Need a store that's quick and cheap
April 28, 2009 1:49 PM   Subscribe

Me, being the family resident techie, has been asked to build an online shopping site for an in-law. EASY and FAST is the name of the game...what should I use?

(asking for the less effort I have to put into it the better).

My FIL runs a local clothing business and would like to sell his wares online. Requirements:

1) Secure online checkout using credit cards.
2) Shopping cart capability so a user can purchase multiple things at once
3) Ability to have multiple items at multiple prices.
4) Ability to have "versions" of items (shirts in S, M, L, XL, and surcharges for shirts 2X, 3X, etc).

It would be best if items can be grouped by category (say shirts, hats, etc. where a user can click on a group to see all items or a paginated list of items in that group).

The inventory will be fairly static, and there will be no "on demand" work (so think Amazon, not CafePress).

I can build him a site no problem, but the secure checkout and credit card processing...I'm not sure what the best option is. I have seen several on-line merchants using Yahoo stores for this type of functionality... How can I get this set up easily with a minimum of hassle?
posted by arniec to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Find a hosted version of OS Commerce.
posted by Wild_Eep at 1:52 PM on April 28, 2009

A friend of mine uses Shopify and loves it -- -- and another loves BigCartel -- -- while I like osCommerce and its variants, they can be kind of a pain in the ass at times, and their out-of-the-'box' design = pretty miserable.
posted by at 2:02 PM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

2ding shopify, unless you want to learn backend coding, whcih has it's own rewards.
posted by jenkinsEar at 2:16 PM on April 28, 2009

Response by poster: Hmm...fees on shopify seem hefty given that he's just starting and his business is small. I was hoping for a more commission-based model than monthly hosting...

Would an Amazon shop work for this type of thing? If he has a finite number of products, I'd think an e-bay store or using Amazon to sell might work, right?
posted by arniec at 2:24 PM on April 28, 2009

How can I get this set up easily with a minimum of hassle?

Have a contract or end game in mind, otherwise they may dog forever about making changes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:25 PM on April 28, 2009

A consultant!
posted by TruncatedTiller at 2:26 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

eBay store?

If you want to build the thing yourself, I have played around with Zen-Cart, it seemed functional and flexible.
posted by davey_darling at 2:37 PM on April 28, 2009

Best answer: Steer clear of things like OSCommerce and Zen Cart unless you're willing to devote an awful lot of time and hassle to this project.

Shopify is a good option if you want a decent range of features with little effort and easy restyling, but if $24 a month is considered 'hefty' (seriously?) then you might just want to put together a static site containing buttons for purchasing via PayPal. Within PayPal there are tools that generate the HTML snippets for you.
posted by malevolent at 2:49 PM on April 28, 2009

How can I get this set up easily with a minimum of hassle?

You pay someone.

Sorry, but I'm not kidding. I did a site for a relative's business (not including shopping cart/cc processing) and It Will Not Die. I don't think there is such a thing as easy and fast when you're dealing with family. If there's any way at all you can get out of this gracefully, I would. Just say you don't have the specific technical knowledge (which is true, since you're asking here), but you know of so-and-so who can handle it for $X fee.
posted by desjardins at 2:51 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If your FiL doesn't want to spend $24/mo, I predict he's going to be a high-maintenance customer for you.
posted by zippy at 2:53 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

If your relative already has their own credit card processing deal set up for their current brick and mortar store, AND if their stock/items don't change too often (sounds like this is the case), then I would recommend Mal's E-commerce. My uncle has used it for almost 10 years now, and it very happy, and it costs next to nothing - I think you can still try it out for free with limited options. You will just have to build a site and use the code from Mal's service for the buttons - one button for each variation of a product - you can probably get fancy with the code and use drop-downs or javascript if you want, too to make it simpler for the user. (But to add any new product, you would have to add a new button via html or whatever page coding you use.) You can see it in action here. (Very very old school code and site design - but it works.)

If your relative needs to add their own new products often and discontinue products often, and if it matters that they only have 3 of item X in stock, so they don't want to allow sales of more than 3 of item X, I would recommend Yahoo Shops, which has a number of credit card processing services that you can choose from, and allows you to track number of items in stock etc.

(I don't know anything about Shopify - so if anyone can add a comparison between the two, that might be useful.)
posted by chr1sb0y at 3:04 PM on April 28, 2009

Oh yeah - be prepared to take care of this e-commerce site forever - no matter which service you use. That's the nature of "helping" someone build an e-commerce site... or maybe you can teach your father-in-law web development as a new hobby. That's the only way I see it not being your responsibility forever.
posted by chr1sb0y at 3:08 PM on April 28, 2009

Big Cartell
posted by ljesse at 3:12 PM on April 28, 2009

sorry, Cartel with one "l"
posted by ljesse at 3:13 PM on April 28, 2009

I have not used it, but Magento looks pretty nice and works with Google checkout.
posted by hooray at 3:23 PM on April 28, 2009

I asked a similar question last year, and after evaluating all of my options ended up going with Shopify. It was definitely the right decision, as once I had everything set up I was able to train the customer to add/modify items and pricing with very little effort.

Also nthing everyone who says that this is the type of project that could end up being perpetual if you're not careful, and an all-in-one solution like Shopify can mitigate this to a great degree.

$24/month is pretty cheap for the bundle of services they offer, IMO, especially with a front-end that a total neophyte can use to manage inventory, transactions, etc. without accidentally mucking up the back-end stuff.
posted by Roach at 3:32 PM on April 28, 2009

I would nth shopify and reiterate that the monthly fee completely pays for itself in time you don't have to spend trying to get OS Commerce or Zen Cart up and running (or, god forbid, looking halfway decent).

Mal's is ok if you're willing to set up all the credit card payment gateway stuff yourself and ok with coding (I think?) static pages for your products (I believe Mal's is just for adding the actual shopping cart/purchase functionality, not organizing and displaying your products).

Another alternative I've used in the past is to set up a simple Wordpress blog and then add the WP-Ecommerce plugin. It's not perfect but it's easy to set up and easy enough to administer that even if you do get stuck with the site upkeep it won't ruin your life or your relationship with your father-in-law.
posted by EL-O-ESS at 3:33 PM on April 28, 2009

How can I get this set up easily with a minimum of hassle?

Never work for family. Ever.
posted by rokusan at 3:38 PM on April 28, 2009

+1 Shopify

Also Vendio (formerly Andale), and Yahoo Stores.
posted by MesoFilter at 6:16 PM on April 28, 2009

Do yourself a favour and send your FiL a link to Shopify, tell him how well it is touted, and leave him to his own devices.
posted by furtive at 9:20 PM on April 28, 2009

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