Learning as I go, my first php/mysql custom cms project

Over the past two months, I have been working pretty hard on a freelance project for a package design agency hmsdesign.com. I have just finished up, but the site is not yet live. The client came to me looking for an easier way to update their website, being that the old site was all in flash. Initially I thought to myself that I would approach this with WordPress, being that Im not a strong php/mysql developer and WordPress would give me a lot out of the box. The trick would be customizing it while still keeping it fairly simple and friendly for the client.
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PHP to Ruby on Rails and back again…

After about 2 years of working with Rails on a few side projects, I have decided to drop any further development in Rails. I will be going back to PHP full force, not that I ever ditched PHP, as Rails was always an exploration for me. It served well on a few large projects mydiabeteseducator.org and fanboom.com, but I have found although its super fast to get up and running. I will usually run into massive issues with hosting and getting past the scaffolding phase. I really do enjoy the migrations, the database object model, MVC, and scaffolding was pretty slick. If you havent checked out Rails, I would give it a try – but most of my developer friends who have given it a try, end up going back to php.

If there is something Im missing or a reason why Rails is better than php, Im open to discussion.

Magento: Custom Category Images Listing Block Tutorial

Recently, I just finished coding out a website for a client in Magento. You can view the site at www.3graces.com, it was a full switch from some old legacy asp shopping cart to Magento. Im really happy with the way things turned out and the client is too, Magento just has so many wonderful features built-in.

One feature that I found wasn’t built in was a way to display each sub-category with an image, and its name on a landing page. Magento has a nice feature which allows you to assign an image to a category, but doesnt give you a way to make that show up in a listing somewhere.

I setup 6 main categories, with each having multiple sub-categories and I wanted to have a way to show all those sub-categories to the user on a nice page that was pleasing to the eye. Here is an example: Payot Paris by Category.

To achieve this layout, I created a block called sub_navigation.html and placed it in the following directory: app/design/frontend/3graces/default/template/catalog/navigaton/sub_navigation.html

<div id="categories">
<div class="col_full">

<div class="listing" >
<?php $_maincategorylisting=$this->getCurrentCategory()?>                        
<?php $_categories=$this->getCurrentChildCategories()?>

<?php if($_categories->count()):?>
           <? foreach ($_categories as $_category):?>
                        <? if($_category->getIsActive()):
           $layer = Mage::getSingleton('catalog/layer');

			$catName = $this->getCurrentCategory()->getName();  
			<div class="category-box">
				<div class="category-image-box">
					<a href="<?php echo $this->getCategoryUrl($_category)?>"><img src="/skin/frontend/3graces/default/images/category_image_default.gif"></a>
				<div class="category-name">	
					<p><a href="<?php echo $this->getCategoryUrl($_category)?>">
						<?php echo $catName ?></a></p>
			<? if($_imageUrl=$this->getCurrentCategory()->getImageUrl()):?>
         <div class="category-box">
				<div class="category-image-box">
					 <a href="<?php echo $this->getCategoryUrl($_category)?>"><img src="<?php echo $_imageUrl?>" height="80"></a>
				<div class="category-name">	
					<p><a href="<?php echo $this->getCategoryUrl($_category)?>"> <?php echo $_category->getName()?></a></p>

            <?php /* This resets the category back to the original pages category
****     If this is not done, subsequent calls on the same page will use the last category
****    in the foreach loop
*/   ?>
<?php $layer->setCurrentCategory($_maincategorylisting);  ?> 

<br clear=all>

If you notice, I placed an if statement in the code that first checks if an image has been set for the category. If one has, it will show it – if there isn’t an image it will show a default image that I have chosen. Here is an example, when only 1 image for a category has been setup, and the rest are the default.

To make the block show up as an option in Magento Admin, you will need to go to CMS > Static Blocks. Once you get there, click Add New Block and fill in the following fields.

Block Title: Sub Category Listing
Identifier: sub_category_listing
Status: Enabled
Content: {{block type=”catalog/navigation” template=”catalog/navigation/sub_category_listing.phtml”}}

Once you have added all those fields, you can click save. Now to enable this static block for a parent category that contains a bunch of sub-categories with images that are set.
Go to: Catalog > Manage Categories

Then click on the parent category to which you wish to add this layout, scroll to the bottom of the first tab “General Information”.

You will see the following fields, just setup as follows:

Display Mode: Static Block Only
CMS Block: Sub Category Listing
Is Anchor: Yes

Now if you go back to your category on the website, you should see your newly setup sub category image listing page. If you arent seeing any images, make sure you setup you default image and placed it in the current directory within your magento install.