E-commerce solutions

Shopcreator is another entirely on-line offering - and boasts an impressive array of famous clients, including Asda, the Guardian and the Science Museum. The company has a number of e-commerce offerings, including bespoke systems, though for the purposes of this article we concentrated on the products that let you build your own store and populate it yourself.

As with the other products reviewed here, the self-build offerings come in a range of sizes, from entry-level to huge. Store 50 is the basic offering (and can host up to 50 products), then there's Store 100, Store 1000 and so on up to Store Professional - the top-end, unlimited version whose admin screen claims a limit of 500,000 products.

The service is Web-based, so all you need is a browser (it seems equally happy with IE6 and Firefox). Dynamic HTML and Java applets used to make the GUI experience as painless as possible - client-side screen changes happen where one would normally have to wait for a page to be loaded.

And despite the limits usually imposed by Web-based interfaces, this one manages to be both comprehensive and simple to use. The main menu, for instance, is organised logically and the way it mirrors the way many businesses are structured makes it extremely easy to understand. It's a top-down approach, so you start with departments, then move on to the products, then add in your information pages (contact details, etc) and so on down through underlying configuration and design, payment (there's an impressive list of payment providers the system interfaces to), shipping and reports.

As you'd expect, you can upload lists of products if you don't want to type everything in by hand; in fact, you can define products off-line in an Access database and import from that, which cuts down any potential false-entry problems. It's a simple job to attach images to products, and you're able to define standard prices and even time-dependent special offers. Product features (colour, size, etc) are also supported, and you can place products in more than one department if you need to. You have to make sure you define items in the right order (for obvious reasons you have to define a feature before you can link a product to it), but again the structure of the main menu options is such that that you always seem to enter details in the right order, almost by accident.

We only found one issue with Shopcreator, when you make a significant change - defining a feature, for example - and then publish your changes to the live site it notifies you by email when it's done. There's no kind of on-screen notification. Although this means you don't have to sit and twiddle your thumbs watching progress screens, it would be nice to be offered the option of having a more immediate and tangible confirmation message.

Despite this small grumble, Shopcreator is an agile development environment that's both intuitive and powerful. There's little flexibility in hosting options once you've committed to the product, but this is offset by the product's impressive scalability that allows you to host an online shop with up to 500,000 different items for sale.


Superbly implemented Web-based e-commerce store system that does everything you'd want and is easy to use yet scaleable

Client requirements: Web browser