Five of the most popular e-commerce solutions - reviewed! - Heart Internet Blog - Focusing on all aspects of the web

When it comes to starting your online shop, there are many things to take into consideration, and one of the most important parts is which platform you’ll use to power your e-commerce site.

There’s a plethora of e-commerce solutions available, and they make starting an online business easy and more affordable than ever. But with so many choices it’s also difficult to decide which one is right for you.

We’re reviewing five of the most popular e-commerce solutions that you can use to set up and manage your online shop. Any of these platforms will get you up and running within a few hours without costing you an arm and a leg, and they’re all available on our web hosting packages.

Magento

Screenshot of a Magento-powered shop with the Magento logo on top

There’s no doubt that Magento is a serious e-commerce platform for online shops. It’s loaded with scores of features and the specs needed to put up a powerful e-commerce website. With plenty of extensions and documentation, it’s extremely customisable through its admin interface, which is generally easy to use if you’re a web developer.

Magento has two versions – the open-source and free Community version, and the paid Enterprise version. The Enterprise version isn’t cheap, but it does come with improved functionality and better support.

Magento uses too many resources to be available on our standard shared web hosting platforms, but runs well on our Premium Hosting packages.

Pros

  • Extremely powerful
  • Offers a wide range of customisation
  • Hundreds of professional and high-quality templates and add-ons available
  • Integrates with a bunch of payment gateways, including Authorize.net, PayPal, and 2Checkout
  • No need to upgrade to a larger solution in the future, as Magento scales well

Cons

  • Difficult to customise if you’re not a web developer
  • Steep learning curve means it’s not a system for the enthusiastic amateur
  • Lack of support for the Community version

For some, Magento will be too complex to manage, and the additional functionality might confuse users. However, Magento is the undisputed leader in e-commerce platforms, and should be considered for large e-commerce stores.

osCommerce

Screenshot of osCommerce-powered shop with the osCommerce logo on top

osCommerce is also at the top of the most popular e-commerce solutions. It has a simple interface you can easily get acquainted with and also has over 7,000 free plug-ins available, which means you’ll rarely be without the functionality you need.

Unfortunately, the platform has been compromised by hackers several times in the last few years, which means that if you install osCommerce, you will need to make certain that you use the latest versions and make certain you have extra security in place, such as secure passwords, secure plug-ins, and regular checks.

While its design can seem basic, the lightweight code gives you fast response times and download speeds, making your shop load faster than others, and it supports various payment processors as well. Plus, osCommerce is one of our one-click installs in our eXtend Control Panel, letting you set up your shop even faster.

Pros

  • Free and open-source
  • Feature rich
  • Easy to install and use
  • Wide range of plug-ins and add-ons to improve functionality
  • Response time and download speed

Cons

  • Security issues
  • Not many templates
  • Free-based tech support
  • Overcomplicated code
  • Outdated design

While osCommerce has all the basic features you need for a store, the standard version can be a bit boring. The real power lies in the plug-ins, which makes your shop shine.

WooCommerce

Screenshot of a WooCommerce-powered shop with the WooCommerce logo on top

An open-source and free to download WordPress plug-in, WooCommerce fits perfectly within your WordPress installation, and is extremely easy to install once you have WordPress set up. It comes with a great set of tools and features to get your online shop up and running, plus hundreds of high-quality plug-ins to enhance it even further.

It has a solid SEO foundation, with SEO-friendly links and built-in meta tags, and provides your standard shopping cart components, such as inventory, coupons, shipping, and payment integrations. While it supports PayPal as a standard payment option, you will need to integrate it with other payment processors. Plus, if you want to use the really great plug-ins, you’ll need to spend more money.

Our web hosting packages support WordPress and with just a few clicks, you can have WooCommerce running right away.

Pros

  • Easy to set up and configure
  • Access to a wide collection of WordPress plug-ins
  • Provides an easy one-page checkout

Cons

  • Requires a WordPress installation
  • Needs to be integrated with a payment processor
  • Limited support

If you are used to working with WordPress installations and only need a small store, WooCommerce is a great way to quickly get a store running.

