Shopp makes setting up product variants easy, but there are correct and incorrect ways of using them that can make your experience with Shopp product variants smooth or frustrating.

Product variants are most useful with tangible, shipped products. Perhaps the easiest example to understand is selling a shirt. Generally a shirt has a printed design on it and the design becomes the defining characteristic of the product. A shirt with a smiley face might be named “Smiley Tee.” Shirts are most often available in a range of sizes and sometimes colors. That’s where variations come in. Each variable characteristic becomes a variation option. Product variations can be simple, with only one set of options (size) or can be a complex combination of characteristics (size and color).

Variation Option Combinations

The “Smiley Tee” shirt example might be offered in Small, Medium and Large sizes. When you consider adding options for color too, even as simple as Black and White, you can see how things get complex. Adding those two color options to the size options creates the following combinations:

  • Small, Black
  • Small, White
  • Medium, Black
  • Medium, White
  • Large, Black
  • Large, White

The total number of possible combinations is a result of the total number of options for each characteristic (3 sizes × 2 colors = 6 total combinations).

Variant Options vs. Add-on Options

Because variants are presented like any other option that customers can select, it’s easy to confuse add-on options with variation options. What really sets variant options apart from add-on options has to do with inventory.

If the “Smiley Tee” was to be put out on a clothing rack in a real store, customers wouldn’t pick from a set of menus and options like they do online, instead they would grab the exact variation they’re after. This is key in understanding variants because product variants are pre-manufactured products available in a variety of options, not a product that you can customize (build to order). This means a product variant has its own inventory.

Add-on options, in contrast, usually add to, or remove from, the base price of a product. Often, because add-ons are really other products, the add-on itself has inventory separate of the base product. In all of these ways, add-on options behave very differently from variations even though they may have similar selection controls in the shopping experience for the customer.

Variant Editor

Shopp’s variant editor is designed with all of these ideas in mind. Most e-commerce systems try to separate out variants from the product editor into a separate attribute and attribute options editing system. This requires that you define all of your attribute sets before creating products. The Shopp approach provides an inline variant editor so that you can enter products with a completely uninterrupted workflow. If you still want the advantages of setting up your variant attribute sets ahead of time to speed up data entry, you can do that using category templates.

The variant editor is a component of the product editor that has two different parts. It involves defining the variable characteristics of the product and the options associated with each characteristic. For the purposes of representing variant options online, you create a menu, such as “Sizes” and then add the different options for that characteristic, such as small, medium, and large, for example. You can create multiple menus and multiple options per menu. In turn, Shopp takes care of automatically generating all the combinations of the product as a variant price line below the menu builder. In the price lines you can then specify different pricing, shipping and inventory for each product variant.

To enable product variations:

Remember to add only essential option menus, as the number of combinations become large quickly.

  1. Click the Variants checkbox.
  2. The variant menu builder will appear and you can begin defining the menus and options. A list of variation menus appears on the left side of the panel and the menu options for the selected menu appear on the right.
To add a product variation menu:
  1. In the Pricing pane, click the Add Menu button under the list box on the left side of the Variation Options Menus editor sub-panel (located at the top of the Pricing pane).
  2. Click on the new Option Menu, created in the left list box of the Variation Options Menus sub-panel, and relabel it appropriately for the characteristic the options describe. Size, Color, etc., for example. This label will be used when presenting the product’s option menu to the customer on the storefront.

Variation Option Menus Editor

To add options for a menu:
  1. Click once on the desired option menu entry in the left side listbox of the Variation Options Menus sub-panel. The menu line will highlight with an arrow to the right listbox, and that listbox will display the options currently associated with that menu. For example, if the option menu line is Size, the options might be Small, Large, etc.
  2. Variation Menu Option SelectedClick the Add Option button, located under the right-hand listbox, to add a new menu option to the currently selected option menu.
  3. A new option will appear in the right listbox. Rename it appropriately for your new option, as you would like it to appear for customers in the product option menu.

Linking Variants

Linking variants makes your workflow faster by allowing you to more rapidly enter pricing information for lots of similar variants. When you make changes to a variant price editor that is linked to other variants the changes are copied to all of the other linked variants at the same time. This is really helpful when editing a product with a large amount of variants.

Link All Variations Button

Linking All Variants

You can link all variant price editors so that any changes made to one variant will be applied to the editors for all other variants. This is useful when all the variants share some common settings, such as price, sale price, inventory controls, product type, etc.

To link all variants for a product:

Linked Prices

  1. Open the product editor for the product you want to modify.
  2. Scroll to the Pricing pane, and locate the Variation Option Menus sub-pane.
  3. Below the right list box, locate the linking button, which will be labeled either Link All Variations, or Link Variation.
  4. If the linking button is labeled Link Variation, this means one or more options is currently selected in the right listbox. If so, deselect the option(s) by single clicking the line(s) to remove the highlighting. The linking button should now read Link All Variations.
  5. Click the Link All Variations button. The linking button should now read Unlink All Variations. Now all the variant editors are linked.
  6. Make edits to the top-most price line editor, and you’ll see the changes reflected in all of the price editors below.


For example, enter a price of $10.00 in the first editor, and press the tab key on the keyboard.

All the prices in each editor will change to $10.00.

Linking by Option

Each linked option includes additional variants to the set. It does not make the set more specific or exclusive.

One way that linking can be useful is when trying to edit a group of variants that share common characteristics. For example, say you have a t-shirt product, and it has two styles, ordinary and baby-doll, 3 sizes, and 3 colors. If you want to set all shirts that are baby-doll style, or size small, or medium to $10, with a sale price of $8, linking by option is a faster way to do it. By linking the baby-doll style, the small and medium styles, you can affect all product variants that are baby-doll, or small, or medium.

Linked Variation Option

To link one or more variants for a product:
  • Open the product editor for the product you want to modify.
  • Scroll to the Pricing pane, and locate the Variation Option Menus sub-pane.
  • Below the right list box, locate the linking button, which will be labeled either Link All Variations, or Link Variation.
  • Select the option menu in the left list box that contains the option you wish to link, and then select the desired option in the right list box. After selecting the option, the linking button show appear as Link Variation.
  • Click the Link Variation button to link the option variants. The link symbol Link Icon should appear next to the option.
  • Follow the same procedure to link additional options if desired.
  • Now that all the desired variations are linked, you can make edits to any price line editor that shares one or more of the linked options, and you should see those changes reflected in any price line editors below that also shares one of the linked options.

Linking Example

  • Create a product with two styles (girls and boys), two colors (blue and green), and four sizes (small, medium, large, xl), for a total of 16 product variants.
  • Link the girls style option, and the green color option.
  • Edit the price of the boys, green, xl variant to $10, and press the tab key on your keyboard.
  • Notice that all options that are green are edited and all options that are girls style are also edited.

Limitations of the Variant Editor

The product variant system uses web browser scripting technologies to achieve the live editing experience of editing variants. As such, it is limited in the total amount of variants it can support. Currently, the variant editor can support approximately 250 variants. In most cases, if your product has more than 80-100 different combinations, it is very likely you are not modeling the product properly and using the variant system incorrectly. While it may be possible, using this many variants can become cumbersome to manage.

If the number of product variants is caused due to accessories, or add-on charges, consider the Add-Ons setting in the product Settings pane. Another option if your product has a large set of options is to partition them into two base products, and use the description to clarify how they differ.

Lastly, many products have characteristics that a customer might choose from that do not cause a difference in price. For instance, sometimes, the base color of a t-shirt may not change the price, but the size might. Consider having your developer add a custom input to your product templates, to select options that have no effect on the price.

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