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tldr; I would like to have microsites like these sites below using magento but easy to build and destroy without the overhead of magento multisite.

http://www.indiemerch.com/clients/

Merchmo

More info: Our company uses over 100 'store' and 'website' scopes and growing. Most of them are small stores with a couple of configurable products.

This is creating issues with indexing, updating and stores frequently need to be removed edited, causing even more issues etc.

Ideally I would love to use categories as 'stores'. (basically templates with custom css for background and header, through checkout.) I have already begun trying to make this happen using session variables & layout update xml to add css to products and categories. But this seems like such a hack.

Multivendor plugins are overkill for what I need. We will manage all inventory products etc.

Am I missing something? Is there an easier way to achieve what I'm trying to achieve? There are a lot of sites in my industry that have setups like this..

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These are actually just plain old category pages to which they have applied some custom styling. It seems you've already figured this much out. This is the more correct approach IMHO when you have an unlimited number of stores and an unknown size of catalog, especially if you're doing something like a marketplace (think Zazzle) and have no budget or desire to get into marketplace extensions.

How'd they do it?

There are sub-categories in those categories which give each 'microsite' the ability to have some distinguishing taxonomy from another microsite (see the left nav in particular for filter/subcats).

Because of the way Magento gives you the ability to edit description fields and add static block mastheads to the top of categories you can really achieve some very interesting visual design which will further distinguish each category/microsite from another.

The only 'custom' sort of thing you'll have to do here is swap out the logo in the top left. This can be accomplished easily with custom layout xml or (even simplier) use some javascript in that static block or description field associated with the microsite.

Side note:

Use of sessions shouldn't be necessary so long as you're using only one store. You'll get a unified cart across all sites for free by virtue of the site being a singular store. If you're trying to create a cohesive feel from microsite categories to a branded cart to eventual checkout and conversion you will probably want to look into rendering your site's theme based on body classes and css rules rather than by sessions, cookies. You can alter the body classes in layout based on cart contents and this would be my preferred method to handle it.

However, the multi-store model is not terribly inefficient and would require for you to have hundreds of thousands of products before it becomes unweildy.

It may be the more proper way to go should any of your microsites ever need i18n or a dedicated mobile site or you wish to do theming the proper way and not as I described above.

Best of luck.

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  • Hi Phil, I think my issue is more with checkout and non product pages, as you mentioned a more cohesive feel. Those sites seem to have the checkout built into the category. I like the idea of using the body classes based on cart contents. I think I was on the right track then, and just need to continue what I was doing. The session variables are used to create 'continue shopping' to the parent category rather than the stores main category.
    – willboudle
    Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 19:08
  • You can accomplish a similar feat with a button that returns to referer URL or to the parent-most category of the last item in the shopping cart. Thanks for the accept - I'd love to hear how it turns out.
    – philwinkle
    Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 19:42
  • That's my backup plan, it first looks for a session variable, created with the category urlkey, fallback it looks at the last item added to cart. The problem with that is, a product can be in a category on our main website, wholesale website and in a category on the bands store. I was having a difficult time filtering a products parent category by the current store.
    – willboudle
    Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 19:51

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