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tl;dr: I want the black simple product image to show up when black is chosen from layered nav in any category, but when clicked to still navigate to the configurable.

Scenario:

We operate a store that sells dresses. We sell many dresses from many designers. We sell many sizes of many dresses in many colors. For merchandising reasons we want to display a de-facto color (say, black) as the color of the product image on our configurable product. We have product shots in all of the colors, but the configurable product is set up to only have, say, the product shots with the color black.

We have colors configured in two attributes - color, and simplified color. Color would be the actual name of the designer's color - e.g. Burnt Sienna vs. Orange - but for the purposes of navigation we would like the layered navigation to display full counts of product colors by their primary color name. This attribute is a dropdown/global type as we use it for the pivot for simple-configurable association.

Problem:

When any color is chosen from the sidebar we want to display relevant images from the attributes on the simple products. In essence, if you click orange, we want to show the orange dress - not the black dress that also potentially comes in orange. The same would be true for all other colors.

We have tried various plugins (Amasty Configurable Products, Gomage Navigation) and they all work well to improve the behavior and UX of configurable products in Magento, but the only way to get a black dress to show up when black is clicked that we have found so far is to set up multiple configurables, one for each product color, that have the images swapped out.

If clicked, the user is directed to the configurable product, preferably with the displayed color pre-selected (though this is not a hard requirement).

Questions:

  • What is the recommended configuration to achieve the above?
  • Is there a 3rd party tool to handle this - we would prefer this option, actually
  • Is there an argument to be made that from a UX perspective this is overkill or unnecessary?
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In order to show all the possible colours you'll need to have your catalog set up in this manner:

  1. Configurable product visibility is set to "Catalog"
  2. Configurable products are not placed in any categories (and therefore are only visible via their product view pages)
  3. Set visibility to "Catalog/Search" for one simple product representing each colour (not every simple product, because you will see multiple black dresses, one for each size)
  4. Simple products are placed in appropriate categories (so all colour variations will be displayed)
  5. The simple products need to link to their parent configurable product
  6. The appropriate colour needs to be preselected when viewing the configurable product depending on what simple product was clicked.

Take a look at: http://cjmcreativedesigns.com/magento-extensions/pre-select-colors-plus-swatches.html

It's really lightweight and will provide all the functionality you require. It also allows attributes to have images/colours assigned to their values for use in layered navigation and on configurable product page. This lets you display swatches or size icons.

I think this approach would become overkill if you have a huge catalog. An alternative would be to show just the configurable product in the catalog but with the swatch options presented underneath the image. Clicking one of the swatches will swap the photo. The extension above will also do this for you.

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