Dynamic Templates (MMUI+) so if supported on your hosting platform you will have more features, including admin features that are useful for managing your store.
  • OpenUI supports Hook Points, and allows you to include Module Tokens, and generic tokens in your places like your product descriptions. Because of Hook Point support, then if all you want to do is add a single module ( e.g. a coupon module at checkout ) and have no desire to customize your look and feel, then OpenUI is the easiest way to achieve this. If you take that route you can always add the Viking Coders Templates later too!
  • With OpenUI you can mix and match Hook Point and Token modules, e.g. you could customize your Category Page with the Viking Coders Category Page Template, and add a simple Hook Point Coupon Module your Checkout Page.

Advanced Configuration - Dynamic Templates (MMUI+) alone

This is an option - but one that is most often adopted by MIVA Merchant designers and integrators who have developed a preference for Dynamic Templates (MMUI+) as a stand alone solution. One reason for this is that although it is often not documented, many Hook Point modules CAN work with Dynamic Templates (MMUI+) without any additional modules. The entire range of Copernicus Modules for example are MMUI+ compatible, and some other modules include documentation that allows you to "register" a module with the Dynamic Templates (MMUI+) engine.

While MMUI+ infact includes an entire template suite, using it without the Viking Coders Templates is considered an advanced configuration and is not recommended to novices.



Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need Dynamic Templates ( MMUI+) or OpenUI?
If you want to use a module from MIVACentral that states "This module requires OpenUI" or "This module requires Dynamic Templates (MMUI+) or OpenUI" then yes.

Which is better, Dynamic Templates (MMUI+) or OpenUI?
That depends on several factors including:

  • What do you need? Hook Point modules, Token Modules or do you need to mix and match? If you only want to add a single module, and it supports hook points, then OpenUI is sufficient. If you want to use the Viking Coders Template products then either OpenUI or Dynamic Templates (MMUI+) are a solid foundation.
  • What does your host say? OpenUI is a sophisticated application and is therefore more server intensive. Some hosts recommend against its use for performance reasons.
  • OpenUI has more features than Dynamic Templates (MMUI+) which can justify the extra cost.

If I buy Viking Coders Template products, why do I need OpenUI or Dynamic Templates (MMUI+) as well?
The Viking Coders Template products are in themselves not a complete solution.. they are Hook Point Modules that add another layer of functionality. They need something else in between themselves and the MIVA Merchant software to function.

Should I buy Hook Point or Token Modules?
If you can find a module that supports both then you have the best of both worlds. The important rule is though, if you use a Template to replace one of your store pages, e.g. the Category Page, then any additional modules for the Category Page must support Tokens.

How do I know if a Hook Point module works with Dynamic Templates (MMUI+) installed by itself without the Viking Coders template products? As a general rule, unless otherwise stated in the product description, only the Copernicus range of products can be easily installed into Dynamic Templates (MMUI+) without help. If the module is a simple one, that only performs tasks in one or two places in the store the task is fairly straight forward, but requires Hook Point informaiton that only the developer would know. Having said that, Dynamic Templates (MMUI+) is a template system in its own right, and is very powerful, but end users often prefer the Viking Coders Templates installed on top for ease of use.

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