Author Archives: My Opinion

Review: Sammy Dress

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In the Chinese online fashion foreign trading industry, Sammydress.com is not as famous as the big players like Lightinthebox.com or Aliexpress.com. However, it is also true that this Chinese store has a significant customer base which is growing constantly these years. Just in case more buyers are interested in trading with this site and want to confirm whether it is legitimate or not, I decide to give a detailed review of Sammydress.com.

Under 10USD Summer Dresses Deals

Before you read ahead, please note that all the information provided below is based on my personal research and just for your reference only. If it contains any errors, please contact me or leave your comment at the end of the post.

Sammydress Scam

Just as we decide to start shopping with any Chinese online store, the first and foremost question is: Is Sammydress.com a legit company or a scam? I don’t mean to convince you that there is no problem with the legitimacy of Sammydress.com but based on my knowledge, the site does exists with an official business license and has been serving buyers from all over the world for years. Most negative reviews claiming Sammydress is a scam point to the product quality or service standards of the site instead of the level of shopping safety.

If, after you search information about the store by terms like “Sammydress bad reviews”, “Sammydress negative reviews”, “Sammydress complaints” or “Sammydress scams”, you immediately abandon the consideration of using it, it could be a mistake. Try searching any other Chinese stores by the similar keywords, you will find that no sites can be trustworthy based on the reviews. The reason is more than simple: happy customers seldom share the pleasant shopping experience unless they can get some benefit such as a discount for a future order while unhappy customers find every way to vent their anger or to destroy the image of the store. So far, no Chinese global store is perfect enough to stay completely free from complaints – even the recently listed company Lightinthebox.com can not do so well.

Store Info

Sammydress.com is one official shopping website belonging to Hong Kong Aosen International Group Co., Limited. Based on my research, the site is closely related to Ahappydeal.com (read review), Everbuying.com, Yeegow.com and Gadgetsdealers.com, which are registered under another company called Yilutong Trading Co. Ltd though.

Founded in 2006, the export entity uses different websites to do online business with global buyers. It is a strategy commonly adopted by Chinese international export firms as it can minimize their risks and at the same time better manage their product lines. By doing so, their teams are able to be more focused on a specific product line thus to achieve better revenues.sammy

Product Range

As the domain name indicates, Sammydress.com is focused on selling all kinds of fashionable dresses and other fashion products and accessories, though it also carries some minor catalogs including gifts, toys and home & living supplies.

Comparatively, women’s fashion and accessories are the backbone of the site while men’s apparel and kids’ clothing also have plenty of choices. Though like Lightinthbox.com or Milanoo.com, Sammydress.com also has an exclusive catalog for Wedding & Events and you can find lots of other special occasion dresses such as prom dresses or cocktail dresses there, they seem to be doing better in the field of fashion for less formal occasions.

I notice that on their own Sammydress clothing reviews page, the best rated pieces are mostly suitable for any common occasions. You can wear them to build an office look, to style out for a casual gathering with friends or families, to enjoy a coffee at your favorite coffee shop or the like. While many people tend to regard that the majority of customer reviews posted at Chinese shopping sites are all positive because the bad ones are withheld from being published, the reviews at least can give us a hint that the site has some products some buyers are satisfied with.

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Pricing & Shipping

In addition to the attractive styles, ultra low pricing should be the next attraction of the fashion products for sale there. Most of the dresses, tops, bottoms and outerwear are available at under $20 – it is hard to believe that some really amazing dresses are priced at less than $10!

Free shipping is honored on select items and you can find all free shipping deals offered by Sammydress.com here. For orders requiring shipping fees, there are three types based on shipping time: flat shipping (7-25 business days by Hong Kong Post), standard shipping (6-8 business days by EMS) and expedite shipping (3-5 business days by DHL, UPS or FedEx). The specific shipping cost will be shown after you choose a shipping method during the checkout procedure.

To save money on orders with Sammydress.com, you are encouraged to take advantage of the regularly released deals or the exclusive coupon codes. It seems they don’t issue coupon codes so regularly as their competitors like Dinodirect.com, Sheinside.com or Didobridal.com. Currently, you can get a 5% off coupon code by joining them on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter with one click only. For details, you can click on the Promo Code button at the right side of their homepage.

Payment Methods

This site accepts Paypal, Wire Transfer and Western Union. For first time buyers, I always suggest you use Paypal or credit card to make the payment to better protect your interest. If you have to use Wire Transfer or Western Union, do remember to start from a tiny order to test everything first.

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Customer Service

Sammydress.com offers live chat customer support. This is good as we can ask directly their service representatives any questions about the products we are interested in. Besides, they also allow customers to reach them by phone call or email or through the Submit a Help Ticket system. They promise that any inquiry through email or the Help system will be responded within 24 hours.

Review: EverBuying.net

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Everbuying.net is among the most widely used e-commerce businesses located in China. It’s a broad selection of items that it offers at affordable rates. Because there are many Chinese businesses with services and comparable products, however, you need to find out more about Everbuying. Generally, clients all around the globe discover that they get enjoyable services and products from Everbuying. Nevertheless, it’s usually smart by evaluating your choices to create the best purchase.

BangGood.com - Online shopping for Gadgets, RC helicopters, mobile phones, fashion items and more

everbuying.com reviews

About Everbuying

Everbuying was established in 2006 to produce a market for international customers. The organization provides a wide selection of items, including games, technology, apparel, beauty items, and sports gear. All of the items offered at Everbuying.net are stated in China. This can help therefore the organization may participate inside the global market keeps costs as little as possible.

Simply because Everbuying gets the majority of its products doesn’t imply that the remainder of the planet can’t make the most of top quality products offered at affordable rates. The organization has clients in more than 200 countries.

BangGood.com - Online shopping for Gadgets, RC helicopters, mobile phones, fashion items and more

Best Features of Everbuying

The very best section of utilizing Everbuying.net is the fact that you receive reliable items at affordable rates.

The organization offers many choices which makes it a person- service. Clients, for example, may decide to purchase their expenditures with PayPal charge cards, Western Union, or bank transactions. This allows you for clients all around the globe to select payment options that fit safety issues and their local choices.

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Everbuying comes with an online settlement center where clients can purchase products at even greater savings. The settlement center provides you with lots of choices if you like to locate a cool product in a cheap cost.

BangGood.com - Online shopping for Gadgets, RC helicopters, mobile phones, fashion items and more

Everbuying Customer Service

Clients may contact Everbuying via the company’s current email address (help@everbuying.net) or telephone (530-758-3758). Everbuying also offers a website where support seats can be submitted by clients. Anticipate the organization to answer assist seats within one morning.

The Everbuying site includes a Live-Chat function that may place you in-direct connection with customer support reps.

What’re EB Factors?

A: Everbuying provides clients for doing specific duties factors. Being a member, for example, provides you with 100 EB Factors. Putting an order makes one to you EB Stage per dollar invested. You may also generate EB Factors by taking part in different incentive programs and publishing product critiques.

BangGood.com - Online shopping for Gadgets, RC helicopters, mobile phones, fashion items and more

After making EB Factors, you should use them to conserve money on acquisitions. 50 EB Factors is add up to $1. The more factors you collect, the less real cash spent in your orders.

Conclusion

Everbuying.net includes a solid name forgiving its clients use of low priced, top quality consumer products. It’s among the most reliable ecommerce businesses located in China. A fast examine online consumer reviews suggests that they nearly all are pleased with products and the services they get from Everbuying.

