Starting an online store can be challenging, from setting up the business, selecting the right shopping cart system and for most selecting the right developer to bring your vision to life.
I am lucky enough to have a background in web design and development so I don’t have to worry about having someone build the site for me.
However, choosing the right shopping cart is a daunting task. When I first built the store I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on the design so I bought a CRE Loaded template from templatemonster.com (my first mistake). I even hired a programmer to assist me with some minor details. I uploaded the products and then the site was live in a matter of weeks.
That is until I received my first order. It turns out the attributes weren’t saving so I was never able to determine what size or color, a customer wanted this required me to call every customer for every sell. It turns out the template I purchased was missing files (oops), we spent countless hours trying to resolve the issue, uploading new files, reinstalling the shopping cart, consulting with CRE loaded, nothing worked.
After a couple of months on CRE loaded we were introduced to searchfit.com. This is shopping cart system that keeps search engines in mind, very SEO friendly. SEO friendly is exactly what I needed. So we coughed up the fees and had Search Fit create the store template based off my design. This new system allows me to create keyword friendly URL’s and made it much easier to set up products. However searchfit.com does come with a monthly price tag depending on what your needs are.
It’s not too much for the basic plan, but it got me thinking about other options. I’ve compiled some of the (free) open source shopping cart system that I like.
A friend suggested I look into Drupal with ubercart.com. Which is still a pretty young shopping cart compared to OS commerce. The most unique thing about Ubercart is that it integrates with Drupal which allows you to combine a fully-functional community, business or news website. Hmm, a LaLa Baby Community?
They have flexible product attributes, single page checkout, simple processing screens, and automatic user account creation.
I just completed the installation for Durpal with Ubercart and involved having to download and install several modules but once they were uploaded everything worked seamlessly.
Another shopping cart system I am looking at is PrestaShop, which is based in Paris. It comes with a slew of web 2.0 features like product tagging and tag clouds. You can create and product RSS feed and can send customers a PDF invoice.
I poked around their website and found some very stylish examples of their product in action. I wanted to try out their test site but I kept getting an error. I will probably install PrestaShop on my server and see how well works.
The final option is Zen Cart, which isn’t a new shopping cart system, but a very stable one based on the OS Commerce framework. We are using Zen Cart on another site so it won’t be anything new.
Zen Cart has a large community base that is eager to help create new modules and tools for the program. Their forums are updated constantly so you get plenty of community support.
Some people will even build new features just for you.
Installing Zen Cart is a bit daunting after all they have a list of folders and files that will have to have their permissions updated. In fact, I was trying to install it this morning but ran out of time because of this.
So those are the three systems I am considering. I’m hoping to make a decision by the end of the weekend. Hopefully these posts will help others make the right decision for their shopping cart system.