builders are often inflexible, but this package breaks the mould
and enables you to get a lot more from your Web store.
builders come in two flavours. There are the meaty 'out-of-the-box'
solutions, where you purchase physical software such as Actinic
and eGenie, or there are the sweet online
solutions such as BT's StoreCentre or Virgin's SiteBuilder.
The boxed versions
are normally aimed at more serious users: they're (mostly) highly
customisable, and have the advantage of not maxing out your phone
bill every time you add a few products. The online site builders
are normally marketed to beginners. You choose one of the few themes
available for your site, you add a couple of product descriptions
and images, and proudly call yourself an e-business.
Trolleyed initially tastes like other online site builders,
there are some juicy morsels under the crust. This makes it a little
more complex for a newbie, but the more you dig into the help files,
the more you'll realise how flexible GT is.
(exc VAT) you get a year's site hosting for your store of up to
2,000 products, a .co.uk domain name, a POP email account, secure
online payments with Barclays' ePDQ transaction processing and a
slew of site statistics so you can see what's working and what's
not. If GT updates its scripts, you'll get the new version automatically.
After that first year you'll pay £150/yr for the hosting.
Not bad, considering BT's offering costs more and only gives you
50 product pages.
Setting up your
store is straightforward in administration mode, your site structure
appears as a tree, with product categories holding individual product
pages or more sub-categories. Each branch on the tree has its own
intro text and, better yet, meta tag keywords. Because building
the site creates individual pages instead of serving them from a
database, you can submit product pages to search engines individually
and tailor keywords to get the most attention.
Along with the
product description, image and price, you can define your own options,
such as size or colour, which will appear in a drop-down box. You
can set up multiple VAT rates and specify them separately for different
products and mark a product 'out of stock'. Many of the field titles
you must fill in are linked to pop-up help guides. If you're unsure
what should be entered, the answer is a click away.
Are all your
products already in a data-base or spreadsheet? Then you don't have
to type everything in again online. So long as you're reasonably
competent exporting comma-separated text files, you can upload all
your data at once. But that's getting ahead of ourselves; first
the basic package.
A failing of
many online shop builders is the inability to change postal charges.
By default GT charges postage according to the value of the product.
But you can change this and enter a separate weight for each of
your goods and break your charges into UK, Europe, overseas or whatever
other rate categories you desire.
options let you specify contact details, payment options and the
secure server you're using to process your orders. GT has partnered
with Barclays to help you set up a merchant account easily. If you
have an existing account, there are templates for most online banking
Fire up an
You probably won't be very impressed by the first site you create.
Unlike most other online store builders, it only includes one drab
set of templates. You're almost certainly going to want to fire
up an HTML editor and customise them. This is no bad thing. After
all, if you're going to the trouble of setting up shop online, you're
going to care about those e-business essentials: image and branding.
By the time
you read this, you will be able to download an offline page editor,
which will take the load off your phone bill. As with its flexibility,
GT is taking another step towards bridging the gap between 'out-of-the-box'
and online site builders.
The bottom line
Flexible, customisable, UK-based VAT charging, search engine friendly,
can upload product databases.
Not for complete newbies, requires time online designing.