Monday, 15 June 2015

Free Fast and Pretty: which shopping cart?

Related:
Choosing a UK business bank account
http://veg-buildlog.blogspot.com/2015/07/setting-up-shop-with-uk-business-bank.html
Free, Fast and Pretty: shopping cart software for ecommerce < this page
http://veg-buildlog.blogspot.com/2015/06/shopping-cart-software-for-ecommerce.html
Simple Bookkeeping and Account Agregators
http://veg-buildlog.blogspot.com/2015/12/simple-book-keeping-and-account.html
Free Online Bookkeeping Software for Simple Accounts
http://veg-buildlog.blogspot.com/2016/08/free-online-book-keeping-software-for.html

Free Fast and Pretty - which shopping cart?

This is a note of all the shopping carts that are free & pretty, to install automatically on a site.
My fast site is on lchost and test ones are on hostinger.co.uk or x10hosing.co.uk who allow 2 database sites per account. You can see what I want to change away-from at my shoe shop here.
Promising shopping cart software is red. I have 2 F-words & 4 P-words for whittling-down choice.
Free, Fast & Pretty; Postage, Payment, & Product management are essential too.
Product management sub-divides into another five points to whittle-down the shortlist.

http://www.shopping-cart-migration.com/images/articles/ecommerce-shopping-carts.jpg puts shopping cats into categories, with this category at the top - known for being free, but without hosting or customer support and known for being harder to set-up than a hosted shopping cart.

Free

The cost is hidden in the price of modules. Open-source ought to be cheaper I guess, as well as being a prettier idea to deal with than something corporate.

Fast

Not that I know of any measurements, but Magento gets bad reviews for this.

Pretty

Not that I know of any measurements, but the ones with "specials" on the front page of the demonstration are always ugly for some reason.

Postage = shipping

I want to sell in as many countries of the world as possible with cheap and greenish postage. I don't want software from a developer who says "use the Fedex module, UPS, or role your own with this bit of rubbish I provide. Or search the forum in case another shopkeeper sorted this problem ten years ago for a previous version".

The developers who say this are so over-paid that they don't even use the post office to buy mail-order T shirts in their native USA. Post offices are usually cheaper and greener because they have a delivery round to most letterboxes on a street rather than one in my street and another a few streets or miles away. Post offices are usually public sector and not geared to writing free plugins for Posh-o-cart. So anyone paid under a zillion pounds a year ought to know that plugins for different post offices, or to help shopkeepers write their own plugins for post offices, are essential for promoting shopping cart software.

Royal Mail has 4 postal zones of UK, Europe, Airmail, and Oceana with various different services that change in price. My next post is a guide to Royal Mail's main services for individuals & small-scale e-commrece trading. I want to offer a simplified version that has a basic price per weight or price per weight to each of these zones, or at least to three out of the four. 2nd class to the UK. Probably standard rate to the rest of the world. This should not be much to ask but most shopping cart software fails the test - including all or most of the Wordpress plugins and including the one written in the UK I think. Here is something about Drupal shipping modules and here is something else and another thing. The developers get carried-away thinking about US taxes while ignoring worldwide postage.

Payment.

I want to use paypal for testing and then my merchant service provider - Elavon - for most real orders. If I get enough real orders I hope to shop-around merchcant service providers, but you can't haggle if you don't have the turnover, can you? No. We agree. And I do not want to pay a hundred pounds for the privilage of using the merchant service provider I am already signed-up to. Luckily this is getting a lot easier than it was a few years ago and some shopping carts do fit free Elavon modules.

Products.

If the top few points are OK then I'll play with the site and see if it can tell me things I want to know about stock, like
whether an advert helped a product sell. Remote-hosted checkout forms are bad for this - they confuse the tracking code.
whether a product has run-out.
If my software refuses to sell a sold-out product, then maybe it can automatically charge a customer at each purchase and save me a job.
when to re-order. This can only be a prompt, but still a useful one and I'm not sure how subtle the different stock control systems are or how to use them. Maybe they're add-ons. One version of Prestashop can even remember where a product is usually found in the warehouse and write that on a picking sheet. I don't know if that's the free version.
I'll have to learn the system for attributes = sizes as well. Some programs track a shoe as something that can be adapted to different sizes, as though these were like different sorts of laces. Others track a shoe as a range of several different products, one for each size, but sharing a supplier. I'll learn as I go. Presumably most software offers both options as a shoe in one size definately can't be re-sized to another, even with a broom handle and lots of leverage.
I want to search for products in several ways - whether my shoes are made in a democratic welfare state for example, or how well that country scores on a democracy index. Some shopping carts just have a tag for brand which they mis-label "manufacturer".

