Technology

5 PHP eCommerce Platforms to Consider

April 21, 2016

PHP is one of the most popular web languages used on the Internet. Since it’s also one of the oldest web languages, it offers many easy ways to build an awesome eCommerce experience.  

While Fresh has experience with many eCommerce platforms, including those not written in PHP, these are the PHP eCommerce platforms we think our clients should pay attention to.

PHP eCommerce Platforms

WooCommerce

One of the most popular eCommerce platforms for PHP is WordPress’ plugin WooCommerce, now owned and supported by WordPress itself. WooCommerce comes with many plugins and themes (both free and paid) to customize the site or cart. If your site is built on WordPress and you need to integrate an eCommerce site into it, I would look no farther than WooCommerce. Beyond being free, three additional benefits of WooCommerce are that it’s easy to work with, it has lots of extensions, and like WordPress itself, it’s still highly customizable.

While I’ve pulled out WooCommerce as an example, there are many more fantastic standalone PHP eCommerce platforms.

Magento

Magento is a paid, out of the box solution (although they do have a limited featured free version called Community Edition) that’s been around since 2008 and has a consistent release cycle. Magento also supports themes and modules (some are free) so you can customize it however you want. Some of the module customizations include: having access to all shipping rates and shipping companies, in-store pickup, review plugins, and social media plugins. These are a small set of the many modules available. Magento has been growing fast as a platform of choice for many businesses that need a reliable customizable platform.  

Of all eCommerce platforms, Magento and WooCommerce are now the top 2 utilized worldwide for all websites and for the top 100K websites. The data shifts for the top 10%, but the majority of websites are using these 2 platforms for eCommerce worldwide. That’s also why we often work with these platforms.

Statistics for the Top 100K Website and eCommerce Platforms

Statistics for top 100K website and eCommerce platforms
Graph courtesy of Builtwith.com

Open Source PHP Platforms

Here are a few other open-source PHP platforms we’ve been keeping our eyes on:

OpenCart

OpenCart is a free, open-source platform that was originally written in Perl and then scrapped and rewritten in PHP. It’s an out of the box shopping cart based on the GNU open-source license. OpenCart is still in active development and also has over 12,000 themes and plugins (some are paid). Unlike most open-source projects for which there isn’t much support, with OpenCart you can actually opt for paid support.

PrestaShop

PrestaShop was created by a university student back in 2005. One of the main features of PrestaShop is its support of over 60 languages. Like many of the other shopping carts I’ve listed, it has lots of modules and layout templates for you to make your dream site. Most of their default templates are mobile responsive. Some of the modules and layout templates are paid. This is how PrestaShop creates revenue. Another benefit is that they have a thriving community to help you if you get stuck.  

ZenCart

ZenCart has been around since 2003. It was a fork from osCommerce and has been kept it up-to-date with CSS styling and major improvements to its core. It also has plugins and themes so you can layout and customize the site however you want. ZenCart also has an active community for people who need assistance.  

3 eComm Features to Look For

There’s a lot at stake when you choose a platform. The wrong shopping cart can up your bounce rate and decrease conversions. If the process is unreliable or the user experience is poor, you can lose your customers.

I have some suggestions on what to look for when selecting an eCommerce site so you and your customers get the right software.

  1. Active development

Security flaws tend to come up from time to time. You’ll want an active development team to keep pushing out fixes and updates.

  1.  Maturity

While this isn’t always true, the longer the project has matured, the fewer bugs and security problems it will have. You don’t really want to be a guinea pig, do you?  

  1. Accessible back-end

Your team will be the one updating the products your business depends on selling. Is it easy to do this? Can you quickly adjust prices for a sale? Easily upload new photos? Add pages? Expect that some training will be needed, but make sure the back-end is user-friendly.  

Lastly, use an existing digital commerce platform rather than trying to develop one on your own. An eCommerce platform has lots of moving parts and security concerns that an average application does not. Plus, great platforms often come with dozens – if not hundreds – of extensions. They also give you the ability to write your own. Unless your traffic volume is equivalent to Amazon’s or eBay’s, the platforms above will support your eCommerce needs.  

Some of our large clients, like Thriftbooks, decide to build a complete custom solution to meet their highly unique needs, but the time and money you’ll put into developing from scratch typically isn’t worth it. The amount of user testing and bug fixes alone will add to your project timeline and budget.

Don’t think you need to reinvent the shopping cart to get software that’s secure, customizable, and reliable. Picking the right platform is half the battle. Designing a great experience and building it right comes next. We can help with all of the above.

Ryan Knopp

Full-Stack Developer

Problem Solver, Gamer, Father, Thinker.

Unless otherwise specified, source code in this post is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC BY 4.0).

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