Accessing this type of huge stock of low priced products is a superb benefit for international customers. Everbuying’s area in China raises concerns about timeliness. Then Everbuying may not be the best choice for you if you require a product quickly. Should you be prepared to obtain your purchase inside a week on the other hand, none of the e-commerce companies situated in Asia may be practical.

Then Everbuying is a great source for you if you’re mainly thinking about obtaining wonderful products at low rates. Comprehend, although, that it might take many weeks to obtain your shipping. Lots of people discover that the wait may be worth it.

General, this can be a fantastic organization that assists a large number of people all around the world. It’s a large list of products that are well-crafted solid client solutions, and exceptionally affordable costs that several companies can fit. It’s a great choice for anybody who would like to conserve money but mind waiting some time due to their order to reach.

BangGood.com - Online shopping for Gadgets, RC helicopters, mobile phones, fashion items and more

 

Review: BangGood.com

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Banggood.com is all about delivering the best bang for your buck possible. The company lists over 70,000 great products for sale in its online store. These range across numerous categories including electronics, mobile phones, sports, outdoors, toys, hobbies, home and garden, jewelry, clothing, and much more. Banggood is committed to offering consistently lower prices on all of these items than its online competitors.

Below is our in-depth review of Banggood.com. We take a look at the company’s history, its top features, its pricing, and its customer service. We also briefly touch on the small amount of criticism the company has received from other users. If you are interested in getting some of the best online deals possible (and, really, who isn’t?), then you’d do well to read the Banggood.com review below.

BangGood.com - Online shopping for Gadgets, RC helicopters, mobile phones, fashion items and more

About Banggood

Banggood.com was founded in 2004. The company originally specialized in computer software research and development for foreign trade e-commerce. Over the next several years, Banggood transitioned into an online retailer for these same products. They consistently added new products over the years. Today, they have almost everything you could ever think of needing for happy living, entertaining, and eating.

Banggood uses four offices to get their job done. These offices are located in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, and Yiwu. However, they keep their headquarters in Guangzhou. This is where their warehouses, main offices, and customer support team are kept. Over 1,000 employees work for Banggood in Guangzhou to ensure the best possible service possible.

The entire Banggood.com team is committed to providing the lowest prices possible on the highest quality products and professional services. In addition to great products, Banggood is also committed to providing the absolute best customer service and support possible.

Top Features of Banggood

There are a number of amazing features that make Banggood.com such a great place to shop online. Let’s start with the most evident: their prices.

Banggood consistently receives great reviews for their amazingly low prices on great products. Seriously, look at any review online and this is the first thing you’ll notice. This review is no different. It’s hard to find prices that come anywhere close to competing with those offered by Banggood.com. Throw in special deals and promotions and the company shines even more brightly.

And then there is the products themselves. As mentioned above, Banggood.com currently sells over 70,000 great products. Better yet, they are constantly stocking new items. Banggood sells some of the latest and greatest products in areas ranging from technology to the outdoors to clothing. Among their best selling products are apple accessories, cell phones, electronics, RC toys, LED lights, clothing, beauty products, jewelry, and watches. However, those are just the tip of the iceberg as far as Banggood’s store of goods goes.

Unlike other extreme online discount stores, all of Banggood’s products are top quality. You can find both name brand items and off brand items on the website. Banggood also provides video demos on most of their products. This helps you know exactly what you are ordering. Furthermore, there is a customer forum section where customers can leave reviews, comments, and questions on Banggood products. This is another helpful resource when looking for the perfect product for you.

Many customers, especially those in North America, are initially wary of ordering from Banggood.com because the company is located in China. People often have concerns about shipping fragile products over such a great distance. Yet I have never had a problem with shipping form Banggood. For starters, they offer worldwide shipping options and even free standard shipping on certain products to certain destinations. Even if free shipping does not cover you, the shipping fee is so low that it does not negatively affect the product’s low price.

Along these same lines, I’ve been very happy with the Banggood shipping experience. All of my products have arrived in a timely manner, as stated. It is worth noting, however, that a few of my Banggood orders have taken up to a month to arrive. But the company let me know about this ahead of time, right when I ordered, so I was not taken off guard. Finally, all of the products that I have ordered from this company have arrived in great condition and fully working. Nothing has ever been damaged during the shipping process.

It goes without saying that you can’t have a great online store without a great website. Fortunately, Banggood.com is easy to navigate. In fact, it is set up in much the same ways as Amazon.com. The home page features scrolling pictures of some of the current best deals and promotions they are offering. A categories bar along the left-hand side of the webpage lists the different category products that Banggood.com offers. There is also a section for recommendations and top selling products on the homepage.

BangGood.com - Online shopping for Gadgets, RC helicopters, mobile phones, fashion items and more

Banggood Pricing

Pricing is one of Banggood’s strongest points. The company consistently offers the lowest possible pricing on its wide range of products. They even encourage customers to contact them directly if they can find better deals on the same products on different websites. In these instances, they will review the product and try their best to match or offer an even better deal.

Banggood Customer Service

BangGood.com - Online shopping for Gadgets, RC helicopters, mobile phones, fashion items and more

Great customer service is essential for any company, especially those operating solely online. Banggood.com does not disappoint in this department.

For starters, they provide an extensive amount of support information on their website alone. There is a lengthy FAQ section on all aspects of the business. The FAQ section is available in over twenty different languages.

The two primary types of live customer support offered by Banggood.com are their phone support line and live chat support. I tested out both and can attest that they are both outstanding. Live chat support is probably your best option as responses are prompt, professional, and helpful. Banggood’s phone support is equally prompt, professional, and helpful with friendly and knowledgeable representatives. The only negative here is that many of them don’t have a superior grasp of English, so it can be a bit tough to find the information you are looking for.

BangGood.com - Online shopping for Gadgets, RC helicopters, mobile phones, fashion items and more

Banggood Criticism

There are few things to complain about when it comes to Banggood.com. The only two problems that I ran into (other than some minor difficulty understanding live phone customer support representatives) were difficult selecting shipping and selection of payment type.

The difficulty with selecting shipping was multipronged. It was hard to figure out how to select the type of shipping you want. It is also difficult to enter you delivery address. It took me about five minutes or so to figure out how to do both of these things.

It was also slightly confusing to select the payment method you wanted. I wanted to pay on my credit/debit card and could not find this option at first. You actually have to select “checkout with PayPal” to use your credit/debit card. This allows you to then select between the two options (PayPal or credit/debit). To me, this is a highly unintuitive setup.

As far as I can tell, the two criticisms I discussed above are the two most common for other users/reviewers around the web.

Final Review of Banggood.com

BangGood.com - Online shopping for Gadgets, RC helicopters, mobile phones, fashion items and more

Banggood.com is one of the best online stores for buying a wide range of products. They consistently offer some of the absolute best deals that you can possibly find on the web. And though you might not find the exact product (brand and model) you are looking for, the product you do receive is nevertheless top notch. Combine this with great customer support and a great (for the most part) website and you have a stellar company all in all.

Those that are looking for one of the cheapest online shopping experiences around would do well to check out Banggood.com.

BangGood.com - Online shopping for Gadgets, RC helicopters, mobile phones, fashion items and more

Review: Tiger Fitness

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TigerFitness.com is an online store that offers a wide array of nutritional supplements to customers from all corners of the world. This is the one store where you will find quality products, best prices and excellent customer service. You will be treated to almost 7,000 different products from leading manufacturers like Optimum Nutrition, MTS Nutrition, MusclePharm, Beverly International and BSN among many others.

