Table of content
The front-office is what customers constantly see when browsing your shop. It is the interface, the products, the pictures, the descriptions, the whole purchase process, etc.
As a customer, this is all you will see of a shop during your browsing and buying experience, from start to finish.
As a shop owner, you should know your front-office like the back of your hand, not only because you owe it to yourself to know your shop inside and out, but also because you need to understand what your customers face, the number of pages and clicks they go through during a typical buying sessions, where they might get stuck and how to help them out, etc.
PrestaShop comes with a default theme, which uses shades of gray on a white background. This simple design is intentional, in order to be adaptable to just about any line of business: cars, photographs, antiques, or anything at all! It was designed to be easy to browse, ergonomic and standard-compliant. It is complete, has been heavily tested by thousands of shops, and has proven its value.
If you installed PrestaShop with its sample data, you will see Apple products.
While the shop owner can change the front-office theme at any time, thanks to the wealth of themes that are available on the PrestaShop Addons website (http://addons.prestashop.com/), we will base this chapter on the default theme only.
Note that we here are describing the default theme with its default settings and modules. Activating other modules, or obviously using another theme, can dramatically change the shopping experience.
Whether your customer arrives on the front page by typing the shop web addresses or lands on a sub-page through a search engine, he or she will always have many options to navigate through the catalog.
The header is a thin bar of content, accessible from any of the front-office pages.
It contains several essential tools and links, which apply to the whole shop:
The header hardly ever changes throughout the whole buying experience.
The header's essential part is the cart. By default, it is folded in order to only show the number of products it currently contains. The customer can click on the text to access the shopping cart summary, from which the checkout process can be started.
The block's interface changes when the customer puts its mouse cursor over the cart: it opens to display exactly the name of each added product. Each product lines features the quantity, the combination (if any), and the price. The customer can also directly remove unwanted product with a click of the mouse.
The bottom of the block adds the shipping costs and the total price of the order, along with a "Check out" button leading to the shopping cart summary, from which the checkout process can be started.
The footer gives access to pages that could be useful to your users.
Note that all this content can be changed by the shop owner.
The default theme's left column stays primarily static, as it mainly serves as a handy placeholder for navigation and secondary links.
The shop owner can indicate a set of tags for each product. A tag is a non-hierarchical keyword, also described as metadata: it is not displayed on the product page as it does not bring any useful information, but it can prove very useful when building thematic lists – such as a tag-cloud, where the most common tags are written in a bigger font than the rarer ones.
A category is a hierarchical way of sorting items: it can contain any number of sub-categories, making it possible to easily browse from the more general category listings to the more specific products by following a logical path.
A PrestaShop shop can have as many categories and sub-categories as needed, with an infinite number of products in a given category level. All categories are actually sub-categories of the root category, "Home."
This is also the only product list view where the customer can compare products by ticking their checkbox and selecting the "Compare" button.
Only displayed when the customer has viewed at least one product during the current session.
This block serves as a reminder of the products previously took interest in, and gives a shortcut back to these if he wants to pick them in the end.
Customers can choose to display all the products from a single supplier, regardless of their types or prices.
Customers can choose to display all the products from a single manufacturer, regardless of their types or prices.
This is where PrestaShop lists the default static pages, as created by the shop owner: delivery information, legal notices, T&C, etc. They are not selling points, but their content is important enough that it warrants being always available.
By default, this block features a simple image with a link to PrestaShop's official website. You can change the settings of this block to turn this into an ad for a friend's website or another shop.
Customers can register to your shop's newsletter directly using this form. Afterwards, the newsletter itself is entirely managed by you; PrestaShop does not handle the transmission of e-mails to the customers.
The "Newsletter" module enables you to generate a .CSV file of all the registered customers and their e-mails, and you should be able to import that CSV file in any e-mailing system.
The default theme's right column hardly ever changes in the course of the shopping experience.
These blocks are always available, from any page, in the default theme.
This block presents the latest new products, with links to their respective pages.
This block gives your customers a quick overview of the current promotions (if any), with the original price and the discount price.
This block contains an image-link to the Store Locator tool, which enables your customers to find the closest physical store. It is essential if your business if you have physical stores, and can be disabled easily if you do not have any.
Having your hotline phone number available from every page of your shop is essential.
This is where the magic happens. The central section changes constantly in response to the customer's choices.
The default front page gives the customer a broad overview of the shop and its possibilities. An image slider serves as an introduction to the shop.
The slider is followed by the "Featured products" block, presenting products that the shop owner chose to highlight, either for their novelty or their current price.
Most seasoned web surfers will visit a shop via a search engine, landing directly on a product or category. Few stumble upon the home page, and this is why it should be tailored to new users.
Categories, tags, manufacturers, suppliers, search, specials page, best sellers page or new products page: PrestaShop has many paths to a product, but in the end the customers is given a familiar listing of products, within the chosen context.
Despite the differing content, this listing designs are very similar, in order to keep it familiar even for the newcomers:
This list view enables the customer to see at a glance the products' main information when they already know everything they need about a product, allowing for a quicker decision process.
A click on the "Add to Cart" triggers a quick animation, sending the product's thumbnail flying into the "Cart" section.
Categories can feature a header image with an introductory message, as set by the shop owner.
While this is not the case by default, you can choose to have the category image replaced by an image map. A category can feature an unlimited number of image maps, which the visitor can scroll through with the tool below it.
