Actinic Business 10 review

Price when reviewed

Actinic Business, the best-known “shop in a box”, has few rivals. While CoffeeCup’s offerings are much cheaper at $128, they create only the shopping cart. Actinic Business handles the whole transaction from building the shopping site and processing the orders to stock control and handling phone and email orders. ShopFactory and 1&1 offer similar solutions, but they’re tied to a particular hosting company; with Actinic, you can either host the product on its site or use your own server.

With this latest incarnation, there aren’t any huge changes to the application itself, but there have been significant enhancements to the features it offers. The first of these, at long last, is live stock levels.

While Actinic has been able to track stock levels since version 4, an “out of stock” warning appeared only after manual intervention. This meant that, if you’d had an unexpected rush on a particular item, you could have ended up with orders that you couldn’t satisfy.

Now, after years of claiming that live stock levels were fraught with problems (mainly because of competitors placing a number of items in their checkout basket on your website and hence “tying up” your stock), Actinic has implemented the feature. In doing so it has also thought about retailers who sell via multiple routes; for example, they might sell not just via their website but by telephone, mail order and a traditional shop.

Keeping track of your stock through all these channels could be a problem, but Actinic seems to have solved it with automatic synchronisation of stock levels between the desktop application and the website.

To help encourage sales, Actinic previously implemented suggestions such as “people who bought this also bought” and lists of bestsellers and new items. It has now added “last looked at items” as well, in the hope of giving people a gentle nudge.

Visitors to your site also need to have confidence in you as a company. Offering a form of visible feedback, as typified by sites such as eBay, is a good way of building confidence. Rather than creating its own feedback system, Actinic uses one of the market leaders in this area, Feefo. Allegedly, providing customer feedback through Feefo will also have a positive effect on your site’s search engine ranking.

Actinic Business 10

Although the implementation of Feefo into your Actinic shop is simple once you’ve registered an account with the company, there’s no way to view the status or feedback received from within the application. You need to go to the Feefo website and log in to view these events. It would be better for Actinic Business to flag up any bad feedback left without you having to log into yet another site. Also bear in mind that these extra services aren’t included in the initial price: Feefo charges between £10 and £80 per month, depending on the number of transactions. There’s also a £30 setup fee.

As each version of Actinic comes along, the application and resulting website evolve to keep up with what is expected by the users. One area of complaint in the past has been the multipage checkout, and in version 10 this has been replaced with a single page, albeit with multiple stages. We would have liked to see something a little slicker, such as an Ajax-enabled checkout, but Actinic claims it avoided this due to lack of compatibility with browsers. This seems overly cautious.

While Actinic Business 10 delivers on its promises, and we found the upgrade of a live version 9 site painless, it’s a shame that customer feedback isn’t more seamlessly implemented, and that it isn’t included in the price. Likewise the postcode lookup feature is a virtual necessity, yet you still have to pay extra.

Unless live stock or the ability to offer customer feedback are features you’ve been waiting for, there’s little new to justify the cost of the upgrade. If, however, you have Actinic cover then the upgrade is free and we recommend you take advantage. Likewise, if you’re considering Actinic for your business for the first time, then it remains a strong and full-featured product. take advantage. Likewise, if you’re considering Actinic for your business for the first time, then it remains a strong and full-featured product.


Software subcategory Web development

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes

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