Deployment Day: version 1.0.8 is now live

In the two weeks after our previous release, we have again received an amazing amount of useful feedback from our users. We use that feedback to plan what features or fixes we should release in every new version of our software that we bring online. Here ‘s what’s new in this release:

New Feature

User Permissions for staff logins

Sometimes you don’t want your clients to see the ‘design’ or ‘settings’ tab in your store. Go to “account”->”Staff Logins” or click here if you are logged in to your store and click on the user you want to set access permissions for. If you don’t grant your users access to some of the tabs, they won’t see the tabs and they won’t be able to access them.

Updates & Fixes

  • We now log an activity to your dashboard when somebody edits a product
  • We now log an activity to your dashboard when somebody adds a comment to an order
  • We now log an activity to your dashboard when a product is out of stock
  • You can now filter products by tags using the template language
  • A French version of the checkout process is now available
  • A bug was fixed in the template editor that would remove ‘+’ signs from source code
  • The user image of a client is now shown in your orders if the user has a gravatar
  • There was a bug where tags would be cut off after 100 characters, this has been resolved
  • We fixed a bug in stock management that allowed people to buy products that were out of stock
  • Three extra variables have been added to products in the template language:
    1. product.stock: the actual stock level of your product
    2. product.trackstock: true/false depending on whether or not you are tracking stock
    3. product.alwaysavailable: true/false depending on whether or not users can buy the product when it’s out of stock


SolidShops is Sweet As Candy!

Sweet as candy! That’s what SolidShops is to web designers and their clients. thought the same thing and featured us as one of their startups for their members. Betacandy is an amazing application that connects web designers, developers, tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs with fresh new online applications.

Early adopters are flocking to betacandy to be the first to learn about new apps coming out and to get early and exclusive access to these same apps. We are truly happy to be on the site and hope to enable their users to build better online stores using SolidShops.

Thanks for the beta love betacandy!

SolidShops, now with 100% more localization!

Localization is by far the most requested feature by our users. Our designer friendly template language allowed you to build 100% custom HTML/CSS frontends for your stores from the day we launched but now we have included checkout process translations as well.

This way you can have a completely localized store in any language you prefer, from the homepage to the order confirmation page. To launch this new feature, we included an English and Dutch version of the checkout process, but one of our clients (thanks Faisal) has already translated the checkout page into Spanish as well.

Dutch has been the most requested language next to English so far. If you want to add your own language to translate the checkout process, contact us and we’ll add it for you.

Changing the checkout language from English to another language is easy. Log into the back end of your store and go to “Settings->general” to select the language of your choice.

Once you save your settings, your users will see the checkout page in their own language.

Customize or translate your emails

After translating the checkout process, the only thing left to achieve 100% localized stores was the translation of emails. For example, whenever a client orders a product in your store, they will receive a confirmation email. Now you can completely customize or translate the emails that we send out to your clients.

Just go to “design -> emails & notifications” and adjust the email messages to your liking. You can use any of the variables from our template language to build even more engaging emails. Here’s an example of how you can edit the emails with our template language and what the final result looks like in your client’s inbox:

We couldn’t have built these great features without the amazing feedback from our users, so thank you all. Keep building better stores everyone and enjoy these new additions to SolidShops.

Create a Smooth Shopping Experience With Custom Styled Checkout Pages

A shop sells best when the complete store has a consistent look and feel, that includes the checkout process your users go through when completing an order.

We’ve listened to our users and have implemented customization of the checkout process through nothing more than simple CSS.

We’ve kept things simple and efficient by using a file called checkout.css. Just add a checkout.css file to your theme and we’ll automatically detect that file and plug it into your checkout pages.

Here’s a comparison between the default checkout style on the left and a slightly customized version for one of the shops running on the SolidShops platform. The checkout.css file used to create a the right version contained only a handful of CSS rules.

It’s completely up to you how you want to customize the checkout page. In the example above, they only thing that was changed is the background image and a custom logo to create a consistent shopping experience. If you want to take it a step further and customize all elements on the checkout pages, go nuts.

