When Written: Nov 2002
verdict Actinic continues to build on its strengths and now has the ability to sell downloadable products
price (£799 inc VAT)
Actinic Business is in it’s sixth incarnation and the changes appear to have been directed towards extending existing functionality and enhancing the support for such business related requirements as customer accounts, and the selling of products that are made from components as well as having perhaps the best support of the various VAT requirements of any product of its type. The templates have been added to, but even more useful than these, are the new ‘layouts’. These are simple plain templates which can be very easily modified to your or your client’s needs. I found these much quicker to edit than taking a template as they are simpler to start with. It still has to be said that some modifications to a layout are still not all that easy and Actinic are apparently working on this.
For example, I needed to correct an alignment problem with an HTML table on one of the front pages and there seemed to be nowhere to edit the <TD> tag. The ability to do this was hidden in Design | Text | Web Site| HTML . No, I didn’t find that out myself, but an email to the excellent Actinic support department provided the answer in a few minutes. But having said that Actinic version 6 took my old version 5 site converted it, I then applied one of the new layouts and within a few minutes new look was applied and uploaded. A big improvement from previous versions!
Many of the other changes in version 6 have been as a result of customer feed back and involve improving the shopping experience of the web user. Items, such as the ability to change quantities at the time of selecting a product rather than at the checkout stage. Single page ‘order forms’ can now be built so that you select several items on a page and then with a single click you can order them all. Repeat orders or wish lists can be built by the user as well as the shop remembering a users details when they revisit so that they don’t need to enter these twice, thus speeding up the purchase process considerably. If you need a lot of information about a product, like technical spec, to be displayed on your web shop then you can now have pop up windows with this extra information in, these appear when the user clicks on a link.
The options and flexibility when it comes to selling products that are made of components is quite impressive. There are options as to whether the final product or its components is shown on the order, this also extends to the data that Actinic uses to link with the supported accounting packages such as Sage. It is obvious that a lot of work has been done on this area and is perhaps one of the two main reasons for existing customers to upgrade. The other main reason is the new option of allowing the sale of downloadable products such as MP3s, pdfs and software. This option has been well thought through allowing as it does for downloads that fail after the customer has paid for access. The way the sale of a digital product works is as follows: A buyer purchases the product as per normal; however, when they receive their receipt and confirmation email both these emails have a link which, when clicked on, will download the product purchased. This link will expire after a period of 24 hours (or any other time specified by the merchant). Digital downloadable products and ‘normal’ products can be bought and paid for in the same order. The ability to sell ‘virtual’ products in version 6 must surely extend the customer base of Actinic. All orders can now also be emailed to a third party as well, this being useful if a company was fulfilling orders for a client.
Version 6 has ‘rounded the corners’ of version 5 and at the same time added considerable new functionality that justifies a new version number. The product takes a professional business approach to the problem of providing an e-commerce solution. The software works reliably and that is obviously of paramount importance when dealing with customer’s orders, since a lost order often means lost customers as well. Actinic’s extensive support for VAT, shipping rates, payment methods, downloadable and componitised products means that this is now very much a ‘long trousered’ solution. It would be good to see support for non-credit card Internet based payment methods like Pay-Pal. If there is a down side, it still has be the look of many of the templates and the amount of effort that has to be put in to customising a template. I have been told that this is one of the next major areas to be addressed so we will have to see what version 7 brings. Actinic Business Version 6 is defiantly worth the money and provides a way of building a complete web site and not just a shopping catalogue.
OVERALL 5/6 (average of the bottom three scores)
EASE OF USE 5/6
VALUE FOR MONEY 5/6
– Pentium PC running Windows 95, 98, 2000, ME, XP or NT4;
– minimum 64MB memory, 128MB preferred
– 60MB free disk space
– recommend 65536 colour display
– Internet access
– Internet Explorer v5 (and higher)
– NT or UNIX/Linux server
– Perl 5 or later; MD5 Perl module
– user writeable CGI bin
Popups can now be used to provide more information on a product
Actinic can now handle the sale to downloadable digital products like MP3s and PDFs
The new simple templates make a good starting place to design your own template.
Article by: Mark Newton
Published in: Mark Newton