OpenCart

Screenshot of an OpenCart-powered shop with the OpenCart logo on top

Merchant-friendly and with all the features and tools you need to get your store up and running, OpenCart is a developer’s dream. You can customise most of it from within the admin interface, and also comes with great extensions for even more customisation.

Along with discount coupons, product ratings and reviews, and unlimited categories, OpenCart also allows your customers to check out without creating an account – great for those one-time impulse purchases that lead to a long-term relationship when they see how great your service and products are.

OpenCart is available in our one-click installs, but you will need to have coding skills to run it effectively. And if you have problems, it has a great community willing to help you, with a forum, user guides, and video tutorials.

Pros

  • Wide variety of add-ons, including Google Analytics, Facebook, and Twitter
  • Integration with most major payment processors, including PayPal and Authorize.net, as well as 700 more through extensions
  • Ability to edit the CSS through the admin interface for easier layout changes

Cons

  • Very few free themes available
  • Requires technical knowledge and coding experience
  • Lacks some important features which can be fixed with the right extensions

With a great community and the ability to customise, OpenCart is great for web developers who want to build a sturdy and reliable online shop.

Zen Cart

Screenshot of a Zen Cart-powered shop with the Zen Cart logo on top

Zen Cart is an open-source e-commerce solution that is maintained by developers and designers from all over the world. Despite being a fairly easy to use e-commerce platform, you will need some PHP and MySQL skills to maintain it properly.

The good news is that Zen Cart is highly customisable, which means that, with some knowledge of code, you can transform the front-end of your e-commerce store into anything you like. You can also sell downloadable products, such as e-books and software, and there are marketing tools in the admin interface, such as newsletters, banners, gift cards, and vouchers.

Pros

  • Detailed documentation and an active community
  • Almost 2,000 plug-ins available for extra customisation
  • Sell downloadable products

Cons

  • Requires PHP and MySQL skills
  • Lacks SEO features
  • Standard templates lack mobile friendliness

With a bit of skill, Zen Cart can give you a powerful and professional e-commerce shop easily. And being one of our one-click installs means that it’s easy to set up right away.

Now it’s your turn

As you can see, the competition is fierce when it comes to features and usability. Luckily, you can try them all and there’s always the possibility of upgrading.

Let us know which you prefer, or if there’s any other e-commerce solution you think should be included in this list.

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  • Stuart

    08/10/2015

    Surprised you have overlooked Prestashop

     
    • Kate Bolin

      08/10/2015

      We would have definitely included PrestaShop, since it is one of our most popular applications, but unfortunately, it was the Top 5, not the Top 6!

       
  • Tim Ratcliffe

    13/10/2015

    Hey guys, Like your article, and after researching this very same issue for months and months, I came up with Ecwid. It offers the ability to be embedded in Facebook and your own website or as many outlets as you have at anytime, is really quite simple, loads of support, and if you’re selling under ten products, is free. I use it on my site http://www.talbotandbourne.co.uk (which is also hosted by yourselves at Heart) to great effect. Thanks for the “Pros” and “Cons” here though..very useful.

     
    • Kate Bolin

      13/10/2015

      Thank you for liking the article, Tim! And we hope your site is doing well!

       
  • Karen Anfield

    11/11/2015

    You have overlooked a gem, completely open source nopCommerce, https://www.nopcommerce.com/

     
    • Kate Bolin

      11/11/2015

      We were focusing primarily on software that would run on LAMP servers, rather than one that requires Windows. But you’re right – that does look like a good choice for someone on a Windows server!

       
  • Nigel

    11/11/2015

    Shout out to Ubercart, which runs on Drupal. Been using it for getting on 5 years with no problems. It being on Drupal, you can customise it A LOT without having to be a developer. Very glad I didn’t go with Joomla/Virtuemart way back then.

    On the paid side, CS-Cart is pretty good. Not cheap, but good and I would guess the only one here that supports multiple vendors.

     

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