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Zencart, anyone using it?

what do they like/dislike?

8:34 pm on Sep 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member essex_boy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Ive been offered zencart to try out but before I atempt to play withit could anyone warn me in advance about potetial problems.
4:23 am on Sep 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

slow support from the community. Crappy code bae, but much better than osCommerce. be carefull with 3rd party add-ons, they aren't always tested well. the admin section is horrible. it has TONS of features, but the naming and orginazation of them sucks butt.

it seems to be reliable, moderatly easy to customize the apearance of if you find a skin that you like you can make changes to it pretty easily if you know html and a tiny bit-o-php.

it is free. ups, fedex, usps rate lookup, credit card acceptance code, paypal, lots of configuration to customize stuff.

I still say make your own if you have the ability, ans only ad the feature you need.

5:26 am on Sep 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Crappy code bae, but much better than osCommerce

Eh? How can you say that - zen is just osc with a load of "contributions" added on.

8:51 am on Sep 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member essex_boy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Just taken a look does appear to be easier to use than OSC, and yes Id guessed it was a clone.

Writing your own is way better its that I dont have the time

11:55 pm on Sep 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Not so much a clone, more of a fork. I've been using it for a over a year now, no problems thus far.

Sometimes I think there are too many features, hard to keep up with them all. That presents a problem for their support base as well. Add to the fact their support base is their forum and you can run into trouble real quick.

For the most part, it's a robust solution for those that don't feel like shelling out the dough to have a custom one programmed, like me. Plus, any vulnerabilites will most likely get ferreted out fairly quickly.

4:23 am on Sep 6, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Zen Cart is alright. A very big problem with it though is that the code is nightmarish, which you just have to find ironic because many in the Zen Cart community will openly criticize osCommerce for having bad code, when Zen Cart's code is just as "amateurish." In some places, Zen Cart's code is even more horrifying than osCommerce, IMO.

And it really is a slow dog, much of which can probably be attributed to the horrific code and lack of knowledge of the team [I'm not saying you need to be a professional programmer to write an application, but with the wealth of knowledge on the net, they should at least take it upon themselves to learn more about PHP]. Also the team seems to be more concerned about packing in as many features as they can than with fixing existing problems with code [to me that should be a warning sign, but hey that's just me]. Take for example the main index page. On my local dev server, it takes PHP over 4 seconds to parse the page, and it contains 950 queries. Now I don't expect super performance from my local dev server, but most PHP apps are parsed in around 1 second or less. And well, regardless of the parse time, 950 queries for 1 page is ludicrous. It is insane. There is absolutely no reason to need that many queries for 1 page, and no reason it should take PHP that long just to generate 1 page.

You'll probably be ok with Zen Cart for a low volume small site. But it probably will not handle loads very well due to it being so CPU and SQL intensive.

I'm not trying to dog Zen Cart here. It is decent for what it is. Just don't expect miracles from it.

10:09 am on Sep 6, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member essex_boy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Just trying to configure teh store admin side is a touch tricky liek you say there are tons of features and not are that helpful.

Cubecart on the other hand seems way easier to use and again thats a fork/clone.

Im expecting with adwords to have around a 1000 a day through the site, I hope it can handle it.

10:17 am on Sep 6, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Those parse times have more to do with your server, what are you running, a 486sx? I'm getting parse times around 0.2 with 300 or so hits to mysql.

The number of queries on load has always been a topic of discussion, but I have never had a performance problem with ZenCart.

3:18 pm on Sep 6, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

>> Those parse times have more to do with your server, what are you running, a 486sx? I'm getting parse times around 0.2 with 300 or so hits to mysql.

You are correct about parse time having to do with the server. It is a local dev server on my Powerbook. However, in comparison to other PHP applications, Zen Cart parses significantly slower than most (in my experience about 2x - 4x slower than most).

Even so, 300 SQL queries is still way too many just for a single page.

Like I said, you'll be ok for low traffic sites with it, provided your host doesn't mind you using so many resources. But you probably will run into trouble with higher traffic sites because it uses so many resources (both CPU and SQL).

6:50 pm on Sep 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

"Eh? How can you say that - zen is just osc with a load of "contributions" added on. "

No, it was forked several versions back, it a seperatly manage code base now, and improved somewhat, but still scary.

6:33 pm on Sep 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member essex_boy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Just installed some contributions - dead way easier than pure OSC.

Me thinks I like this.

2:50 am on Sep 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I love Zencat! I do not have any experience with pHp, SQL, databases, etc. Documentation is great, support forum is very helpful. My site is up and running and I am happy!
9:08 am on Sep 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Not at all as flexible/configurable as it needs to be. The code made me want to retch.
5:20 am on Oct 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Out of all the free/open source carts available, it seems to be a great app at first glance. However, the support is simply horrible. I made the mistake of considering Zen Cart for my business, and I quickly regretted it because of the way I was treated in their forums.