An image map is simply an image which has links available for some of its areas. A "+" symbol is placed upon the areas which have links. The image map can feature as many links as necessary.
Product listing by category or manufacturer can be further sorted by price, name or availability.
Note that listing by tags does not allow for such sorting.
Products within a category can be compared to each other, thanks to each item's checkbox (on the left of the thumbnail). This is the only product listing where the customer can compare products, since there is no sense in comparing products that do not have the same characteristics/features. Obviously, this means that categories should only feature products which can be compared.
Provided the product's information is complete and consistent, the comparison page will display with a row for each comparable feature. This is immensely useful, particularly for products with technical differences.
By default, customers can compare up to 3 products at a time, but this can be changed in the "Products" preference page in the back-office.
This is where all the information entered by the shop owner is available to the user. Depending on the theme design, a product page can be very thorough, with extensive information, or simply present the most essential facts. The default theme is typical in that its most prominent feature is the product images, with a tool below it enabling customers to scroll between the available images.
Next to the images are two blocks:
At the bottom of the product page is a tab section. The most usual ones are:
Clicking on the "Cart: XX products" link in the header, or on the "Check out" button in the cart interface also in the header, brings the customer to the "Shopping cart summary" page, which is the first step in the order process. The breadcrumb trail at the top of the page indicates the steps in the order process:
The customer can come back to any previous step by clicking on its title.
The standard order process takes 5 steps, and as many pages. You can choose to have all these steps on one page by going in the back-office, and in the "Orders" preference page, change the "Order process type" option from "Standard (5 steps)" to "One page check out".
The cart page gives a succinct but complete view of the items that are in the cart: thumbnail, name, features, unit price and ability to change the quantity of each product.
Detailed pricing is then displayed below, including the order's total cost with tax and shipping, and if applicable, a description of the voucher that was used. Further below, the available addresses are displayed.
Clicking "Next" starts the check-out process.
Because it is one of the main sources of lost customers for online shops, PrestaShop makes it simple and straightforward to create a customer account.
When clicking the "Log in" link in the header, the visitor is taken to the authentication page, where he or she has to fill one of two forms:
The first step for a new customer to create an account is to enter his or her e-mail address in the form and validate. This will bring up the account creation page itself. Two blocks of information are necessary to fill in order to get an account:
Customer data privacy. When registering to PrestaShop, the visitor has to agree to your data privacy. It is up to you write it, as it will legally bind you and your customers' data.
You can change the content of the customer data privacy warning section by changing the configuration of the "Customer data privacy block" module (from the "Modules" page). Make sure to change it for all the available languages.
Once registered, the customer is redirected to the "My account" page, where many options can be accessed: order history, credit slips, vouchers, and access to the previously entered information.
Among the available links is "Add my first address". This will be the default address for this customer - there can be many more.
If the customer only has one registered address, it will be used both as the shipping and the billing address. During the order process, the customer can choose to use a different address for the billing addess, and create that new address on the fly.
Almost every page of your shop features an "Add to cart" button for the given product, and displays a quick summary of the cart's content. This makes it easy for customers to take the first step towards an order.
The whole process of buying a product on a PrestaShop site can follow different paths, but they all reach the same conclusion, which in e-commerce lingo is called the "conversion funnel": from the moment the cart is filled and the customer starts to check out, he or she has to progress through various validation screens until the order is validated and can be processed.
The purchase path is called a conversion funnel because this is where a lot of online shops lose clients due to overly long, complicated or numerous screens. Read more on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversion_funnel.
This process starts when the customer clicks the cart summary's "Next" button, and always follows the same sequence of screens:
The delivery address page. If the user account has no registered address, the customer is directly taken to the address creation form.
Two addresses are necessary for an order:
If the customer needs to have the order billed to an address other than the delivery one, he or she can deselect the "Use the delivery address as the billing address" box and either select an address from the currently registered ones, or create a new one.
If an address turns out to be wrong, the customer can use the "Update" link to correct it.
The payment page.
The customer can choose many payment options, depending on what the shop owner has set up. The customer clicks on the chosen method and depending on the method, is either sent over to the chosen third-party handler or continues to one of PrestaShop's pages where he or she can enter the needed details, such as a validation before displaying check or bank wire information.
Check and bank wire are installed by default, but PrestaShop makes it easy to offer payment through PayPal, Hipay or any other 3rd party providers. See the modules installed by default in PrestaShop's back-office, or check the Addons marketplace for even more modules: http://addons.prestashop.com/.
When a non-logged visitor fills the cart with product and clicks the "Check out" button, the authentication page also features two additional sections: "Instant checkout" and "Delivery address".
The idea of instant checkout (or guest checkout) is to allow visitors to buy products even if they do not wish to create an account. PrestaShop still needs essential information for delivery or payment purpose, but no password is ever requested.
You can disable the guest checkout feature by going in the back-office, in the "Orders" preference page, "Enable guest checkout" option.
One of the great features of PrestaShop is the ability to get a geolocalized list of all the physical stores to which the online shop is tied. If available (as it is in the demo shop), a click on the "Our stores" block will bring up a map with a search form and radius selector.
On this map, stores are indicated using the shop's logo. A click on that logo brings up a small pop-up, revealing the full address and phone number, as well as the business hours for the store, as indicated by the shop owner.
At the bottom of the page, a table lists the stores closest to the user's search.