Sunshop Shopping Cart Review
We've just finished another client's website utilizing TurnkeyWebTools' Sunshop Shopping Cart. As many of us need a good, reasonably easy-to-use and user-friendly shopping cart that is as search engine friendly and configurable as possible, I thought I'd do a review.
Installation and Visuals
The latest version of Sunshop includes a php page to upload and access via browser, after which it ran through a test and output results that tell you which version of an encrypter needs to be installed. Note: because Sunshop is (according to their site) "98% open source", a programmer friend suggested that the encryption is likely utilized for the two percent that is not open source. Fair enough; I just wanted a good shopping cart, and there's plenty of code there to read if you so desire.
I've not installed OSCommerce (that, or something like it, are next), but the initial appearance of Sunshop is very similar: right and left columns filled with all kinds of boxes of stuff; middle column for products. My experience with such software (including blogs) is that it can take five or so minutes to install the software, and then next 20-30 hours to redesign and configure it.
entice and to sell. Thus, product page = large image. And all the work that that implies to make it so. <grin> Anyway …
Sunshop uses a gigantic template that contains seemingly every feature used anywhere in the cart. For those willing to face down dragons with a toothpick, you can download the template via the Control Panel, edit it, and re-upload. For everyone else, you can edit pieces of the main template (header, footer, various pages, etc.) via the Control Panel. And you'll likely be happy that, during install, Sunshop has detected and set itself to various server configurations, like the presence, configuration and location of cURL (making it, so far as I could tell, unnecessary to have one header with http links and another for secure https links).
In my case, liking the software as I do, I rewrote some of the CSS so that I could use my "templates" in Sunshop and just drop "my" Sunshop CSS into any site's external CSS file.
Sunshop also has other features, like being able to assign groups, set up affiliates and discount coupons, but I haven't used these. It also creates packing slips. Best of all was a new feature re shipping. Last time I set up a shopping cart, I had to sign up the client at a major shipping venue (UPS?) and input his client account number into the shopping cart. (Can you feel your web designer time burning up here? <grin>) This time, initiating the UPS shipping option from within the Sunshop control panel walked me through the whole signup process to completion.
As well, my client contacted USPS (United States Postal Service) re getting an account so that we could use usps.com's live shipping fee module, and sent me a mind-boggling (I'd say mind-blowing, and that it was!) huge PDF file with instructions for setting up and testing the USPS API. A quick call to TurnkeyWebTools, where I was advised that they'd already done all that and tested to USPS' — and their own — standards. Happily tossing out the PDF, I simply enabled the module within the control panel and was good to go.
Search Engine Friendly Shopping Cart URLs
Pricing & Tech Support
Sunshop costs about $189 USD. Given that something like OSCommerce is free, why would I buy a shopping cart? Familiarity, for one thing, but there's another: support. They have it. That's: included support.
While TurnkeyWebTools does provide email support as well as forums (and a most polite, low-key moderator, for those of use who have "lived" in SEO forums), the fact that one can call during work hours and speak to a tech is a huge plus. Certainly beats plowing through dozens of forum posts, hoping an issue's been covered. I figure the money spent is less than my time is worth. What's more, nothing seems to rattle these guys; they're calm, polite, even cheerful — and how often are you able to call a software company and speak to someone who knows the code well, wants to help, and is even willing to take a look under the hood for you — at no additional cost?
What's more: they listen. I had a number of conversations with the Sunshop guys during an earlier install, particularly with respect to making Sunshop a more search engine friendly shopping cart. As it turns out, I think I was talking to the owner and head coder; at any rate, when I returned for the recent purchase, the sales person was happy to explain the new features, which included almost every last thing I ever had in mind.
Nice, eh? Not only that, but if you sign up as a reseller (they evaluate all reseller applications) and buy two or more copies, there's a 20% discount, with larger discounts to follow … and that's not for purchases made at any one time but for cumulative purchases. After purchase, you just log in to assign your purchased copies to clients.
TurnkeyWebTools also has another, smaller one-page shopping cart, as well as LiveHelper software. I haven't tried these yet but, as you can tell, I'm a happy camper. And no, there are no affiliate IDs in my links above (it doesn't work that way); I'm just talking because I'm happy with the product and the support and their search engine friendly shopping cart.
ADDED: Truthfully, I sincerely appreciate people who take the time to comment on this blog and I've never before had to moderate comments, except for spam. But, for some reason, the comment section below turned at times into heated exchanges. Since some of that seemed to be based on misunderstanding, and in celebration of my long overdue Sunshop 4 Review, I've cleaned up the comment section. Hopefully what's left will still be of help.
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