When Written: Oct 2011
VERDICT: Some worthwhile improvements that could transform your existing site. But for new users then Actinic’s on-line offering might be a better choice.
PRICE: £899 exc VAT
SUPPLIER: www.actinic.co.uk Tel 0845 129 4800 ( Sales)
Desktop application: Windows
Hosting of live site: Any web server capable of running Perl
If you want to set up an on-line shop there are now a huge variety of ways of doing this. Most ISPs offer a customisable web-based shop and of course you can use the services of the likes of Amazon and eBay to set up your own shop on the web. The other solution is a desktop application like CoffeeCup’s Shopping Cart Creator which will build all the code you need for hosting a fully functional ecommerce shop on your web server. It is in this category of desktop applications that Actinic falls, although it goes a lot further than CoffeeCup’s offering. In fact it is hard to think of any product that covers the process of running an on-line shop so completely as Actinic does. Actinic not only handles the building of a web based shop but also will process the orders and maintain stock levels. Its various options and configurability do give rise criticism at times as it can be tricky to find just how to achieve the effect you desire, although the support forum usually comes up with the answer.
So what is new in version 11? The main new feature is the ability for the shopper to create an account so that if they return to the shop they do not have to fill in their details a second time. This is a nice feature that obviously encourages return visits. However because of the architecture of the Actinic solution such accounts are not active until the web site order is downloaded and then the web site updated. This process can be now automated using the scheduling synchroniser, but as we pointed out to Actinic there could be some confusion if the customer returned to the site before this occurred as it would then appear that their account did not exist.
Another new feature to help ensure that the customer has a better shopping experience is the ability to enter an order tracking code so that their order can be tracked through the carrier’s web site. On the design side, the ability for each product to have an individual page is a long requested feature and makes the shop look more modern as well as more search engine friendly. To improve the look of the sites a new drop down menu system called ‘Mega Menu’ is available as are some new themes. It is now relatively easy to create a good looking modern looking web shop with Actinic, a lot of the poorer previous designs are now no longer included.
Previous versions allowed the issue of discount coupons but these were always multi use which limited their usefulness, now with version 11 single use discount coupons can be generated and issued via email. ReCAPTCHA has been added to the contact pages which should minimise automated spam messages and a couple of payment methods have been removed because of the new PCI-DSS banking regulations, so the Actinic java application and Shared SSL service are no longer, but this should not cause any real problem to future users.
Actinic 11 builds on the strengths of the previous versions and remains a full featured and competent product. The issue with the delay in creating customer accounts caused by the now old server side code and the attempt to solve it with a scheduler that requires Actinic to be running all the time on one machine, seems to us to be trying to push the old girl a step too far. Actinic newly released on-line offering may be the way to go in the future?
EASE OF USE: 5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4
Single use discount coupons now available
A synchronisation engine would have been better written to run as a service
Ability to have a single page per product is much more Google friendly
ReCAPTCHA should stop the automated SPAM postings to your site
Article by: Mark Newton
Published in: Mark Newton