The new product type is on *hold* right now, possibly never to be implemented.
First of all, we need to sell products, not make PHP code, that is the overriding rule with doing anything with Magento. That’s what we need to keep in mind while we (as a company) are evaluating Magento (i.e. throwing products and categories in a bunch of different ways).
After analyzing our situation further, we realized that the main goal was to have a product that only occupied a place in the catalog hierarchy and allowed the customer to choose from a vast array of options on the product info page. This sounded like a job for Grouped Products. But, when we realized some products also have options, the interface for mixing Grouped and Configurable on 1 page grew beyond the point where we could provide a good shopping experience to customers. Moving our products “up” one level in the catalog hierarchy is probably going to solve almost everything without the need to create a new product type.
Our “catalog product type” is now just a terminal category in the catalog hierarchy. Instead of:
Air Filters > Disposable Filters
* Fiberglass filters (new product type that comes in 30 sizes)
* Polyester filters (new product type that comes in 30 sizes with gasket options)
Air Filters > Disposable Filters > Fiberglass Filters
* 30 Simple products that we can group and search with layered navigation
Air Filters > Disposable Filters > Polyester Filters
* 30 Configurable products that we can group and search with layered navigation (60 simple not viewable in the catalog)
This method of listing our products still requires hacks for us. We have to change the product listing page to show more attributes, but it is much better than trying to hack the product info page and create a new Frankenstein-esque product type that behaves differently if it has options or not. We thought it would be too confusing to the end-user to have the product page look vastly differently depending on if the product required options or not, because that would not be immediately clear to the end-user (that the difference in pages is because of extra options).
It’s not exactly what we want, but it is very close to what we want. We don’t really think of our “catalog” as having 30 products in the “polyester disposable category”, we think that we have 1 “polyester disposable filter” in the “disposable categories” available in 30 sizes (attributes).
This new way works *with* Magento and doesn’t require us to change large portions of functionality while Magento is still being developed and changing often.
We still have a need for making *custom* sized products and that will require changing the product info page, but it will be done in a more standard manner. I think that this “made to order” product can be done with a complex front-end widget and many back-end attributes attached to a simple product.
Here is my original list of desired features:
Desired Behaviors of Catalog Product Type:
* Do not show a price until a simple product has been selected.
Solved by changing the category listing page and by listing each simple product in the catalog.
* Show all possible options on one page allowing the user to scroll
Solved by defaulting the the category listing page to “list” type and setting a large LIMIT (50 or 100)
* Allow certain attributes to group choices visually (split tables, add extra TR row between, etc etc...)
Solved by combining layered navigation with duplicate attributes (size: 10"x10"x1, width:10”, height:10”, depth:10"). Size is visible as part of the product description, but width, height, and depth are all part of the layered navigation.
* Do not force SKU, price, qty, etc for “Catalog Types” master products as a user will never be buying this product
Solved be cause this “master product” (non-simple product types) is now just a category. So no one can buy a category and we don’t have to duplicate the information in the back-end.
* Update all related products’ descriptions when the Catalog Type product’s description is updated (.. maybe)
Some of the info is now part of a static block for a category, so it is not duplicated as much as it was before. We are willing to live with this one limitation and avoid building a completely new product type.
I still think Magento could benefit from having a sort of “made-to-order” product type by default, but we are willing to wait for it, or launch first and build it later. It doesn’t seem as necessary once you start using layered navigation. Layered navigation has really caused us to rethink our catalog layout and provide flexibility to the end-user that we can’t predict right now.