A HUGE turn-off for me was that they advertise themselves as a "PayPal affiliate", yet when I asked if they supported PayPal Website Payments Pro as a payment gateway, I was quickly treated like an idiot, and informed that supporting PayPal WPP would require a complete rewrite of their checkout code in order to comply with PayPal's Terms of Service, which they weren't even thinking about doing for at least 8-12 months. I was then told I was an "amateur" and my store wasn't professional if I was trying to use PayPal for a payment gateway. For those not in the know, PayPal's new WPP allows you to accept credit cards directly on your site (like a merchant account gateway) for a fraction of the cost of the typical merchant gateways. I received dozens of emails and private messages from other ZC users, asking me for more information about this PayPal service working with Zen Cart, so apparently there are quite a few "amateurs" who want to use it in their "unprofessional" Zen Cart store.

There are already several 3rd-party developers who have written modules that fully support PayPal WPP in Zen Cart, AND the modules/code mods satisfy PayPal's Terms of Service. The Zen Cart development team is obviously just lazy or not interested in providing support for something that so many of their users obviously want. When I mentioned these modules as part of my posting, my message was quickly censored to remove all reference to them. Apparently this "upstart" (ie, motivated) developers had not paid appropriate homage to the ZC development team, so they aren't allowed to be mentioned on the ZC forum.

Personally, I wouldn't waste my time with Zen Cart, because chances are that the first time you encounter any problem, you're going to end up in the same situation I did. The support just isn't there, and you have to wade through all the BS that "power users" and even the ZC development team spew at you instead of providing even a vague semblance of assistance. If you want a professional, (relatively) inexpensive cart solution I would recommend picking up a license to X-Cart for $200. It supports all of the popular payment gateways right out of the box (including PayPal WPP), and offers professional support.

Sorry for the long post, but my experience with Zen Cart was very poor, and I wouldn't recommend it to my worst business competition.

[edited by: lorax at 12:42 pm (utc) on Oct. 3, 2005]
[edit reason] removed specifics [/edit]

1:48 pm on Oct 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member essex_boy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Interesting set of views.
2:14 pm on Oct 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Sorry, I realize that my message was rather "flaming" or could be considered overly critical of Zen Cart, but I've been using the internet since before it was a common household word. I have utilized many freeware, shareware, open source, and commercial scripts/apps in my time, and I have just never encountered anything like what I did with Zen Cart in my first three days of investigating them for use on my site. Your experiences may be different -- I sincerely hope they are.
8:33 pm on Oct 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

As an active member of the zen cart forum, I can tell you that a certain few members tend to be a little too aggressive in some of their responses - in particular the one claiming "PayPal is for amateurs". Then there's a certain few who give almost as much bad advice as good advice.

But, by far the most of the members are talented people who can help you with almost whatever you need, in a nice way.

And even those that tend to be a bit aggressive now and then still give a lot of good advice. Keep in mind it's an open forum with lots of opinions.. ;-)

And they very rarely censor posts like the one of yours. They must have had a good reason.

So claiming support is not there, is just not right - it's just that you were rather unfortunate with the responses in your paypal pro thread (thread ended up locked..), and also not the lengthy decision-making post (0 replies) ;-)

Some times, advice such as "read this FAQ entry" or "do a search for ..." is also good advice btw, although some members probably get tired of repeating it and so get a little frustrated now and then when giving the same old mantra.

But anyway - you needed paypal pro, and zen cart does not support that at this time, and it will probably take some time before they do.

2:00 am on Oct 6, 2005 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

There are definitely multiple sides/perspectives to this, I'm sure.

Regarding the censor, I simply posted links to two 3rd-party modules that claimed would allow PayPal Pro to work with Zen Cart, and then I asked if anyone knew anything about the modules. It was censored becaues they claimed I was commercially advertising the modules (?). I did later find out that the ZC developers don't like one of the 3rd-party developers I was asking about, so I'm sure that had something to do with it. I really just wanted to know if those modules were the solution to my PayPal Pro support in Zen Cart.

I am sure there are plenty of good people at the ZC forums. Unfortunately, I think the "bullies" that frequent there scare most of them away from responding on the public forum. In response to the thread linked above, I received over two dozen direct emails and private forum messages, most of which were very sincere and helpful. ALL of them said that there was no way they were going to respond to my thread publicly because they didn't want to have the "aggression" turned toward them.

If you ever encounter problems with Zen Cart and your store is dying, do you really want to have to wade through even a few unhelpful responses like those? I sure don't. But I'm sure there are people who can or will tolerate it to get the features that they want from a free shopping cart. It's all a matter of preference and tolerance. Personally, I'd like for my shopping cart support to be the least of my worries in running an online store. I do understand that opinions vary. I also realize that the tone of a forum changes/fluctuates depending on the active members at the time. I'm sure there was a time where the Zen Cart forums was a happy, "Zen" place, and I'm sure it will be again, but I don't think it is now.

