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I know it's a typical question, hopefully someone will share some experience.
Background: I've doing content-web for years, built my own PHP CM system from scratch (not very advanced though), used WordPress and PHPBb extensively, so I have some experience with open source web products.
Content-sites never made the big bucks for me, after many years, I am still very far from quiting my day job. Not that's its my goal, but just to put in perspective.
So now I will try ecommerce.
I and a partner have been working on it for 2 week-ends now. Installed OSCommerce, Zen-Cart and OpenCart.
I built sample catalogs in Zen-Cart and OpenCart, didn't try OSCommerce yet.
Result: I am disgusted with Zen-Cart and I love OpenCart. Why: because it's much easier to use.
So here is my question: is this a mistake? is Zen (and OSC) better than OpenCart? Is this only because I am total n00b in e-commerce, I don't yet realize that I need something more than OpenCart?
Any thoughts are welcome
I note that esources.co.uk which has had mixed reviews is offering a shopping site including hosting etc for £99 per year which I have been thinking about although they never replied to my question about it which didnt inspire much confidence!
One thing I would do before you choose a cart is to pick out your payment processor and gateway.
Our idea is to stick with PayPal/Google Checkout for the beginning, so that we don't have to worry about the money handling part. Am I understand things right here, or am I in the dark?
Hugene, should you probably go for a hosted cart before you are sure that your product sells?
A part from the trouble of customizing OpenCart a bit and slapping a new template on it, I am not sure I see the disadvantages of OpenCart vs a hosted cart?
If the product flies, you can move up from there. In the far distant past we tried some of the X-cart and OSC type programs, and decided that it was more of a hassle than we wanted to deal with. We are currently having a custom site done in ASP.NET, but that can be pretty expensive for a startup or test venture.
If the answer is "Yes", you have a lot more intel to collect before you'll have a good spec for the cart you need to support your business. Don't make the mistake of getting the cart you like; get the cart you need.
OpenCart is probably the easiest to work with because I have structured it so well.
Zen Cart has messy coding. Same with Magento. Magento is probably the worst having over 21,000 files and very buggy.
Even by paying for commercial shopping does not mean they are going to be better.
Interpsires shopping cart is also a mess and does everything from the $_GLOBAL variable which is very bad coding practise.
[edited by: lorax at 12:03 pm (utc) on Nov. 16, 2009]
Finally, I settled on Presta Shop, which from the outside was the best 'looking' cart out there and had every single feature I wanted. Unfortunately, It took forever to make even the most basic customizations and the community was not helpful AT ALL. Since I'm a web design first and foremost, branding the store into my own was really the most important thing. After realizing I would be launching my site next year (at the rate I was going), I had to drop that cart too.
In the end, I went back to the cart I have used on clients sites for the last 4 years. A little Perl/CGI cart that looks like crap as-is, doesn't have many of the advanced features (like ajax, reward system, account system etc...) but can be customized into absolutely anything I want it to look like.
So I will be using "the little cart that could" for my store launch and use it until I have enough sales/profit to invest in a commercial cart.
My point I guess, is use the cart that best suits you for now (whether you're a store owner, programmer or web designer) and when the business starts doing well, invest in a commercial cart! :)
1. The cart cannot operate with shared secure certificates
2. Will not work with jscripts off.
3. Will not work with cookies off.
4. Stabilize the license. Sometimes I am not sure if it's GPL or MIT or LGPL or what, the code is released with. Developers may avoid a cart if they suspect their work may end up as closed source to service their adversaries.
Also most of the database tables/structure came from osCommerce although there is no credit to them. I am sure Daniel put tremendous effort to bring up the open cart to where it stands today and I give him credit for that.
But Daniel should pay attention to these issues because they do increase the chances his framework will be used and deployed.
The user interface is very good though but obviously as the cart is relatively new not many modules are available. In any case, a cart should have the bare minimum of features and anything else can be added and customized to fit the store's requirements afterwards. You do not want to bloat the stock framework with various features. What is useful for one merchant might be confusing or inadequate for another.
As of zen-cart, it is a derivative of osCommerce MS2.2, bloated with features so I'll just reference osCommerce.
IMO osCommerce is still more suitable from all the carts I have seen as a web-engine. It has its problems, with the code being so old and has some security issues because of the global vars used. The processing is mixed with the template and some believe due to it, is hard to develop and customize the cart. The reality is, the osC cart can be customized with some effort and maximize the ROI for merchants, especially startup businesses. The plethora of modules available for osC makes the cart suitable for the majority of e-businesses.
In the end is up to the merchant or developer to go with a specific framework. If there is lack of programming knowledge you should check the community, documentation, addons and the learning curve/requirements before getting involved.
tried magento, was very very slow, but supposedly that's better in the latest release.
tried opencart. great code, a very good start at a stand alone cart.
The drupal integration of ubercart sold me though. the full power of drupal, with a powerful shopping module. a little rough here and there, but with the number of stable, quality modules available for ubercart and drupal it just rocks.
I actually think sometimes paying a little bit for support in the beginning is better then fumbling around with a free solution. At lot of the advice on here is about getting something up and working for you, then you optimize and take it in the direction you want to go.
From there, look at the features you need, and figure out what has the chops to do that.
I personally like Magento, but it is a special kind of hell to learn initially!
Once you do figure out Magento, you can blitz right through changes. And, you get a stock store that is tremendously feature-rich. Code is separated from design, and the plug-in system will let you make pretty intense feature changes without killing your upgrade path. You can swap out design templates, site-wide or on a per-section or per-page level. SEO optimization is as good as any other store out there (Joost is an adviser to the core dev team).
There's a ton of community support, and plenty of cheap/free feature plugins and design templates.
I'll say it again, though. It SUCKS to learn the first time. The other criticisms are mostly valid too. It can bog down (though optimization is possible)