Shopping Cart Comparison
by Samantha C. Raymond
Carts: Vp-asp - Cactushop - Comersus - Q-shop - Clickcart
Chart - Conclusions
This is an Australian company, which could pose difficulties in the case of phone support for users in the United States for example.
The site design and texts show a non-professional style with expressions such as "You won't be disappointed".
The company's scheme is to provide a free limited demo so you can verify how the system works. This demo cannot be used for commercial purposes.
The company offers free unlimited pre-sales and post-sales technical support. In the case of free unlimited support users should be careful about its quality, since it is widely known that in the software industry the highest costs are related to support and services in general.
Upgrades are free for one year.
The product license is absolutely restrictive: the software can be installed and used in one store and one domain. The product cannot be redistributed or resold. There are no choices for hosting companies, consulting companies, etc.
The price of this cart is $425.
I downloaded the demo and then I realized that the files were all mixed up, rather than classified into folders. This is not convenient since permissions over the database folder should be different from the permissions over the scripts folders if you are using Access. In addition, you cannot define additional security for administration scripts if everything is mixed in one folder.
The programming scheme and file names are confusing. For example: inside shop$db file you can find a Sub GenerateRadio with HTML tags to make radio buttons. Anyway, the shop was executed successfully, without any modification in settings.
The layout is rather amateur, and the system logic is confusing. When I selected products to purchase, I got an error page since I forgot to select the checkboxes, which are not intuitive.
Then I had to enter the credit card number, without any validation, and the order number obtained was 1. This is not desirable for business, since nobody likes to be the first one ever to place an order. Prefixes are needed to avoid this situation. The credit card information was stored without encryption and this downloaded version is not multi-language.
The company informs, however, that you can install paid versions with other languages but never switch between languages in real time. This feature is needed if you have customers from different countries.
The database format was not recognized by Access 97, so a lot of people will not be able to edit the file.
A click on the Empty Cart button when the cart was empty did not bring up any error message. A user's guide is not provided.
The administrator utilities seem to be very complete, but the link menu is confusing and plain, without any categorizations. Besides, most interesting features are not included in this demo version.
Overall performance of the online demo is extremely slow.
The company answered a pre-sales e-mail question in the same day.
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This company is located in the US. They provide an excellent reference site.
Their license allows software installation in one site, store modification and Copyright removal. Resale and redistribution are not permitted.
The price of this cart is only $55,95. Upgrades are $27,97 each.
They provide 30-day e-mail support.
There is no downloadable demo, so I couldn't analyze the programming style and database structure.
The online demo seems simple and clear. When I clicked on the third screen of one category I got the message: "Ooops! There Was An Error: Unable To Open The Database", followed by unlimited SSL redirection notices.
This cart is extremely simple. There are no advanced options like multiple categories for one product, top selling products, real time shipping quotation, multi-language, multi-currency, etc.
The administration utility is clear and well designed, but I found some errors. When I browsed orders and clicked on one for details I got a message saying that the order was not valid. The administrator utility is neither multi-language nor multi-user.
It is possible to download a PDF guide, which is very complete from the user's point of view but lacking technical specifications for developers. This company has many products and their dedication to ClickCart seems to be minimum.
There are no forums or any other means of collaboration among users.
The company answered a pre-sales question in the same day.
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The Q-Shop site is very complete. This company is located in England, so they may provide a better support and configuration for users located in the same country. They don't provide a demo to download so I had to try the online demo.
They have a forum but there aren't too many messages, so it might not be too helpful.
The price of this cart is $175; they provide 2-month support and unlimited upgrades.
The license can be used only for one store and it is very restrictive: "NO PART OF THE CODE may be redistributed, copied, published or resold under any circumstances."
This cart is not multi-language but there are two translations available: Italian and German.
The database is Access and you can also use SQL Server, but not mySQL.
The on-line demo shows a functional design, but it looks a little amateur.
The home page shows a message but it doesn't extract products or promotions directly from the database. It can be deduced that its main purpose is to be edited with static content. The catalogue allows the user to perform searches and produce category, offers and hot deals listings.
Products are shown as an image without price, so you have to click on them in order to get more information or purchase. The products can be ordered according to different fields, and then in the product details page you can select variations over the same product (such as color and size).
This cart makes a correct treatment of stock so you cannot order more products than the quantities defined in the stock database. In the cart view, the program suggests related products, a typical example of cross-selling.
Then, after saving the order you get the order number without prefixes, which is not desirable for a real store.
This is an intermediate shopping cart, functional enough for several cases.
The problems I found are related to the license model, the lack of payment methods, the lack of tools to provide multi-language and multi-currency, and the little reference provided for developers to make modifications.
I sent an e-mail and some minutes later I received an auto-response informing that technical questions are answered in 2 weeks.
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The Comersus site is very complete since this company, located in the US, is only dedicated to the Shopping Cart.
This company's scheme is revolutionary, to say the least: the cart is provided absolutely free and with all rights of use, modification and redistribution since the license is Open Source.
