DotNetNuke, ASP.NET, Web Development Blog

DotNetNuke ECommerce Review: eTailer by Emerald Solutions

Updated: December 2, 2008

eTailer from Emerald Solutions is a fairly new entry in the DNN e-commerce world. While there is a great deal of promise in the product, my brief attempt at using it seems to indicate it's not ready yet...

Purchasing, downloading, and installing it went smoothly. eTailer adds a reasonable 5 modules to your DNN install (much better than the 23+ modules Catalook adds). Initially getting things setup and going seemed quite intuitive.  I created a new page and added the "eTailer Store Front module". It had a nice obvious link that allowed me to Add/Modify Products. And so I was off and running, or so I thought...

UPDATE: The developer recently notified he was going to step away from DNN development for 6 months. To me, this means you need to stay clear of this product as there's no guaratee it will continue to be improved or supported.

The first issue I ran into was while trying to save my first product... I filled out the reasonable number of well labeled fields (which included two rich text editors for the brief description and description) and hit the Save Changes button. The text I had entered into the rich text editors disappeared and validators displayed below them stating I needed to fill them out. I figure my mind was playing tricks on me and happily filled the fields out again and hit Save Changes... again the fields we cleared and the validators showed. Maybe some different text would work... nope same problem. I switched both editors to Plain Text Boxes and was finally able to save my first products. After reading the FAQ on Emerald's site, it's seems this is a known issue involving a strange interaction between Firefox (which is the browser I use by default), the AJAX implementation, and the DNN rich text editor. 

After saving, my first product finally, I went to the Store Front to see how it looked. Nothing was there. So I went back in and edited my product. I could now see there were more sections to add more stuff like product images, categories, pricing, ... So I added these, still no products showing in the storefront...

Then, as I'm fiddling around try to solve this, I get an error stating I'd exhaused all the Connections in my DB Connection Pool. I went and looked in SQL Server, and sure enough, there had to be at least a hundred connections opened between this demo DNN instance and SQL Server. I did a bit of testing to ensure eTailer was the culprit. It was. Disturbing. {UPDATE: I contacted the developer and he responded the next day with a patch that fixed this. Apparently this issue was introduced in the previous patch.)

I played a bit more, and as I was playing with the Variations piece, realized that eTailer would not meet my requirements without modification as it's implementation of variations (aka Product Options) did not include any form of Inventory Tracking for the variation. It lets you track inventory only at the product level and not at the variation level (e.g. if you've got a shirt as a product there's no way to specify you've got 5 Large, 3 medium, and 10 small without creating each size as a separate product).

Then I tried the checkout process. When a non-logged in user clicks on the Checkout button, it takes them to the default DNN Login screen. In my eyes, this will pretty much end the sale and makes the product unusable. For the average user, it won't be at all clear that they need to click on the little Register link and fill out that form in order to continue on with the checkout process.

I have also gone through the code and for the most part, it looks quite good. Very clean while utilizing some really nice techniques. But, he also does some questionable things like include the CSS inside one of the ASCX files rather than in a separate CSS file that can be cached.

The developer is quick to respond to questions and is mostly helpful.

I may use eTailer for some smaller stores where ECommerce is only a small part of the site but I'll need to figure out a better way to handle User Account info in order to do this.

In summary, while eTailer is a DNN store to keep your eye on, at this point (version 1.0.5) it is just not yet ready for production use. I also haven't been able to any information on when a new version might be available and it always scares me when I product starts to stagnate.


Tom Kraak Says:
3/18/2009 1:10:42 PM
Great write-up. I would just like to add that due to heavy use of Ajax, the entire store is almost invisible to search engines.
Paul Says:
9/11/2010 9:45:09 PM
I've been using eTailer successfully for over a year, but recently upgraded my DNN instance to v5.4, resulting in an error to a core module, meaning I had to reinstall most of my software from scratch. When I tried the eTailer module, it requires a key, and I discovered that the website for Emerald-Solutions has been shut down. Has this company disappeared? I hope not, as their product is the best on the market.
James Motley Says:
8/19/2009 9:31:47 AM
I'm currently trying out Ali Commerce. It has variant level inventory tracking as well as a proper checkout process. So far it is going pretty well. The styling out of the box is pretty bad so you need to dress it up a bit.
David O'Leary Says:
9/12/2010 11:27:46 AM
At this point, I would definitely recommend against the use of eTailer for any new development as the developer has proven himself not to offer reliable support for the product. So, unless the product gets taken over by another company, you should look elsewhere for DNN E-Commerce.
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