Ultracart Review

Introduction

Ultracart is a premier shopping cart and ecommerce platform. This product has been in development for over 15 years and provides a host of tools and features that allow businesses to effectively manage their ecommerce venture. The company is based in the United States and its call centre is based in Georgia.

Furthermore, Ultracart also works in conjunction with a variety of third-party companies such as web developers, SEO experts, affiliate management experts and payment gateway providers; these companies help promote Ultracart and facilitate its usage. This in-depth Ultracart review aims to dissect this online store solution and give you valuable information on its usefulness and worth.

Ultracart offers either a fully-fledged ecommerce website or a plugin version of its online store and shopping cart which you can integrate into your existing website. If you choose to sign up for the full package, your website and store will be hosted on Ultracart's servers. Alternatively if you simply wish to add Ultracart ecommerce functionality to an existing site, you will have to take care of the hosting yourself. Listed below are some highlights of the Ultracart platform:

– Available as a stand-alone website or an integrated solution
– Price plans that are based on volume not features
– Features a menu based editor, and a visual builder editor
– Superb range of ecommerce functions and integrations

So now lets progress onto the Ultracart review itself. We have tested Ultracart extensively, reviewed its features and trialled its editor – the paragraphs below detail our findings.

Ease of Use

The Ultracart website features a simple green, grey and white color scheme and a clean and modern design. The site is responsive and scales properly to fit on all browser sizes. Furthermore, the main navigation is split into four main sections – ways to sell, pricing, resources and help.

The “ways to sell” section provides information on the different Ultracart products such as its storefront, buy buttons and EBay integration. The pricing page provides all relevant information relating to the Ultracart price plans and premium integrations. The resources page presents tutorials, documentation, a list of integrations and also success stories. Finally, the help page contains links to Ultracart’s customer service contact methods.
We generally found the website to be easy to use and full of useful information. It is clear that Ultracart wants to promote its free 30 day trial and prompt potential customers to try their software – throughout the website there is numerous links to their trial period and a plethora of “get started” buttons. Another useful feature we found was the testimonials section of the Ultracart website. This section contains a host of reviews, testimonials and interviews from customers who have used the Ultracart platform – it is always reassuring to see actual feedback from real users.

Aside from the Ultracart website, it is important to look at the actual storefront dashboard and user interface to see how it operates. The following details information about the Ultracart login, api and user dashboard for its storefront product.

Usability

To create and manage your Ultracart storefront you must use the Ultracart dashboard. To access this dashboard you must first sign up for a free trial or purchase an Ultracart package. Once you have access, you can view the dashboard through a web browser.

The general layout and functionality is more than adequate – the left hand side contains the main navigation panel with links to various different aspects of your store management. Furthermore the first time you access each new tab, an optional tutorial displays. The only negative point we had, was that the left-hand navigation may be confusing to some – the categories are not what you would typically expect from a storebuilder and you may have to do a little digging to find what you want.

Storefront Editor

To edit the contents and appearance of your actual storefront, you must click on the “storefronts” tab in the left hand navigation. This opens a new section in the main viewing pane and a new navigation bar. This navigation includes general, appearance, content, file manager, conversion tracker, advanced and server log links. The editor uses a combination of drop downs, check boxes and text based editing and everything is clearly labelled and accessible. It should be noted that there is also an Ultracart Visual Builder but we will explain that feature in more detail later.

It is possible to edit practically every aspect of your storefront using the editor and we found it offered a great level of control and customization. You can create page templates which you can use to create a consistent theme throughout your website. Furthermore you can edit the Ultracart templates using this dashboard – you can change the main color schemes of a theme and also changes features such as the footer logo. If you understand CSS code, you can even change various aspects of your storefront directly using the CSS code.

To edit a single page you must click on the “content” navigation (in the storefronts sub-menu) and then choose “pages”. You can then edit various aspects of each page such as its parent page, what template it uses and SEO elements such as the META title tag. We found the actual page editor straightforward, but those who have not had web development experience could struggle. We recommend always working through the tutorials so you understand exactly what each section is for.

Product Management

One thing we found extremely hard to locate was a generic “products” section – the product management system is actually labelled as “items” – we appreciate this is a small issue, but most people would expect this to be called “products” – to a web developer, an “item” could simply mean an image or stylesheet for examples. When you understand where to find your products, they are actually really easy to edit and manage!

The items sub-section presents a list of all your current products – you can edit each product separately and change parameters such as price, description, title and product ID. This editor is quite detailed and you can provide a huge amount of detail for each product – you can assign coupons, look at product reviews, set discounts and pricing tiers, and even choose related items.

Generally we found the Ultracart storefront editor to be hugely detailed and the level of customization was fantastic. You can literally edit every detail of your store, from products and customer, to layout and design. New users may find the layout and amount of information daunting at first, but there is a wealth of information and tutorials available to help the learning process.

