Case Study: aalobster.com and CoreCommerceSaturday, May 21st, 2011
A&A Hardware is a family-run hardware store in Greene Maine. In 2009, this hardware store started selling Lobster and other seafood. Their newest endeavor was starting to ship live lobsters around the continental US. I was contracted to recommend and implement an ecommerce website that would allow them to add and alter products as needed (often times adjusting prices on a daily basis.)
After reviewing other eCommerce solutions, I decided that the best fit for this client would be an “All In One” eCommerce solution. The benefit to using these services is that the “All In One” solution provides both the eCommerce and website program as well as the web hosting. These “All in one” solutions also deal with encryption of sensitive customer data and have built-in integration/ support of most main-stream merchant gateways.
With this client’s specific needs in mind, I chose to recommend CoreCommerce (http://corecommerce.com/) as the “All in one” eCommerce solution. There are many features of CoreCommerce that lead me to choose them; the following are a few:
- No per-transaction fee: eCommerce store owners are already paying fees to their merchant account providers, and possibly their payment gateway. CoreCommerce is one of the few providers that have a flat monthly fee, not a per-transaction fee.
- Simple to skin: Although CoreCommerce may not allow as much flexibility with the layout (or functionality – see below), there is quite a bit of flexibility when it comes to adding a custom design. If a developer is comfortable with HTML, PHP, and CSS – skinning CoreCommerce (adding a custom design to their templates) is very easy.
- Easy to Use: The store’s “back end” administrative interface is easy to use. A&A Hardware is a family owned and operated business. One of the son’s was able to log in and change product prices and shipping configurations before we had the training session. It is that painless!
- Easy to integrate shipping and payment options: Shipping and Merchant Account configuration was the last thing to configure for this client (the Merchant account was added the day we launched) – adding these configurations was fairly straight forward. There are many options for both shipping and payments.
- Great Support: I needed to contact technical support twice during this project. During both calls, I was really impressed with both the helpfulness of the tech support and the quick answers they were able to provide. As most developers would agree, calling tech support is normally a dreaded experience, this was a refreshing change.
Some of the drawbacks I experienced in working with CoreCommerce during this implementation were
- Limited ability to change the layout or functionality of the site: If someone only needs a simple eCommerce store, the options that CoreCommerce will work great. With the exception of custom widgets or application integration, I am hard-pressed to find any solid examples of basic eCommerce features that CoreCommerce does not provide options for. However, some of the more robust custom features and applications would be impossible to add to this product until you paid for their pro-services team to make the change.
- Limited IE6 support. If you are using IE6 on this website, you can see the static content pages, but very few of the product or category pages work correctly. In fact, it appears that these pages never fully load… EVER.
To be honest, I was both pleased and disappointed at the same time. I am not trying to start a flame war here, but this was my thinking.
As with all other standards loving designers and developers out there, I am all for IE 6 no longer being in existence. It is buggy, non compliant, and a general pain to work with. BUT, I do know that some people still use it. I live in Maine. While fast new computers are common place in other parts of the country, Maine tends to be a tad behind the times.
Case in point: I have an Aunt that has a Windows ME computer (grown). The best she can do is upgrade to IE6. At the moment, a computer upgrade is not an option for her, and frankly, she is just starting to use the internet, so upgrading for the sake of a better online experience is not in her frame of reference. Word, Excel, and all the other programs she frequently uses work just fine in Windows ME, so why spend $$ if she does not need to. With so many mainstream websites (like Facebook) no longer supporting IE6, people like my Aunt have a very frustrating experience on the internet. I know that the national studies show that IE 6 usage is steadily getting smaller (which I am very excited to read about!) I don’t necessarily think these studies are appropriate representations of all places in our country. How many more people like my Aunt are there? These baby boomers are all slowly but steadily getting more comfortable on the internet, and with that means online shipping. Sadly, people like my Aunt will not be able to purchase anything from www.aalobster.com or other CoreCommerce websites.
One Big Idea
If an online store has basic needs (categories, products, shopping cart, content pages, contact forms, etc) and no advanced layout or functionality requirements, then CoreCommerce is a GREAT solution. It is fast, easily to skin, easy for store owners to use and update, fairly inexpensive, and has great support.
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