The store has been in operation for the last 12 years and has been making major milestone achievements. This is what has helped it get the envied status of the best online supplement store. There are so many loyal customers that are quite happy with products and the services offered on this store. You will also be given all the information that you will need about all the products and how to use them to achieve peak performance and a high fitness level. This is a store that does not disappoint its clients.

TigerFitness.com Reviews

There are many ways that one can judge how genuine a company is. The internet is flooded with so many fake online stores that rip off innocent shoppers of their cash. This calls for extra care and being alert when you are doing your online shopping. One of the best ways that you can know much about the store is through reviews from customers. As for TigerFitness.com we found so many positive reviews from happy customers. Andrew said that he has always loved Marc Lobliner and was happy to find here. When he placed his order he kept checking the internet to track the product. When he got his package two days earlier, he could not believe it and was really happy. He says he will be ordering from this store again.

Jesse on the other hand says that she has ordered from this store twice. Each of the orders was accurate and delivered on time. She is happy with the fast shipping service as well as the quality of the products. She says that she will keep shopping here and definitely recommends this store to all buyers looking for genuine and top quality nutritional supplements at the best market prices.

Conclusion

TigerFitness.com is a reputable store that has an excellent online reputation. The site is very serious when it comes to its customers and the products that they get. All products are properly examined to ensure that they are of top quality and not expired. This is the reason why people keep coming back for more and have never had and complains about this store. You can shop from this site without any worry since it has proved that it is legit store. This store definitely deserves a 5 star rating for maintaining a clean slate in the supply of quality nutritional supplements via the internet over the years.

Review: Florist One

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Florist One is a convenient app for ordering floral arrangements on your phone or tablet. Their secret sauce uses local florist to deliver flowers to you same day or next (in the United States and Canada.) You’ve got to see the beautiful arrangement I scored for my wife in this review!

Pros & Cons:

Pros

  • Beautiful floral arrangements!
  • Order flowers from your phone or tablet!
  • Same day or next day delivery!
  • Great customer service!

Cons

  • Doesn’t save your cart items or order history.
  • Can’t expand product photos.

Features:

Florist One allows you to easily browse floral arrangements by occasion, type, and price. According to the service description they have a network of over 20,000 local FTD and Teleflora florists in the U.S. and Canada, hence why deliveries are so fast. Each section includes various lists of products, which you can dive into the each description to see approximate sizes, brief description, and of course drop it in the cart to purchase. Checking out sends you to a page to enter a special note followed by delivery and billing info. Finally concluding with in-app confirmation and an email confirmation. I even received a call from the service to confirm things, I believe this extra check was only due to my billing and delivery addresses being the same (you’d typically ship elsewhere) to ensure no mix-ups… followed by a delivery email.

Florist One - What I Received

Mobile App Screenshots:

Usefulness:

If you’re the romantic type and enjoy the satisfaction of having something special delivered then this app is for you!

Ease of Use:

The Florist One app is really easy to browse and order with just a few kinks in the ordering experience but I foresee those being null in the next update.

Frequently Used:

Deemed for occasional usage, it can be frequented in preparation for special events.

Interface:

The interface is elegant, the overall experience makes ordering easy and convenient on a mobile device.

The Benefits of Going Solar

Top 10 Benefits of Going Solar

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The U.S. solar market grew 76% in 2012. Never before has solar power been this available to American households. What are the reasons why so many homeowners choose to go solar these days? Without further ado, here`s Energy Informative`s top 10 benefits of going solar:

1. Save Thousands of Dollars

According to One Block Off the Grid, adding solar panels to your home can bring in monthly savings of well above $100 in many states. Extend this to two decades, less than the length of a typical solar panel warranty, and this translates to over $30,000. In Hawaii, residents save on average $64,000 the first 20 years!

Are you wondering how much you can save by going solar?
Click here to find out.

 

2. Start Saving from Day 1

Solar purchase power agreements (PPAs) and solar leasing has made it possible for homeowners to go solar for little or no money down.

Many homeowners choose to finance their solar panels with one of the “pay-as-you-go” financing options. This means that a third-party company – the solar provider – owns the solar system and takes care of installation, maintenance, monitoring and repairs. You simply pay the solar provider for electricity – less than you would`ve paid the utility company.

As of June 2013, 75% of all American homes have access to pay-as-you-go solar.

Pay-as-you-go solar is an excellent option for many homeowners. However, we generally recommend that you should pay in cash (through a home equity loan or a second mortgage) if you can. This will bring in more long-term savings. More about this here: Benefits of Owning (vs. Leasing) Solar Panels.

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3. Low Payback Period

If you choose to pay in cash, the payback period is in many cases less than ten years. In Hawaii, it takes homeowners on average 5 years before the monthly savings (in terms of lower electricity costs) meets the total costs of the solar system.

 

4. Increase Your Home Value

Buying a home with solar panels translates into lower electricity costs. Solar panels will increase a home`s attractiveness on the market, similarly to homes with low property taxes, homes in school districts and homes with good Home Energy Ratings (a measurement of a energy efficiency).

A study conducted by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) concluded that homes with solar panels sell 20% faster and for 17% more money.

U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that the sales price of the average home increased $17,000 with solar panels.

 

5. Take Advantage of Incentives

As of 2009, the $2,000 cap on the Federal Solar Tax Credit is lifted. You will get 30% of total system costs back (equipment and installation). This means you would save $7,500 on a solar system worth $25,000. Combine this with state and local rebates, Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs), and total costs can be cut in half. Take advantage of incentives while they last.

Data from One Block Off the Grid shows that the average solar home in New Jersey earns between $5,000 and $7,000 by selling their SREC credits every year.

To find out what state and local incentives apply to you (they can vary between ZIP codes), you should signup for free solar guidance.

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6. Solar is a Secure Investment

The utility companies are notorious for their fluctuating and unreliable electricity prices. There is clearly an upward trend.

With solar panels and simple math, we can calculate how much electricity will be generated, and most importantly, at what price, for at least the next 20 years (fixed energy costs).

 

7. Guaranteed Performance

Solar panel manufacturers include a 20- to 25-year warranty (also known as a performance guarantee) with their solar panels. The industry standard guarantees 80% performance after 25 years.

The real lifespan of solar panels is much longer – your solar panels will likely generate a good amount of electricity 30-40 years down the line.

 

8. Save the Environment

We know that the majority of homeowners choose to go solar because it makes good sense from a financial point of view. That being said, the environmental benefits are also clearly worth mentioning.

The U.S. places second in the world in annual carbon dioxide emissions at 17.9%, right behind China. You can go a long way in lowering your carbon footprint by replacing utility power with clean electricity from solar panels.

The average residential solar system offsets about 100,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide in 20 years – the equivalent of driving a car for 100,000 miles.

 

9. Create Energy Independence

The U.S. relied on net imports for about 40% of the petroleum (crude oil and petroleum products) that we consumed in 2012.

You can help to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign energy. We will inevitably run out of oil, coal and natural gas. While we continue our consumption of these increasingly expensive and dangerous energy source, our national security and economy suffers.

Solar is one step in the right direction.

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10. Solar is Easy

Shopping for solar used to be a long and complicated process. There are hundreds of solar companies in the U.S. alone. It would take you weeks to find the best solar deal. Luckily things have changed.

To go solar has never before been easier. Our team of independent solar consultants will help you sort through your options. To see how much you can save, and for all other solar questions, request a free consultation. There’s no obligation.

