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Configurable products and dependent attributes
 
koko boko
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After following Magento’s development for more than a year now, I’ve been paying attention to their attempts to implement some important features the lack of which was simply a deal breaker for shop owners in many industries. Yes, I’m talking about “Configurable Products”. A properly designed configurable product function is the only feasible solution for 1/3 of all shops and ANY shop in the following industries – Printing, Jewelry, Photography, Art, Custom blinds, Custom computers(where some components are not compatible with other) shops , etc. Pretty much any business that sells products made from different materials or with different finish options that come in various sizes. Although Magento’s configurable product is superior to many others in some aspects, let’s see how it handles product configurations for some of the above business types...

 
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koko boko
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I. Sample one – Print, Photography, Art or Posters Shops
1.  Product price: i.e. blank item( mug, mouse pad,etc.), design, service, art royalty or other fee
- Magento handles this by allowing you to set base price for the configurable product - Excellent
2.  File(s) upload: We want to allow customer to upload own files(i.e. pictures, logo or art, etc.)
– Magento allows simple custom options(file upload) on Configurable Product. -Excellent
3.  Color or feature: Let’s say our customer needs to select a border/background color or other priced in feature from a set of choices for their customizable item, art, flyer or else:
-We add yet another simple custom option with a set of colors or suitable choices. –Excellent
4.  Option-set: (Paper, Finish, etc.) We need to setup Paper or Finish options (i.e. papers -standard, glossy, premium) for our simple print shop or (artist paper, canvas, wrapped canvas or framing options) for a custom art/photography store. However, each Paper or Finish has different price which is largely dependent on the Print Size.  So, as the pricing of this option is a function of both Paper(Finish) and Print Size, to come up with the right price we need to setup Paper(Finish) and SIZE options as configurable attributes and add simple products(variations) for all available options combinations. Each simple product variation will have a UNIQUE PRICE based on the combination of Paper(Finish) and SIZE options. This price value shall be added to the price of our main configurable product and will represent the PRICE of the configurable attributes.
5.  Option-set: (Print-Size) We decide to offer 12 different printing sizes. As we already established earlier, the Print Size pricing is dependent on the option chosen in the previous Paper(Finish) Option set.  So, a selection made in the Paper/Finish options menu should populate the Print-Size options with the price values associated with the chosen Paper/Finish option.
Let’s start adding our simple product variations. Three(3) Paper types X 12 Sizes =36 simple product variations… More if we add additional Paper types or Finish options but for the sake of simplicity let’s keep the numbers low. We configure our product variations with their unique price for each combination of paper and size:
Size Standard Glossy Premium
8x11 $0.30 $0.35 $0.40
11x14 $0.35 $0.45 $0.55
12x16 $0.40 $0.55 $0.70
..so on ……… …….  ……
So far so good. I’m not going to discuss here the effort it may take if someone needs to configure several hundred variations for each product and the fact that it may take couple of minutes to load a product like that in the front end… even on a local installation. Nonetheless, Magento deserves congratulations for adding the ability to use simple custom options with conf. products which significantly reduced the number of simple products variations needed… but there’s more to be desired… like auto generation of ALL product variants. It’s easier to delete few unavailable variants than creating tens or hundreds of available ones.
Anyway, let’s test our product. We go to the front end a start choosing our options and… Surprise-Surprise, for some strange reason Magento disregards the pricing data for our Paper/Size variations we’ve entered in our associated simple product variants!?! It only uses them to manage SKU and Inventory!!! Why Magento… why?!? Apparently Magento’s designers (or coders) did not think about how dependant attributes/options work when designing their configurable product… and how they are the bread and butter of any configurable product. Instead, Magento provides us with the option (Super product attributes configuration) to manage price values of the dependant attributes/options AS IF we are dealing with non-dependant (simple) custom options. Why disregard the already available price data in the simple associated products variants and leave 1/3 of the ecommerce community with no means of dealing with dependant options pricing…? PRICE is the single most important attribute of a product… and the ability to price dependant attributes options (in our case - reflecting the Paper-type/Print-Size pricing into the simple product variants) is crucial for any configurable product! The alternative is to avoid the attributes’ dependency by setting up a product for each option of one of the dependant attributes(same image - different description) - i.e. Flier(standard), Flier(glossy), Flier(premium) and have the Size attribute as simple option or simple associated product variants. Yeah, we’ve seen many of those lame shops on the net.
It’s time for Magento to correct this major issue… or at least to consider adding a switch so we can have the choice to use the price values from the simple products variants to represent the price of the configurable attributes instead of using the current non-dependant-non-sense attribute options pricing model. For the tens of thousands of shop owners in the above industries the lack of ability to correctly price the dependant attributes’ options is crucial and a major deal breaker when looking for an ecommerce solution – hence, the hundreds of complaints in the Magento’s and other discussion boards regarding the issue.

