While most of the customers of Bike Shop Hub, are interested in hearing about what we are up to in the realm of our expertise in bike touring, bike commuting, family cycling and increasingly with electric bikes, the tools with which we are presenting this expert knowledge with are worth sharing from time to time as well. Recently we’ve been looking at upgrading two critical systems and have been investigating available open source tools as we like to do.
In the realm of our website CMS (content management system), we’ve been debating back and fourth about WordPress versus Drupal. We really like the robustness and extensibility of Drupal, however it does not offer the out of the box usability of WordPress. WordPress also has a thriving community of users that use it in very similar ways to us. Being able to share with this community is a great resource for us. And we are already WordPress users for our blogging here at CommuteByBike.com, UtilityCycling.org and BikeTrailerBlog.com as well as for supporting the womens bike racing community blog, WomensBikeTalk.com.
With WordPress, we’ve discovered a great interactive theme called Headway. This theme is very interesting because it allows for quite a bit of customization with very little experience in HTML or CSS. Of course if you want to go outside of the parameter that the tool offers, html, css and php programming come into play. From what I’ve seen in exploring quite a few themes for WordPress, there is no easier to use tool to build a custom look with on Headway. There is also a decent community using the tool when you are interested in doing more advanced customizations as well that offer up plenty of guides, tips and tricks. If you are WordPress user of any level, I highly recommend checking out what can be done with Headway. We are currently rebuilding this website in Headway working on adding in dynamic content from our 3 shops, adding sections to this blog, bringing in a forum and setting up a section for the products that we manufacture under the Wandertec brand.
Behind the website presentation, an online retail business like Bike Shop Hub requires a solid inventory accounting system. We’ve been pushing Quickbooks to its limits and really have had quite a bit of trouble with integrating its data with the online shops. We’ve decided to plunge into an upgraded system and began exploring the realm of open source ERPs.
xTuple came to the fore front for us as an accounting system that offered usability that seemed familiar with what was working for us in Quickbooks. xTuple really looks promising in its ability to integrate everything about it into our online shops as needed. And if it doesn’t offer tools we need, unlike Quickbooks, we can customize it as needed.
The usability of xTuple seems like it will allow us to get up and running with it fairly quickly. While xTuple is billed as Open Source, it is really a hybrid of commercial and open source. The basic version, Postbooks, is available for free download, while the more advanced Standard and Manufacturing versions come with a decent price tag. I like this aspect of it as the paid versions of it mean that there is good support for implementation and maintenance as we get underway. In the long term, xTuple seems to offer up alot of useful tools that we can grow into.
Were just getting started with these 2 interesting tools, but hopefully you’ll start to see the results of them here soon. I’ll try to post updates here on how things are going with these two new tools in a few months and please post your questions and/or experiences with Headway or xTuple in the comments below.