Review: ProWorkFlow

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Overview:

ProWorkflow, a New Zealand-born project management software, was originally intended by founder Julian Stone to serve as “a solution for internal workflow and communication needs.” However, it was so successful after its launch in 2002 that it was soon released to a wider array of customers and eventually made it onto the general market. ProWorkflow was acquired by ProActive Software Ltd in 2003. Though first marketed and sold exclusively as downloadable software, PWF is now primarily web-based. According to the company’s website:

…’ProWorkflow’ came from a very basic premise. From our own past and current businesses we learnt that ‘Professionals need Work to Flow‘ and that ‘Projects need Workflow‘.

As its name would suggest, ProWorkflow’s strength lies in its ability to promote better communication and boost efficiency in day-to-day operations. Over the last twelve years, PWF has been used – mostly by various creative agencies and technological companies – to create over 1,171,315 projects. It is currently employed in 100 different countries, though the majority of users hail from the US and other English-speaking nations. Notable clients include Domino’s Pizza and Heartland Financial.

Web-Based (SaaS) or On-Premise:

ProWorkflow is entirely web-based software, and works with the following browsers: Chrome, Firefox 15+, Internet Explorer 8+, and Safari 8+.

Pricing:

ProWorkflow offers three distinct pricing plans:

Solo Plan

  • $10/month
  • 1 user only
  • 10 active projects
  • 5 GB storage
  • Basic project/task management features

Professional Plan

  • $20/user/month
  • 1+ users
  • Unlimited projects
  • 25 GB storage
  • Comprehensive project management features and time tracking

Advanced Plan

  • $30/user/month
  • 5+ users
  • Unlimited projects
  • 50 GB storage
  • Comprehensive project management features, time tracking, and hierarchical control

You can sign up for a free, 14-day trial of PWF, no credit card required, by clicking here and filling out a few simple pieces of information, including your name and email address. Trials may be extended to 30 days if you find you need more time to evaluate the product. For questions about PWF’s pricing or sales inquiries, you can email the company directly at sales@proworkflow.com or by calling (billing questions must be addressed separately at billing@proworkflow.com).

Ease of Use:

ProWorkflow does not have the simplest or cleanest interface around, but it is extremely intuitive and easy to learn, nonetheless. All tabs, features, and functions are clearly labelled, and setting up a new account is an undemanding process, requiring you only to follow basic directions and fill out a few prompts (confirming a time zone and currency, for example, and setting up email notification settings). Some of the most user-friendly aspects of PWF include:

  • Dashboard: It can appear a bit busy or overwhelming at first, but the PWF Dashboard is an excellent tool once you get used to its appearance and layout. By offering a complete graphical summary of all your upcoming, active, and completed work, the Dashboard saves time and movement and increases organization. To promote more accurate prioritization of your work, overdue projects/tasks are highlighted in red at the top of the page, and all upcoming work is sorted by day. Also on the Dashboard, you can quickly check up on recent time entries, invoices, quotes, and actions. You can even use it to take a peek at which other users are currently logged in (and see what they’re working on). It’s a great place to start working when you log in for the day, as it gives a very clear picture of where you and your coworkers stand.
  • Mobile Access: PWF offers all users a free, mobile optimized version of the standard web app. The mobile version is far most robust than most comparable project management mobile apps, and can be used to view and edit tasks, track time, create new tasks and projects, check and approve project requests, access files and messages, look at reports, and look at contact details. All that is needed to access the mobile site is to add “/m” to the end of your PWF URL. The optimized site should work on most touchscreen mobile devices, but has been tested most thoroughly on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad as well as on Android (OS 2.2+) and Blackberry (OS 6.0+) smartphones. Click here for more information about PWF’s mobile application.
  • Desktop Widget: The desktop widget is among ProWorkflow’s best and most intelligent features, in my opinion, and it is ideal for practical, everyday use. This handy widget allows you to access tasks and projects, view details about your work, attach files, and track time directly from your computer homescreen, without ever having to log in to the PWF web application.
  • Customization: PWF is one of the most visually customizable software systems I’ve ever encountered. Not only is it possible to upload a custom logo for your account (and for any quotes, invoices, or reports that you create), but you can change the entire color scheme, add a log-in link from your own website, and personalize the account URL. These little adjustments are easy to make and create a more professional, tailored appearance for people outside your company – like clients, freelancers, and contractors – who are given access to the site. ProWorkflow can be modified to your specifications in other ways as well. For example, you may select a time zone for each user, specify which currencies you want to work with, generate custom reports, templates, and workflows, and so on.

  • Templates: Templates, a PWF specialty, help users increase productivity by eliminating the time and effort usually spent on creating a new project or task list. Starting a new project from scratch can involve tedious data input, but recreating similar projects becomes much simpler with these easy-to-make templates, which may be programmed ahead of time with “complex and detailed project information such as a mixture of dates, time, resources and scheduling.” Template creation is usually a very straightforward process, I’ve found, but if you run into problems or complications, the ProWorkflow staff is always happy to help with ideas and practical assistance. Once you’ve established a collection of templates, it’s really up to you what you do with them or how often you employ them. New projects can be cloned from just one existent template or fashioned together, patchwork-style, from a selection of multiple other project or task templates.
  • Contact Management: ProWorkflow has developed a very good contact management system which allows you to store basic contact information (names, addresses, phone numbers, etc.) as well as notes, reminders, and other important facts about the companies and contacts you work with. PWF is actually integrated with Google Maps, so you can see precisely where your clients are located and even generate accurate driving directions. You can also add details about each contact’s social media accounts and include direct links to their Facebook or LinkedIn pages. Conveniently, all contact information is accessible from the mobile app. Contacts are exportable to MS Excel, and though there is not yet a built-in importing function, the PWF support staff will personally import your contacts from other locations if necessary.
  • Notification Management: The notification tab, clearly displayed in the ProWorkflow navigation bar, alerts you whenever you receive a new message or assignment, as well as when any changes are made (dates altered, files uploaded etc.) to your current tasks and projects. The tab is so prominently marked that it is impossible to overlook. I also appreciate the fact that the number of new items appears on the tab, so you don’t have to wonder how many items you’ve missed since you last checked your notifications. For those of you who don’t wish to pounce on notifications as they come in, or if you rarely log in to your PWF account, you can stay on top of your work via customizable email alerts or summarized email digests.

Customer Service and Support:

ProWorkflow is celebrated for its quick, friendly, eager-to-please support team, and offers excellent online support services as well, including:

