E-Commerce Follow-upNovember 22, 2004
Thanks to the many people who have responded to my post on our .NET e-commerce search. A special thanks to Robert Scoble for his link, which was very helpful. I've been surprised at how difficult it has been to narrow down our options. I feel a bit like Goldilocks, endlessly searching for the one that is just right! Here's a quick review of some of the suggestions and my first impressions.
ASP.NET Commerce Starter Kit [via Jeff Gilbert]
A very well-done sample store and shopping cart, with more documentation and white papers than you could hope for. A great tool to use as a guide for building your own store from scratch, but not something to get you up and running quickly.
A good solution that seems to be continuously improving, but generally more than we need. First, Commerce Server is as much a platform as a solution, and the complexity and flexibility is not currently worth it for what is, at this time, a very modest store. Also, Microsoft is incredibly generous with charity pricing, something that benefits our church and thousands like it immensely. Unfortunately, Commerce Server and other software in Microsoft's Business Solutions group, do not offer charity pricing. Though this is a reasonable policy, it places Commerce Server outside the realm of possibility.
BV Software [via Marcus McConnell with BV]
I'm glad to see that companies in this space are monitoring the blogosphere, though I wish BV would take the next step and start blogs themselves. I admit to having initially ruled out BV due to the number of passionate criticisms I have come across. I understand, however, that the more software is used, the more people find problems. StoreFront also has a number of critics.
Looking at the BV site and pricing, I believe it is worth exploring.
On initial impressions only, this looks like a serious contender. Despite a great deal of research and numerous Google searches, I had not heard of Media Chase until Andrew sent me an email. They strike me as a serious .NET shop (I was pleased to see that they develop in C# as we do) and their products seem fairly innovative. They also score major bonus points by making it easy to download and experiment with their software, something that is surprisingly rare in this category. The pricing is currently the biggest issue.
A common issue in many of these solutions is they are typically built for integration with FrontPage and Dreamweaver, rather than Visual Studio, something that makes Media Chase even more attractive.
One last option we came across is AbleCommerce. We've heard a number of good things about this and are currently attempting to install and test, though we've run into some issues.
A fair question would be, Why not just use StoreFront? All indications are that they are the leader in this group, are used by a few large retailers, and have a great website. Though they are still a top contender, our hesitations are based on five things:
1. StoreFront 6 was released over two years ago, and even though development has continued, I was told they have not "even started thinking about version 7".
2. Despite two years of opportunity, they still haven't converted their own hosted version of StoreFront to version 6.
3. Conversations with technical support have been disappointing.
4. Much of their source code documentation and class/method descriptions still say "work in progress" and have many missing details.
5. The companies suggested way of evaluating their software is to buy it for $1500 and rely on a 30-day money-back guarantee.
For now, the quest continues. The remaining contenders are Media Chase, StoreFront, AbleCommerce, .NET Cart, and BV Software.
If anyone has experience with these, I would love to hear from you. Thanks again for everyone's help!