iHTML Merchant

iHTML Merchant

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Date of Review: 11/30/98

iHTML Merchant Pro is billed as a turnkey solution for small to medium-sized businesses. That promise is largely met, as both experienced and novice Webmasters and designers should have no problem launching an electronic storefront with a minimum of fuss.

Installation of iHTML Merchant Pro is simple: you install directly from the CD-ROM on the Web server, listing the domain name for the storefront and the ODBC data source. iHTML Merchant Pro works in conjunction with a Web server; currently supported are Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS), Netscape Web servers, and O'Reilly & Associates WebSite Pro. Future versions of iHTML Merchant Pro expected by the end of this year will run on UNIX platforms (BSD, FreeBSD, Linux and Solaris), as well as run in conjunction with Apache on the Windows NT platform.

Once installed, there are no limits to how many products and categories you wish to maintain. You can also run an unlimited number of separate stores within a single iHTML Merchant installation. If you run into problems, a free support forum is available at the iHTML Web site or ask for assistance via electronic mail. Additional charges apply to telephone-based support.

After iHTML Merchant Pro is installed, administration is performed via a browser-based administration tool. A nice touch, iHTML Merchant Pro allows you to change the look and feel of your store via the administration tool's built-in Javascript-based HTML editor.

Setting up a storefront can be as easy as selecting one of seven templates and entering product information, graphics and company information. (More templates are available at the Inline Internet Systems Web site.) In addition, a base template is provided so experienced computer users can create new templates.

One unique feature to iHTML Merchant Pro is electronic-software-distribution capabilities, where customers can be set up as members or nonmembers to provide access to specific files.

iHTML Merchant Pro uses a server-side shopping cart that stores information across sessions, as well as maintain user purchasing information, such as addresses. Personalization tools are minimal, but since such information is stored in an ODBC database, you can perform some searches within the database or export the data to an external tool. In addition, dynamic sales reports provide sales information in any number of ways: orders placed, shipped, rejected, completed, etc.

Also supported is ad rotation, both for within the store or for outside sites. Ads can be set up to rotate randomly within the entire online store or portions of the store. In addition, you can weigh the rotation in favor of specific ads so they appear more often. Clickthroughs and impressions are tracked.

Particularly easy is setting up iHTML Merchant Pro to work with real-time credit-card processing. Supported CyberCash 2.14, MCK 3.2, PC Authorize, TL Pay, Internet Secure, Redi-Check, Authorize.Net and IC Verify. For merchants who don't need real-time authorization, orders can be stored on the server or sent to store owners via electronic mail. Supported are worldwide tax systems, but the basic package ships with tax tables for Canada and the United States. Also included is information for local, international and overnight shipping options.

The pricing, however, is probably a little higher than we'd like to see. While it's true that the core iHTML Merchant Pro product is priced only at $149, you'll need to purchase a copy of the iHTML programming language for $595, putting the total price at $744. While other packages we've reviewed do approach this level of financial commitment, they are also tools that are better suited to the enterprise. For many small and medium-sized businesses -- the target audience for this product, according to Inline Internet Systems -- a price of $744 is too high. (An advanced version designed for the enterprise, iHTML Merchant 2.0 Enterprise, should also be released before the end of the year, as should a mall edition designed for ISPs.)

At the present time you can download an older version of iHTML Merchant Pro here.

One final selling point for iHTML Merchant Pro: Since you have access to the source code for the product, you can make whatever changes you want. That makes iHTML Merchant Pro attractive on two levels: novices will be able to launch an online store without breaking too much of a sweat, while advanced users will be able to use iHTML Merchant Pro as the basic platform for further customization.

Pros: Easy to set up out of the box; source code provides access to the iHTML programming language; browser-based administration gives access to all parts of the system; ad rotation works well.

Cons: On the expensive side; current version does not run on UNIX systems or work with the Apache Web server.

Date of Review: 11/30/98

Reviewed by: Kevin Reichard

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