  • Technical Support: For personal, customized assistance, you may fill out a service request on the PWF website’s support page or click the words Contact ProWorkflow Support, found in the top right corner of your account homepage. The support team is located entirely in New Zealand, so depending on when your ticket is submitted (and from what time zone) it is possible that you may have to wait several hours for a response. PWF is looking into installing round-the-clock customer service sometime in the near future, which will effectively eliminate this problem, and most questions are answered within a 24-hour period anyway (usually much sooner depending on urgency). If emailing is not your cup of tea, or you’d prefer to speak with a human being, you can call the support team during their normal business hours, from 7 AM-4 PM NZST (GMT + 12 hours). Click here to see a list of appropriate support phone numbers, arranged by user country.
  • Free, Personalized Training: One of the most impressive aspects of PWF is their willingness to provide personal coaching/training to all customers, completely free of charge. If you want, you can receive advice about anything from creating appropriate task templates to designing custom reports. The PWF team can also help you to import contacts and assist with initial account or workflow set-up, and will even match colors and adjust your company logo so that it appears to best advantage on your account.
  • Support Page: This page contains links to almost all of PWF’s support tools. From here you can sign up for a live webinar, view pre-recorded video tutorials, and directly submit service tickets to the support team.
  • Webinars: PWF offers a variety of free, live webinars each month, covering almost every topic imaginable, from basic account set-up to time-tracking and advanced user settings. Each webinar is only offered one or two times per month, so it is worthwhile to register early for the ones you’re interested in.
  • Video Tutorials: There are lots of brief video tutorials available on the ProWorkflow website, useful for learning how to perform small, very specific functions (like how to add new user licenses, or how to customize the look of your UI). These videos are usually so short that they aren’t particularly helpful for gaining a good overview of the software in general, however. If you want to sit down and watch a more comprehensive tutorial, you can check out one of the pre-recorded webinars available on the PWF YouTube channel, or simply sign up for a live tutorial session.
  • Blog: The PWF blog is a good place to look for information about new features, recent updates, and upcoming additions. In general, the blog articles are well-written and contain relevant links, screenshots, and video links. This isn’t the first place I’d look to answer general questions about the software, but it can be a solid resource, especially if you’re just interested in the world of project management.

  • In-App Help Function: On each page of the PWF app (Projects, Settings, Notes, etc.) there is a ? icon which you can click to search for support information specific to that page. On the tasks page, for example, you would find links to articles or video tutorials about tasks and task functions.
  • Helpful Website: Not every company maintains a clean, easy-to-navigate website, but ProWorkflow has succeeded in that area. Apart from clear-cut pricing information and easy access to the support page, there is an excellent features section where you can go to read about all of PWF’s various functions and check out practical screenshots of the app. I highly recommend exploring the PWF website before making any sort of purchasing decision.
  • Social Media Engagement: The PWF Facebook and Google+ pages are a good place to look for articles, press releases, company news, and the like. I noticed that a few customers even use the Facebook page to pose general questions about the company/software, which are promptly answered. The company’s Twitter feed contains similar information, but is updated with more frequency, and seems to be used more by customers and clients.

Negative Reviews and Complaints:

ProWorkflow doesn’t have any major, red-flag flaws, but users do complain about the following aspects of this software:

  • No Risk, Budget, or Issue Management: PWF is a middle-of-the-road project management solution. While more complex than task management tools like Asana and Basecamp, it does not pack quite the punch as some of its competitors when it comes to intricate project planning and issue management.
  • No Bug Tracking Features: This software was not designed for Agile project management, period.
  • Only Supported in English: Most of PWF’s client-base is derived from English speaking countries, so this isn’t as big of a problem as it could be. Still, it would be nice if down the line the company could add support in other major languages, like French, German, Chinese, or Spanish.
  • Cluttered Interface: ProWorkflow is imminently user-friendly, but it does suffer from a busy, cluttered UI. Some users complain that navigating the software requires too much clicking around, and I agree. The interface can be overwhelming at times and would benefit from a bit of simplification.
  • Limited Integrations: PWF already has great integrations with accounting/invoicing software and offers a solid, open API for do-it-yourselfers, but it would be improved by the addition of other built-in integrations (especially Google Apps)

Positive Reviews and Testimonials:

Customers and reviewers alike appreciate these things about PWF:

  • Outstanding Customer Support: I encountered many user testimonials during the course of my research, but the one thing every review agreed upon was that PWF has outstanding customer service. Quick, friendly, helpful, and deeply personal, the support staff at PWF has helped to create and maintain lifelong devotees. Customers are passionate about ProWorkflow, perhaps more so than is usual for even the best software program, and it’s because they feel respected, assisted, and heard.
  • User-Friendly Design: Though its interface is somewhat cluttered and can appear overcomplicated, PWF itself is fairly simple and straightforward. All areas are clearly labelled, and each feature is self-explanatory. Even the more intricate functions, like template design, are well within the reach of beginner users. And the customer service is frankly so great (and free) that technical problems aren’t much of a hurdle anyways.
  • Reasonably Priced: For a software solution that charges per user, ProWorkflow is comparatively cost effective, especially when you consider the generous storage space that accompanies each plan.
  • Superior Time Tracking Features: ProWorkflow provides an excellent built-in timer which is reinforced by similarly well-conceived timer and desktop widgets. These tools, along with the ability to manually enter time and keep detailed timesheet records, help businesses maintain accountability with both their clients and employees and increase bookkeeping accuracy. PWF’s practical approach to time management is second only to customer support as its most beloved feature.

The following are excerpts from positive customer reviews of ProWorkflow:

…We can not give you enough superlatives on this program. It has brought our productions into a more streamline process and dramatically decreased our blood pressure overall. Just having a detailed and up to date list of all our productions and where they are in the grand scheme of things, is ‘priceless’, and that is what ProWorkflow represents to us. -Stephen Manzi, AdVision Multimedia

 

…Since using ProWorkFlow, the calls from my clients have reduced because they can now see the work is being done by the hours applied, can see the deadlines I am working to and I can communicate directly from the system to the client…This system is a step towards better management of my work and expectations of my clients. -Heather James, Introspect Design

 

…We needed a simple, easy to use, and accessible from various locations tool to provide structure and organization. ProWorkflow provided this and more… -Hiawatha Walker, GBOD

 

…Since using ProWorkFlow, the calls from my clients have reduced because they can now see the work is being done by the hours applied, can see the deadlines I am working to and I can communuicate directly from the system to the client. I’ve branded the page so looks like my branding and it makes me look more professional. I am trying to move away from the ‘work at home mum’ perception as I have over 10 years in designing for some of the largest companies in the world. This system is a step towards better management of my work and expectations of my clients… – Stacey Sawyer, Penton Media

To read more testimonials from satisfied customers, click here. Or, if you’re interested, check out a few detailed case studies to see how other businesses have utilized PWF.

Features:

ProWorkflow has developed a very solid set of standard project management tools, all of which function well together and work in harmony. Some of the most important features include:

