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I am about to start working on a shop that has around 1000 products, which normally is nice and easy. Some are simple products (no problem here) but around half have the possibility to be configured.

Each product has 2-5 sections that the user can configure with colour options. There is a total of 25 colours across the store. Normally I would use a configurable product, but my understanding is I would have to create a simple product for each possible combination of colours. With this set of options that would lead to a massive amount of products.

I have two alternative ideas:

  1. Create a simple product for the configurable product and add custom options for each section,
  2. Create a bundle product where each configurable section is itself a product,

Is there any major plus or negative side to custom options on simple products or bundle products?

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This is just my opinion, so don't shoot if you don't like it.
I would use configurable products if the only configurable attribute is 'color'.
Pro
Using configurable products you take advantage of what Magento offers. Each product has it's own SKU, you can set out of stock only a few combinations, you can even make (custom) reports of how many red shirts you sold, and the list can go on.
Con
I know it can be a pain to manage them...but I assume you are not going to manage 1k products (* configurations) each day.

I would not take the custom options approach.
Pro
Maybe this has an advantage, because It can be easier to manage. You can even create an observer that will add the custom options on save so you won't have to add them manually. (here is how)

Conn You cannot set a combination out of stock.
Red for one product and Red for an other mean 2 different things.

I may take the bundle products approach by making each color a separate product, not visible individually.

Pro Can make an observer to add them on save so you don't have to add manually (I don't have a link for that).
Can manage prices for different combinations easier than for the configurable products.
Conn
Cannot make a combination out of stock unless all "red" combinations become out of stock.

This is what I got so far. I will add more as soon as I remember.

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    Thank you, I also thought about making 23 products that are just the colours and using these to make the bundle product but it felt a bit wrong to me. My main issue with the configurable product approach is that the company claim to have over 3 million variations! – David Manners Nov 19 '13 at 8:32
  • @DavidManners. Oh..I didn't realize you end up with 3M combinations. Then don't use configurable. Use Bundle instead. But before making a final decision, make a proof of concept to see how it feels. – Marius Nov 19 '13 at 8:34

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