First of all, let me make it clear from the outset that this review is based not from a developer’s POV, but rather from a design aspect. Rarely do the skills of Developer/Designer cross paths, their brains are wired differently – fact.
My first introduction to Cactusoft software was with their Cactushop shopping cart, an ASP driven application which was impressively secure, considering some of the shoddy loopholes available to hackers from poorly constructed ASP/SQL. So full marks for building a secure shopping platform, thus giving confidence in the developers abilities.
Fast forward a few years and the version Cactushop we were using was looking clunky and worst of all, at odds with Semantic mark-up which meant our site ranked poorly in Google searches. So time for an upgrade…
Having scoured the available shopping cart platforms from a design/W3C compliance/security POV, there seemed to be little on a par with Kartris. Although I love Open Source software such as WordPress, I wanted a product that I could rely on for fast support – not being a programmer. So I took the plunge with testing Kartris on one of my VM servers.
We came in on Kartris V1.3 which had great Semantic mark-up, despite some of the DIV overload ASP.Net can spew out. It was easy to install using the MS web platform installer and being familiar with Cactushop, the backend was also pretty intuitive.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to import of old Cactushop site products into the new installation of Kartris, simply because we hadn’t upgraded our Cactushop site for some years, If I’d gone through the Cactushop upgrade process this would have probably worked out.
Anyway, without rattling on, here are some pros/cons for Kartris:
• Easy to install
• Lots of unlimited features on the free version
• Good free knowledgebase support
• Well written HTML mark-up
• Brilliant out-of-the-box SEO capabilities
• Design your own skins (HTML/CSS knowledge a MUST!)
• Superb paid support
• Excellent developers behind the product who put application security first
• Easy integration with many payment gateways for PCI/DSS compliance
• Runs on HTTPS (paid for licence)
• Still a few too many .NET generated DIV’s for my liking
• Lots & LOTS of CSS elements to hit if you make your own skins
• Upgrading to newer versions can be a bit fiddly
• Documentation not always up to date
If you enjoy the design side of website creation and like manipulating layouts with CSS then Kartris can provide some enjoyable challenges. I would say do your testing in Firefox and use the Web Developer & Firebug add-ons to assist you identifying classes and ID’s.
If you’re not a code developer and have the creative side of the brain working for you, I would STRONGLY recommend you go for the yearly paid support contract!
For the future, I would love to see Kartris get to the stage where the application can offer similar one-click upgrades as the beautiful WordPress. However, it won’t be the end of the world if it doesn’t as I have paid support.
So if I love WordPress so much, why don’t I use that with a shopping cart plug-in?
Well, WordPress doesn’t quite give me that extra layer of security confidence I need psychologically to go to my boss and say, “I’m as sure as I can be that this is as secure as possible at this point in time for the business.” With Kartris, you are buying into a platform that is being fine tuned constantly simply because it has a commitment to its paying customers. If a huge security hole happens in WordPress, the developer community can just walk away from it (an unlikely scenario I know, but…) if they want to. I guess you pays your money and you takes your choice. I chose to pay so I chose Kartris!
By Ian Guest
I have utilised Kartris for a number of years through numerous sites. This shopping cart will handle large numbers of products and versions. Very good, reliable, easy to setup and use. Kartris has helped to increase online sales to just under a million!