  • Projects: In PWF, much of the user’s time is spent on the project dashboard, which displays all tasks, messages, time entries, files, quotes, and invoices associated with a project. From this dashboard you can schedule tasks, edit projects, and manage resources, time, and costs. Additionally, clients who have been given access to the account can directly submit new project requests into the system, which saves time and facilitates better communication.
  • Tasks/Task Management: Each project in ProWorkflow is broken down into one or more tasks. In essence, PWF tasks comprise the basic actions or steps needed to complete the project and can “include start/due dates, allocated times, assigned staff, statuses, file attachments and more.” Tasks are created and managed quickly via the PWF bulk task editor and can be assigned to regular users as well as external clients and contractors. Conveniently, tasks do not always have to belong to a parent project, which means that you can still assign and keep track of random work items (like paying bills, completing payroll, ordering supplies, etc.). The Tasks Page itself is customizable and may be viewed and filtered in a number of different ways depending on how you wish to organize your work (according to due date, status, client, or what have you).
  • Time Tracking/Management: While time can be recorded manually in PWF, each user also has the option to use an excellent built-in stopwatch which automatically tracks and records time on individual tasks. You may also track time with the mobile application or via the Desktop and/or Time Tracker widgets. To further simplify the time tracking process, you can click on the task you wish to record and then drag and drop it onto your timesheet, or even submit multiple time entries at once; these timesheet records are eminently simple to edit and move. Each week managers and admins can see a concise summary of all the time tracked by users account-wide and then generate, print, and/or export customized timesheet reports (via the ‘Summary’ tab).
  • File Management: Most file types, including videos, images, and documents, are supported by ProWorkflow. To include one or more new files you can use the ‘Add File’ feature, or merely drag and drop the files in question onto your task, project, conversation, or project request (there is a 100 MB limit per individual file). The ‘File Space Manager’ allows you to manage and organize all files into custom folders, keep track of how much storage remains on your account, and archive files as necessary; files are still viewable whether attached to an active or archived project.
  • Timelines: Each project is given a ‘timeline,’ which is PWF’s answer to a standard Gantt chart. The timeline represents tasks and projects as bars (which are color-coded according to status) and then arranges and schedules them along a grid. All work items on the timeline are editable, either by lengthening the bars or moving them, via drag and drop, backward or forward in time. Timelines can be filtered to show only relevant data – just upcoming tasks, for example, or only projects that are overdue – and may be exported or printed for reporting purposes. The Timeline page in ProWorkflow also displays planned resource allocation for your projects and tasks, highlights any potential resource conflicts or issues, and help you plan projects accordingly.
  • Resource Management: Project managers are kept abreast of resource availability and activity through live alerts about each project and task, and are also given the option to check resource availability each time a new work item is created. Additionally, by clicking the ‘Activity > Staff’ tab, managers and admins can see which users are currently logged in to PWF as well as what work items those users are currently tracking time on. As I mentioned above, basic workload calculations are displayed below the timeline in each project’s detail page, but the ‘Staff Workload Schedule Report’ also shows you the daily allocated hours for every staff member. This report can be filtered according to user and date (day, week, month, or year) and then emailed to outside sources or exported to PDF or Excel.  ‘Staff Performance Reports,’ on the other hand, allow you to compare billable hours with non-billable hours, evaluate the difference between the actual amount of time tracked and the time that was allocated, or contrast time tracked against the number of days a user has logged in PWF.

  • Reporting: While ProWorkflow has provided a number of built-in reports just “to get you started,” it also offers a thorough and detailed custom reports builder for those times “when you need more specific information.” The pre-made reports are quite well-designed and cover everything from workload, performance, and resources to quotes, invoices, projects, tasks, and time. If none of the existing reports are adequate for your purposes, the custom reporting features enables you to simply select which data you want to analyze and handcraft your own report. All reports, whether custom or pre-built, can be exported into XML, CSV and PDF formats and/or opened up in MS Excel.
  • Discussions: Using ProWorkflow’s discussion feature, you can communicate freely (publicly or privately) about your projects and tasks with team members, contractors/freelancers, and clients. Discussions are rich-text enabled and allow for the attachment of relevant files or links – or even embedded HTML elements – to increase the efficacy and productivity or your discussions. People who have been included in a new discussion will see it pop up in their PWF account, but can also reply to new messages directly from regular email; emailed replies are automatically added to project discussion threads, so there is never a need to actually log in to ProWorkflow.
  • Quotes and Invoicing: PWF offers a few convenient bonus features that can greatly simplify your quoting and/or invoicing processes. Both the invoicing and quotes plugins have been designed to function similarly so that “when you’ve learnt one, you’ll also know how to use the other.” Quotes and invoices, once created, can be sent directly to clients. You can learn more about these add-on features in the integrations section of this review.

Integrations and Add-Ons:

ProWorkflow has invested in several integrations, including:

  • Xero
  • QuickBooks
  • KashFlow
  • iCal

In addition, the software offers a few free add-ons: a convenient desktop widget (see the Ease of Use section above for more information) and a time tracking widget that uses Adobe Air. There are a few other additions available as well, each for $10 a month, including an invoicing plugin (which works with all of the above integrations) and a unique quotes manager, which allows you to create new quotes and send them directly to clients or export them to XML, CSV or PDF for archiving or analysis. You can read more about PWF’s integrations, add-ons, and plug-ins here, or check out the company’s new app store for great free extras like profitability reports, customer maps, or the Chrome time tracker.

PWF also provides an open API for those who wish to design their own custom integrations. For details about the API, including an informational video and FAQs, click here.

Security:

ProWorkflow protects its users in the following ways:

  • 128bit encryption
  • SAS70 Type II compliant data centers.
  • Daily data backups (every 6 hours) to onsite servers.
  • Rolling offsite backups
  • 24×7 staffing
  • CCTV surveillance
  • Biometric access control

For more information about PWF’s security procedures, click here.

Final Verdict:

ProWorkflow is a solid, dependable project management application with many practical features. In my mind, however, the real value of this software lies in the company’s outstanding approach to customer service and very real dedication to user satisfaction. Many software systems claim to care about their customers, but ProWorkflow has really put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, offering numerous tangible proofs that users are important. With free technical support services, free training and coaching, and a boundless willingness to assist and accommodate customizations, PWF sets itself well apart from the crowd.

This isn’t the most comprehensive project management solution around, by any means. ProWorkflow lacks certain features – like risk/issue management, complex budgeting, and so forth – that are necessary for tracking higher level projects or conducting efficient project portfolio management. In addition, though its user interface is straightforward and intuitive, it is missing a certain degree of elegance and simplicity and can appear confusing and cluttered upon first glance. I am convinced, however, that for the majority of smaller organizations and creative agencies, these should not been viewed as prohibitive drawbacks. Because ProWorkflow is relatively inexpensive and well-suited for client-based industries (marketing, graphic design, etc.), and in light of its overall user-friendliness and extremely good customer support network, I have no hesitation or reservations in recommending this software to small and medium-sized businesses.

Review: BitsDuJour

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BitsDuJour is a software deal of the day website with offerings for PC and Mac users. All programs are offered digitally, and the software developers usually answer shoppers’ questions directly on the daily deals website. However, the software deals usually focus on highly specialized programs, so if you have a need for those programs, you probably already own them or similar software. Fortunately, BitsDuJour allows you to demo products before you buy them, and sometimes the software is free. If you’re looking for software to optimize your computer usage, BitsDuJour has bargains on all types of programs.

BitsDuJour has a wide list of software available on the site. There are programs for home computers, businesses and small offices, for both PCs and Macs. All software is digital, so you don’t have to wait for shipping. Free demos and full descriptions accompany every deal, and if you have questions, you can count on the actual developers to give you answers. If you have any problems with the software, you’ll have to speak to the developer because BitsDuJour does not offer refunds.

The BitsDuJour website takes a little while to understand. The featured deal page has one format, and the All Deals tab follows a different format. It’s easy to get lost at first, but once you understand the site, you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for quickly. You do not need an account to place an order, but the accounts do allow you to leave comments and questions for software developers.

BitsDuJour sends out some of the most helpful emails we’ve seen. Each email shows the day’s featured software deal with its bargain price and the upcoming software to look out for. In addition to the daily emails, you can subscribe to the BitsDuJour RSS feed, and you can share bargains through social media.

BitsDuJour has some of the best customer service options we’ve seen. You can leave comments, questions and reviews on any software page, and there is a forum section to promote community involvement. BitsDuJour regularly updates the blog with news about the site, and the FAQs section has excellent answers for your questions. If you have any other questions, you can email a customer service representative.

Summary

PROS / BitsDuJour’s software deals include programs for homes, businesses and small offices.

CONS / Much of the software is highly specialized, so if you need it, you probably already own it.

VERDICT / BitsDuJour is a great software deal of the day website with bargains on PC and Mac programs.

BitsDuJour is a software deal of the day website with PC and Mac programs that are good for home computers, business and small offices. The website takes some time to understand, but the email alerts and customer service are among the most useful we have seen.