However, some advanced features are only included in Power Packs starting at $49. Comersus does not provide official technical support by e-mail, but it does provide a technical forum with 9000 messages and active involvement by technicians, users and third-party developers.
Those customers who need official technical support may obtain optional paid Support Programs.
The upgrades are free of charge since the shopping cart is also free.
I downloaded the cart and included with the Zip file I found a 70-page PDF guide which proved very complete, including technical reference. There is also a database chart, although it is not updated to the latest database version.
This cart is compatible with Access, SQL Server and mySQL.
It is both multi-language (store, database and catalogue) and multi-currency (this option is only included with Power Packs but it is very complete since you can make off-line and on-line conversions).
The installation was quite simple; the system is well organized and the folders and file names are very user-friendly. On opening the files I found that the programming style is clear, simple and elegant. However, some functions don't have enough explanations between the code for beginning programmers.
You can include a lot of attributes in the products, such as a thumbnail image, retail price, list price, wholesale price, cost and discounts, among others. There are numerous listings to browse the catalogue: searches (basic and advanced), Best Sellers, Supplier Listing, New Products, Auctions Listing, Categories and Category Tree.
The Product Details page is very complete: you can view the available stock and the famous notice "You Save…" as well as adding products to the wish list, sending a recommendation to a friend, making reviews, obtaining discounts and more.
This cart makes a correct treatment of stocks. However, it only decreases stock when the payments become authorized or when the administrator changes the order status from the administration utility. This is ideal for most cases, but some little shops could prefer a system where the stock is adjusted with each order, independently from the payment.
The checkout segment allows various on-line payment methods (credit cards and checks with 25 different gateways), off-line payments (checks and deposits) and online shipping quotations with UPS and USPS.
This cart also includes a customer menu with order tracking, personal data modification, auction listings and wish lists. Some unique features are also included, for example WAP: your customers can purchase from their cell phones. The store can also be administered remotely from a cell phone, you can define auctions, your customers can see a popularity chart with each product and select the language in real time. The cart engine also includes detailed stock tracking.
The administrator module included with Power Packs (BackOffice) is very complete, and maybe a little bit complex for newbies. It is multi-user with configurable permissions, it has great charts, Excel and QuickBooks export functions (an essential feature, missing in other products), a professional treatment of orders including roll-back, image upload without using FTP, and an HTML editor included in the product modification screen.
Without the Power Packs, the management features are not enough for the advanced functions, and this is maybe one drawback of this cart. With the BackOffice Lite, which is part of the free version, you can manage the catalogue, view orders, manage customers and perform some other functions, but you don't have other important features like image upload from the Browser.
They answered an e-mail immediately informing that technical questions should be posted in the forum. There I got many answers from Comersus and from advanced users. This is one of the most important qualities of this cart: a real collaboration community behind the project providing support, patches, and new features.
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is located in England. The site is extremely elegant and detailed, and it includes
a knowledge base, free downloads and details of payment gateways.
A very complete PDF guide is provided.
The license allows cart modification, but Copyright notices cannot be removed, and neither can the cart or modifications be resold or redistributed.
The free downloaded product cannot be used, since the main purpose is evaluating the cart to purchase the full version. CactuShop does not offer any support for the free version aside from the knowledge base.
The price for this cart is $312.
The program uses session variables to maintain the cart contents, but this is neither well designed nor reliable. Other products use a database scheme.
The file that I have downloaded is an exe and not a zip file, meaning it may contain viruses and trojans, and therefore making me uncomfortable about opening it. The layout and structure is well designed.
The folder division is correct, however a little bit redundant since in the root there are 5 image folders.
The product can be executed without changes in settings. The home page mixes catalogue products with offers from CactuShop, and you have to edit and remove this to make an evaluation. There are also links to categories, search boxes and hot deals.
CactuShop offers an interesting scheme of Skins or Templates to modify the layout, and this is one of the greatest features of the cart.
The coding style is clear and simple. When I installed the cart I realized that the default currency is pounds, so it is plain to see that the product was mainly designed for England.
The cart management is confusing: after adding one product to the cart you don't receive any notification and it seems that nothing has happened. The only noticeable change is produced in the cart contents on the left bar. It has an interesting speed-order feature to add products entering the part number, and it has a new intuitive scheme to manage variations. However, there is a lack of listings such as: Best Sellers, Supplier Listing, etc.
In the demo, at checkout, the cart redirected me to a missing page WORLDPAY_payonline.asp, which is quite absurd since I hadn't yet entered any personal data for checkout. Several features such as My Account, Password Reminder, Affiliates, and others are not included in the free version. I also tested the online demo at the CactuShop site. The checkout page is well designed and you can enter your email address to get a newsletter.
I was surprised to receive yet another error message also in the online demo: Microsoft JET Database Engine error '80040e57'. So I had to suspend the evaluation of the storefront.
This cart only allows 3 payment gateways, and this is not very convenient since other products handle more than 20. This cart does not provide Real Time Shipping Quoting.
The BackOffice does not require a password, which is a serious security flaw. The rest is very complete and it has a clear design, however some features are not included in the free version and it is not possible to obtain charts and statistics.
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C. Raymond - 2002