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7 of the Best Free Open source Ecommerce Platforms Scored

Published by on February 13, 2012

With an overwhelming array of ecommerce software available on the web, some self hosted, some open source and some light-years better than others, it can often be very confusing for anyone new to etail, to ensure they are selecting the most appropriate ecommerce platform for their business model.

Below, we score and review the ten best free open source ecommerce platforms available, each with their own rating and what makes them stand out from others.

We, have many years experience in ecommerce and have worked with hundreds of etailers, helping them to sell successfully online. During this time, we have worked with almost every ecommerce platform and our impression of how a platform functions and handles what is expected of it goes a long way towards our recommendations to clients of ours when they are deciding upon the right ecommerce solution.

Within each ecommerce platform, we have rated (out of 10) the extendibility, development and optimisation of each (maximum score 30) based on our professional opinion and experience. Find out the explanation of each, below.

  • Language – What language code the software is wrote in.
  • Dev Level – The ability level of web developers/designers working with and developing your ecommerce site.
  • Cost/Fees – Simply whether there is free/paid plans for use of the ecommerce provider.
  • Extendibility – Measures how extendable the core platform is via the use of available plugins/add-ons and extensions in their marketplace.
  • Development – Measures how well the platform is coded, both from a functionality, usability and security perspective.
  • Optimisation (SEO) – Measures the level of optimisation the platform has to offer, and whether the flexibility is there to maximise the site potential in the search engines.
  • Support – How easy it is to find support (either via official channels or otherwise) online. Via forums, blogs, tutorials or coming across many others who have experienced the same or similar issues.

Once you have read our reviews below you can also take a look at our guide on how to start an ecommerce business for more helpful information

Magento

  • Language: PHP / MySQL
  • Dev Level: Advanced
  • Cost/Fees: Both free and paid plans available.

Magento hasn’t been around (2008) for as long as some of the other open source ecommerce platforms readily available on the web but has quickly grown to become one of the most widely used solutions in ecommerce. With its feature-rich administration panel, huge flexibility over the design, layout, control and feel, and ever-increasing collection of its own or 3rd party extensions, Magento is a truly established leader in ecommerce software and powers some of the most innovative ecommerce stores online.

Selecting Magento has your ecommerce solution comes at a price though – not a literal price but in the sense that only the experienced of developers and someone familiar with the structure and functionality of the complex set-up will be able to deliver the most effective and rewarding of projects. There are a number of editions available from Magento depending on your required uses and scale of business, some of which cost. However, for most, the free downloadable ‘Community’ edition will be suitable. View/compare the range of Magento editions.

  • Extendibility: 10/10 (tons of free and paid extensions for pretty much anything you require)
  • Development: 10/10 (whilst a complex structure, it works and is coded well)
  • Optimisation (SEO): 9/10 (great level of optimisation available built into the core platform)
  • Support: 9/10 (loads of users, loads of tutorials and free help/advice can be found online via forums)

 Score: 38/40

Magento Ecommerce Shopping Cart Software

What is Magento ? A Comprehensive Overview

OpenCart

  • Language: PHP / MySQL
  • Dev Level: Basic
  • Cost/Fees: Free

OpenCart offers an ‘out of the box’ solution with install and setup with minimal manual intervention and configuration. Provided by default, is everything you would expect with core ecommerce functionality. OpenCart is an excellent choice for anyone looking to get started with selling online quickly and easily, with a wide array of extensions, both free and paid too, there is plenty of opportunity to customise your store cost effectively to suit your business needs.

Their own website is clean, easy to navigate, clear and concise – plus easy to find support, tips or anything else you might be looking for. And as such, you can find similar practice deployed into their ecommerce software.

  • Extendibility: 10/10 (lots of modules for most things you would want, free and paid modules available)
  • Development: 9/10 (clean, well coded and simple to work with)
  • Optimisation (SEO): 7/10 (caters for most of the basics although 3rd party modules could be required for complete customisation)
  • Support: 9/10 (can find a great deal of support online, mostly via their forums)

Score: 35/40

OpenCart Ecommerce Shopping Cart Software

Spree Commerce

  • Language: Ruby on Rails / MySQL
  • Dev Level: Advanced
  • Cost/Fees: Free

Spree Commerce is available on the Rails framework so ecommerce functionality can be plugged into an existing Rails app/site. Spree is open source and heavily extendable via an array of extensions.

Spree Commerce brings flexible e-commerce platform to small businesses

The design and development of Spree is exceptional, the level of quality is high right ‘out of the box’ ready for integration for an adequately equipped and ‘ready to perform’ ecommerce website from the off. Some of the extensions available are also much more varied than your typical ecommerce systems with some highly skilled developers producing some real neat enhancements to an already great platform. The fact that this runs on the Rails framework however, does deter many from using it and many lack the knowledge to work with Rails.