Shopify Review & Offer – 14 Day Free Trial

What is Shopify?

Shopify is a web application that allows you to create your own online store. It provides you with several templates that can be customised to meet individual users’ branding requirements, and the system allows physical or digital goods to be sold. One of the key ideas behind Shopify is that users without much in the way of technical or design skills can create a store without recourse to a design agency or web developer; however, people who are familiar with HTML and CSS will be pleased to discover that Shopify allows you to edit both, allowing you quite a degree of control over the design of templates.

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Because Shopify is a hosted solution, you don’t need to worry about buying web hosting or installing software onto servers; the idea is that (nearly) everything you need to build and run your store happens ‘out of the box’. Shopify state on their website that the number of stores hosted with them to date is 200,000.

Shopify pricing

There are five Shopify plans to choose from:

Shopify represents one of the cheaper ways into selling online, with its starter plan, “Shopify Lite” costing $9 per month and allowing you to sell an unlimited number of goods. However, it’s important to note that this plan does not actually allow you to construct a fully-functional, standalone online store: rather, it

  • lets you sell via your Facebook page
  • lets you use Shopify in a physical location to sell goods / manage inventory
  • gives you access to Shopify’s Buy Button, which allows you to sell goods on an existing website or blog.

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The Buy Button works similar to a Paypal ‘Buy Now’ button but because it links back to Shopify, more sophisticated options regarding tracking orders and their fulfilment status are available. Using the Shopify Buy Button allows you to integrate Shopify into a site built on another platform – for example Squarespace, Wix or WordPress; and will come in handy for users who are otherwise happy with their existing website but wish to integrate some Shopify e-commerce features onto it.

As you move up the pricing scale, you encounter the ‘Basic’ for $29 per month; the ‘Pro’ plan for $79 per month and the ‘Unlimited’ plan for $179 per month. Unlike the ‘Lite’ plan, all of these plans do allow you to host a fully functional online store; unlimited file storage and bandwidth is also included. (There used to be a great value ‘starter’ plan which cost $14 per month and allowed users to sell up to 25 products; it’s unclear what’s happened to this as it is not advertised any more but some users, after registering for the free trial, are nonetheless offered the opportunity to sign up to it).

Key features to watch out (and perhaps not miss by selecting the wrong plan) are:

  • the abandoned cart recovery tool – this allows you to email users who nearly completed an order and see if you can persuade them to follow through, and is only available on the $79 ‘Pro’ plan and up
  • gift cards – these are only available on the professional and unlimited plans.
  • real time carrier shipping, which is only available on the unlimited plan.

There is also a ‘Shopify Plus’ plan – an ‘enterprise grade’ solution which is designed more with big businesses in mind rather than the average user; it offers advanced features regarding security, APIs and fulfilment. (This review focuses on the four main plans however).

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that you don’t have to pay for plans on a monthly basis – Shopify offer a 10% discount on an annual and a 20% discount on a biennial plans, when they are paid upfront. However, it is only worth availing of these options if you are 100% certain that Shopify is going to meet absolutely every business requirement you’re likely to have for your store over the next 1 to 2 years – otherwise, a monthly plan is a safer bet.

Overall Shopify’s pricing is fairly consistent with key competing products like Bigcommerce, Squarespace and Volusion; the main difference involves the ‘Lite’ plan really, which whilst not giving you a fully hosted online store, does allow you to make use of many key Shopify features for a very low monthly fee.


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Shopify Payments, payment gateways and transaction fees

There are two ways to accept credit card payments on Shopify. The most straightforward, for users in countries where it is supported, is to use Shopify Payments, Shopify’s built-in payment system, which is powered by Stripe. If you use this, you don’t have to worry about transaction fees. However, there is still a ‘credit card rate’ to consider: you can expect to pay a rate of between 1.6% and 2.2% of each credit card transaction plus 30c (the exact rate depends on the type of plan you are on).

Alternatively, you can use a third party ‘payment gateway’ to process card transactions – of which there are over 70 to choose from. Using a third-party payment gateway requires a bit of configuration – you’ll need to set up a ‘merchant account’ with a payment gateway provider. Depending on the payment gateway provider you use, you can expect to pay a percentage of a transaction fee, or a monthly fee or both. If you use a payment gateway, Shopify will apply a transaction fee as well (of between 0.5% and 2% depending on the Shopify plan you’re on – the transaction fee gets lower as the monthly plans get more expensive).

Whether or not it works out cheaper to use Shopify Payments or a payment gateway will depend very much on the kind of payment gateway you’re thinking of using, and the Shopify plan you’re on.

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One important thing worth noting about Shopify Payments is that it is available only for users based in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK – so if you’re not selling from one of those countries then you will have to use a payment gateway provider. Fortunately Shopify works with an extensive range of well-respected payment gateways – it integrates with far more gateways than key competitors do – so if you are selling outside of the aforementioned countries, you should easily be able to find a payment gateway that’s suitable for your location.

Shopify themes

An example of a free Shopify theme

Shopify provides 12 free templates (or ‘themes’) that you can use – each of these comes in two or three different variants, so these templates actually translate to over 25 different designs. These are all good templates, and they are responsive too, meaning they will display nicely across all devices.

Alternatively you can use a paid-for template, of which there are over 100. These range in price from $100 to $180. As far as I can tell, these are all responsive too.

You can browse all the free and paid templates by category, so you should be able to locate a suitable theme for your store fairly easily.

Key features of Shopify

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As discussed above, the features you get with Shopify vary according to the pricing plan you opt for. All Shopify plans from $29 (‘Basic’) and up  provide:

  • the ability to sell physical or digital goods, in categories of your choosing and using shipping rates / methods of your choosing
  • a wide range of themes to choose from
  • credit card processing via Shopify Payments (Stripe) or a third party payment gateway
  • integration with Paypal
  • blogging functionality
  • import / export of customer data
  • content management (CMS) functionality
  • good search engine optimisation (SEO) options – it’s easy to add relevant keywords to your products and site pages
  • integration with Mailchimp
  • discount codes
  • the ability to edit CSS and HTML
  • a ‘buy now’ button that you can use to sell goods on an existing blog or site
  • point-of-sale integration (more on that below)

If you opt for one of the more expensive plans (‘professional’ and ‘unlimited’), you also get:

  • gift cards
  • better reports
  • abandoned cart functionality: this lets you send a reminder email to people who abandoned their carts (note: this is fairly basic though: you are only allowed to send one email to people who abandoned their carts, and it’s a bit of a fiddly process if you want to include a discount code in the email. Just for the sake of balance, Bigcommerce handles this aspect of running a store considerably better).

And finally, if you’re on an unlimited plan you get the following additional features:

  • advanced report building
  • real-time carrier shipping

Point-of-sale applications

The ‘Point of Sale’ kit allows you to use Shopify to not only run your business online, but to sell in physical locations too.

One particularly nice feature offered by Shopify which deserves a special mention and makes it stand out from its competitors is its ‘point of sale’ (POS) options and kit. These let you use Shopify to sell not just online but in physical locations too – as long as you have an iPad. The point of sale kit includes a card reader, barcode scanner, cash drawer and receipt printer – you can buy any of these items individually or as a package. You can also use your own card reader.

There are a several applications for Shopify’s point-of-sale tools: for example, they allow you to sell in a pop-up shop, from a market stall, at an event or even in a permanently located retail outlet, whilst keeping your inventory and stock count automatically synced.

Using Shopify Point of Sale with multiple staff members is more expensive though – it costs $40 to use “Shopify Retail” on top of a regular plan.