Check out the documentation for exact instructions if you need them and let us know if you have done something creative with your checkout page!

Thanks again everyone for the valuable feedback you’ve given us. Thanks to you we are able to continuously improve SolidShops. Enjoy the update!

Deployment Day: version 1.0.7 is now live

Based on the valuable feedback our users have given us, we have implemented the following fixes and new features for this release:

  • The sign up process has been simplified.
  • It’s now possible to add a quantity field on the product details page.
  • Documentation to link your custom domain name has been updated.
  • All prices in your store now have two consistent decimals places.
  • A Spanish translation has been added to the checkout process options (thanks Faisal).
  • An minor issue with shipping rules containing “the rest of the world” has been resolved.
  • It is now possible to customize and translate order confirmation emails.
  • Designers can now change the look and feel of the checkout process
  • A new filter called charlimit() has been added to the template language to limit the number of characters to print. See documentation here for more information and examples.
  • Product.weight has been added to the product object in the template language.
  • A new filter called weight() has been added to the template language to display product weight in a format of your choice.
  • There is a new object called “order” in the template language, that you can use to print our order information in e.g. your confirmation emails. See the documentation for details and code samples.

If you have any feedback or suggestions on how we can make our application even better, please let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter and we’ll make sure we pick the best ideas for our next deployment day.

Enjoy the update everyone!

Deployment Day: version 1.0.6 is now live

It’s been another two weeks since our last deployment so here we go: new fixes and new features for all our users. The following has been implemented:

  • Uploading of favicon.ico is now possible through the assets manager.
  • You can now translate your complete checkout process into Dutch.
  • Added documentation to the help pages on how to build a search form.
  • You can now edit source code of your page and product descriptions.
  • A small CSS bug was fixed to correctly mark up odd and even rows in a table.
  • When adding shipping rules, your last base unit (weight/price/…) will be remembered.
  • Images of your store managers are now shown next to recent actions in the dashboard.
  • Swedish Crown is now a supported currency. Contact us if you require more currencies.
  • There was a typo in a checkout error message which has been fixed.
  • When adding variants, the currency code sometimes didn’t show up. Now it does.
  • A new filter has been added to the Solid template language to format your numbers.

Here’s an example on how you can use the new currency filter. We have updated all user templates automatically with this new filter.

That’s it for this release. We focused mostly on bringing translations to the checkout process, as this was the most requested feature up to now. We’ll be working on more localization features for the next release. Let us know if you have any suggestions on how we can make SolidShops an even better platform for building unique online stores.

Thanks for the feedback and support, it’s been an amazing upstart so far, thanks to all of you!

SolidShops featured on Think Vitamin

Think Vitamin is a fantastic blog aimed at web designers and developers. Since we are web developers ourselves, we are truly honored that Think Vitamin published a blog post about the lessons we have learned from starting up

We wanted to share our experiences with other designers and developers out there who are thinking about launching their own amazing product. That’s why we decided to write down the most important lessons we’ve learned so that others can learn from our mistakes and get their products online faster and easier.

Read the original article on Think Vitamin and make sure you check out the rest of their blog, it’s full of high quality content.

Thanks for featuring the article Think Vitamin!

Deployment Day: version 1.0.5 is now live

Another two weeks have passed since our previous release. That means it’s time again for another deployment day!

For those who are new around here, our bi-weekly development promise to you means that we will deploy bug fixes, security and performance improvements or new features every two weeks. We call these bi-weekly deployments our “Deployment Days”. Deployments can be small or they can contain larger changes, depending on the feedback our users give us.

This time, the following things have been implemented in version 1.0.5, next to the usual server and infrastructure improvements:

  • The SolidShops template language has been tweaked a little to be more consistent
  • Documentation has been updated to reflect template language updates
  • When you click “full screen” in your code editor, that choice will be remembered
  • Links that point to documentation pages or to your store now open in a new window  by default
  • We now show user pictures next to order follow-up comments
  • We now show user pictures and names in your activities log to better manage multiple staff.
  • There was a bug in IE8 that would trigger an error when cropping images. This has been fixed.
  • The admin interface now uses kilograms consistently as a weight unit.
  • Recent tags only showed up after adding two tags. You can now start re-using tags after adding one tag.

