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Is OSCommerce Really The Best Option?

A common question asked by merchants looking to enter the world of online transactions is what shopping cart should they use for their new store. A common answer to this common question is to use os Commerce. osCommerce describes themselves as:

osCommerce is an Open Source based online shop e-commerce solution that is available for free under the GNU General Public License. It features a rich set of out-of-the-box online shopping cart functionality that allows store owners to setup, run, and maintain their online stores with minimum effort and with no costs, fees, or limitations involved.

osCommerce’s popularity is undeniable. Their website lists over 9,000 live stores running their software. You can assume this only represents a fraction of the stores actually using their software.

But is osCommerce the best shopping cart available? It does have a lot to offer an online store including:

  • Robust functionality out -of-the-box
  • A powerful administrative control panel
  • Developers have contributed 3,500 add-ons that may be used free of charge
  • Built in support for major gateways
  • It’s free

Those points alone make it a solid choice for many merchants. But it does have strikes against it including:

  • It is extremely difficult to customize its appearance. It is not template driven and thus you must must edit individual pages (which contain code) to achieve a unique and custom look and feel.
  • It contains everything but the kitchen sink. Although many merchants will want some of the features that come standard in osCommerce, few will actually want all of them. For merchant who want only basic shopping cart functionality, osCommerce is overkill
  • Although thousands of add ons have been created for it, you still need to edit individual files to add new functionality to the shopping cart.
  • It requires PHP global variables to be turned on to work. Although this isn’t a security risk in and of itself, it does require the server it runs on to now have that feature turned on. This opens the potential for other scripts to have security issues thanks to osCommerce requiring this feature.
  • It is rarely updated. Development is slow and updates are far between and minor in scope.

Is osCommerce right for you? Good question. It does fill the need for many online merchants. But there are a lot of alternatives out there that are worth considering. Look around and see which shopping cart offers the features you need without the hassles or extra features you don’t need.

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2 Responses to “Is OSCommerce Really The Best Option?”

  1. Jon Lewis

    I’ve had a couple of osCommerce based sites. I for the most part, like osCommerce. I built a website for some computer illiterate friends of mine and they were able to use it with ease. As far as the design portion goes, you can buy osCommerce templates that look nice so you don’t have to dable in the code.

    I’m not a coder and I have added a few contributions on my own. I have had some frustrations with osCommerce. In order turn off the session IDs, you have to force cookies. That’s been one of my frustrations. You bring up some good points though. If I were to grade osCommerce with a 5 star system, I would have to give them maybe a 4 star rating.

    What other shopping carts have you used that you like?

  2. weasel

    Heh, I just wrote a similar article on my blog (it’s in romanian, so giving you the link wouldn’t make much difference), and I just noticed yours.

    I completely agree with you, but I am more subjective because I also created a shopping cart engine, and I tried to avoid all those stupid things in oscommerce, zencart, xtcommerce and other *commerce scripts. There are a lot of issues you have to deal with, and if you don’t know a little bit (more?) of PHP and how to navigate through the twisted file structure of those engines, it’s literally a nightmare to customize your store. I really couldn’t find an easy to use and easy to customize free solution; I don’t know much about the commercial ones though.

    So I guess a commercial solution is many times a better choice, but there are two things it should be: easy to use and easy to customize. Most of the times, you also receive faster updates, support, and many times they also help you when starting out. Furthermore, if you have a problem or something with a free cart, there isn’t much you can do except for write them about the problem and wait for the update/fix; when you pay for something, you can easily pick up the phone and give them a call, and you’ll find someone to answer to your problems/yelling :)

    At the end of the day, shops sell stuff. If you sell stuff you probably make money. If you make money, you should buy yourself a good e-commerce platform, so you can work more efficiently.

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