Best Free Open Source E-commerce CMSs: Magento, X-Cart, OpenCart, Zen-Cart, Nopcommerce, etc.

Ecommerce is a term used to denote a type of business where purchasing , selling and exchanging goods and services is conducted over electronic systems such as Internet and other computer networks. Since 1991, the year when the Internet became open for commercial use, it has become possible for customers to electronically exchange goods and services with no barriers of time or distance and e-commerce has started to develop.

If you would like to implement an ecommerce website it can be useful to take a look at the following list of open source ecommerce CMS which can help you to select the appropriate ecommerce platform for your projects.

In my article I’ve tried to perform some investigation and identify what are the advantages and disadvantages of these CMSs. So let’s have a closer look at the list 🙂

1) Magento takes the first place. The coding is based on the latest PHP 5 object oriented coding standards and Zend framework. Without doubt, the platform is a huge success thanks to its feature-rich administration panel, huge flexibility over the design, layout, control and feel and other qualities allow to handle large inventories, more complex functionality, big number of in-built features and themes and exceptional technical support. Also I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that Varian, the company that backs the cart is very active in updating the code and fixing bugs. All these factors make Magento a truly established leader in ecommerce software that powers some of the most innovative ecommerce stores online. But as you know , there is always a fly in the ointment and this CMS has a couple of disadvantages: it requires a good high end server; has heavily layered and overly complicated coding style; requires a lot of time to learn and do customizations; its fairly slow. However all these disadvantages do not prevent Magento of being on the first place in our list.

2) X-Cart. It is one of the most competitively priced and easy to modify e-commerce platforms. X-Cart is commercially supported and has very few bugs (I doubt if there are any indeed), it uses smarty templates system which many programmers like to work with for laying out the web site. Unfortunately the solution has licensing fees for system and some add-on modules and the price can be really high. However the core open source platform can be downloaded for free (either X-Cart Gold or X-Cart Pro).

3) Zen Cart – I may call – the art of e-commerce. Free, user-friendly e-commerce software. The ecommerce web site design program was created by a group of like-minded shop owners, who believed that the projects and design eCommerce-sites could and should be different. Zen Cart has a very nice wide array of features based on Oscommerce but has gone its own path. It has no licensing fees, it is stable, has many Oscommerce contributions already installed, and all these factors certainly please the audience. Still sometimes it`s not possible to use Oscommerce contributions, because they must be converted to Zen Cart, and the admin interface may seem a little messy in certain areas because of contributions installed.

4) OpenCart is an open source PHP-based online shopping cart system. The CMS offers an ‘out of the box’ solution with minimal manual intervention and configuration. OpenCart is an excellent choice for anyone looking to get started with selling online quickly and easily, with a wide array of extensions, both free and paid too, there is plenty of opportunity to customise your store cost effectively to suit your business needs. Their own website is clean, easy to navigate, clear and concise – plus easy to find support, tips or anything else you might be looking for. And as such, you can find similar practice deployed into their ecommerce software.

5) PrestaShop. It is the most reliable, flexible Open-source e-commerce software and one of the most favoured solutions for businesses when diving into the etail world. It’s highly recommended by the users. Using this CMS you can even manage and edit your products and images with the WYSIWYG editing tool and also customise your online store and send and receive payments to your PayPal or bank account. Still the core Prestashop lacks many of the basic fundamentals of ecommerce, it also provides the core install with a ridiculous amount of modules already plugged into the system (whether you want them or not), some of which have been half integrated into the core rather than relying of the 3rd party developers module CSS or JavaScript. There are also countless bugs and issues with the core.

6) osCommerce – a solution for creating an online store. It is free under the GNU General Public License . The product includes a lot of opportunities “in the box” (has the most available number of contributions and modifications, recent security update brings osCommerce up to date with MySQL 5 and PHP 5), allowing the owners of online stores to install, configure and maintain the service with a minimum of effort for free and without restrictions. Still it can take a lot of time and money to install all the contributions the customer wants (add-ons), and there is no graphic template system that means it is harder to modify the design.

7) Nopcommerce. Nopcommerce is a relatively new script online store and it is ASP.Net solution. I may tell you in confidence that one of our recent projects was connected with this CMS: we’ve transferred the e-shop to Nopcommerce CMS with the possibility for synchronization of data from the web service. During the project implementation we noticed such advantages of the system as ease of deployment, integration of live chat, text messages on sales and contacts. Still a couple of little disadvantages were taken into consideration too: Microsoft licensing is required, the platform has some bugs needed to be fixed and support is rather weak.

Hope it will be of interest and helpful to you, in case your experience shows another picture and you have anything to add, I will be happy to read your comments.

Elvira Golyak

Business Development Manager