Thursday, May 26, 2011

Open Cart - FRE(E)-Commerce Open Source Solution

If you don't mind PHP, Open Cart is a terrific full-featured and somewhat mature project. It supports localization, multiple currencies and even multiple stores. The back end is lacking some usability features (but then again don't they all lack something?)

Here is a list of the cart's features. I don't think there is a more comprehensive feature list within any FRE(E)-Commerce software or even proprietary solution for that matter. I dare you to try and find something as easy to use and extend (don't even think about saying Magento, it's a huge beast that will eat your server alive). If you do find something, prove me wrong, I'd like to see it.

  • Open Source (Duh)
  • Documentation (Not complete but helpful)
  • Unlimited Categories (Nested even!)
  • Unlimited Products (Millions)
  • Unlimited Manufacturers (Zilions)
  • Templatable (PHP and HTML easy stuff)
  • Multi-Language (Yep!)
  • Multi-Currency (Yeah)
  • Product Reviews (Deletable even)
  • Product Ratings (How many stars?)
  • Downloadable Products (Nice Touch)
  • Automatic Image Resizing (How cool is that?)
  • Multiple Tax Rates (Nice for USA)
  • Related Products (Amazon like)
  • Unlimited Information Pages (CMS Baby!)
  • Shipping Weight Calculation (UPS,USPS,Etc)
  • Discount Coupon System (Love your customer)
  • Search Engine Optimization (Works great!)
  • Module System (Plenty of expansion)
  • Backup & Restore Tools (No more lost data)
  • Printable Invoices (For tree haters)
  • Sales Reports (For bean counters)

Open Cart's forums are bursting with helpful posts and there are plenty of helpful people trolling them. A little google(ing) and you'll find some great resources for Open Cart. Someone even wrote a book about it available at PacktPub. Adding or extending Open Cart themes is easy due to the simple template system. There is also a plethora of non-free extensions that are sold by enthusiastic PHP developers but I have read some bad reviews so, "caveat emptor."

The code, although not very commented or documented is extremely consistent and easy to understand, even for a novice. The project boasts a solid MVC structure and the plug-in architecture for payment processing makes it easy to extend to meet your objectives.

The database has a consistent naming scheme, however; it leaves little to be desired due to it's lack of referential integrity and normalization. But it does work out of the box and I have successfully implemented a number of carts for clients in all different industries. Although some of my renditions of Open Cart are heavily modified you can see the versatility shine though.

The links below are some of my implementations of Open Cart. Keep in mind most of my customers manage their own content. With that said, grammar and spelling mistakes on the pages or bad HTML does not represent my work (insert emoticon with tongue gesture here) . The customers have complete control of their products and pages via the built in WYSIWYG editor (CKEditor) and CMS provided by Open Cart.

Since this is an old post the majority of carts are now defunct. The links go to images I retrieved from (note: this is the best way to view sites that are long gone, I have sites from 2000 that archived, it's really cool to see nostalgic designs and concepts of years past. In some ways it's a bit frightening  too so be cognizant of what you're putting on the web!!!)

Purple Guide
Meyer Media LLC
Specialized Furnishings

Showtime Apparel (Customer was too busy to manage site - out of business)
Red Airplane Aerials (started new business that focused on just calendars)
World Shoppe (perusing alternate business ventures using social media)
World Shoppe Wholesale (Same as above)

It only takes minutes to install and only an hour or two to learn. I highly recommend this software for anyone that requires a cost effective (i.e., free) e-commerce solution.

If this post convinced you or even if it didn't convince you that Open Cart is a great fre(e)-commerce tool; try the Open Cart Demo [ user and pass are: demo ] and see for yourself! If you need help with your implementation contact me via my web form at Ben W Consulting LLC and I'll get back to you.