A promising idea, but Storefront's setup is just too confusing for novice users
Amazon Marketplace and Etsy are two easy ways for individuals to sell goods online, but sales commission charges and limited scope for personal branding makes them, and similar services, less appealing for more serious internet-based concerns. The alternative, of course, is a bespoke e-commerce site at a unique domain, but setting up a slick and secure online shop is no simple task — which is where Mr Site Storefront comes in.
Mr Site Storefront offers much the same kind of user-friendly functionality for setting up an online store as WordPress does for blogs. The service is web-based and provides site hosting, templated page design, SEO tools, order tracking and a host of other functions needed for a successful e-commerce set-up, all from a unified interface and for a flat monthly fee.
The entry-level £15 per month Seller plan provides domain registration (if required), 150MB of web space and capacity for 500 products across 20 categories. Costlier ‘Pro Seller’ and ‘Pro Seller Plus’ plans increase product capacity and add support for such features as discount codes and customer reviews, but there’s ample functionality in the cheapest deal for setting up quite sophisticated operations.
Although the Storefront web interface uses a CMS (Content Management System) based approach that should be vaguely familiar to anyone with blogging experience, new users are invited to complete a setup wizard at first login. It’s generally a bad idea to attempt any kind of website design without some sort of plan, but the process is particularly problematic with Storefront.
Rather than present a simplified and structured series of steps that assist with creating a basic store framework as a foundation for later expansion and refinement, Storefront’s new user wizard simply skips between different sections of its CMS and there little explanation on how to properly complete each step. Worse still, since the wizard doesn’t follow a fixed sequence of actions, curious users can click other options in the CMS at any point, but doing so seems to terminate the wizard and there’s no obvious way to resume it.
The wizard doesn’t make setup particularly easy
Since successful completion of the wizard still doesn’t leave a store in anything like a fit state for launch, it’s a better option to deal with Storefront’s CMS directly, but even this isn’t particularly easy. Part of the problem is the illogical way in which the CMS is structured, with related features scattered throughout its top-level menus. The Edit my store option only provides access to product information, for example, while the store name and URL are edited under Settings. Settings is also where payment methods and shipping options are set up, but editing the page that explains a store’s shipping policy is done via My content.
This confused presentation and lack of consistency in the interface is also a problem when it comes to populating a store. Click the Add new button on the product categories screen, for instance, and the details page that opens is straightforward enough to complete. Click the Save button, however, and nothing seems to happen — there’s no visual indication that anything has been saved and the same page stays on-screen. It’s the same when adding individual products, with the added confusion of Storefront offering two different views on the same list of products, each of which links to different sets of product data.