 
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koko boko
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Sample 2: Jewelry shop
1.  Product craftsmanship price(i.e. $100) - this will be represented by the configurable product base price.
2.  Material options(Silver, 10k Gold, 18k Gold, White Gold) – because of the significant difference in metal prices and the dependency on size, the option selected from this option set shall determine the price values of the Size options. In practice, a selection made in the “Material” options menu should populate the Size options with the price values associated with the chosen material.
3.  Size options – in our case this option set basically represent the amount of material used for each size jewel (rings size, necklace length, etc.) The cost of material however also depends on the type of material chosen in the first Attribute/Option… so, again the only possible solution is creating configurable attributes for the Material and Size options and simple associated products for each options variation. Each Simple Product shall be uniquely priced based on the specific combination of options.
4.  Gemstone (diamond: 1/2ct-$500, 1ct-$1000, 2ct-$2000…) – this option can be handled by the (simple) Configurable Product Custom options as the gemstone price is not dependant on other options.
Sounds good but… once again our enthusiasm is cut short by Magento’s improper handling of dependant attributes pricing that disregards the price data from the simple associated products. Using the “Super product attributes configuration” to setup options prices is simply impossible when an attribute pricing is dependent on the Size and vice-versa.

I’ll be back with few suggestions....

 
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Isaac Chambers
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Hi,

I’m running into similar problems with the website I’m working on. In my case, I have configurable products with combinations of two attributes. The incremental pricing for the attributes is cumbersome, but manageable. My problem is that I don’t want users to have to select both attributes individually, first one attribute, then another. I want them to be able to select preset combinations of attributes available. I could do this with just one attribute, but with around 30 variants of one attribute and 15 variants of another attribute, that results in 450 combinations!

I really like how Magento handle’s configurable products, but in this case don’t really want users to “configure” the products so much as I want them to be able to switch between variations.

This is why I propose a new feature: Configurable Product Switcher.

When enabled, Configurable Product Switcher would allow simple products to be grouped together so that each simple product is linked to the other associated simple products.  The simple products are labeled based on the available combinations of one or more attributes. Instead of simple products being set to display nowhere, the configurable product would be set to display nowhere.

EXAMPLE:
I’m selling watches. The “Bolex” brand of watches has a model called the “Clam” which has two variable attributes: band material and face color. Each variation of the watch is listed separately as a simple product, displaying the variation product’s price, image, and other attributes. When I’m viewing one variation of the Clam, the gold band with the black face to be specific, the other variations of the Clam are listed in a drop-down menu (or it could be simple links or thumbnails). The drop-down list shows: “GOLD BAND / BLACK FACE” already selected as the current item. When I click the drop-down menu, the other variations are listed: “GOLD BAND / RED FACE” and “SILVER BAND / WHITE FACE”. Choosing any of these options actually changes the page to load that simple product view.

 
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Bogislaw
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koko boko - 28 July 2009 02:15 PM

Magento deserves congratulations for adding the ability to use simple custom options with conf. products which significantly reduced the number of simple products variations needed… but there’s more to be desired… like auto generation of ALL product variants. It’s easier to delete few unavailable variants than creating tens or hundreds of available ones.
...
Anyway, let’s test our product. We go to the front end a start choosing our options and… Surprise-Surprise, for some strange reason Magento disregards the pricing data for our Paper/Size variations we’ve entered in our associated simple product variants!?! It only uses them to manage SKU and Inventory!!! Why Magento… why?!?
....
It’s time for Magento to correct this major issue...

I agree 100%. This is costing us a lot of time. The price rules have their limits - you can’t use multiple non-linear attributes. The price rules don’t suffice to calculate all the prices we need (although it would be very nice if they did). And it’s just not logical why the Simple Product prices (required fields!) should be disregarded. This must be optional (like adding a checkbox “Ignore Associated Simple Products’ Prices” to Conf Products).

Some tips for extensions:

- “Simple Configurable Products” aims to do exactly that: Using the Simple Product’s price when chosen through the Conf. Product’s dropdown boxes. Because it adds the associated Simple Product to the cart rather than the Conf. Product, it has some disadvantages, mainly: 1. Custom options of the Conf. Pr. are ignored. 2. Conf. Attributes and selected values are not listed in cart and order (or only the values as part of the name/SKU).
It’s free though and the developer Matt Dean gives great support (if he has time).

- “EasySKU” automatically generates you all possible Simple Products out of one Conf Product. Just make sure your server’s script running time is high enough. The extension is not very mature, but it works. It costs $75.

This stuff is so fundamental it must be incorporated into Magento core.

Also note that the price of a Conf Product should relate to one specific configuration (the “default” configuration) which is the one pre-selected when you first open the Conf Product page. No more “Choose option” in the dropdown menus (if default is activated - remember, this is optional).

 
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wahl
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Suscribed to this topic.

