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I’m writing this article in order to help customers, designers, and programmers make a decision regarding WordPress Online Store solutions. Here are my findings. Of course I am more than willing to hear your comments below, but I hope that my experience and opinion helps make you formulate a more informed decision before wasting your money on something you may or may not use.

I have an online store over HDRSource in which I sell HDR images for use with fellow 3D artists. I use a plugin called WP eStore to handle all of my transactions. Basically, you click an “Add to Cart” button, it adds the product to a cart, then takes you to Paypal where you finish the transaction. From there, you are provided with an encrypted download link which expires in X amount of days which you can specify. The system is fairly simple and that was exactly what I was looking for.

My circumstance is unusual in the fact that my downloads are fairly large – ranging in several gigabytes for some of my files. While the downloads haven’t been without their issues (there are going to be people with time-outs on slower connections with files that big), the eStore plugin has been fairly straight-forward in its setup and ease of use. The documentation supporting eStore is also fairly well thought-out.

Recently, I decided to switch hosts for all of my websites in part to provide a better experience with the download process. I signed up for the Mediatemple Grid Service which allows an incredible 100 gigs of storage space – this would be enough to host my content locally versus going through a third party such as Mediafire or hosting services. This would make the download experience more seamless, and plus I wouldn’t have to pay extra charges for using their storage space. When switching hosts, a variety of issues may come up – especially when transferring blogs which are dynamic and database-driven by nature over to a new host. Simply put, things can go wrong, especially when it comes to live online stores. These problems are to be expected.

With eStore, I ran into a minor hiccup in which my store downloads would download, but would lock you out of the website after canceling a transfer. I informed the plugin author of this issue as well as Mediatemple, and also began the bug hunt on my own. It was very difficult to tell what was going wrong. The system worked fine with my previous host, but fell apart on the new one. Was it something I did wrong, a limitation of the host, or something getting pulled incorrectly by the plugin itself? It was an issue that I would spend several days working on.

To complicate matters, HDRSource was mentioned in 3D world magazine. Some free libraries came out on DVD so my website was getting hammered by traffic from all around the world. I really needed to get this issue resolved immediately. The timing couldn’t have been any worse.

After several days of on and off experimentation, hours of midnight telephone tech support with my new host, and a flurry of emails flying back and forth between the eStore plugin developer and I, I decided to give WordPress Shopp a try. Here is my review and comparison between the two online store plugins. Keep in mind that this is for my setup and your needs may vary:

Comparison:

WordPress eStore Advantages:

  1. Cost: $34.95 (this was $20 when I purchased it this past summer.)
  2. Easy to install.
  3. Easy to use.
  4. Perfect for making simple purchases through Paypal or 2Checkout.
  5. Provides a return URL which takes you back to your website after a purchase is made.
  6. Flexible.
  7. Great shopping cart widget to show your purchases.
  8. New features being constantly added.
  9. Relatively new forum, but fairly useful.
  10. A strong focus on security by the author.
  11. Responsive tech support.
  12. Overall simplicity.
  13. Flexibility.
  14. Allows for free variations of your digital assets upon purchase.
  15. Return check-out page for Paypal standard.
  16. Multiple support videos.

WordPress eStore Disadvantages:

  1. I don’t believe eStore currently allows for sales to take place within your site. That involves a lot of work regardless with advanced accounts, additional charges, and SSL.
  2. This is purely cosmetic but the plugin website (in my opinion) isn’t as attractive, but in this case looks are completely deceiving. Everything is customizable.

WordPress eStore Support:

  1. The plugin author has been very accommodating and knowledgeable. To be honest, I’ve never experienced this level of tech support any where. He has literally “bent over backwards” to help me find solutions to my unusual circumstances. He has spent hours, if not days trying to help me out. The support is bar none. Keep in mind, he also has a separate day job.
  2. On several occasions, he has offered unsolicited refunds to which I refused because I could see that he was trying very hard to work on things.

WordPress Shopp Advantages:

  1. Restrict downloads to IP and maximum tries. However, I think eStore should have no problem implementing this.
  2. Easy to install but it installs too much and even broke my template by automatically inserting three unwanted pages.
  3. Shopp MCE button in the WP editor for production insertion/drop-down list shortcode. Again, I think eStore could implement this – right now there’s a little manual code copying but it’s really a no-brainer.
  4. The shipping options seem a little-bit more in-depth. I don’t ship physical products, so I really cannot comment. It was just an observation.
  5. More options for payment systems including the ability to embed credit card processing within your website without having to leave it. Again, there is a catch because this involves a lot of setup work of obtaining different processing accounts, additional charges, and SSL (Secure Socket Layer.)
  6. Prettier author website (but in this case, I found that looks are really deceiving.)

