Ask The Earth IT Support – Questions And Answers

Ask The Earth has some history behind it!  It started in 1998 as a Small Business Support And Training Company in Taunton and over the next 8 years served many homes and a lot of Small Businesses in every aspect of IT.  We created and ran websites for 6 or more companies on an ongoing basis and were selling Essential Oils, Jukeboxes, Farm Equipment, Beanie Babies and a lot more.  We taught the teaching staff at Colleges and members of the public through “Community Education”, plus running bespoke training sessions for indiduals to cover their specific needs.  We supplied PCs and Laptops, repaired broken equipment and supported the users as and when they needed help.

Mike then spent 4 years as IT Manager for a major Taunton employer with 150 users, moving over to another major employer in Devon with 400 users for another 4 years.  During this time, we supported Automotive Dealerships on Social Media, IT and other support roles.  The Home and Small Business Support work continued during this time, supporting existing customers and taking on new ones as they came up.

We then moved to Plymouth to join an Automotive Dealership Group in the city for (yet another) 4 years.  In the last year or so, the Home and Small Business IT Support has taken off locally with people finding out about us through word-of-mouth.  We have also been running an Ecommerce website for a major Performance Car Parts company, supporting a Call Centre and a local Car Dealership, plus some other contract work.  You can see our recommendations here on Facebook!

Speaking of which, we have some space in the diary and have opened a Facebook Page here to let more people know we are available to help them.  Please let us know what you need, we will be happy to help!

The Future?  Well, these are interesting times here at Ask The Earth.  Mike will be travelling a fair bit on a new contract to install monitoring equipment in hospitals both in the UK and abroad.  Between these dates, we will be expanding the local work with small businesses and home users.   We will also be continuing this blog with local articles, book reviews and a lot more.

Leave a comment here, like our Facebook Page, ring or sms on 07792170142, tweet to @mike___davidson or email help@ask-the-earth.co.uk to book your session or to discuss your needs.

Speak soon, Mike

 

 

BigCommerce Ecommerce – Some Observations

I have been working on a BigCommerce Website for a client for a while and having a certain level of success.  I can recommend the platform, with some reservations.  What is good is really good, just be aware of some limitations which became apparent as we went through the process.

We chose BigCommerce, or at least started considering it, for the worst reason.  We looked at our competition and three out of four of them use BigCommerce; we did look at other platforms but there was not a good reason to buck the trend.

Setup was easy enough, automated and really quick, within three days, we were uploading products to a fully functioning site.  We, like most people, didn’t want to spend more than necessary on the build, so we stayed with the standard templates, BigCommerce give you access to the templates for pages so we were able to tailor them within tight limits.  There are probably some changes we’d like to make that we havent as the costs seem excessive, but more of that later.

Product updates see to happen regularly, however (tell me if I’m wrong) they seem to be fixes as opposed to new functionality.  We also had a couple of updates that over-wrote our changed templates which was massively disappointing.  There is a chance that it was us, however, we dont think so.  There are few options on these updates, none of which are related to picking what gets updated.  Still, better to have updates, especially security updates.

We got very good at using the bulk (csv) uploads for products, then we found that this can get messy with repeated images, categories being incorrectly mapped, odd things that, once checked, are not related to errors in the upload.  As we have 8000 products, having to check after an upload for duplications, images, categories is a pain, but its still better than individually uploading by hand.

The uploads were intially quite vexing, taking a long time to work out the columns in the csv.  Once errors started cropping up, we started not creating our own, instead downloading the stock “bulk edit” version from the site, then uploading atered versions.  This can still lead to errors on the upload, but the site seems to like it better than the alternative.

Support is good, phone, chat or form, the latter can take a while to come back.  There are forums as well with some good answers, but there are a lot of “ill fix that for you, contact me for a quote” type answers too.  We havent found anything that we havent been able to fix manually so far using info from one of the above.  We have had one issue, related to VAT, which was unsolvable (and according to the forums, has been for a couple of years) and support were quick to come back and say so.  They gave us a workaround which kind of works, but not really.  We cant show separate VAT on product pages, without (weirdly) being unable to upload full VAT prices to ebay from the site.  Instead, we have to upload full VAT pricing, then the buyer cant see the VAT element until the checkout, which is a shame as many of our customers are businesses and expect it.  Having said that, its fine really.

Orders are dealt with really well, we use paypal and the plug-in is seamless.  The native BigCommerce ebay link is discontinued but they offer a free app by InkFrog to replace it.  This works well, although it can get confused quite easily, its possible to keep it under control, but care must be taken to keep the InkFrog library clean.  Its fiddly, but a time saver in the long run.  There are some limitations, such as that it will happily reflect changes in titles, description, pricing automatically (which is great) but wont change pictures.  It is often easier to delete everything, reuploading with the new images, which works.

As I say, its a good system, just fiddly.

I can recommend BigCommerce as a platform, especially with Inkfrog for the ebay integration.  its pricey, so dont use it for a few products, you really do need to put some traffic through it.

Any questions, please shout!