 
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Alchemical laboratory
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I am can not understood logick, if there is configurable product , which choises from a set of simple products. Why result of configuration can not use price of targeted simple product, which SKU is in order?
For example I have a configured product “lamp” with voltage {220,110} and color={red,green,blue}. So I have a set of 6 simple products.
All of each of this lamps costs 100$, and red lamp for 110V must costs 50$. How I can define this discount in configurable product?
And one more is that I want change of images of product when I am changing configuration.

Thanks.

 
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wahl
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This extension mays do what you need about prices
http://www.magentocommerce.com/extension/596/simple-configurable-products

But for adding all variations in one click, I found no solution except doing your own script…

 
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Bogislaw
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wahl - 11 September 2009 03:20 AM

This extension mays do what you need about prices
http://www.magentocommerce.com/extension/596/simple-configurable-products

But for adding all variations in one click, I found no solution except doing your own script…

@wahl: read the posts. I mentioned a solution above.

 
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tents4less
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We also need to get Magento to do something like this.

 
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mebuzzme
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I tried the extension above. It just renders 0.00 for each product option. Don’t waste your time.

 
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wahl
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Try again… It works. Check for your install.

 
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koko boko
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Sorry for not responding for so long but I had to go on a lengthily trip…
I know about the “Simple Configurable Products” but it’s rather a tool for working with variants of a simplistic products(hence it’s name) and not so useful for complex configurable products. Also, as Bogislaw said it comes with some disadvantages to which I’ll add some more:
- Base price of the config. product is ignored
- Custom options of the Conf. Product are ignored (back to the thousands of variants)
- Conf. Attributes and selected values are not listed in cart and order
- according to the author(as of 1-2 months ago) the extension is not production ready yet

As for extension recommendation for speeding up and easing the process of generating complex configurable products I’ve set my eye on a commercial extension called “Custom Options Templates” which I’ve not tested yet but if it does what it says… it’d be priceless for creating config. products. Link is here: http://www.aitoc.com/en/magentomods_custom_options_templates.html
The problem with Magento IS NOT how its configurable products are structured… A Configurable Product Price is the sum of: 

Base Price
+ Dependant Options Price (mapped to a Simple Associated Product Variant)
+ Custom options Price(s)
= TOTAL PRICE

I think this is the right structure as it allows the development of any type of shop and any type of config. product with dependant options while still containing the number of simple associated products (variants) to a manageable number.
The problem with Magento IS that currently the code is written in a way that doesn’t allow to price the product’s dependant options as such - it just disregards the price data from the simple products and provids an insufficient tool for setting up the price of the options.
Let’s get back to a simple example. A ring offered in Sizes 6, 7, 8 will have different price increments for the material choice of gold or silver.
Silver: $20 - $22 - $24
Gold:  $100 - $120 - $140
The only way to price this product options right is to generate simple associated products(variants) for each product variation based on the dependant options and use the price values of the simple products for pricing the Dependant Options combinations. This is something Magento doesn’t do because it ignores the simple products prices.
While with a Jewelry shop someone can still resort to the old method of creating/duplicating additional products for the same model, with different images for each material option ( gold, silver, etc.) to avoid the creation of dependant options that he/she cannot price right in Magento…, in the case of a Print and other shops this will often make no sense as the difference is not visible (like paper weight, finish options) or when we are dealing with a size dependant add-on to the main product (like picture frame, decoration, etc)

 
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koko boko
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merigold
100 is not that much(some people are dealing with tens of thousands). try using the ‘Quick simple product creation’ tool in the configurable product ‘associated products’ section. You can also duplicate the config product for similar products.
Another way to approach product creation is to check out the extension mentioned in my previous post or the easySKU that someone else mentioned.
Try using ‘custom options’ for the options that are not dependent on other options.
However, if your prices depend on Size/Length and Material you won’t be able to get past magento’s limitation of how it deals with dependent options and all your work will go in vain.
If magento is not working for you(which is most likely… given you’re dealing with jewelry) look at other carts that support dependent options untill magento’s team fixes this nonsense… Some carts I know of are cscart and x-cart.

 
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Bogislaw
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koko boko - 28 July 2009 02:15 PM

I. Sample one – Print, Photography, Art or Posters Shops
for some strange reason Magento disregards the pricing data for our Paper/Size variations we’ve entered in our associated simple product variants!?! It only uses them to manage SKU and Inventory!!! Why Magento… why?!?

I now have an answer to that question: Because if the prices were available, Magento would have to load all associated simple products - this would kill the performance.

 
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bamich
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We’re currently facing a similar problem with one of our clients:

They want to put some specific variations on sale (i.e. special price for color blue). It’s possible to do it via negative option surcharges but then the original price in the frontend just changes - the common special-price behaviour (show regular and special price) is desired… would this work with the organic extension mentioned above?

 
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