Are you looking for the best solution to build your e-commerce business? There are countless choices, but open source options remain attractive due to the flexibility they provide. These content management systems (CMS) offer a variety of options, and allow you to sell everything from physical goods to digital downloads. Here are three choices that will help your store stand out from the competition.
Zen Cart is a free open source shopping cart system that offers developers complete customizability. The interface is easy to use and the software is simple to install. It comes with some features, but to help Zen Cart meet it’s full potential there are hundreds of plugins and integrations.
Those with less technical knowledge can build a simple e-commerce site with Zen Cart, but to really make it shine it helps to know PHP. It gives online merchants promotional tools like gift certificates, coupon codes, and automatic email confirmation. It works with the default payment gateways and a plugin can be installed for additional options. There’s a strong community supporting Zen Cart, so it’s a favorite among many developers.
Some of the downsides often cited for Zen Cart include lack of SEO capabilities, mobile friendliness, and issues with software upgrades. The features and interface all feel a little dated. Shops with more than 1,000 products may have performance issues, so this is a better option for small to mid-sized stores. Overall, Zen Cart is a stable choice for those setting up shop. It’s been time-tested by a large base of developers and users.
Another open source solution, PrestaShop, is known for their impressive choice of add-ons that can improve the functionality of your store. They also get a thumbs up in the design department due to their responsive themes. Any change can be made to their cart, and these changes can be implemented in multiple ways. There’s the “Live Configurator” and “Live Edit” features that allow you to customize the look and feel. There’s also tools that let you configure the appearance of the mobile site.
PrestaShop has another feature called hooks. Hooks allow you to associate code with certain events to further customize your shop. This CMS also offers robust marketing tools. In addition to the standards like coupons and discounts, it also offers advanced SEO tools, loyalty programs, product reviews, comments, and more. Sixteen payment gateways, including PayPal and Authorize.net, are supported. Other payment providers can be integrated with add-ons.
PrestaShop is impressive in its range of features, but the downside is that many of the integrations and templates from third-party developers tend to be buggy. It can also be an overly complex option, especially if you’re just starting out. It’s recommended that you give this one a test drive before committing.
A well known name in the e-commerce world, Magneto’s Community Edition (CE) is another open source option that is free to download. There’s also an Enterprise Edition for large-scale retailers. Magneto has massive reach, having been used by over 150,000 merchants since it was first introduced. It has been used by big brands like Nike and Nicole Miller.
Magneto is recognized for it’s power and high customizability. But that comes with a high learning curve, only serious web developers with past experience with Magneto need apply. There’s a configuration page with a huge number of options that leave many users bewildered. If you go with Magneto and you’re not a coder, it’s best to hire a specialist.
Still, Magneto has one of the most feature rich and flexible shopping carts on the market. There’s a reason many of the big players use this option, it’s highly scalable for those with large shops who anticipate massive growth. It also has all of the standard features: solid SEO, mobile friendliness, coupons, promotions, and it integrates with all of the standard payment gateways. If you have thousands of products and a large audience, Magneto may be the option for you.