What shopping cart software should I set up?
March 30, 2008 8:04 PM   Subscribe

Best starting point for e-commerce / shopping cart software? I'm a competent Perl programmer with background in several other languages, who wants to create a decidedly minimalist-looking web site shopping cart for a client. I expect to hack Perl or PHP code, but would like to hack things that are designed to be hacked. Anyone tried CRE Loaded? Other recommendations? Other places to ask?

The old system, heavily modified from an open-source Perl code base, probably should go; I'm pretty confident I can figure out PHP enough to customize something that isn't actively getting in my way (have modified WordPress successfully) -- but what code to start from?

I'm willing to pay a little. I want to install it on my own server space. I'm very picky about design and usability, so I'll want to change the front end of anything (that I've seen available) substantially. And oh, I'll probably want the back end to integrate with our existing payment handling system (Mal's, in case anyone knows/cares), but I can write that code myself if needed.

Specific changes I'd want:
- ability for people to purchase without having to "create an account";
- will keep track of shopping cart contents even if cookies not enabled (i.e., can keep cart ID in URLs if no cookies available)
- URL's that are sensible words instead of automatically-assigned numbers (maybe called "search engine friendly"?)
- ability to completely customize the layout of the home page and other pages, including product listings - this includes HTML, not just changes to CSS.

I've read some similar questions in AskMe, and this one is almost exactly me, though it's from 2006. I'm interested in CubeCart and SquirrelCart, which it recommends, but one option that I'd particularly looked at some years ago is a version of OSCommerce called CRE Loaded -- anyone know that one?

If there's a good resource out there in the world, book or web site, that will give a good survey of available software with my particular concerns in mind, or if there's a better forum you know of for this kind of question, I'd love to hear about it.
posted by amtho to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I've had very good luck with OSC. it's about the best out there for the price :)
posted by spish at 8:39 PM on March 30, 2008

Response by poster: One final plea: If my question seems too complicated, or limiting, or vague, please let me know. I'm actually pretty flexible here.
posted by amtho at 8:51 PM on March 30, 2008

This is not something you should be trying to do for yourself, especially at your self-confessed level. The risk/reward ratio isn't in your favor. You screw up, you or your customers could be taken for thousands of dollars, and you could be on the receiving end of a big lawsuit.

This is much better taken care of by using a service such as Yahoo ecommerce.
posted by Class Goat at 9:18 PM on March 30, 2008

Best answer: As someone who's tried to wrangle OSC/ZenCart to my design will, I've now sworn onto using Drupal not only as my CMS of choice, but e-commerce platform of choice. You get the power and flexibility of a CMS behind you, with a couple of options for e-commerce packages on top of (and totally integrated with) it.

The two packages you want to check out are the Ecommerce module and Ubercart. I've worked with both and tend to prefer Ubercart on the usability and elegance (as well as support) side, but if you want something you can really hack at, Ecommerce might be more flexible. I know for sure that you can accomplish all but your second request with these packages.

Here are some recent Ubercart sites
posted by stephthegeek at 11:41 PM on March 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

"I'm very picky about design and usability"

Me too, and I couldn't find anything that met my requirements. Seriously, anything with a decent feature set seems to be ugly, badly-coded crap that's awkward to restyle properly, to the extent that I was close to coding from scratch.

If you were OK with a hosted service I'd suggest Shopify, but for hosting it yourself the best option I found was Zen Cart (ugly, badly-coded crap) combined with ZenMagick, an add-on that basically provides an alternative theming system and API that's a bit more sane than editing hundreds of scattered files containing bad PHP. I've got one ZenMagick-based site live already and another larger one launching today; it's far from perfect, but the author is helpful and it was the best option I could find.
posted by malevolent at 12:36 AM on March 31, 2008

Best answer: Check out Magento e-commerce, an open-source project that is going to version 1 roughly.. todayish (their site is currently down, i assume they're just launching). I've downloaded one of their earlier builds and was impressed by the UI (i'm also very picky) and the feature list is pretty impressive. The only problem i had with the beta was that there was little to no documentation about theming and i didn't have time to fool with it, so i went to Shopify. Unfortunately Shopify had just mandated a monthly subscription + commission instead of a flat per-transaction charge, so i'll be switching back to Magento sharpish.
posted by ukdanae at 5:02 AM on March 31, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses so far. Not that encouraging... I guess I could just stay with my current code base if it's still that bad out there... I know where all the parts are, and it's already working.

Still interested in other options. I hope others will find this thread useful, too. I'm particularly interested in whether there's a better resource out there for finding this kind of information.

My dear Class Goat, what do you mean, "at your self-confessed level"? I've set up e-commerce sites before -- although it's been a while -- and I have a degree in computer science, plus experience in R&D with/for major corps and startups. I'm self-trained in *graphic* design, but my CS degree work included usability work. And I'm not planning to store or process credit card information on my own server. I know about Yahoo stores / e-commerce (originally written in Lisp, I believe). Sorry, don't mean to be going all off track here, but I think you're jumping to conclusions because I said I wasn't proficient in PHP -- there are plenty of other (sometimes better) programming languages out there, sonny (or daughtery) :) Don't even get me started on PHP vs. other languages... sorry, no offense, I'm glad there's an accessible way for folks to get their form mailers set up, but lack of formal PHP training is really not a debilitating condition. I think. Is it somehow more difficult than it has seemed so far?
posted by amtho at 5:09 AM on March 31, 2008

Response by poster: I think that last comment sounded more offended than I meant it to... apologies. I guess I can be a little sensitive, too, but I was mainly surprised. No offense intended.
posted by amtho at 5:32 AM on March 31, 2008

I'm sure the codebase has evolved since I hacked on it last but OSC is some pretty ... opinionated code. I wouldn't recommend it.

My co-workers have good opinions of Magento, I'd definitely give that a look.
posted by Skorgu at 5:40 AM on March 31, 2008

Best answer: I tend to use the PHP cart from ecommercetemplates.com

The last time I looked, the front end was still Table Hell, but I've always, always just re-templated the six or eight pages needed on the front end and pasted the functions back in.

Its very well documented and supported and the back end and admin is absolutely delicious. From a user perspective, there is no registration required to check out.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:43 AM on March 31, 2008

Response by poster: I've marked best answers for the most promising leads -- ones I'd never heard of -- although I've not examined nor tried them yet.
posted by amtho at 5:55 PM on March 31, 2008

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