E-commerce Shopping Cart Review - Comersus Cart Lite, osCommerce
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Next up, I looked at the Comersus Cart Lite, the free offering from Comersus. It is a shopping cart designed entirely in ASP, and frankly, I was impressed. It was very easy to install and very easy to set up and begin adding products, reviews and everything else that goes along with having an online store, and the default design and color scheme is, in all honesty, beautiful. When I first tried to download the cart, I was dismayed that I had to enter my name and email address and then wait for a download link. I hate doing this. But I was rather pleasantly surprised when, after receiving the download link, I received a second email from Comersus, giving me the name and email address of the staff member that was to be my point of contact for all questions and support. I thought this was an excellent personal addition to the support offered via the moderated forum.
Set up was a breeze; thereís a quick start guide written in HTML format that tells you how to get started, and the series of forms that needed filling out to install the cart and back-office management system were easy to complete and required barely any input from myself. It uses an MS Access database which it sets up on its own, so I didnít even have to create the backend database myself.
Adding products was equally easy, and the application installs not just the shop and the management suite but a membersí area, a contact page, a customer satisfaction area and even a WAP area! Additionally, there are many additional utilities that can be downloaded from Comersus and installed as bolt-on extras. Anyone using a Microsoft Web server should use this product, no questions asked. The professional version, priced at $370, offers far more compatibility, with the choice of several well known databases and support for many more online payment systems, among other things.
Finally, I looked at the mighty osCommerce. Again, this is a PHP driven shopping cart solution that is supported and provided for on a wide range by professional Web hosting companies. It is very similar in nature to Zen cart, both in the stores' layout, features and administration, and again, will need to have MySQL and PHP enabled on the server. As stated, it is very similar to Zen Cart; they could almost be the same product in fact, so to prevent duplication, I won't run through things that Iíve already mentioned above.
Like Zen Cart, osCommerce need not be added to an existing website; it can function as not only the shopping cart, but also the entire site that fronts your online store. Between the two, I would say that osCommerce is slightly more favorable in the fact that it is a little better supported, a little better documented, and is laid out ever so slightly better. The admin interface features not only a similar menu style access panel to Zen, but also provides some commonly used short cuts in a graphical format for ease of use. Again, this solution is totally free and heavily customizable, both via modifying the source code or downloading add on modules and templates.
There are other open source shopping carts out there for you to choose from, but many of them make use of other Web technologies such as CGI, Perl, Java or JSP, and these are often less supported, less documented and less used. Many Web hosting companies may not support their use, and a lot of manual configuration will probably be required if they do. This can result in a delay in getting your business online, and will impact development issues (creating test stores on your own web server for example).
Iím not saying that these shopping carts arenít as attractive for your prospective customers to look at and use, or that they perform any less well than those mentioned above; experienced Web programmers will have no difficulty in getting them up and running and may even prefer them. To reiterate then, anyone using a non-Microsoft platform for their hosting environment would be well advised to use osCommerce for its support, widespread use and extensible features. Anyone using a Microsoft hosting solution, that wants to get their business up and running in the shortest time possible, should without question go with Comersus.
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