  • Extendibility: 9/10 (some really neat extensions available for Spree, many of which are of great quality work)
  • Development: 9/10 (lovely design and interfaces, modern, clean, structured and works well)
  • Optimisation (SEO): 8/10 (level of optimisation available seems pretty impressive)
  • Support: 7/10 (not a huge amount of resource online for assistance and could not locate a support forum, if you aren’t familiar with Rails, make sure you hire a developer that knows what he’s doing to save you a lot of frustration)

Score: 33/10

 

SpreeCommerce Ecommerce Shopping Cart Software

LiteCommerce

  • Language: PHP / MySQL
  • Dev Level: Advanced
  • Cost/Fees: Free

LiteCommerce provides a powerful ecommerce CMS with Drupal’s CMS integrated into it as well. It can work as either as a Drupal module or as a standalone site. This platform makes use of some really nice elements to improve user experience at customer level and managerial level.

An excellent range of features are provided with the default core, everything that you would expect to get up and running straight away. I really love the advanced level and understanding of optimisation that has been included with social signals and open graph metadata being controllable on a per product basis from the back end.

  • Extendibility: 7/10 (loads of Drupal modules already available if you’re making use of Drupal plus LiteCommerce integration otherwise there isn’t a great deal of add ons available, however all can easily be integrated from the back end of LiteCommerce)
  • Development: 9/10 (really nice store front and admin back office, code is easy to work with)
  • Optimisation (SEO): 10/10 (really up to date with what matters from an ecommerce SEO perspective, super job)
  • Support: 7/10 (not a huge amount of information online although do operate a very good ideas system, bug tracker and Quora group.

Score: 33/40

LiteCommerce Ecommerce Shopping Cart Software

X-Cart

  • Language: PHP / MySQL
  • Dev Level: Basic
  • Cost/Fees: Free & Paid

X-Cart has a range of paid options with different types of licenses; the core open source platform can be downloaded for free (either X-Cart Gold or X-Cart Pro) however. Whilst the interfaces seem quite dated, most ecommerce fundamentals are provided with the core install.

There are number of modules for extending the platform available, most are at a ridiculously high price so unless you are hiring designers/developers to implement a custom build for you, expect to shell out a fair few hundred dollars just for a few modules.

  • Extendibility: 4/10 (could not find any free modules, a number of high priced modules are available though)
  • Development: 8/10 (easy to work with and well structured coded platform)
  • Optimisation (SEO): 9/10 (advanced optimisation available throughout the store)
  • Support: 8/10 (loads of resources online for advice, support and tutorials with X-Cart, mostly via their support forums)

Score: 29/40

X Cart Ecommerce Shopping Cart Software

TomatoCart

  • Language: PHP / MySQL
  • Dev Level: Basic
  • Cost/Fees: Free

TomatoCart is becoming a much more popular open source platform for ecommerce, it originally branched from osCommerce 3.0 modernising and improving the interface immensely in the process. The design is clean, the development is easy to work and well structured.

It is unfortunate that currently, the Tomato Cart demo is not functional which would have allowed for a greater insight into the store front and administration panel. There is also some issues with their own website in the sense that we’re unable to browse the extensions on their website without being pestered for a server username and password every few seconds.

Despite the minimal ability to really review this ecommerce platform, I do still feel this is one of the growing and complete systems hence why it makes this blog post. Unfortunately, this does limit my scores below however.

  • Extendibility: 5/10 (not a great deal of extensions available but I believe most of them are free)
  • Development: 7/10 (clean design/development to work with as far as I can make out)
  • Optimisation (SEO): 7/10 (the basics are in place for optimisation – unable to vouch for any advanced level of customisation / optimisation)
  • Support: 6/10 (less support online for this platform, plenty of advice and assistance from within their forums however)

Score: 25/40

TomatoCart Ecommerce Shopping Cart Software

PrestaShop

  • Language: PHP / MySQL
  • Dev Level: Advanced
  • Cost/Fees: Free

Prestashop is also one of the most favoured solutions for businesses when diving into the etail world. It used to come highly recommended (along with Magento by ourselves also). Since our recent experience with the platform however, having recently just completed a client design project with the transition from Actinic over to Prestashop, it is not a platform we will be rushing to work with again anytime soon.

Prestashop 1.6 (Stable) Review

The core Prestashop lacks many of the basic fundamentals of ecommerce, it also provides the core install with a ridiculous amount of modules already plugged into the system (whether you want them or not), some of which have been half integrated into the core rather than relying of the 3rd party developers module CSS or JavaScript. There are also countless bugs and issues with the core, if you’re looking to implement a large scale design project for a client with this platform, expect to kiss goodbye to hours of your time resolving issues that you wouldn’t have expected to deal with nor factored in to your allocation of time for the project. What’s worse, is instead of Prestashop actually delivering basics that work into the default downloadable installation, such as the navigation menu (and the defaults provided, are awful), better versions of said elements are then provided in the form of paid modules (some of which are even sold by Prestashop admin). This then leads me on to state that there are very few free modules for Prestashop, many are paid modules, most of which are also poor development work/support for too.

  • Extendibility: 7/10 (although little worthwhile extendibility for free)
  • Development: 5/10 (major issues with core, lots of bugs, basic provision to work with, disappointing)
  • Optimisation (SEO): 6/10 (basic level of optimisation is covered – titles, metadata and SEF URL’s)
  • Support: 3/10 (easily lose hours/days searching for help, most of support/forum is French)

Score: 21/40

PrestaShop Ecommerce Shopping Cart Software

Other solutions worth considering as open source ecommerce providers

UberCart (for Drupal)

ZeusCart

VirtueMart (for Joomla)

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