I personally feel that finding and installing a shopping cart is one of the biggest obstacles to launching your own ecommerce site if you have minimal technical skills. A willingness to jump in and tackle the learning curve helps, but unless you have the capital to hire out the design and installation, then at least some of the work will be in your hands. It is important that the kind of cart you choose fit the kind of business you plan on running and also not exceed your threshold of tolerance for technical difficulty.
Having said that, if you have tried to research shopping carts, you will have found that there are many to choose from. How to make a
choice? For the purposes of this post, all of the carts in the top 10 list must be free, and fortunately, that is not a problem as many shopping carts are written on open source platforms. It is doubly fortunate that many of the free, open source shopping carts not only good, but continue to get better through on-going development.
Top 10 Ecommerce Shopping Carts
If you have your own hosting, you have probably noticed that your account includes push button installation of many shopping cart options. There is no problem using automatic installation, but learning how to upload and install the carts yourself will give you an edge when it comes time to learn how to modify your cart.
- OSCommerce Free and open source. One of the most popular carts available that offers lots of back-end admin flexibility. There are many free templates available and many templates available for purchase at a reasonable cost. You can more information using this basic Oscommerce video tutorial series. These are free and will help to get you started. Probably best for smaller stores planning on only limited expansion.
- Open Cart Called Open Cart because it is open source and developed by the open source community. This is number 2 of our top ten carts. I’ve given it number 2 position largely because OSCommerce is better known and there are many, many templates written for it. However, Open Cart not only has many excellent features, but there is is an active community available to provide asssitance. Features include, “unlimited categories, unlimited products, unlimited manufacturers, multi currency, multi language, product reviews, product ratings, free documentation, templatable, automatic image resize, 20+ payment gateways, 8+ shipping methods” (quoted from opencart.com). Moreover, and this is very important, it is SEO optimized allowing search engine friendly pages and meta tags.
- Zen Cart Another well-known, free and open source shopping cart. Click here for tutorial information. Here is another free tutorial.
- Cube Cart Free and open source. Here is a tutorial from blogadr, another from Siteground at Cube Cart tutorial.
- VirtueMart VirtuMart is a full-featured, highly versatile shopping cart designed as an extension to work with Joomla, which is a free, open source content management system. Follow the VirtueMart link for more information. I have used VirtueMart, and my main disagreement is that I didn’t like the way it integrated with Joomla, and that I had to hire programmers to make it look and work with Joomla the way I wanted. As a shopping cart, it functioned very well, and my problems were more aesthetic than anything else. You might want to look at this one and see if it would work for you.
- Magento This is a very well-known open source cart that is also free. While it is free, unless you are well versed in script installation and php you may need some help setting it up to perform according to your needs and expectations. Find more information here, at Magento.
- Agora Cart Agora Cart is also free, full-featured and written in perl. Although the cart is completely customizable and scalable, you may need some hired help if you want to make extensive modifications. If you are dedicated do-it-yourselfer, then you will probably dive into the learning curve with glee.
- PrestaShop Presta has high name recognition and should allow fairly easy set up of a simple ecommerce store. PrestaShop allows unlimited categories and subcategories, customer evaluations, wishlist publishing, the ability for customers to create groups, customer follow-up, customer referral, newsletter opt-in, and back up of created carts.
- TomatoCart From the OSCommerce development community. This appears to be more advanced than OSCommerce in that it is easier to expand and scale. Find information on TomatoCart and on TomatoCart features. This cart features 26 different payment methods and variable shipping methods. It is also allows SEO optimization and can generate seo friendly URLs.
- WP-eCommerce Although WordPress has long been a popular blogging platform, development of ecommerce plugins have been slow to come. WP-ecommerce is one of the first to have been made available, and it has been under development for a number of years. It is available as a free plugin and is supposed to integrate seemlessly with your blog. It appears to be actively supported, but you will have to try it yourself to see if it is right for you. I will say that of all the shopping cart options listed, this is by far the easiest to install and start using.
If you are planning on opening your own ecommerce store, you will need hosting. There are many hosting options and nearly everyone you talk to will different opinions on the best solution. There are three hosting services that I personally use, and I find Hostgator suits my needs the best in terms of
- varieties of hosting packages,
- customer service,
- account security
Again, there are many options, but I don’t think you will go wrong with Hostgator.
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