WordPress Shopp Disadvantages:

  1. Lack of simplicity. On the outset, you’d think by looking at their website that this would be “professional” and easy-to-use. Installing it is easy, but getting it to run is a different issue. You find yourself going through pages upon pages to figure out how to customize your site only to find out that you have to have some coding skills (editing php and CSS pages.)
  2. Cost: $55. $20 more than eStore.
  3. Insertion of three random pages upon install that will break your layout.
  4. No initial mention as to whether or not it encrypts digital download links (which I found out through having to purchase this.)
  5. Digital downloads only allow one product download per purchase. If you decided to provide a free alternative version of your product, you can’t. If you decided to provide multiple parts to a download to ease downloading, you can’t. They say they support resuming, but this is a major oversight on their behalf. Nowhere is this mentioned on their website. I had to wait a day only to find out it was unsupported.
  6. Their shopping cart widgets are beyond confusing. They offer 3 or 4 (I forget) different shopping cart widgets. In my tests, I added a product. Nowhere was a removal button. The widget only mentions price and not the product name when you add a product. It also wants to take you to a separate cart page on your website versus eStore which will take you directly to Paypal for checkout. Not only are you forced by default to be taken to a separate cart page, but then after you make a purchase, you get tossed onto another page full of marketing gimmicks for your site – you may find this useful, but I’m of the opinion that unless you want it there, don’t add this by default.
  7. Insertion of extra code and text into each product. All I wanted was a simple “buy now” or “add to cart” button below each one of my items or posts but no – didn’t happen. Instead, it inserted the product name (again although I had already written this), a description (already written), and a price (already written.) I’m certain you can “hack” the code” so that it doesn’t display these elements, but for someone that wants something simple, you shouldn’t have to. These items should be a checkbox disabled by default under the plugin’s settings. On top of this, it ran it’s own CSS styles which was one more thing I would have to tinker with. It also threw out a huge horizontal rule that I couldn’t ignore. For someone looking for something simple, this was overkill and quite frankly a “pain in the butt.”

WordPress Shopp Support:

  1. In digging through their confusing forum and documentation, I noticed that there were a fair amount of posts which went unanswered. There were also several dead links I came across. Almost everything I wanted to do needed to be hacked, and that would be possibly be broken anyways on their next update. For something simple like removing the titles it inserted, I shouldn’t have to spend several hours trying to figure that out. All I want is simple.
  2. I waited a day before receiving a reply. Time was critical for my installation.
  3. I asked for a refund and stated a couple of my reasons which I thought were quite reasonable and that perhaps they would make an exception to their policy (which admittedly I didn’t read in my hurry.) Here was their reply:

Dave,

Greetings Charles,

Please keep in mind that while Shopp does not support the handling of multiple files for download upon purchase, Shopp does handle resuming downloads.  This means if a customer/client cannot finish a download right at that moment or is disconnected, they can come back and start where they left off.

Concerning the performance of Paypal Standard, it is stated that this version of checkout is a “remote” payment service.  To have a seamless payment processing experience PayPal Pro or another provider would be necessary.  Please see our documentation on PayPal Standard.

As far as a refund, due to our sales policy a refund cannot be available.  For more information, please see our sales policy.  https://shopplugin.net/sales-policy/

I encourage you to take the time to browse our community forums for any information that may assist you in your use of Shopp, as well as stay informed as to what’s coming in future Shopp releases.

Best Regards,

Dave

I asked one more time in an email and mentioned that I was going to write a review of their product. This is his second reply:

Dave,

Charles,

With the access of a demo versions of Shopp, sales documentation, feature documentation, as well as sales policy, it is not possible to issue a refund for this scenario.  I’m sorry you don’t feel Shopp is the e-commerce solution you are looking for but we sincerely appreciate your feedback.

Regards,

Dave

Now, while I completely understand that they are trying to prevent piracy, you’d think that they might make an exception to this rule when someone states valid reasons for why they felt the product did not live up to their expectations. On several occasions, the author of eStore offered to give me a refund when I encountered a few issues – and I didn’t even ask for that. In my opinion, that clearly demonstrates that the author of eStore really cares for the product he is delivering. I couldn’t ask for more. It’s really miles above the cold replies I am getting from Shopp.

Conclusion:

The author of eStore ended up fixing my download problem yesterday. Everything was restored and in better working order than before.

If you’re looking for simple, than eStore is the way to go – it’s highly customizable, lighter in weight (from a code perspective), and less intrusive. Unless you absolutely need more payment options and credit card processing within your website (without having to leave it), than go with Shopp or another alternative. Keep in mind that built-in credit card processing is complicated, and quite frankly not worth the time. Paypal has become the defacto standard in credit card processing so it really doesn’t matter that when you make a purchase that you are taken to a Paypal page for final purchase.

Frankly, I am a very satisfied eStore customer and will continue to support the author’s efforts. I felt that he has helped me so much, that the least I could do is write this article discussing the differences between the two WordPress plugins.

p.s. I just noticed that Shopp left behind some code after deactivation as I was about to publish this article lol. I’m also out $55…