Questions to ask before choosing an e-commerce platform.
Buying software from small businesses is often a roll of the dice. One of the added problems of evaluating e-commerce software is it's difficult to get honest, 'real' reviews. Much of the information online is biased commentary, disguised as genuine. The only way to really know is to actually use the programs or delve deep into forums for specific comparisons.
Here are a few questions to ask before making a commitment:
What version is the software? If it's v1.3 then avoid it at all costs. The higher the version the better.
How large is the software company? There is much more chance that software from Adobe will be around in 5 years than a 5 person software company's will be. If you commit to an e-commerce platform and the company goes away, so does most of your investment.
Open source or commercial software? Buying open source ensures you have access to the code but also means you will be relying on a web developer for maintenance and upgrades. Since e-commerce software is changing rapidly, choosing open source can be a more costly choice.
What marketing features does the software have? Using a platform such as ProStores, owned by eBay, has the added advantage of being pre-integrated with one of the largest online shopping networks around. Leveraging other marketing programs such as SEO and e-mail integration are critical to the success of an online store.
Can any user interface design be used? Often e-commerce software restricts the 'look + feel' of a website design. Check to see how restrictive the template system is or if you can develop your own template.
For a more comprehensive list of questions to ask before purchasing e-commerce software, see our 'E-commerce Project Profile: Questions that help define the strategic goals and scope of an e-commerce project'.