Last week I added a new plugin to this site to show you all what I am currently reading. The plugin is called Amazon Showcase, and since it is a little bit fiddly to set up, I thought I’d write a “How to:” tutorial to share with you how I did it.
What you’ll need:
- A WordPress blog hosted on your own domain. (WordPress.com hosted sites don’t have permission to add plugins).
- An Amazon account.
Installing the Plugin
I’m going to assume that you all know how to install a WordPress plugin. My preferred way is to use the Add New plugin functionality that WordPress provides, but for those of you that prefer to do it the old fashioned way, you can grab the Zip file from the plugin’s site.
Once installed and activated, there will be a new option under the Settings menu on your WordPress blog. Click it.
Setting Up the Plugin
You will be taken to a screen as shown on the right (click for a larger image). This is where things get a little fiddly for the uninitiated.
Fear not, it’s not as complicated as it looks.
I am going to make a second assumption here and take it for granted that you haven’t got an Amazon Web Services account. In which case, click on the link to go to the Amazon Web Services sign-up screen.
It’s straightforward enough, just click on the sign up link on the Amazon page and enter your existing account details when prompted. It’s all free by the way, you’re not going to end up paying for anything extra.
You may get a notice about not having an Amazon EC2 account upon logging in; ignore it, you won’t need it for the purposes of this plugin/tutorial. Along the top of the screen are smaller links, click on ‘Account’ and then towards the bottom of the new page, click on Security Credentials.
Getting Your Access Identifiers
Your access credentials are essentially what links your AWS account to other web properties (in our case the Amazon Showcase Plugin). Scroll down the page until you find the section shown in the image (again, click for larger version).
You will need to click on the ‘Show’ link to get your secret access key.
Copy and paste both the Access Key and the Secret Access Key into their corresponding fields on the Amazon Showcase Settings page on your blog. Then click save changes.
We are almost done. All you have to do now is to set up one or more showcases.
All About Showcases
A showcase is simply a grouping of Amazon products that you define in any manner you see fit. It can be a list of books, a list of video games, a list of CDs – essentially anything and everything that Amazon sells. You can even mix and match products.
By creating one or more showcases you can populate your posts or sidebar with Amazon products, complete with a link to the product page on Amazon and even your own Amazon associates ID if you have one. Let’s go ahead and set up our first Showcase.
Underneath Showcases, on the plugin’s settings screen should be a bar titled ‘New Showcase Click to toggle options’. Go ahead and click it.
In the image on the right, I have circled the important settings in red. They function as follows:
- Name: Give your Showcase a meaningful name that you will remember later. Mine is called ‘Currently Reading’.
- Locale: Typically this should be set to the Amazon site you want to redirect your visitors to.
- Associate ID: If you have an Amazon associate account, enter your ID here. You can get your ID (or sign up for one) by visiting your local Amazon site, scrolling all the way to the bottom and clicking on Associates Programme.
- Display Slots: You can display up to ten Amazon products at a time. Note the emphasis. You can actually add as many products as you like to your showcase (detailed below), but what you set here will determine how many products are displayed at a time.
- Item Sort order: If you have more than one item in your showcase, this option sets the order in which they are displayed. If you have more items than display slots (see above) this will also affect their display order. At the moment this only seems to offer one option: ‘Randomized’. (You can see an example of randomised display order on my Daily Aikido blog).
That is essentially all you need to know in order to create a showcase. If you are thinking of putting the showcase into one of your posts then you will need to make note of the [amazonshowcase_###] tag at the top. Otherwise ignore it, the plugin is actually widget ready, so adding showcases to your sidebars is a breeze.
Populating the Showcase
Adding items to your showcase is very easy:
- Search for the product on Amazon and locate the ASIN (or ISBN-10 for books).
- Click ‘Add New item’ on your Amazons Showcase Settings page (you may need to expand your showcase beforehand).
- Copy & paste the number into the relevant field and choose the image size you want from the drop-down.
- Click ‘Save Changes.’
Displaying the Showcase
As mentioned above, you can add Showcases to your posts by inserting the relevant [amazonshowcase_###] tag directly into the post at the point you want it to appear. Alternately, browse to your Widgets settings and drag a new copy of the Amazon Showcase widget to your sidebar. From the drop-down menu select the showcase you want displayed then click save.