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Ecommerce Platforms & Plugins

A Look at OpenCart

OpenCart, as the name suggests, is an open-source shopping cart eCommerce platform. This means that all the code is completely transparent and available for you to do what you want with. But don’t worry, coding isn’t an absolute requirement to build a simple store with it. Though there may be times where you will have to roll up your sleeves and get involved with the code… or pay a developer to do it for you. To give you an idea of how it is, WordPress is also an open-source platform.

In some ways, OpenCart is like Wordpress, it's built using the PHP scripting language for example. But where WordPress started off as a blogging platform, that has been repurposed as a general website builder by many, and can become an eCommerce platform with a plugin like WooCommerce, OpenCart was built from the ground up to be an eCommerce platform. This means it doesn’t have all the extra baggage that a WordPress+WooCommerce combo comes with. OpenCart is pure commerce.

The pros of OpenCart

  • It’s free!
  • You own your site.
  • It works with dozens of payment gateways.
  • There is a large library of themes to get you started.
  • The user interface is easy to use and explore.
  • You can manage multiple stores, using different themes, all from one dashboard.
  • There is no limit on how many products or categories you can have.
  • You can sell digital products and even subscriptions.
  • Completely customizable thanks to being open source.
  • Affiliate marketing system comes included.
  • Settings for special offers, coupons and even reward points
  • Good for international sites with multi-lingual and multi-currency support
  • A large community to turn to for help.

The Cons of OpenCart

  • You will have to self-host which is another aspect to deal with.
  • There will probably be times where you might have to hire a developer to fix an issue.
  • Built in marketing features are slightly lacking.
  • Larger catalogs can start to make the site lag at loading.
  • SEO optimization could be a bit better implemented.
  • Though having an extensive range of plugins, there can be a fair bit of compatibility issues sometimes.
  • Customer support isn’t great, though the documentation and community are a wealth of information.

Is OpenCart for you?

Obviously it depends. The pricing clearly puts it as a prime contender if you are trying to get off the ground with little investment, though you should probably be a bit more tech savvy than average to get things how they want them. Some PHP knowledge is definitely recommended if you are going to go down the OpenCart route, but be aware that there are over 13,000 plugins, all eCommerce based, that you can use to deliver extra functionality to the already highly functional base install. But these plugins can be buggy and require some fiddling.

Otherwise, it is a slick and effective option for those who are looking for a dedicated eCommerce platform but don’t want to have to effectively rent their shop from a service provider like Shopify.


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