Monday, 12 May 2014

Zazzle Product Sets - New to the Zaps Toolkit

There's been a lot of talk on the Zazzle forum about their recently new 'Collections' feature and how they're a good idea but not great in practice.

Project "My Zazzle Set"

That set me thinking on whether I could do a set / collections feature for Zaps. I like a challenge and that's what I've been working on for the last couple of weeks.

What I planned for

I sketched out in my mind the things it should do:
  • Objective: create a pipe for the Zaps toolkit that would allow the creation of  a collection of 4 items, drawn from Zazzle's RSS feeds and featuring different actual products each time.
  • Output: A single feed item comprising 4 products, using a fluid design
  • Product selection: By Zazzle's product type codes and a query phrase
  • Scheduling: Usual Zaps scheduling

The journey

The main difficulty was in finding a way to combine information from more than one input feed item into just one output feed item. Once that was conquered, the rest was fairly plain sailing with some difficult bits.

The main obstacle to progress was that Zazzle's feed mechanism wasn't working correctly when drawing from a store. No warning, nothing on the forum to indicate there was a problem.

I thought that the weird results I was getting lay in what I was doing and it had me going round and round in circles for a couple of days (expletives censored!)

Thanks to +DigitalDreambuilder (right one?) for saving my sanity by replying to my forum posting about it. DDB confirmed things are presently out of kilter when using a storename in a Zazzle feed request, but Market Place pulls are ok.

What I achieved

Here's a blog post created using it (I visited the last two links, hence their difference in appearance)

A blog post produced automatically by My Zazzle Set

I managed most of what I sketched out above:
  • As planned, it produces a collection of 4 products drawn from Zazzle and output as a single feed item
  • Product selection: as planned
  • Scheduling: As per Zaps with the exception of not being able to emit twice per day (but see later).
    This is a result of a timeout which limits the pool of available products (the 'ferris wheel' from which products are emitted, with the wheel clicking round one position each day)
  • There is one cool bonus aspect, introduced to allow you to test things out. This test mode forces the ferris wheel to click round one stop every hour rather than every day and it emits regardless of the run hour or minutes you set.
    • You see the results on the config screen when you run the pipe, no matter the time
    • With this test mode you can set up a recipe to email yourself with the results. After a few hours, you'll see if you're getting what you expected. Once you are you're set to go :)

Here's the config screen showing all the options:

My Zazzle Set configuration screen

I over-achieved in one area. As I worked on the html for the final output, I thought it would be a good idea to have different layouts. Right now there are two variations, one that displays the images and a caption for the collection. The other variation includes linked titles of the products under the caption.

The 'template' html for the one with the titles is:
<div style="width:100%;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;margin-bottom:0px;text-align:center;"><a rel="nofollow" href="#link0"><img src="#image0" alt="#title0" style="width:23%;" title="#title0"/></a><a rel="nofollow" href="#link1"><img src="#image1" alt="#title1" style="width:23%;" title="#title1"/></a><a rel="nofollow" href="#link2"><img src="#image2" alt="#title2" style="width:23%;" title="#title2"/></a><a rel="nofollow" href="#link3"><img src="#image3" alt="#title3" style="width:23%;" title="#title3"/></a><div style="margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;width:100%;text-align:center;">#msc</div><br><a rel="nofollow" href="#link0">#title0</a><br><a rel="nofollow" href="#link1">#title1</a><br><a rel="nofollow" href="#link2">#title2</a><br><a rel="nofollow" href="#link3">#title3</a><br></div>
All those #link0, #title0 etc are replaced with those of each product. I think the only un-obvious one is #msc which stands for My Set Caption

If you'd like to have a go at designing another template, I'd love to see it :) Put it in the comments and any I like I'll see about incorporating :)

So that's what I've been up to, what's been keeping you busy?

comments, likes, +1s, tweets are always welcome! :)

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