MultiActive – ecBuilder Pro review

e-commerce by numbers
Photo of MultiActive – ecBuilder Pro
£299 + VAT

These days it’s not enough for your company to have a Web site; that site must also be an e-commerce site, allowing customers to view your products or services and order them online. Fine if your company has plenty of cash to throw at a bespoke e-commerce solution, but for smaller companies on limited budgets, there’s now an alternative. Multiactive’s ecBuilder Pro aims to take the pain out of creating an e-commerce site, complete with shopping cart facility, variable tax and shipping rates and secure order transactions.

The entire process is template-driven. You enter contact details, company description and logo, and then choose a business classification. Once that’s done, you can work on individual pages, adding graphics and text as appropriate. Currency (including the Euro) and credit card acceptance screens follow, and then there’s the catalogue section. Here you can define the products or services that your company sells, with up to 2,000 different items supported by the ecBuilder Pro system. Add order forms with user-defined fields, then choose one of the numerous graphical styles and colour schemes for your site. The entire site design process – not including the product catalogue creation time – can be a matter of hours rather than days or weeks. There’s a built-in previewer so that you can see what each different Web design would look like, before either saving your site to disk or uploading via FTP. The program can even submit your new site automatically to the most popular Web search engines.

ecBuilder Pro requires Internet Explorer 4.0 or later, not just for the security features (which are also supported by Navigator and Opera), but for a selection of DLLs. A bit irritating if you are one of the few Windows users without IE4 or later, but a copy is included with the ecBuilder Pro package, as is a PDF reader and a trial version of Maximizer 5.0, Multiactive’s contact management software that can be configured to accept customer details from ecBuilder Pro sites automatically. The software is supported by an excellent manual in PDF format (and on paper too if you buy the retail package rather than downloading it from the Multiactive Web site) that covers all aspects of site creation, as well as including some very useful tips on promoting your site.

Company: MultiActive

Contact: 01628 587777


Verdict
The results may not always be visually outstanding, but sites created with ecBuilder Pro certainly look professional, giving the impression that considerably more design time has been spent than is actually the case. It's very easy to create a site, using marketing material that most companies will already have for their printed brochures, so the hardest part is actually entering the details of the products you have for sale. For small to medium sized businesses, this is a fast and relatively painless way to get into e-commerce.