If you have any feedback of suggestions on how we can make our application even better, please let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter and we’ll make sure we pick the best ideas for our next deployment day.

Enjoy the update everyone!

Deployment Day: version 1.0.4 is now live

Hi fellow eCommerce developers! We hope everyone enjoyed the holidays. We sure did but now we are back with our first update of the year.

Following up on our bi-weekly deployment promise, we have just released version 1.0.4 of our hosted eCommerce platform. Based on the great feedback we received from our current user base, we have implemented the following fixes:

  • all shops are now running on HTTPS for improved security
  • the links in our HTML confirmation emails are now clickable
  • if you cancel an order, the order isn’t shown on your dashboard graph anymore
  • canceled orders aren’t counted in your statistics anymore
  • the “tax settings” screen seemed a bit unclear so we improved the usability there
  • it’s now possible to use relative url’s in your CSS files
  • some users reported HTTPS warnings on two pages. These warning are now gone.
  • a minor CSS bug was fixed to mark up tables correctly
  • in Internet Explorer, notifications didn’t show properly. This has been resolved.
  • a bug in our signup page caused a warning in internet explorer 7. This has been fixed.
  • the “staff logins” page contained a bug where users could enter unlimited users.

Of course, just like always we’ve done our share of work on the server side of the application as well, this time mainly to improve stability and security.

Enjoy the new release everyone and thanks a lot for your amazing feedback, keep it coming please. Thanks to you we are able to improve SolidShops continuously!

We wish all our users a lot of success and especially a lot of eCommerce fun in 2011!

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.

Also, there is no need to update your software, as we’ll take care of that for you automatically. We are deploying a new version of our software almost every two weeks, which includes bug fixes as well as new features our clients are asking for.

There are no extra hosting costs, these are included in all our pricing plans.

That brings us to designing your store. Being web designers ourselves we know what you need to design stores easily. So we rolled out a flexible, easy-to-use templating language you can use to build your 100% custom HTML and CSS templates. If you can build it in HTML/CSS, you can build it in SolidShops.

SolidShops isn’t a perfect match for everybody

After reading the introduction above, you may think that SolidShops is the perfect tool for any online store, but let me be honest here: it isn’t.

Because SolidShops is a hosted eCommerce solution, you are not able to just change our source code, that would be a bad idea for our clients. If you are a store builder that needs 100% access to source code and like to write custom modules for some extreme off-standards web shop, then SolidShops probably isn’t the right solution for you.

Magento, osCommerce and Ubercart all allow you to extend or modify their source code, which is a good thing, if you are into that sort of thing of course. SolidShops is focused on making eCommerce as simple and enjoyable as it can be.

If you are not looking for an easy to use tool to build and design online stores, we suggest you stay with open source packages that can be extended at will.

Conclusion: SolidShops is…

… GREAT for you if you don’t like to hack into source code to get things up and running.
… GREAT for you if you want to save time and hassle when building an online store.
… GREAT for you if you like designing in HTML/CSS to create a unique look and feel for your stores. See an example of our templating language

… NOT for you if you like to spend time hacking and extending source code.
… NOT for you if you aren’t making at least 29$/month with your store.
… NOT for you if you have unlimited time/budget to configure, update, maintain and install open source software.

As you can see, SolidShops isn’t necessarily a perfect fit for everyone or for every project and we don’t claim it to be. As a designer, you should find the type of platform you feel most comfortable with and go with that.

People that aren’t interested in using a hosted eCommerce platform such as SolidShops can find open source alternatives on the following links:

Tripwire Magazine: 15 Open Source eCommerce Platforms
Web Distortion: 10 kick ass Open source E-commerce platforms reviewed
Web Appers: 15 Best Free Open Source Ecommerce Platforms

If you are interested in giving SolidShops a try, you can sign up for a free trial right here. No credit card is required.