Afterthoughts:
  I want any blogs and other bits to be part of the same web site if possible, as Drupal allows and possibly carts that can be slotted-in to other sites. Perhaps Cubecart.
I want to have a wholesale shop and maybe some others using the same software and looking different to the end-customer, while a supplier might want to share my shop so it looks the same to the end-customer but stuff is sent from another place. So carts with the word "multi" in them would be good.


Avactis.com/pricing/

Not quite open source?
Paid-for version has a bundle of modules including language translation and a "custom" mobile version.

Abantecart

http://www.abantecart.com/shopping-cart-demo
promising
http://www.abantecart.com/ecommerce-documentation/admin-user-manual/specific-manuals/stock-processing-configurations suggests it can track stock of each variation of a product. My problem is uptdating it. Two trial installations have both got stuck updataing from version X to version X+1.

Allegrocart

Alegrocart.com/demo
Ugly. The developer is also a car and car parts dealer in Canada, so the program should be well set-up for that trade.

Agoracart

Agoracart.com/demos.htm
Unusual in being based on perl rather than php. Long established. Available through one of my web host accounts on a special menu for Perl scripts, but not on the other. Ugly.. Is it fast? I have not tested the thing or installed.

Axis

Part of a hugely corporate suite of programs sold from Amercia. This software is presented as open source. It installs OK from a script installer but I haven't found the admin logon to test it at all. I haven't found a demo site.

CS cart

Cs-cart.com/demo-item.html
Fast and pretty with smooth back-end data for shopkeepers, it says of itself.
One installer doesn't include it.
One installer includes it, but when I try to install I get "licencing mode"; the program doesn't seem to be open source and has a free version or a $385 version.

Cubecart

Cubecart.com/demo
Promising. More to follow. The developer pays UK tax that benefits me, and has no private equity funding, so he probably knows what a post office is. (Amazon and Starbucks are loosing customers in the UK for their failure to pay tax, which is great. Sod them) Getting back to shopping carts, Canadapost and United States Postal Service have free modules. Royal Mail has to be dealt with through the all-in-one module which I have used to set-up zones.
vimeo.com/cubecart instructions in 5 short videos.
Nifty but murky system for stock control of products which are sizes or other attrubutes of a type of product. A forum post suggests that the minimum and maximum stock levels show on the front of the site.
I haven't yet found-out how to get a table display of stock of each size of each product. As with most ecommerce systems, the forum has a small membership but can provide good answers.

As I write the new open source version of this product has just been updated to include cache modules for speed of download and so higher search engine rankings and easier buying for visitors. So this is an up-and-coming version of a long established product.

Drupal Commerce

http://demo.commerceguys.com/
You can now install Drupal from something like Installatron and the instructions for adding shopping cart modules are getting better. I tried Ubercart in about 2012.. It needed a shipping module. At that point the developers left, so there is still no shipping module. The developers wrote Drupal Commerce, which has neither a good Royal Mail shipping module nor a  way of connecting products on the admin database to products on the front-end. You have to enter them twice or install some kind of module for doing it. I tried it in 2013-14. The customers are exepected to be developers and the support takes the form of videos by people who don't say how they have set-up their demonstration before the video started, so you can follow it to the letter and find that your lack of something-or-other stops it working for you. You can see transcripts of the videos and links to them as earlier posts on this blog. Commerce Guys, developers, have received $7.3bn of private equity finance so they haven't heard of the post office except as a potential client - they haven't heard of it as a place where you post parcels. A pity because at first glance they look good people to write free software. It's just the way they're set-up that doesn't suit open source shopping carts for small business, and not enough people have found a way to jump-in and fill the gap of writing software cheaply or for free to help small shopkeepers on Drupal. My next post http://veg-buildlog.blogspot.com/2015/06/a-tourist-guide-to-royal-mail-and-small.html might encourage.

Magento

Magento.com/explore/demo
Slow. Reviews state that the extra features are at the expense of a multi-layered slow database structure.
http://veg-buildlog.blogspot.com/2012/01/building-awesome-e-commerce-site-in-25.html for example
A review says that https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smarty smarty templates are hard to learn-about too.

For all the money spent on this huge bundle of code, I don't see any great ease of use over other similar programs. I tried to train my Magento to recognise shoe sizes in my particular way. I even got hold of a textbook to train me in how to train Magento. On page 72 if gets difficult. I could probably have cracked it in the end and learned how to add my particular attributes to products, but I got bored of page 72 and then read reviews about bloat and slow loading.