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Interface and ease-of-use

Shopify’s interface is clean and easy to use

Shopify is pretty straightforward to use – it’s got a nice clean, modern interface. Editing the design of your store and adding products is very easy; but I have two gripes.

Navigation

I’m not keen on Shopify’s approach to organising the site navigation – it requires you to create ‘link lists’ and use ‘handles’ – a drag and drop or ‘parent folder’ approach would be simpler. Despite having built quite a few Shopify stores at this point, I always have to spend a while reminding myself how to create simple menus.

Product images

Possibly more annoying than the navigation issue above is the way Shopify treats product images. If you upload images on Shopify with different aspect ratios, then Shopify does not crop them automatically. In other words, your product catalogues will consist of a series of differently-shaped images; this impacts negatively on the design. You can get around this by using a photo editing program to ensure consistent image aspect ratios for all your products – but unless you do this before you start uploading your images, you may find yourself with a headache, particularly if your store contains a large number of products.

These gripes aside though, Shopify’s interface is clean, user-friendly and shouldn’t present too much of a learning curve to most users.

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Shopify’s App Store

In addition to Shopify’s core functionality, there is also an app store which you can visit to obtain apps (free and paid) that beef up what your store can do. Examples include:

  • data capture apps
  • accounting apps (that let you integrate your store with popular tools like Quickbooks)
  • abandoned cart saver apps (that are more sophisticated that Shopify’s out-of-the box cart saver)
  • advanced reporting apps.

So if Shopify’s ‘out of the box’ feature set doesn’t initially seem to meet your requirements, it’s well worth having a look through the App Store to see if there’s an add-on that will help.

Key third party apps that are supported include Xero, Freshbooks, Zendesk and Aweber.

Support

Shopify’s support is very comprehensive – you can contact the company 24/7 by email, live chat or phone. This is better than the support options offered by some competitors – for example Squarespace doesn’t provide phone support at all; and Volusion doesn’t make it clear what hours their support desks are manned. Bigcommerce offers a similar level of round-the-clock support however.

One thing I would say having used Shopify support in the past is that if your enquiry is of a particularly technical nature – i.e., if you want to code something and need help – then you may not get the answers you’re looking for from phone, live chat or email. You’d be better off posting a query in a forum and hoping a Shopify developer gets back to you on it. This could be improved a bit I feel – it would be nice if, for relevant queries, Shopify offered some sort of way to contact their developers directly for technical advice.

Shopify review conclusions

Overall, Shopify is one of the best hosted solutions for those wishing to create an online store – and probably the best for anyone who wants to use one product to sell online AND in a physical location. It’s competitively priced, easy to use, and its templates are strong.

The main disadvantages of using Shopify are its transaction fees if you use a third-party payment gateway (some of its competitors don’t charge any transaction fees at all, regardless of payment gateway used) and its fairly basic abandoned cart saver.

Of course the only way to find out if Shopify is for you is to try it out fully – a 2 week free trial is available here.

Shopify pros and cons

These are the main pros and cons of using Shopify:

Pros

  • With its ‘Lite’ plan, Shopify represents one of the cheapest ways to start selling online using a hosted solution
  • There are no transaction fees if you are happy to use Stripe
  • It has a clean, easy-to-use interface
  • It provides a good range of free, responsive templates
  • The point-of-sale options are excellent and help Shopify stand apart from its competitors
  • Simple Paypal integration
  • Shopify state that 200,000 users have built online stores using the platform, which makes it a relatively safe bet that the company (and thus your online store!) is not going to disappear any time soon
  • You can extend Shopify’s functionality easily thanks to a huge range of third-party apps (although note that you will have to pay to use many of them).
  • The Shopify Buy Button allows you to use Shopify with an existing website built using another platform (for example WordPress, Squarespace, Wix or Jimdo).
  • http://1.shopifytrack.com/aff_c?offer_id=2&aff_id=7485

Cons

  • Shopify Payments (Stripe) only allows you to sell from certain countries – US, Canada, Australia or the UK. If you want to sell from another country you will need to use a payment gateway.
  • You can’t avoid transaction fees if you use a third-party payment gateway.
  • Credit card fees apply, even if you are using Shopify Payments – it’s impossible to avoid some sort of transaction fee with the product.
  • There is no way to automatically ensure that product images are displayed using the same aspect ratio. This can lead to messy presentation of stock unless you have cropped all your images in advance of uploading them to Shopify.
  • Implementation of the abandoned cart saver could be a bit better.
  • Creating drop down menus and adding items to them is a fiddlier process than it should be.
  • The cheapest plan (the $9 ‘Lite’ offering) doesn’t permit you to create a fully-featured online store.

Alternatives to Shopify

Of the solutions I’ve tested to date – Shopify, Bigcommerce, Volusion, Squarespace and Magento Go – Bigcommerce is probably the strongest alternative to Shopify. It’s similarly priced, easy-to-use and its feature set is broadly comparable with Shopify’s. Bigcommerce also offer a 14 day free trial. Our full Bigcommerce review is here.

 

Shopify video

For an overview of how Shopify works, you might like also to watch the below video walkthrough.

End the days of Spam Emails with Spam Arrest

Spam Arrest is a program that ensures you receive email only from verified senders. If you don’t verify an email address, the email will not be sent to your inbox.

The program works with a variety of Windows email programs, Eudora, Netscape and other programs with pop3 control.

Spam Arrest is a subscription-based service, but has a 30-day trial available. You can sign up at http://spamarrest.com

 

Update to Spam Arrests Incoming Mail Servers

When you download the software, Spam Arrest will ask you to add an email address. Note, that you will need to use Spam Arrests incoming mail servers in your usual mail program as the email is now coming from Spam Arrest.

Your Spam Arrest user name will automatically appear. Just enter your Spam Arrest account password and click “Remember Password” if you don’t want to enter the information again.

 

Add People to Your Address Book

Normally, when someone emails you and you use Spam Arrest, that person will be asked to confirm they are a real sender. If you have people you regularly exchange email with, you can add them to your Spam Arrest address book, so they do not have to go through the verification process.

In the Spam Arrest Members area:

Click on “Address Book” in the far left menu.

2-address-book-link

Then click the “Add Contact’ link to add a new contact:

3-add-contact

Enter the information and click “Save Entry”. This person will now be able to email you without verifying.

4-address-book

 

Check Your Unverified Senders

You may find that you receive email from newsletters or other people who do not receive the verification email or simply don’t complete the verification process. For that reason, you may want to check your Unverified Senders to see if there is email you want.

On the left menu, choose “Unverified”:

5-verified-menu

You will see a list of your unverified senders and you can approve them. Simply check the ones you want to authorize and click the “Authorize” button:

6-authorize

Now the email will be sent to your regular inbox. You can open your regular mail program to view it:

7-email-download

What the Sender Sees

If someone sends you email and they are not in your address book and you haven’t verified them, they will get an email that looks like this:

8-verification-email

When the user clicks the verification email, they are taken to a page where they have to enter a code:

9-verification-code

And agree to a “Sender Agreement”:

10-sender-agreement

Once they click “Verify”, the email will be delivered to you and this sender has been verified for future emails. The sender is then sent to a screen that verifies that their email was sent and is offered a free trial for Spam Arrest:

11-thanks-download

 

Note, you can sign of the Spam Arrest affiliate program and link your affiliate and personal account. Then you will earn a commission on any sales made through this process.

Watch how Spam Arrest works aswell here: –