Archive for December, 2010

Is SolidShops a good alternative to Magento, osCommerce, Ubercart and other open source packages?

From time to time we get asked if SolidShop is a good alternative to the open source eCommerce packages such as Magento, osCommerce and Ubercart.

For the impatient that are seeking a quick answer: yes, SolidShop is a good alternative to all the eCommerce solutions mentioned here, but of course, a few remarks must be made.

Open source isn’t always “free”

Let’s face it, Magento and Ubercart are great open source products to build an online online store, if you have the technical expertise and especially a lot of time (and thus large client budgets) you can spend on installing, securing and continuously patching these applications.

I am a web designer myself and I have used Magento in the past as well. Why? Because it’s open source, flexible and free of course!

But once you start working with these products, you will quickly notice that free isn’t always free. First of all, to run any of the popular open source eCommerce solutions out there, you will need the following:

  • Hosting to put your shop online
  • At least one SSL certificate to secure your checkout pages and process
  • Time to install and configure the software
  • Time to upgrade your free open source packages and to keep up with security updates
  • Time to build a unique design for your clients in your product of choice

Add up all that time and “free” open source packages suddenly sound a lot more costly than they did before don’t they? And if you are building stores for clients, the worst thing is, they will have to pay the bill for all those hours you put into configuring, installing and securing a free product. In many cases, clients will even ask you themselves to use a free open source package. It’s up to you to educate your clients about the advantages, but also about the disadvantages of using open source packages.

How often do you hear your clients say “I want you to use Drupal instead of  Expression Engine as a CMS, because Drupal is free”. Sure it’s free, but it’s not the right tool for just any job out there and in the end it might cost the client much more compared to using the right tool for the job, even if that tool isn’t free or open source.

A hosted eCommerce platform may be a better fit for you if you want to get up and running quickly and only focus on building and designing the online business. Although you or your clients pay a monthly price for useing SolidShops, you will be up and running within a few minutes after signing up for an account. There is nothing to install and security is already in place for you.

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Protection against (firesheep) session hijacking

Last month, a simple firefox extension called FireSheep caused a slight panic amongst web developers. FireSheep makes it dead simple to hijack a user session with just one click. Even a 10 year old could take over your Facebook session with a single mouse click.

Don’t worry: all shops on SolidShops.com are protected against session hijacking. We wanted to put this blog post out there only to inform web developers and end users about the problem of session hijacking.

Let me explain in short what the problem is and why any other web application out there should also protect its users from session hijacking.

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Deployment Day: version 1.0.3 is now live

Ok folks, it’s been exactly two weeks since we pushed out our previous update. As you may know by now, we have a development cycle set up where we push out a new version of our application every two weeks.

We call this process our “Deployment Day” and it’s our promise to you that we will push out regular updates and fixes on a bi-weekly basis.

Depending on your feedback, a new version may include bug fixes, performance improvements or feature updates. The following was fixed in version 1.0.3, which is now live for all our users:

  • users can now change the clean URL for any product for better SEO results
  • users can now change the clean URL for any content page for better SEO results
  • full SSL support on the admin side of your store to avoid session hijacking
  • a bug where shipping country wasn’t saved correctly has been fixed
  • PayPal premier support has been set up so customers can pay without a PayPal account
  • the order details screen has been streamlined to show orders in a more convenient way
  • although not a bug, a new login screen has been implemented
  • a lot of server optimizations have been done that make our app faster and more secure

Enjoy the update everyone and keep your feedback coming!

Creative Process Insights: designing the SolidShops mascot

Building a brand takes effort and time, there’s no doubt about that. On top of that, it’s a process that’s never finished. Last week, Mikaël, our creative (or should we say crazy) graphics designer came up with some sketches to boost the SolidShops brand a bit.

He came up with some ideas for using a mascot throughout the service. A rhino sure is Solid, just like SolidShops. What do you think about using this on our website and cards?

It can use some extra polish, but for a first iteration we think it matches the SolidShops app and brand nicely!

Deployment Day: version 1.0.2 just deployed

Time flies dear friends. We launched SolidShops.com less than a month ago and the second update is already here. We have put a policy in place where we will deploy new functionality and bugfixes at least every two weeks.

Just like our first Deployment Day from two weeks ago, we have been working hard on fixing some of the bugs our users pointed out, as well as putting in some improvements to make the application even better.

Here’s the full list:

  • Order details now show the clients full country name instead of just the country code
  • Order confirmation emails are updated and contain your shop domain for easy access
  • A contact page has been added so that anyone can contact us straight from the website
  • Pricing plans have been updated. The basic plan can now have 2 staff logins instead of just one
  • Some empty documentation pages have been updated. Thanks to Webnology for the request
  • Added instructions to the Payment settings page on how to link up a PayPal account
  • Fixed a typo on the checkout page
  • In this release, a lot of server improvements have been made to more easily manage user backups

Keep sending in great feedback so that we can improve the application to perfection. Enjoy the update!

What type of Paypal account do I need to sell online?

So you’ve decided to go with SolidShops to set up your online store. A wise move indeed.But why do you still need a PayPal account to receive payments you might ask? Well, simply because you need a way to safely receive money on to your bank account. That’s where PayPal comes in.

PayPal – which is owned by eBay – is the preferred way of paying online for most people. Even if someone doesn’t have a PayPal account, they can just pay in your store with any supported credit card, without the need to create a PayPal account.

The best way to go is to create a PayPal Business account. There is no monthly fee for these accounts, but PayPal does charge you a certain percentage and cost per order you get. These typically range somewhere between 1% to 3% plus a few cents per transaction. Check out the “fees” link at the bottom of the PayPal website for exact details.

While we dream of a world where these kind of middle-men services don’t charge a thing for their services, in reality most of them still do. Unlike many of our competitors, SolidShops itself will never charge you a commission per sale.

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SolidShops in The Web Designer’s Idea Book #2

Sweet, we just got published in The Web Designer’s Idea Book Volume 2. The book just hit our mail box this morning and we are really happy with the community love we are getting from this.

Are you in the book? Or do you own the book and did you spot us? Post a photo url in the comments or email the photo to joris-at-solidshops.com where you hold the page where SolidShops is featured on in an original way and we’ll give you one year for free in our standard pricing plan!*

* The top 3 favorite pictures we receive by January 1 2011 will receive 12 months for free and will be notified by email.