Mals-e.com/featuresChart.php

Much liked by enthusiasts including me for ten years or so because it is free and stable, but it is also a shopping cart on a remote website that allows you to write order buttons that you can stick on your web site. In other words it is limited. I want to stop using Mal's because I want to link my orders to a stock control system. I also want a stock layout system that shows a shop window of my products with order buttons next to them, in some slick way that also works on mobiles an tablets and any other format that people invent over the years, and has some of the bells and whistles like better tracking of advert performance or slick one-page checkout on the same url. I don't want to loose the ability to rabbit-on like someone who always wanted to be a journalist. This makes my site easier to index. So, ideally, I will be able to keep a lot of text on the new more formatted site.

If there are ways of hosting one or two shopping carts with different urls but access to the same stock, that's unlikely to happen but worth thinking about. Mal's allows me to sell to a trade customer at 50% discount, and we would probably have met and found a way to work-around some of the limitations. It doesn't provide that trade buyer, or me, with a way of knowing what is in stock or anything like that, so it's better suited to goods I make than goods I buy in batches and sell-on.
Did you know that there is a $35 program for making shop sites with stock control out of an Excel spreadsheet? It can use Mal's for checkout. Xlecom.com. Another one called Rapidcart doesn't use Mals.

Opencart

demo.opencart.com
demo.opencart.com/admin/index.php
(type "demo" in both boxes to log in)
Promising at first. There is a Royal Mail module free. (post about Royal Mail here)
The installer provides an old version, but a new one can be unzipped on a hard disc, stripped of two files that have "config" in the names, and moved with a file transfer program to my server over the top of the old files.
Much praised by reviewers.
I've had a couple of bad days trying to make it accept stock, mock orders, categories, attributes, or shipping details - anything really. One online suggestion is that installing a module can trigger a loss of editing privilages which can be restored by ticking various boxes. I have done so. No joy.
Googling "Opencart Faults" I find a review on a site called techchattr.com that doesn't like the code. As I know nothing abut code, I rely on the review. Another on a site called websynn.com which likes the code but says it doesn't work for upgrades, which comes to the same thing. I think a free service needs to be solid because of course there's no technical support

Prestashop

http://demo.prestashop.com/en/?view=front
http://demo.prestashop.com/en/?view=back
Promising.
Reviews compare it to its rival for most-used shopping cart, Magento, calling it smaller and faster.
Works in different languages by default by the look of things.
The backend has various mottos for self-employed people and might have a lot of feedback about how products are selling and why; it's well integrated with a tracking system. I haven't tested this carefully but that's my impression. The front end is good looking too.
Easy to test on the yourname.pswebshop.com site, but you have to use their expensive Hipay payment system if you do that or pay over £100 to switch to Paypal.
Compulsory add-ons are expensive - over £100 each - and one review says that Prestashop's source code is written in some complicated way, so that add-ons are hard to write and are likely to remain expensive.

Royal Mail postage modules have briefly been introduced and then withdrawn, quoting changes in RM's price data as a reason and with hopes to re-introduce. Another module provides access to label printing for RM account holders who send more than 10-12 parcels a day.

There's a thread about postage here:
https://www.prestashop.com/forums/topic/345084-module-royal-mail-display-real-time-uk-royal-mail-rates-incl-a-product-page-shipping-preview/ without resolution, but I discover a £30 module that allows some kind of table quote by price or weight, so if you have the patience to work through thirty-something European countries and sixty-something zone II countries you can write your own postal rules.

Spree Commerce

https://spreecommerce.com/account
Not on the installer systems for either of my web hosts.
Uses software I'm even less used-to than PHP, called Ruby.
Mentioned here because used by Bonobo - site that sells $100 jeans in the USA - and their main man makes a lot of videos about the how and the why - https://www.google.com/search?q=%22Andy+Dunn%22+Bonobos&tbm=vid - so if you use Spree Commerce you are well-placed to follow his advice about how to get a picture of the product on the shopping cart to reassure the customer or whatever other idea he tells us and his video camera about. He's a bit like a private dentist. He talks in a very relaxed, re-assuring way, and ends by charging $100. I don't know how to install Spree Commerce or want to learn more about software than necessary so I haven't used it.

Tomatocart

Tomatocart.com/products/store-demo.html
Mentioned by reviewers and available on installatron.
Multi-zone table-rate shipping is a freebie with a thread of comments and requests on their forum.
With luck that can be adapted to Royal Mail.
Payment  is not available for free via paypal or elavon. The forum has lots of comments about far-eastern payment methods but not about European ones.

