Nearly two years ago (2011), templating was added to Associate-O-Matic with v5.0, completely revamping the structure of the store front by replacing a confusing cluster of nested HTML tables with clean editable CSS. Templates were a fantastic leap forward, but it was appended onto the same backend interface that’s been in use since v4.0 in 2008. Now with the release of v5.4.0, a complete reworking of the control panel completes the process started with v5 by fusing the two halves of AOM into a single, coherent modern unit. Nearly a full year in the making, v5.4 is also chockablock with some exciting new features. Of course it also fixes various bugs that cropped up during the run of v5.3, and utilizes the latest Amazon API. Let’s take a look at some of the changes to be found in this widely anticipated update.
Certainly the first and most obvious changes you’ll see are to the layout of the control panel itself. A new login screen brings you to a main page that shows how the various tabs have been regrouped into sections, so that tabs with related functions (like Themes and Colors) can be found together for ease of use. This can be especially helpful for new users, allowing them to focus on the core areas of getting their site up and running before delving into decoration and layout, then advanced features and SEO. The Getting Started screen has also been simplified, so new users can get their site up and running with minimal effort. One way this is achieved is by having a Test category automatically set up for them. Besides removing a potential roadblock for people unfamiliar with the system, it also provides an example of what a category should look like, to assist in customizing for their target niche.
Speaking of categories, the old system of having to number categories in the order you want them to appear has now been replaced by simply dragging and dropping them on the Categories page to whatever order you want them in. A small but amazingly efficient step. Similar little aids can be found throughout v5.4, such as the ‘Save’ button floating down along the right side whenever you have to scroll through a long list. No more having to make a change, then move up or down to get to the ‘Save’ button. It’s always right there.
Another change is in having a Toolbox in the top right corner. This contains all the links that were previously found along the top of the page. Now they are organized into a drop-down list that reduces clutter, but still leaves them close at hand when needed.
As far as features go, there are plenty to talk about. The Tabs for instance, continue their march from clunky image-laden problems to smooth controllable CSS subsystems. There is more flexibility than ever before, and even a new menu-bar style to choose from:
In a similar vein, you can now design your own custom CSS buttons from the control panel:
You can change the text, font, size, style, color (text, border, background and hover), border size/style, and corner roundness. It’s also possible to make each button completely different (if you want to make Select Options different from Add to Cart, for example). Or stick with the standard buttons (known as Classic style) if you want.
Plus these other standout features, among others:
- Change the number of items that qualify for Best Seller status (from the old default of 100).
- Customize the number of days back that an item can be considered a New Release (instead of 30 days as before).
- Control how round you want your corners to be (or not at all).
- How many backups of the cfg.saved.php file you want to keep (between zero and twenty).
- Filter the keywords for searches.
- Split commissions on your site among more than one Amazon ID (within one Amazon locale only).
- Have greater control over background images.
- Turn off the ‘Buy’ button for digital download items.
In last month’s post, I mentioned that the Sitemap has been upgraded to now show subcategories. Just to clarify, this only includes custom subcategories, not the Amazon-generated ones.
There are also a number of bug fixes behind the scenes, and as also mentioned last month, the removal of the Image Cloak because of the drain on resources. Hopefully it won’t be missed by too many people. Plus, changes to cache storage, and improving the display of some CSS3-style features in older browsers, such as IE8-9. The RSS feed abilities have been enhanced, and there’s now greater scope for customizing the WordPress feed, to display items from your Full version AOM site in a WP blog.
All in all, an incredible feature set, and much of this will now provide a platform for more exciting additions which are already in the planning stages for future upgrades to follow. Associate-O-Matic v5.4.0 has been the product of a great deal of time and energy, many late nights, flurries of email and a generous amount of user feedback concerning what works and what doesn’t. If somehow your socks haven’t been knocked off by now, stick around – you ain’t seen nothing yet.