With online sales becoming increasingly prevalent, there is a virtual sea of shopping cart options for merchants to research and test drive before launching their online store. It can be hard to know where to begin the hunt for a solution that best fits the scope and personality of your business. Cloud based, licensed, and free-to-download carts possess their own particular strengths and weaknesses, and the same can be said for OpenCart.
Based in Hong Kong, the PCI-compliant software was developed by Daniel Kerr. Examples of stores supported by OpenCart include the British Red Cross and Cellside. You can check out more live stores here. The downloadable software is built to be installed, then hosted online with a lean, basic feature set than enables quick load times.
OpenCart integrates with several payment gateways and shippers, and while users can access a huge number of third-party add-ons and themes to help customize stores, the modules supported by the cart have earned mixed reviews.
So far, users of this cart are highly polarized. To see how the OpenCart coin lands for you, read our full review.
OpenCart is free to use. However, in order to enable enough functionality to be a useful shopping cart, you’ll likely want to download and install any number of extensions and modules, which may come with their own price. Many of these are free, or they can be Purchased with a one-time Fee.
OpenCart has provided a free test environment, available from their homepage. These demos include sample data for a storefront, and for the admin backend.
Web-hosted or Licensed:
OpenCart is downloadable, open source software.
Hardware and Software Requirements:
As an open-source Shopping Cart, the only requirements are those which relate to your server settings. The brief list that OpenCart requires can be found at their Downloads Section, near the bottom of the page.
Specific Size of Business :
Currently, OpenCart is aimed at new startups- particularly those with web development experience.
Ease of Use:
In contrast to cloud-based carts like BigCommerce, OpenCart is open source software that is downloaded and hosted on a server of your choice. Unless you’re a web developer, you may have trouble getting started with OpenCart. I’d recommend partnering with a developer to launch your store. Once it is installed and ready to go, however, nearly anyone should be able to navigate daily tasks with relative ease. The admin is visually pleasing, and fairly solid; so, if there’s something you don’t quite know how to do, you shouldn’t worry about “breaking” anything as you poke around for the answer.
To get you going on the learning curve, there are video tutorials available from the OpenCart website.
Documentation is also provided for free by a third party, But it seems that there haven’t been any updates in two years, which puts it behind the major 2.0 update from OpenCart. That PDF can be found here.
This is a condensed list of their features:
Open Source - Any developer can access the OpenCart code to write their own tools, which leads to tens of thousands of add-ons provided by the community.
Unlimited categories, products, and manufacturers - No tiered Subscription levels limiting your growth.
Easily templatable - From themes to automated actions, it is easy to make OpenCart your own.
Multiple languages and currencies - International selling, right out of the box.
Product ratings and reviews - Give your customers a voice, providing valuable feedback for you and your potential customers.
Supports digital product downloads - perfect for musicians and digital artists of all kinds.
Digital coupon system - Easily create a customer loyalty program.
Shipping weight calculator - Accurately display shipping fees for larger orders.
The full rundown of features can be found on their site, here.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
Their list of extensions is, well, extensive. But that is to be somewhat expected for an open-source cart. Any open source eCommerce software is a playground for every developer looking to break in to the industry.
As of the date of this article, there are 13,800 extensions available. These can be filtered by category, user rating, free/commercial, and by keyword. These extensions provide a wide spectrum of functionality on top of OpenCart’s own features. The list can be searched from their Extensions Directory.
OpenCart does well in this category. Their admin is well designed and easy to navigate, and the vast number of themes available make your front-end brilliantly customizable. There are many, many options for themes that can be accessed from their Extensions Directory, and other websites also provide a vast array of options.
Transactions are handled by your choice of one of the 990 supported payment gateways, available for download from their Extensions Directory.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
Like a lot of open source shopping carts, OpenCart’s Customer a Service resources are a bit sparse. No surprise, they ask that you search their forums for an answer to your question before contacting customer support (which is likely to be the founder himself, as there is no real Customer Support Department to speak of.) be advised that many users have reported, shall we diplomatically say, “highly unsatisfactory” experiences interacting with OpenCart founder Daniel Kerr. To be fair, he’s not in Sales or Tech Support. He’s a programmer, and his software is a community-sustained venture rather than a corporately backed product.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
From unfortunate interactions with OpenCart’s founder to trouble installing plug-ins, users have plenty to complain about with the cart’s software and service. After spending hours testing and researching OpenCart I’ve found the following frequent complaints:
Requires Plug-Ins – While some users like that the software is lean out of the box, several complained about the need for third-party plug-ins to fill out stores.
Technical Knowledge Required – You’ll want to have some coding experience to really dig in and customize your store.
Lacking Support – Users reported thin documentation and rude support staff. Support for extensions can also be difficult.
Other negatives reported by OpenCart customers include:
Hard to implement upgrades.
Sporadic security issues.
Difficult to install some themes.
Some reports of messy code.
Merchants are required to find website hosting.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
While it’s easy to find complaints about OpenCart, I also culled a good amount of positive merchant interactions with the cart as well. I wasn’t able to locate testimonials via the OpenCart website, but I did read an assortment of comments from merchants who are happy with the software, with several attesting to its elegant admin. OpenCart strong points as reported by users include:
Clean Admin – OpenCart is intuitively built and its backend is easy to navigate and manage.
Free – Merchants like that the cart is totally free to download. However, the cost of hosting, credit card processing, and fee-based plug-ins can add up.
Open Source – Some developers prefer working with community-driven, transparent open source programs like OpenCart.
Easy to Use – There are as many OpenCart users who attest to its accessibility as there are others who complain that the software is tough to set up and customize. It all comes down to your background and skill set.
Fast – The lean cart loads quickly.
Less frequently, users commented on the following positive site attributes:
Supports multiple stores from a single admin.
New versions continue to improve.
There are thousands of extra themes and extensions that can soup up your store.
Some themes and add-ons are free.
Above average SEO
Unfortunately, it is the nature of open-source software that their security is constantly at risk. When your source code is easily available to anyone, anywhere, malicious programmers have VIP access to find every vulnerability in the software.
On the other hand, there is a vast community of upstanding programmers who find the same vulnerabilities, and create advisories, patches, updates, and add-ons to resolve those issues.
While the probable level of risk for the majority of users is relatively low, certain high-profile or high-volume users may find themselves in the Malware spotlight.
If I was starting an online store I’d want to find a shopping cart that was reasonably priced, easy to use, well-designed, with lots of options, and with an accessible customer service team. OpenCart does most of these very well. But what it doesn’t do well may prove to be automatic deal-breakers for some users.
Topping the charts in my growing list of negatives: I don’t want to waste time slogging through third-party add-ons for things that should come standard, like 1-click checkout or a mobile/tablet optimization. I’d also like to be able to receive quality help when I need it, but OpenCart has earned a little infamy there.
With all the pros and cons on the scales, I think OpenCart comes out to be a little too much trouble than it’s worth. It has a place in the eCommerce world, but only for a very small percentage of users. I would only recommend them to a client under a very specific set of circumstances, and would direct most prospective users to other solutions like Shopify, Pinnacle, and LemonStand.