When Written: Jan 2006
|Product||Price (excl. VAT)|
|Actinic Express Setup||£49.99|
|Actinic Express Monthly Fee||£19.99|
SUPPLIER: 0845 129 4800 or firstname.lastname@example.org
VERDICT: Actinic Express is a very easy to use and versatile entry into the growing world of on-line commerce. You should put it on your ‘must look at list’
Every once in a while a product comes along that is so easy and obvious to setup and use that it can be difficult to write something interesting about it. To say that Actinic Express does ‘what it says on the box’ is a misnomer as there is no box. Actinic a company who have for years produced e-commerce ‘shop-in-a-box’ solutions which have been reviewed regularly here in PcPro. Now, with Express, Actinic have made their first foray into marketing a Web Application. This is designed to be an entry point product but that doesn’t mean that it is severely limited in its capabilities. The whole system is web based and whilst it lacks some of the facilities of the current application based products, for users who have simpler requirements for providing an on-line shop then Actinic Express is a very tempting solution.
Whilst currently support for Internet payment providers is currently limited to SecPay, Paypal, WorldPay and Protx more will be provided in the future,and there are also other forms of payment provided for merchants who don’t have on-line credit card handling facilities. Secure shared SSL is provided as part of the package, enabling the merchant to download the credit card details securely to process off line as they would with a telephone order. They can also offer invoiced orders or payment on delivery, it really just depends on the merchant’s facilities, as the system is extremely flexible in this department.
One thing I didn’t like was on the checkout where there is a drop down box for state/province and irrespective of the country selected it showed US states only. When asked, Actinic said that they have no plans to change this in the future as it is similar to many of the other simple shopping sites. We can see their case as adding different formats for most countries would add a degree of complication, which is perhaps not justified in such a product. As soon as an order is placed on the web site the owner of the site is informed by email, so that they can then go to the admin section of the web site and process the order via a web browser.
Setting up a shop could not be easier, there is a trial site for you to play with and then it is just a case of registering which costs £49.99 + VAT plus £19.99 + VAT a month. Once you have registered there is a simple setup wizard which takes you through setting up the basic stuff, then all you have to do is decide on one of the preset styles, select the colours you want for your web site, add some products and then you are ready to start selling. You could do all this in less that an hour! Obviously there are more options and flexibility which you can use if your needs require it. But, unlike other products it doesn’t stop at maintaining a shop.
The on-line system also handles the order processing as well, with the ability to alter any order to allow for an item being out of stock, as Actinic, like many others, does not handle live stock levels. Non-live stock levels is not normally a problem for many merchants and it does prevent stock being made unavailable due to a rogue user (or competitor) adding the stock to their basket but not completing the transaction.
Express will display products in any currency with the option to display in an alternative currency although you will need to update the exchange rate manually if you display this second currency on your web site. Actinic have done a lot of work and make a lot of how much the Express web sites are optimised for search engines. This is more that just sticking some meta tags in the <head> tag of the HTML. As with most web sites fed from a database, search engines can have problems indexing the pages as they are generated only when a user follows a link. According to Actinic they have run tests with search engines to ensure that an Actinic Express store produces good results with no special tuning. Actinic also state that the dynamic pages generated by Express rank as highly as the static HTML pages. As well as automatically producing meta tags for each page, the customer can manually tune these if it is felt that better search engine results could be achieved.
Express seems to have few limitations but it will not handle varying discounts or products based on customer or quantities, nor will it link to products like SAGE or Quick Books but this is not going to be an issue for most users. Initial impressions of a major limitation of Express is the limited number of styles of design available, but whilst writing this review Actinic announced that for a fee of £199 + VAT they would provide a template design service so that a user’s Express store had the look of their existing web site.
Even without this you can still upload images for display in the headings or background on the web site, so with a little thought, and some ingenuity a fair amount of customisation can be done with the basic package. The only commitment for the user of Express is a month’s notice on the contract and the data from the Express shop can be imported into other Actinic products should the user wish to upgrade. For your monthly fee you get hosting, telephone support and shared SSL. Actinic Catalog is £379 + VAT for the product, plus hosting and cover if you want it. At first I was a little worried about the pricing as after a year you could have bought Catalog.
However after using Actinic Express, the product is in many ways easier to understand and easier to setup and so for a lot of merchants it should become the solution of choice. Competitive products like Sage Web Trader (www.sage.co.uk) and Trolleyed (www.get-trolleyed.co.uk) offer a more comprehensive set of features, but are significantly more complex and expensive to set up and maintain. For unparalleled ease of use and a great way of creating a simple but effective web store, Actinic Express comes highly recommended.
EASE OF USE: 6
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4
|Any Web BrowserInternet connection|
A very non-intimidating view to start you off
Various payments methods are offered
A basic example of what a shop could look like
Article by: Mark Newton
Published in: Mark Newton