Ubercart - the Drupal Add-on

Ubercart.org/demo_livetest non-working demo
...can be installed fairly quickly by someone who is used to cutting-and-pasting the right module links into the module adding bit of a Drupal admin page. A year or so ago, the ubercart site was covered in spam and any attempts to get shipping zones easy to use for the UK looked unlikely. Now the Ubercart site is up to date and there is a Royal Mail zones module, so maybe something will come of this. My first attempt was bogged-down in attempts to classify the whole world into Royal Mail shipping zones, which are described by a different set of country names to the ISO list, on a web table that says "others" are in World Zone 1. There is now a module that claims to classify countries by Royal Mail rules. After installing it and thinking it did not work for a few weeks, I discovered that you have to tick the "User Interface" boxes to enable user interfaces of every likely module. Rules I think is the crucual one. Then a set of extra rules make themselves known when you start trying to define them for other shipping modules, starting with "country is in royal mail zone".

There is also now a global shipping module that allows you to put all the the world's countries into different empires and then set prices to post to each, which is a lot better than things were, but the older tablequote module has been abandoned. As I look at message boards online, I think I may not be the only one to have trouble getting Global Shipping Module to do what I want, but it's hard to pin-down why.

Wordpress

...add-ons were un-finished last time I tried them in about 2014. They were presented as free with the most basic functions like postage modules costing £50 extra, and then card processing £50 extra, and then something else again, with nothing at the end of it beyond what you can get for free on hosted shopping carts: the functions were basic. This is a quote from Jigoshop about their free postage options "allows you to set five levels of weight-based shipping fees for your products. Simply set the upper limit for each required level, with the fee for that weight range, and those fees will then be enabled. If you require more complexity or want to have shipping rates automatically updated in near real time from your shipping provider, please check out our other Jigoshop Shipping extensions." I liked the customers - Wordpress is aimed at part timers - but not the software. I tried the traditional product from Instinct Entertainment - a wonderful name, and a new one based in the UK then woocommrece which is a fork of it. I tried these things about 2014 when there seemed to be too many wordpress shopping carts trying to make a living for too many developers. Things may have moved-on since, and the Jigoshop web site's history page says that it's run by part-timers. In contrast my last cart provideer, Mals-e commerce, provides one living to a developer, no support, no office landlord, and a solid system that doesn't break down.

X-cart

http://www.x-cart.com/shopping-cart-demo.html
http://demostore.x-cart.com/admin/admin.php?target=login
I wasn't sure at first whether this was open source, and how easily if could be used with Drupal. Kiril Marinkov of their sales team helped by writing this.
X-Cart Classic(4.x) http://www.x-cart.com/pricing.html and our new
X-Cart 5 platform http://www.x-cart.com/software_pricing.html are and have always been fully open code. Yes, there are encrypted modules for X-Cart Classic(4.x) created by 3-rd party developers. However for X-Cart 5 we do not accept encrypted modules of any kind to the marketplace.

The core of all X-Cart 5 packages is exactly the same. Higher packages just add extra modules and thus extra features. You can use the Free package for as long as you wish, as it does not have any limitations in terms of the number products, customers or anything else. And you can, of course, add features via stand-alone free and commercial modules http://www.x-cart.com/extensions/addons or create your own: http://kb.x-cart.com/display/XDD/Developer+docs

And speaking about integration with Drupal, we do have the module that lets you insert X-Cart elements straight into Drupal http://www.x-cart.com/extensions/addons/drupal-connector.html That said, with the latest update the module has been deprecated. However if you wish, I suppose we would be able to provide you with the code base to create your own integration.

If you come up with any additional questions I'll be glad to answer them.
I find that X-cart doesn't install automatically on my fast server or my free server. There is a new one click install for my hard disk, but it has crashed two or three times trying to install itself.
On the other hand, Drupal installs automatically and I've done similar installations to X-cart's before, with far worse instructions, so this is worth a try.

Zencart

https://www.softaculous.com/demos/Zen_Cart
I've not looked at this. It's a descendant of OSCommerce  apparently.

My next post is a tourist guide to Royal Mail for e-commrece developers who don't live in the UK and don't know the basic services

Veganline.com for vegan boots made in the UK

Vegan shoes boots belts and jackets mainly made in the UK: not shoe shop shopping cart software, but the shoe shop of someone who wrote this blog because bad at choosing it

John Robertson sells vegan shoes boots belts and jackets online at Veganline.com. Feel free to share with the social sharing buttons below

3 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I think this article will fully complement you article. PLease continue publishing helpful topics like this. Regards, from Always Open Commerce

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  3. Hi,if you're interested in eCommerce,I'd highly recommend you an mobile app called AmazingCart.
    It supports WordPress (WooCommerce), Magento, Opencart and PrestaShop. You even don't have to be a programmer to use it. It can easily convert your online shop in native mobile application.
    http://amazingcart.us/

    ReplyDelete