I recently was asked by a client to help fix some issues she was having with her osCommerce shopping cart. The first two shopping carts I did were osCommerce and ZenCart (an osCommerce derivative), and although I now work exclusively with ECommerce Templates, I agreed to help try and fix her store. She had already been through 5 other website designers! Since I enjoy being a hero, I agreed to help. But it wasn’t easy, and I wanted to document what I discovered so that other people who are shopping for an online store and thinking about osCommerce vs ECommerce Templates would learn from my experience.
Here are the major areas of difference between osCommerce and ECommerce Templates online stores / shopping cart application:
File Size and Structure: ECommerce Templates files are all so nice and neat, uniquely and logically named. Most installations of ECommerce Templates are around 150 files. By stark contrast, the standard installation of osCommerce is a whopping 714 files…and many have the same names! Talk about confusing. Think of it, osCommerce has nearly 5 times the files of ECommerce Templates. Remember that saying about being designed by committee?
Ease of Integration: ECommerce Templates was designed to be modular, meaning that the shopping cart engine can be installed on any pre-existing website design. You can have any kind of website you want…ECommerce Templates simply lives inside your existing website code. With osCommerce, the store IS the website. After spending several thousand dollars, her website looked like every other osCommerce site: a product catalog – these were my client’s exact words. osCommerce drives the look of the website, while ECommerce Templates lives under the hood, and lets me create exactly the look and feel that my ecommerce clients want. Complete freedom!
Price: osCommerce is free, while ECommerce Templates costs around $150. Online store web development is expensive, and while free is wonderful, paying $150 for a complete online store application that comes with 6 months of free support, is better.
Documentation: If you need help with ECommerce Templates, you have several options. You can look up your issue in the ECommerce Templates manual, which is in a .pdf format. This is wonderful, because you can use keyword searches and find what you need quickly. osCommerce has no manual, all they have is an online place, where there is no search functionality. You have to guess at the right category and look for your issue.
Forum: Both ECommerce Templates and osCommerce have online forums where you can go for help. The difference is that only paying customers can log issues in the ECommerce Templates forum, and the people who answer your questions are paid by ECommerce Templates. This means you will get a prompt answer and it will be answered by a professional. By contrast, the osCommerce forum is run by volunteers. You might, or might not get an answer, and there’s no guarantee the person answering your question will know any more than you will. Or worse, you could be bad advice, which sends you on a wild goose chase.
Finding Professional Help: My client told me I was the 6th person that had worked on her osCommerce store. Sixth! All the others had tried for a bit then quietly disappeared. ECommerce Templates has a list of recommended website developers who work with ECommerce Templates – not as a hobby, but as their profession, and client reviews are available on ECommerce Templates. Apparently trying to find a reliable person to work on an existing osCommerce store is really difficult – but this may again be due to the fact that osCommerce is a volunteer project – and there’s no list of “certified” developers – and no way to hold those people who do work on osCommerce accountable.
Mods / Contributions: Both osCommerce and ECommerce Templates have “after market” add on modules that enhance the functionality of the shopping carts. ECommerce Templates has a list of mod developers on their website, and these are generally professional website designers/coders. ECommerce Templates has a system where by you can read reviews of these mod developers, so you can see how good they are before you purchase a mod or hire them. By contrast, mod or contribution developers for osCommerce are again, volunteers or people who make these for donations. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not comfortable installing a module that will handle my customer’s credit card info that’s written by a student living in Taiwan. I’m not kidding, this was my experience.
Summary: If you’re going to spend $1000 or more for an online store, don’t let the fact that osCommerce is free sway you. Select an online shopping cart application that is well designed and well supported – because if it saves your website designer time, it will end up saving you money. For me and my clients, ECommerce Templates is the clear winner over osCommerce for ease of configuration, professional and fast technical support, compact and modular clean code, and professionally created and maintained modifications.
Aldebaran Web Design, Seattle
Jill Olkoski has a BS in Engineering, a BS in Computer Science and an MA in Clinical Psychology. She delights in using her advanced technical and psychological skills to help small business owners develop cost-effective and successful websites.