Is Zen Cart something that I should use for my shopping cart?

Blog Article

 March 11th, 2019

There are hundreds of shopping cart programs available, but none come close to offering the level of options, features and support available with Zen Cart.  Even the commercial programs have a hard time competing.  Zen Cart is Free Open Source software.  It is licensed under GPL2, meaning you are free to modify the source code in whatever ways your application requires.

With many popular payment gateways built-in, you can start accepting payment immediately.  And if you need to integrate a custom module, there are hundreds of community-contributed payment modules to select from, or from which to build your own.  You may install the software on any hosting service you prefer.  Zen Cart will run on servers with relatively simple requirements of PHP, Apache, MySQL.

While setting up Zen Cart requires some technical knowledge, this shopping cart is designed to minimize the amount of time you spend on the front-end, both regarding creating your product pages and shopping cart, as well as management of your inventory.  Zen Cart’s advanced template system makes it easy for you to create very similar pages on the fly. 

Zen Cart does offer a product catalog feature.  This allows you to display your products, organize them, and offer links to products listed elsewhere.  The product catalog supports multiple languages and multiple categories, which is very convenient if you do business with customers in more than one country.

History

Zen Cart used to be a part of os Commerce.  The two companies split in 2003 when Zen Cart wanted to make some major architectural changes to the software.  Most of the development is now done by volunteers who are dedicated to maintaining the project. 

Installation

Your trusted hosting provider should have the ability to provide a “1-click install” feature that simply requires you to set up a database and then perform the install.  Zen Cart will then install automatically for you and you can begin to go to work.  Don’t forget you will also need to secure your site with an SSL certificate.

Features

You have the ability to to fully customize your shopping cart.  Because Zen Cart is open source, you can customize it however you want to.  Customization can occur on the back-end (modifying source code), or the front-end, adding plugins and add-ons.

Zen Cart comes with built-in support for integrating many payment processors.  If the payment processor you are using is not supported, you can add a custom module to resolve this issue.  With the large development community, a custom module may already exist so that you do not have to code one yourself.

Tools

Zen Cart has the following tools to make your shopping cart more useful:

sales tax and shipping cost calculator support for emails (html & plain text)
image optimization Gzip compression
Customer Authorization checkout multi-language support
Multi-currency support Easy price change for sales and events
Meta tags for SEO WYSWYG editor for non-database pages

Plugins and Add-ons

Zen Cart maintains an extensive list of plug-ins and add-ons. There are packages that add features to your base installation as well as packages designed to change only the aesthetics of your site, add any necessary verbiage (i.e. terms of service), and provide customized information to your visitors in the side boxes.

Templates

One of Zen Cart’s main selling point is its template system.  The system allows you to design multiple appearances for your store.  It also makes upgrading easy and prevents accidental erasing of any custom features you have already implemented during the upgrade process.

Security

There are a few security tips that Zen Cart has listed on this page (https://www.zen-cart.com/content.php?37-security-matters).  Like any shopping cart, you should always ensure that you have the latest version of Zen Cart to avoid any issues.  And as previously stated, do not forget to secure your website with an SSL certificate.

Conclusion

Zen Cart is an open source shopping cart that is absolutely free.  You do not have to pay for any updates released by developers.  There may be fees for any add-ons or plugins developed by third party sources.  If your trusted hosting provider provides a “1 click install” for Zen Cart, then installation should be relatively smooth.  Zen Cart if a very powerful shopping cart that can turn your website or blog into an ecommerce site.  If you put the time in to learn it, set it up and configure it, you will have the power of your full-featured shopping cart in your hands.