The purpose of the project
Recently I’ve been working with a distributor to get their e-commerce website up and running. The main thing they needed help with is to get the list of products they’d be selling from the manufacturer uploaded in an efficient manner to their website. This site already existed and was built through GoDaddy’s Website Builder. With that brief introduction to the project, I’ll get on to what this post is really about:
GoDaddy’s GoCentral and its Bulk Import Functionality
As part of adding products to a store built through the website builder, GoDaddy has provided a way of bulk importing lots of products. This is very useful if you’ve got a plethora of products to add (as you might in the case of a distributorship). The format provided by GoDaddy is relatively simple and is uploaded via a CSV file. What I would like to talk about today are the problems that the instructions for importing multiple products gloss over in an attempt to make the process appear simple. These include:
- General complaints
- Problems uploading a picture via the Image URL field
- Updating a product by re-importing it
The first general problem with this process I noticed after I downloaded the “starter” CSV file, opened it in Excel, and started mapping fields. I went to look up a field, namely “Tax Category”, and couldn’t find it on the format page. The closest field there is “Taxable” which is a true/false field for charging tax. This seems different than what “Tax Category” might be for. And, because it isn’t described, I have no idea what “Tax Category” is for. So it appears that either their documentation or sample is out of date. This is an invitation for trouble right out of the gate.
Side Note: I couldn’t find a link to the starter CSV file outside of the actual import products process which you have to be logged in for. My apologies for this. Given my above complaint I don’t want to provide the sample CSV file that I do have because it may be even more out of date by the time you get here to read this.
My second general complaint is the simplicity of the documentation (hear me out before you start bashing me for being down on simplicity). My guess is that the general audience for GoDaddy’s Website Builder will likely be people who know tons about what they want to sell but may not be very technically savvy. For these users simplicity is VERY important. But, as you’ll see below with my attempts to upload pictures, if anything doesn’t work for some reason, having simple documentation is a detriment because it doesn’t give you any information on how to possibly fix the problem.
Problems uploading pictures
The format documentation indicates that the picture being uploaded for a product has to be provided via URL. My first thought was to use a cloud file storage and sharing service such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or Box to host the files. Because my main email address for my consulting company at the time of writing this was a Gmail address I decided to use Google Drive. I uploaded the pictures for the products to Google Drive, found the image for the product I was testing with, created a shareable link, added it to the CSV file, and tried to import the product. This led to the first problem that I encountered: that, according to the import program, the image was not found. Here is the list of possible errors found during import and, as with the documentation, the error description is not very helpful. This left me guessing as to the possible solution.
Generating links to download pictures from Google Drive instead of links to view them on Google’s service
The first thing that I thought of when trying to fix this problem was that the links that Google Drive generates takes you to view the file on Google Drive instead of automatically downloading the file. Thinking that, because the import functionality probably can’t select the option to download the file from this view, I searched around for a way to get a link that would automatically download the file when it is opened. It turns out that Google doesn’t provide a way to get this kind of link directly. However, with a little transformation of the view link, you can make a link that will automatically download the file. Because I was already working with the product information in Excel and doing some mapping from the original set of data to the format that GoDaddy needs, I came up with the following formula to do the transformation:
=SUBSTITUTE(SUBSTITUTE(Sheet1!M2, "/view", ""), "file/d/", "uc?export=download&id=")
You will want to replace Sheet1!M2 with the cell that contains the link that you got from Google Drive.
How this works: The inner call to
/view from the end of the link (or, really, replaces it with nothing). The outer
uc?export=download&id=. This tells Google Drive to make it downloadable. After transforming the link to my sample product in this way I saved my sheet in Excel as a CSV file and tried uploading it again. And, again, I got the error that told me that the image was not found.
Guessing what the import function wants based on the documentation
So, on to the next thing I could do: More guessing!
I went back to the format documentation and took a closer look at what it said in an attempt to try to find something that might help. The example link that they provide for an image is:
This tells me a couple of things that aren’t mentioned in either the explanation column or “what’s allowed” column:
- Use http instead of https
- Provide a link that ends in the file name of the image
The first of these items was very easy to test. I grabbed the downloadable link out of the CSV file I’d uploaded most recently, replaced https with http and tried the link in a browser to make sure that the download still worked and it did. Since that worked I modified the CSV file in the same way, tried the upload again, and got the same “image not found” error again.
The second of these problems is not as easy to solve (or, at least, the answer is not obvious to me). Most of the major file sharing services that I looked at (Google Drive, Dropbox, Box) don’t provide links to files with the file name at the end. They’re big services hosting tons of files and, understandably, they use unique IDs to represent files instead of the file names so they can find the file you’re linking to quickly. I toyed around with the idea of creating my own website to host these files in a way that I could provide links that look like the example. However, given my lack of experience setting up sites or with using services like AWS or Google Cloud Storage to host files, I stopped once I realized that my time would be better spent figuring out the rest of the data for my client. If you know of a way to do this easily and quickly, please reach out to me.
Calling Tech Support
At this point, after spending some time searching and reading posts on GoDaddy’s forums about this problem, I decided to call GoDaddy’s tech support. I was pleasantly surprised how quickly I was connected to a real person in their call center. The person I was connected with was very nice but, unfortunately, didn’t have any more documentation on hand than what I had already read on their site. As mentioned before this documentation is inadequate. At this point I asked him if there was anybody he could forward me to who might have some more knowledge or information at hand. He politely said that there was nobody he could forward me on to.
This was the point that I became disillusioned with the possibility of getting pictures uploaded in the bulk import. I’ve, at this point, gone back to my client and let them know that we can get the products imported but that we’ll have to upload the pictures manually. This has the potential to be a LOT of work given the number of products we’ll be uploading. I hold my hope for this process in two things:
- We’ll find a way to categorize the products that allows us to use less pictures and, thus, have less manual work.
- That one of you fine readers will let me know that you’ve solved this problem and how!
I did confirm at this point that I could successfully upload a product with no picture link. So, there’s at least some success here though without a picture.
Updating Products in GoCentral
After eliminating a lot of possible ways to upload a picture with the bulk import functionality, I decided to move on to another topic that I know we’ll have to deal with in the future. What happens when one of my client’s vendors updates their prices across the board? It would certainly be nice to be able to get a new list of products from them and re-import the products with new prices (and any other necessary changes).
On my first attempt to upload a product without a picture I intentionally left a few fields blank or with intentionally incorrect text so that I could come back and update the product and see the change. So, after making some changes to the CSV file, I started the import process on the file. The progress bar got to 50% and … … … stayed there. To give GoDaddy the benefit of the doubt I decided to blame our sometimes flaky connection to the internet for the problem. I tried starting the import process again and left my laptop sit while I ate dinner with my family. When I came back I was disappointed to find that the screen was still stuck on 50% progress. There was no change at all; no error message, no nothing (not even a time out).
Taking a guess that it was having a problem importing the product because it already existed I deleted the product manually from the store and tried the import again. Voila! It worked quickly! This disheartens me because I know that there are products we’re going to want to update for various reasons and I don’t look forward to having to delete products before re-uploading. Perhaps this is something that GoDaddy could fix in their import functionality!
All of this research has led me to a fairly simple conclusion: GoDaddy’s Website Builder may be decent for e-commerce stores with a low number of products but, for anybody with lots of products, it might not be the best choice for you. We have since decided to move the site over to WordPress. WordPress and WooCommerce have provided a much better experience for site setup than GoDaddy’s Website Builder. I hope this helps shine lite on some of the issues you may run into and, if you’ve found solutions to them, please let me know!