Nexternal Review

nexternal-shopping-cartNexternal is without a doubt a leader in online e-commerce solutions. Situated in Carlsbad, California and established since 1999 Nexternal has spread in popularity and increased in reliability over the last decade. With multiple offices, exceptional customer service, and a full-featured product they are a major contender in the shopping cart industry.

When Nexternal says that their online shopping cart solution was built from the ground up with search engine optimization in mind they are not exaggerating even a little bit. Nexternal is a hosted e-commerce shopping cart platform which takes selling products on the Internet seriously and sets the bar on many aspects of e-commerce.

Highlights

Nexternal offers all the run-of-the-mill features available in other online shopping carts. It allows for the use of your own domain name and provides a custom template to keep your storefront consistent with your existing website. It provides statistical information about your visitor demographics and product preferences which allows you to continuously fine-tune your store to maximize conversions. These are features we expect to see in e-commerce solutions and Nexternal doesn’t fail to match our expectations regarding obtaining detailed information about visitor activity.

It also processes orders from request to payment, to shipping, and to invoicing so that from start to finish everything is accounted for. While this is true for many shopping carts, we appreciated how to the point Nexternal is about giving you access and manage these details. A myriad of expected and desired features are available, but unlike some other solutions the interface for this platform is as straight-forward as it gets. You won’t find slick transitions or fancy javascript here. Thankfully two clicks is all that is likely to be needed to get to the information you want (add one more if you want to learn from the help bubbles which are plentiful and everywhere).

Regarding SEO, this software gives you access to essentially everything that you would want and integrates them cleanly into your storefront. Title, description and keyword tags (for those who still use keywords) are standard, but what you don’t normally find is an automatically generated xml sitemap and robots.txt file. This is an excellent feature since search engines will immediately be able to scan your site links to index the important pages. (SEO providers will know the frustration that can be experienced when you realize that you will need to wait for Google to index your site once more because of some mistake.)  And of course, as you’d expect from a shopping cart which has already gone so far, image alt tags are editable.

To ratchet it up a notch, the URL for category and product pages are search engine friendly. That means you don’t have to worry about convoluted links for search engines. Whichever front-end page you visit will have a link which will make sense and be useful. Even better, if you happen to change the name of a particular product you will not have to worry about redirecting your old link to the new page as the platform automatically generates a 301 redirect so that the former link is still accessible.

Limitations

There are a few limitations, although for the greater number of users they most likely wouldn’t prevent you from using this platform. When it comes to e-commerce platforms it is sometimes too easy to pick out the small oversights or undeveloped features. Still they are points that will be considered by some so we have detailed them below.

As mentioned previously this is a hosted solution. For those who prefer purchasing software once or being able to customize it themselves you will have to look elsewhere. Along the same lines it does cost more than several other hosted e-commerce systems. This isn’t for a small mom-and-pop shop new to e-commerce: this is an enterprise-level e-commerce solution. However, if you are planning on running a full-featured online storefront then the investment is worth it. The fee covers nearly everything you could want from an outstanding customer service and template porting from your existing website, to unlimited products and free software upgrades. Rest assured that your bases are covered when you decide to try this out.

There are some other minor disadvantages or missing option we would have liked to see such as being able to manually set category, or even product, permalinks to take advantage of popular search terms. The pages are also built in on an ASP.NET framework and the page extensions cannot be changed. Some web designers and developers are sticklers when it comes to link consistency between site pages so that moving from .html to .asp is not always wanted.

Finally, a point which will affect not a few people, there is no option for downloadable content. If you are looking to sell any products for immediate online download then this platform is not for you. This is one of those points which would be very important for anyone to remember before jumping to purchase a subscription.

Overall

We’ve been highly impressed with the Nexternal shopping cart solution. The software is easy to navigate, simple enough to learn (especially for anyone who has used alternative shopping carts), and the care and attention provided is definitely noteworthy. SEO has obviously been a significant factor when developing this platform and users won’t be disappointed with its features.

If you are a small business selling part time, you’ll want to pass on this option; upgrade down the line when it becomes an affordable option. If you are planning on entering the e-commerce game with an advantage or if you are not satisfied with your existing solution, then Nexternal is a shopping cart that you simply must test drive.

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