Like many industries, the world of E-commerce is constantly evolving. New technologies and software ships every day. This paradigm has enabled scrappy upstarts to get to market faster and at a fraction of the cost compared to just 5-6 years ago. As always, any means by which a business can lower costs will help build revenue. The concept of Open Source, though often anathema to those who prefer a more commercial approach to high-cost software, is the best friend of small business. Complex and advanced open source e-commerce solutions can be had for a fraction of what big business branded wares may cost.
Much of what is available off the shelf in the e-commerce web application space is cluttered and / or over priced. The benefits of open source are many, though there are definite drawbacks. Security. Support. The list goes on. Not all open source and e-commerce solutions are created equal. A group of open source e-commerce solutions, however, has emerged, packing all the punch of high-cost alternatives. With that said, here is our list of – Top Five Open Source E-commerce Solutions:
Launched in the spring of 2008 by Varien, the now-renamed Magento Inc. is the work of some of the most highly skilled programmers in the open source e-commerce community. It is, however, the sole property of Magento Inc. Magento is fast, sophisticated and sleek – but can have a steep learning curve for the uninitiated. The $12,000 price tag is a hefty deterrent for those
Drupal is an open source content management framework, written in PHP under the GNU public license. Drupal Commerce is considered an ideal framework for the burgeoning realm of social commerce. It is available free of charge. Drupal has become one of the big names in open source.
The venerable wizards of WordPress have created the perfect open source e-commerce bit of legerdemain that will help you sell anything almost magically. Far beyond some badly written 1999 shopping cart plugin, Woo is cutting edge and will ably handle just about anything you throw at it. It performs adeptly at the quality level we have come to expect from the WordPress brand. Woo is a worthy progeny.
Virtue Mart is an open source e-commerce component that works with the Joomla Content Management System. Joomla and Virtue Mart are written in PHP, an open source scripting langauge. This open source e-commerce component although robust, has become somewhat bloated over many years of iteration and additions. It’s safe to say that Virtuemart is fine for most smaller to mid sized online stores, but it may not be ideal for enterprise grade performance or security.
Open Cart does one thing better than most of the other open source e-commerce platforms available: Good SEO. Open Cart is packed with all the features you would expect from an e-commerce platform. Open Cart sports a very attractive interface that is fairly simple to use. Developing with open cart is pretty straight forward, but can be somewhat cumbersome depending on your background / experience.
The important thing to remember when choosing an e-commerce platform is that you choose a system that will be easy to maintain. Find something that you and / or your IT professionals feel most comfortable with. Choosing a system solely on the way it looks, or that it offers a particular plugin / component that works with your payment portal is not a good idea. Take your time and do some research on each of the above platforms and even the ones that were not mentioned.
The great thing about open source is that you can test drive any of them without a massive outlay of cash. As easy as open source e-commerce solutions are to set-up these days, a business owner doesn’t have to completely rip up and rework their site to fit a different approach, should they decide to switch solutions. Going open source allows you stay nimble if you need to change directions.
Whichever open source e-commerce platform you choose, you can rest assured each of them will be further tweaked and perfected many times over in the years to come. What you didn’t like in a particular plugin / component or platform today may no longer be a problem in the next version. Free software that evolves on it’s own is always cool in my book.