Themes

Ultracart has a number of pre-built themes that customers can use free of charge. These themes are fully customizable using the Ultracart visual builder. We felt that this is one area where Ultracart fell short – although they do provide a variety of themes; the quantity is much less than other well-known online store builders. You can access the available themes through the Ultracart website – the themes are tucked away in the “Ways to sell” navigation tap under the Storefronts page.

Number of available themes (free and paid)

Ultracart has a total of 9 themes available for usage:

– Elements
– Coffee
– Natural
– Trial
– Woodland
– Fashion
– Mr Teas
– Craft
– Gridzy

These themes are all free and Ultracart actually has no premium themes available. Some of the themes have been developed in house and others have been created by the third party company L2D. It is possible to view a working preview of each theme in your web browser, and each theme has its own info page detailing its features.

Responsiveness of themes

Ultracart promotes its themes as responsive, retina-ready and SEO optimized. We tested the themes in a browser and found these statements to generally be true. We tested the re-sizing ability of the themes and the results were favourable – as we changed the size of the browser window, the elements of the theme scaled accordingly and moved to fit the available space.

The navigation also changed from a horizontal bar with individual links, to a mobile style menu tab. It is clear that a great deal of effort has been put into creating a set of fully responsive templates that scale without the need for a horizontal scroll bar – in essence a user will only ever need to use vertical scrolling which is desirable in today’s modern browsing.

Mobile accessibility

We also tested the 9 available themes on a mobile device browser and again the responsiveness was evident. The elements of the themes scaled perfectly to the display screen of a smartphone and the site navigation used a “push-out” effect – i.e. when you click the menu button, the navigation tab expanded from the left hand side of the browser and the main webpage became obscured – this design made navigating through the theme pages on a mobile browser extremely easy. Furthermore the page loads times were favourable and we noticed no discernible lag.

Features

Ultracart certainly has a superb range of features and this is one area that this online storefront excels. From an incorporated blog and upsell features, to an extensive product management database and detailed business reports, Ultracart has practically everything you need to run an online store. The following constitutes some of Ultracart’s prominent features:

Ultracart Storefronts

The main selling point of Ultracart is its storefront. An Ultracart storefront is in essence a complete ecommerce website with fully functioning online shopping functionality. A storefront contains virtually everything you need to start an online store and is customizable with a variety of simple elements and integrations. Elements include menus, search boxes, blog posts and sliders for example. You can manage virtually every aspect of your business in the storefront including orders, statistical analysis, reports, customers and even accounting.

Ultracart Buy Buttons

If you do not want to use Ultracart to create a website from scratch, you can use their Buy Buttons feature instead. This feature allows you to add simple shopping cart functionality to your existing website and create “Buy now” buttons. It is possible to edit these buttons using CMS systems such as WordPress and Drupal, and you can even edit the source code through GitHub.

Ultracart Visual Builder

For those who are not comfortable using the Ultracart Storefront editor, they can instead use the advanced visual builder. This builder provides complete control over the style and layout of your storefront theme. To open the visual builder you must click on “preview store” in the storefront editor – this will open the visual builder in a new window.

Each element of the website can be highlighted – if you click on an element such as an image, you can then edit its parameters in the toolbox that appears on the right hand side. For example if you click on a piece of text, you can edit its background color, font style, text spacing and font color for example. The editor is really easy to use and the different tabs and tools are straightforward and intuitive. A business owner with only a rudimentary level of computer knowledge could easily use the Ultracart visual builder to edit their site as they wish.

Ultracart WordPress Plugin

If you have an existing WordPress website, you can add Ultracart functionality to it using the Ultracart WordPress plugin. This plugin is easy to use and provides a whole host of ecommerce functionality to your WordPress site. You must have an Ultracart account registered, but once you have registered an account you can then download the plugin. The plugin features a range of different “quick codes” which allow you to add elements and items with ease. There is also a dedicated page on WordPress that includes tutorials and a walkthrough on how to use the Ultracart plugin.

Performance

Performance is a key factor in the effectiveness and overall viability of the best website builders and online store creators. You could have the world’s best store creator, but if it produces websites that are unresponsive and poorly optimized the end-result will be disappointing. We reviewed a variety of websites that utilized the Ultracart store and looked at their loading speeds and page optimization. These websites were taken from the Ultracart examples page on their “ways to sell” section.

We used the Google Page Speed Insights tool to provide a statistical analysis of each websites performance, and to produce an average score for both desktop and mobile versions of each site. You can see our Ultracart reviews below:

Desktop loading speeds

Using Google Page Speed Insights we review the performance of a range of Ultracart powered websites. We were pleasantly surprised and the desktop websites had an average score of 75/100 which is one of the best results we have had. Although this is still listed as “needs work” there were little to no areas for improvement advised by Google. When viewing the pages we noticed no discernible loading delay and even the image-heavy websites appeared to load without issue. We could not really fault the Ultracart desktop optimization at all.

