Bigstep review:

Bigstep

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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Easy to use; inexpensive; all-encompassing approach to e-commerce and Web site building.

The Bad Currently has no bulk upload capability. However, this will be added shortly, giving you the ability to manage product catalog data on a spreadsheet and have changes automatically reflected on your site.

The Bottom Line Everything you need to build, maintain, and operate an e-commerce site.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

9.0 Overall

The first thing we consider when reviewing a product is what it does. In the case of Bigstep, it's easier to start out with what it doesn't do, as that is by far the shorter list. Bigstep does not turn on the coffeepot, rotate the tires on a car, or water the tomatoes. Everything else, it does. Companies that take a kitchen-sink approach to software and services often fail because their deliverable gets too cumbersome. Bigstep, however, pulls this endeavor off with grace, supplying an all-encompassing Web site building platform that includes everything needed to create and maintain a full-fledged e-commerce operation. It's easy to operate, and best of all, it's inexpensive. The first thing we consider when reviewing a product is what it does. In the case of Bigstep, it's easier to start out with what it doesn't do, as that is by far the shorter list. Bigstep does not turn on the coffeepot, rotate the tires on a car, or water the tomatoes. Everything else, it does. Companies that take a kitchen-sink approach to software and services often fail because their deliverable gets too cumbersome. Bigstep, however, pulls this endeavor off with grace, supplying an all-encompassing Web site building platform that includes everything needed to create and maintain a full-fledged e-commerce operation. It's easy to operate, and best of all, it's inexpensive.

Not just page design
Operating as an ASP, the Bigstep service offers much more than a Web page builder. Sure, it generates HTML, includes templates, and has preview and publish features, but so do a hundred other products. Web-based e-commerce quickly gets complex, requiring many steps, and you could easily use a dozen software packages and services. Fortunately, Bigstep rolls everything together into a nice, easy package.

When you're building a site, you can use the handy templates if you're in a hurry or if you don't know HTML. Otherwise, you can create pages from scratch. For your convenience, you can even combine both methods to make a site. For example, you could build a site that includes a custom introduction and content but a survey page taken from the Bigstep template selections.

Creating a site is only part of the e-commerce process, however. Customer relationship management (CRM) is an essential component for any serious e-commerce operation, and Bigstep also includes CRM tools. E-mail marketing, for instance, is a great way to stay in touch with customers and potential customers, and you can easily create text-based or HTML e-mail newsletters to send to your customer list simply by plugging information into dialog boxes. You can build your target list by tracking your customers and visitors in a customer database. (You don't need to know database programming--it's all done for you.) You can even segment the database into separate groups of customers with different interests for more direct targeting.

Catalog marketing
In addition, you can create a fairly extensive catalog, with up to 1,000 items, complete with descriptions and images. The shopping cart capability is enabled automatically, and you can also apply for a merchant account through Bigstep so that you can accept credit card payments. The FTP utility makes uploading new images easy, and you can manage them through an intuitive file-manager interface.

Most small operations with 10 or 20 items can keep track of goods with just the file manager. But when you have hundreds of items and your prices change often, managing your product line can get a little tedious. Bigstep plans to address this problem by adding a bulk upload capability, which will let you keep track of your catalog, prices, and related data on an Excel spreadsheet. For example, if you want to add a single item and change prices on 3 items, you can just open your spreadsheet, make those changes, and upload the entire file in one transaction. Bigstep handles the rest, so the changes are reflected on your site.

The folks at Bigstep have thought about everything with this package. If you want to become an Internet entrepreneur but don't have a lot of money to spend on Web site development and services, this is definitely the solution for you.

Bigstep customer Trend Curve created this online survey to gather data on customers and contact information for use by the marketing department.

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