[edited by: lorax at 3:01 pm (utc) on Oct. 6, 2005]
[edit reason] Removed URL [/edit]

6:19 am on Oct 6, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member essex_boy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Not the easiest place to get an answer judging by that post
2:59 pm on Oct 6, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

If you're looking for good support, open source is not the place to be looking, period. There are some open source projects that do provide official support (paid), but in the overall open source world, these models are few and far between (mySQL and Red Hat the only 2 that come to mind at the moment). Usually the open source frame of thinking says the community supports itself, but this then limits the people who will find it useable to other developers and those that can pick up on the code quickly and figure things out for themselves, or haggle their way through the community to find answers. In many open source projects, this then leaves the intended audience (for example a business) out in the cold many times.

So quite griping that something open source has no support and go with a commercial vendor who will support their product ;)

Consider it a lesson learned in open source and move on.

4:24 pm on Oct 6, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Opinions, opinions.. :p
In my experience, you can also get very good support with OS software, and poor support with commercial solutions.. there's no rule saying that you're guaranteed better or even good support with commercial solutions, and the same goes for OS software.
5:39 pm on Oct 6, 2005 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I'm not griping about the lack of support from OS software -- I'm simply warning the original poster of the encounter I had with "support" on the Zen Cart support forums. Besides, it's really not so much the lack of support, but the overall tone of the forums, developers, etc., is lacking. I find it very ironic that the product is called "Zen" -- maybe it should be called "Anti-Zen Cart"? ;)

I have to agree with Valder -- I have received the best support from some OS or otherwise free software. A Tivo replacement for the PC called GBPVR is one such free (closed source) product that has EXCELLENT developer and peer support. More relevant to the current topic, CubeCart is also free (as long as you don't mind displaying their copyright), and they provide much better forum based support than most commercial apps I have purchased, and don't even get me started on a comparison between CubeCart and Zen Cart support...! Same method of delivering support, but a much nice tone and more friendly environment.

Whether opens source, closed source, free, or commercial -- there's absolutely no reason for the support to be rude and unhelpful like it was during my brief experience with Zen Cart. Open source or otherwise free doesn't mean you're automatically allowed to throw out all manner of civility.

Again, to the original poster of the thread, I would look at the support forums yourself, see if that type of attitude is something you're willing to tolerate, and if you are then go for it. It's not a horrible shopping cart by any means. I just don't want to be treated like that when I have a broken store and have enough problems already.

[edited by: lorax at 8:55 pm (utc) on Oct. 6, 2005]
[edit reason] Removed URL [/edit]

5:51 am on Oct 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member essex_boy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I shall do thanks. Its a mixed bag but I do like how easy it is to to add features.
6:30 am on Oct 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I did get the feel that the ZC lead developers were a bit off. I've received great advice when working with other OS software but the ZC people just came off as defensive.
7:23 am on Oct 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I've been doing Zen Cart implementations over the last year and helping on the forums. My customizations have been from very simple (just changing the template) to extremely advanced (completely re-worked pricing logic with custom payment module).

Regarding speed, one of my clients has over 5000 products and after following the optimization advice found on the ZC forums, it runs without problems. Yes, there are a substantial number of queries (often executing in a fraction of a second), but a lot of them stem from the generalized architecture behind the program. Since there's a "switch" for everything, there has to be a means of storing and reading those switches - enter db queries stage left. Whereas if you built your own product many of those options would be unnecessary or could be included via variable declarations thereby minimizing the quantity of queries (if you're a good software architect, anyway). The db structure, overall is well designed (probably originating in large part from OSC). Support for multiple languages complicates the db structure quite a bit (tables to hold translations of various fields), requiring joins (many of which are unnecessarily coded to be left joins, requiring more processing time than inner joins).

While the file structure is initally quite intimidating and seemingly illogical, once learned it is fairly easy to find what you're looking for (especially using the developer's toolkit) and create custom modules. Creating custom modules should be done by those versed in programming or you can expect people to become frustrated while helping. Creating your own template has a step-by-step guide and a plethora of answered questions to guide pretty much any user to make their own template (quite a bit of styling can be done simply using the stylesheet).

In terms of attitude, it must be recognized that in any group you're going to have people you'd rather avoid and those you don't mind becoming friends with. ZC is no different. And, as in any forum, you take a look around and find the people you're interested in and approach (if they don't step forward first, that is). I've found that if they have time, your questions in the ZC forum will very often be answered in terms of minutes. If an answer is extremely important to you and you want someone who'll take responsibility for the work, be ready to pay. Ability and willingness to pay gives you additional rights to be picky and expect things in a given time frame, remember we are talking "commerce". Take me, for example. I help out (for free) as finances allow me time to play around and I get the commercial postings emailed to me since I'm a programmer. If I have time, know how to solve the problem, and need the money I'll respond to the commerical listings. Those clients get instant, high-quality service with well-written modifications. Whereas, if they had sat around and waited, they may not have gotten their modules at all.

ZC is very focused on new features - there's a constant stream of complaints and cries for new features (including the PayPal mod mentioned above). And, they haven't forgotten about optimization which is in their development roadmap. They update rather frequently and upgrades are fairly easy to install on sites who've properly used the templating system. But, we're still talking about essentially free work from the core programmers while they're managing the forums and their paying jobs, so things don't go as fast as many would like.

I think that's a pretty fair assessment of ZC. Hope that helps.


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