The Late 90’s Are Awesome

September 3, 2009 at 11:41 am 9 comments

Last night the bGreen team got together to take the next step in our quest for world domination.  We’ve decided to get involved with this new thing called “e-commerce.”  What’s that you say?  It’s not 1997?  Oh.  Well, maybe e-commerce isn’t a new concept, but it is new to us.  This will be our first attempt at launching an online store, and we want to make sure we do it right.  While we’re not serial online shoppers, we do know what we like and what we don’t.  In our opinion, it’s all about the user experience.  Screw that up, and you’re bound to lose customers and not make a sale.  Provide a smooth, easy to use experience, and you’re bound to keep people coming back.  Seems simple enough.  Unfortunately, finding the right software package isn’t quite that simple.

Last evening we had the pleasure (or not) of playing around with two software packages.  One from Network Solutions, called nsCommerceSpace, and the other from Shopify.  Our first impression?  We’re screwed.

While we have some technical experience in our backgrounds, neither of us is really proficient in HTML, CSS, Java, Liquid, or any of the other 500 programming languages needed to truly make one of these two e-commerce packages a fully customized bGreen store.  Designing websites for companies in the mid 90’s doesn’t equate to being able to customize a web store today.  Sadly we weren’t able to get the store to mimic our website design, so we were left to just putz around in the “dashboards” of each program, and try and learn as much as we could about each.

Each program has some shortcomings, and last night we simply put the two up against each other.  The best analogy would be Shopify is a Mac, and NS is a PC.

There are two big categories for us: User Experience & Customization.  From a user experience standpoint, Shopify wins.  Their dashboard is clean, easy to follow, and very user friendly.  We found the NS user experience to be a bit overwhelming.

Both claim that the shop design is completely customizable.  Maybe that’s the case, but we sure couldn’t figure it out.  The default templates that both offer really look like something from the mid 90’s.  We think they really need to update these.  We got Shopify to look a bit more how we wanted, but neither was really very good.  We’ll chalk this up to OUR lack of programming skills, rather than a flaw with either solution, and call this point a draw.

A couple more notes from last night:

  • NS seems far more powerful/customizable than Shopify
  • NS can handle gift certificates, Shopify can not – this seems crazy to us
  • Cost is about the same, except Shopify charges a 1% transaction fee
  • Shopify has a Wiki, which seems to be mainly a development resource
  • The NS salesman got one of our last names wrong
  • Both offer up a 30-day free trial for testing & development
  • Both allow you to do batch uploads of product images and descriptions
  • Both offer some sort of intergration with shipping & fullfillment

So after four hours of playing around, those are our first thoughts.  Neither solution has won us over yet, and we’ll be meeting again tonight, this time with our developers, to see if we can make a little more progress in making our web store a reailty.  Stay tuned.

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Entry filed under: Business, Small Business. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Twitter Interaction Hacked!

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. matt  |  September 3, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Hi I noticed your blog post on twitter and came here to read it. I will admit right upfront that I’m totally and completely biased! I completely believe a ProStores store could let you accomplish your goals and I think I’m the right person to help you! 😀

    I run a smallish e-Commerce development company that focuses on the ProStores E-commerce software.

    I sympathize with your frustration that the two options you explored didn’t allow you to retain some consistency by using your current design as the skin of your soon-to-be store.

    I did take a look at http://www.bgreenlifestyle.com/shop.html and I am completely confident that I could integrate your design into a ProStores store.

    I am a Certified ProStores designer, which means that eBay/ProStores has checked my qualifications and given me the thumbs up!

    If you are interested in going right ahead with a project or if you want more information, or heck ,if you just want to shoot the breeze please feel free to call me 810-434-4448 or shoot me an e-mail.

    Thanks!
    Matthew Montgomery
    One Take Media

    Reply
    • 2. leeschneider  |  September 3, 2009 at 2:22 pm

      Thanks Matt. As we work our way through this process we’ll be sure to keep you in mind. Appreciate you taking the time to read our posts and twitter feed.

      Reply
      • 3. matt  |  September 4, 2009 at 9:17 am

        I’ve got a solution that would work in ProStores for selling Gift Certificates. Its better explained over the phone or e-mail because I don’t want to give it away to others that I compete with. 🙂

        If you are interested and after the Labor Day weekend feel free to give me a ring or send me an e-mail and I can explain.

        Thanks!

      • 4. leeschneider  |  September 10, 2009 at 9:30 am

        Thanks Matt. At this time we’re moving forward with a solution other than ProStores, but we’ll absolutely keep you on our list in case we decide to go another direction. Appreciate your feedback and input.

  • 5. Mark Dunkley  |  September 3, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Thanks for your constructive feedback! My name is Mark and I am one of the designers at Shopify.

    We are working on revamping our theme selection at Shopify and agree that we could do better. Over the next few months we will be pushing out new themes and phasing out the older ones.

    I am writing a step by step guide on how you can build a custom Shopify store from scratch. Hopefully that will make things a little more clearer for you 🙂

    If you have anymore questions feel free to give me a shout back!

    Reply
    • 6. leeschneider  |  September 3, 2009 at 2:21 pm

      Thanks for the info Mark. We love interacting with our potential vendors and hopefully some of our feedback goes into future versions of the product. Our big question lies with Gift Certificates. They don’t seem to be an option. Is there a plan to make these part of the Shopify program?

      Reply
      • 7. Mark Dunkley  |  September 3, 2009 at 3:08 pm

        Lee,

        You can create promo codes, which can be used similar to a gift certificate. Promo codes would give the user an x amount off for the customer, but promo codes are not unique (and that is probably the deal breaker for you).

        I am not 100% sure if we are going to include gift certificates in Shopify since I a don’t know what the dev team is up to right now. I will make your voice heard in the next meeting though.

  • 8. Julia Dalton  |  September 4, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Thanks for the feedback and the initial review. My name is Julia and I am the Product Manager for nsCommerceSpace. Much of what you point out are things we are working on, particularly the user experience of the admin panel. We had an update last night where we made some changes to our dashboard, so be sure to log in and check it out.

    In terms of design, we have a free one hour JumpStart consultation that you can take advantage of where you can speak to one of our designers who will help walk you through our system. If you are interested in getting set up for the free consultation, let me know or give your sales rep a call. We are also working on our templates to provide our merchants with some more updated choices.

    We have some exciting new features coming out in the next few months that will provide even more flexibility on how you can merchandise your products, improved shipping options, better customer management options and a lot more so stay tuned!

    Anyways, thanks for the feedback and information. We do take conversations like this to heart so please keep us updated with your progress.

    If you should need anything, please do not hesitate to contact me, you should now have my email. Thanks again and good luck!

    Reply
    • 9. leeschneider  |  September 10, 2009 at 9:28 am

      Julia, thank you for your response. After exhausting our own limited resources we’re in the process of partnering with a developer who will hopefully be able to make some progress with getting a custom design up there for us to test. We really like the power of your product, and think we’ll be able to make it work for our needs. We appreciate you getting in touch, and we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop about our progress. Thanks!

      Reply

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