Create and Manage Your Store with ShopSite

New and experienced online merchants alike can benefit from this simple, yet full-featured, shopping cart system.
Businesses that want to hang shingles on the Web would do well to consider ShopSite. With few shortcomings, the product is simple enough that Web-phobic business owners can create basic online catalogs, but still offers sophisticated e-tailers the means to create elaborate shopping sites.

ShopSite comes in Starter, Manager, and Pro versions. For neophytes, each edition of ShopSite offers an intuitive browser-based wizard that walks storeowners through the process of creating a Web-based catalog and shopping cart. Ultimately, that involves simply typing in product details, setting payment and shipping parameters, selecting a site design, and publishing to the Web.

ShopSite claims that anyone can use the wizard to create an e-commerce site in 15 minutes, which is just about true -- though such a site would only feature a couple of products and minimal marketing text.

For those willing to spend more than 15 minutes on creating their site, the wizard enables users to specify an extensive amount of product and fulfillment parameters. In addition to prices and product descriptions, merchants can manually add SKUs, weights, sales tax rates, payment options (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, check, etc.) and shipping options (ground, second-day air, or next-day air).

To ease the process of creating product catalogs, ShopSite enables e-tailers to import much of this information from existing inventory databases. Its straightforward upload feature supports tab-delimited text files.

On the other hand, uploading product pictures is more miss than hit because ShopSite doesn't allow users to adjust image sizes. As a result, site managers have to edit product images for size and color depth before uploading, and can verify how they look only after they've been published.

ShopSite supports a variety of payment options including VeriSign's PayFlow Pro, Authorize.Net, Cardservice International, and eBay's PayPal's IPN (Instant Payment Notification). The new ShopSite Version 7 adds an Paymentech Orbital Gateway interface, as well. Businesses can integrate their sales and order information with external programs, thanks to ShopSite's ability to download orders as tab-delimited text files or in a QuickBooks file format.

At this stage, a user's Web site will offer a shopping cart with the usual functions -- such as "add to cart" and "view cart." In addition to creating a catalog and configuring payment and shipping options, most businesses also will find that they're pleased with the design of the resulting pages -- and their customizability.

ShopSite touts some 50 default color schemes. However, the default choices are limited to variations on only eight distinct layouts. Fortunately, the product offers customization features capable of taking sites beyond plain-vanilla templates. Storeowners familiar with HTML or conventional Web design programs can integrate the system's shopping cart features into existing Web pages, or can create custom pages and templates for ShopSite.

Like creating a store with ShopSite, ongoing site management is fairly easy to perform. The program offers a Web-accessible console that provides options for working with pages, products, images, merchandising, orders, reports, commerce setup, and utilities.

Continued on Page Two: Different Editions.

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