Monday, May 2, 2011

3dCart Taking Over from Dated Cart Solutions like Miva

I've been working in e-commerce for the last ten years. The first site I worked on used a simple asp script for ordering that quickly passed by the wayside. Then the switch was made to Miva 4. This was a definite step up, but then Miva upgraded to version 5, I switched to a different cart. However, I came back to recently Miva 5 - unfortunately.

Miva has some good ideas, but support for the product is terrible. Basic level support through your host varies and depends on your host. Anything above and beyond requires Miva's atrocious support. Also, Miva has traded in on its initial popularity as one of the most popular carts and basically trapped its users into using a handful of developers to make their site usable. This is because Miva uses it's own language on the programming end. There are pluses and minuses to this language/system; the biggest minus being you have to learn a new language to work with Miva's back-end or hire someone who knows it. The second major problem with Miva is that it uses modules that the site owners have to purchase on top of their cart to add functionality to their site. The premise isn't bad. However, unlike Miva 4 Miva 5 is barely usable without at least some modules. At this point they have simply fallen well behind the curve on what a cart should offer at its base level.

While working on a less well know (non-Miva) cart, it became clear that we needed to change systems. This is when I came across the 3DCart Shopping Cart Software. It was well reviewed on a number of bulletin boards, and they offer a 15 day free trial for the user to see if it will work for them. I tried it - I love it. First off, importing and exporting is done using Excel based CSV files - ie. a spreadsheet. No need for XML or third party interpreters. Second, editing products is very easy, editing categories is fairly easy. It comes in with numerous built in templates that you can edit significantly if you are familiar with CSS and HTML. Even if you don't know HTML and CSS you can still make changes to graphics, colors, and fonts simply. Depending what level of cart you use, mailing lists, reports, twitter and facebook updates, shopping engines feeds, and much more are built in at no extra charge. 3DCart offers a wide range of payment gateways that are easy to set up and use. Order processing is effective, feature rich, yet simple. Finally, for those using Miva or another popular shopping cart, 3dCart offers a conversion service for an easy switch over. In short 3dCart is very affordable, easy to use, and feature rich - good for newbies and experts alike. Right now if you sign up for 3dCart you'll save 10%. It is certainly worth trying out.


pamelahazelton said...

Out of curiosity, did you look at the new features coming out in PR8? Drag and drop CSV importing, exporting and swappable images?

Yes, I'm part of the third-party dev community for Miva Merchant, but I use the cart because of it's uber-flexibility. Most who convert to Miva Merchant do so because there are features other carts don't have - they are fine paying for features they'd otherwise not be able to use.

I understand your issues with the cart not having all the core features many other carts do, and this is something they've been rolling out throughout the months - more features that eliminate the need for modules.

BTW, there are very few modules one needs for a basic business (i.e. coupons, perhaps a more custom shipping solution). So it really does depend on the needs of the business. Still, it's a lot less expensive than the $20K + solutions so many other business think they need.

kmorrison said...

I haven't seen the new features of PR8, and am glad to hear about CSV importing as that seemed to be a huge oversight.

I agree businesses and individuals don't need to shell out large sums of money to run a cart or e-commerce site. Miva does deserve credit for being the first (or one of the first) to bring an affordable e-commerce solution to small businesses.

However, since that time they've been going downhill. 3dCart and others offer more affordable solutions that are easier to use, and come with more standard features.

Miva's module system is such an admirable idea that many others have copied it. However, when a platform like Miva only offers two free templates, makes users pay for support, and modules have to be purchased for basic elements like breadcrumbs then Miva has either fallen way behind the development curve, or they are cashing in on their large customer base by forcing them to purchase the basics.

Miva just isn't what it used to be. 3Dcart is more affordable, more user friendly, much easier to learn. It is very easy to show even 'computer-phobic' people how to use the order and CRM elements. It's scalable in a way that Miva is not, allowing beginners a very affordable way to give e-commerce a try; as well as providing a powerful platform for the big guys.

The reason I am so hard on Miva isn't just that it has clearly been surpassed 3Dcart and others, it's because it has turned it's back on what made it good to begin with. They were the cart of the start-up and the little guy, but they no longer have their customers' best interest at heart, and are fading because of that.

pamelahazelton said...

I'm not sure what you mean by two templates. There are frameworks (either HTML/Table based) or CSS. One can implement any design they want, including those from all the freebie sites out there.

I've never been a fan of free or included full designs for any shopping cart because they aren't unique - other stores are using the same design. So that's not an issue for anyone wanting to create a unique experience for their visitors.

Miva Merchant has a support club, but they've never charged for standard user support. The forums have been around for ages, and the ticket desk is free, and they also offer free phone support. If you're referring to advanced stuff, please keep in mind that custom support is a time suck for any cart system.

If you want to learn what's in PR8, download my ebook - which is free - right from (Miva Merchant purchased the rights to provide the book free to all users).

I'm not sure what you mean by the last statement - because, unlike most other carts, MM is one of the few that's continued to support third-party development. This means any business using MM can have nearly any feature they want in the cart. Sure, it might cost some bucks, but it's still cheaper than the bigger solutions, and more flexible.

I'm not arguing against what you've found to be easier - I'm saying, however, that the interface has gotten much more intuitive and the flexibility of doing whatever you want has always been there (and that hasn't changed).

kmorrison said...

Fair point on third party development. They do seem to be quite supportive of their developers. My perspective may just be different in that I'm generally looking for what is already included versus what can be created/added on. Also, I would say that the concept of a framework versus a template isn't all that different, but that the straight-forward application of 3dCarts templates is much easier and flexible for those proficient in CSS and HTML, and still pretty easy for a newbie. Seems third party templates for Miva wouldn't be so popular if their frameworks weren't quite so akward or sparce. Finally, have to note Miva's support was quite disappointing. The host's base support was okay, forums were hit or miss, and direct Miva support was terible - all together very time consuming.

However, I do appreciate your insights. Clearly you're one of the Miva developers who knows her stuff.

pamelahazelton said...

Support was an issue for many years - so they've revamped that. But I do get where you're coming from.

FYI - Framework is the "base" of it all. The actual page templates are totally open. A Framework is the basis (foundation), while templates are what are modified to customize it all. Then there are "skins" which are stock designs (I avoid those).

But as far as different template "looks" - no, MM doesn't have those included.