Mobile loading speeds

We also used Google Page Speed Insights to review various Ultracart stores on mobile devices. Again the results were favourable and these sites gave the best performance rating yet with an average of 71/100. As mentioned above, this is still ranked as “needs work” by Google, but it was clear that great lengths had been taken to optimize the Ultracart powered websites for display on smartphones and tablets. As with the Ultracart themes, we also noticed that the mobile versions of the sites we reviewed were responsive and displayed perfectly in smaller browsers.

SEO Performance

The Ultracart API includes a range of SEO tools and its themes are SEO optimized. Using the storefront tool you can change important SEO attributes including META title, description and keywords tags, canonical links and alt tags for images. Furthermore, each storefront automatically generates an XML sitemap that can be trawled by search engines. Finally, there is also a range of Social Media integration tools to promote your site and extend its functionality using Facebook and Twitter for example. Ultracart certainly understands the important of SEO and this is clear through the features they provide.

Pricing

Ultracart offers a pricing plan based on volume not substance or features. This differs from most other storefront providers and allows for a great deal of flexibility for businesses. Full pricing information can be found on the dedicated Ultracart pricing section and this includes their price plans, plus their premium add-ons. Due to the pricing structure, each Ultracart plans comes with the following features as standard:

– PCI Level 1 compliant security
– 24/7 Customer Support
– Power multiple unique websites
– Advanced product control
– Advanced shipping control
– Abandon Cart lead capture
– Compatibility with full range of Ultracart integrations
– Free SSL certificates
– Wide range of accepted payment methods (including Bitcoin and PayPal)
– Advanced reporting and compatibility with Google Analytics

Aside from these features, the basic plan also provides full use of Ultracart’s storefront editor and their range of free themes. The below information displays the current Ultracart pricing plans together with billing methods they accept:

Price plans

As mentioned above, the Ultracart price plan is straightforward and split into volume as opposed to features. All of the plans listed below include the above features and it is possible to take a 30 day free trial before making a purchase.

– 0 – 251 products of sales volume of $0 – $50,000: $49.95 p/month
– 251 – 500 products or sales volume of $50,001 – $70,000: $69.95 p/month
– 501 – 1000 products or sales volume of $70,001 – $100,000: $104.95 p/month
– 1001 – 5000 products or sales volume of $100,001 – $150,000: $154.95 p/month

If you have a business with sales values of over $150,000 p/month, you must contact the Ultracart customer support team for a quotation.

Premium Integrations

Ultracart also offers a range of premium integrations that are optional in addition to your basic price plan. These integrations help extend the functionality of your storefront and also your marketing capabilities:

Digital Content Delivery
– $0.02 per megabyte of storage p/month
– $0.50 per gigabyte of bandwidth
– Facilitates the upload, storage and download of digital content

Ultracart E-Mail Marketing
– $0.0025 per email sent
– Integrated e-mail management system

Ultraship
– $199.00 one-off setup cost
– $20.00 p/month for each workstation using Ultraship
– Advanced shipping management software

These premium integrations appear to be reasonably priced and if your business can make use of them then we can see no reason not to invest!

Customer Support

The Ultracart customer support facility is one area we feel could be improved upon. The website claims that its customer support team is available 24/7 but there is not an abundance of information apart from the different contact methods. These contact methods include a dedicated US telephone line, email queries, a contact form and a support ticket system for registered users. One interesting point of note is that Ultracart actually displays their Skype ID as a method of contact on their support page – this is not a common feature used by many other web companies.

Aside from the customer support centre, Ultracart also provides a dedicated documentation website and a range of resources for existing customers. The docs.ultracart.com website provides documentation from Ultracart employees and users relating to the usage of the storefront platform and integrations. Furthermore, there is an extensive user guide for new customers and a reference section relating to various store features. Finally, Ultracart has its own YouTube channel containing a range of short tutorial videos.

The Ultracart customer service facilitation is certainly not bad or lacking, but we still feel that the level of detail present on their website could be improved. Furthermore, after looking through the dedicated docs website, we feel a small guide is needed to explain how this feature works.

Conclusion

We feel that Ultracart really is a great product. This is a comprehensive storefront with a strong range of features. The free 30 day trial allows users to sample Ultracart and its platform – you can register an account and start using the trial version immediately and benefit from the full Ultracart functionality. When looking at the storefront, we could really see any negative features or any areas we thought the product was drastically lacking. The only pointer we can think of, is that Ultracart does not offer a hosting solution – you would need to source website hosting from a third-party vendor.

Pros

– Can be fully integrated with WordPress, EBay and Amazon
– Fantastic range of features, integrations and themes
– Intuitive visual builder for editing layouts and site themes

Cons

– Some navigation names and positioning could be confusing for novice users
– Customer service information page could contain more detail
– No mention of accepted billing methods on Ultracart website

As an integrated online store solution, Ultracart is certainly one of the top choices available on the market. It is clear that during the 15 years this product and company have been developed, great attention has been given to usability – they really understand what constitutes an effective and all-encompassing online store.

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