PrestaShop 1.6 is scheduled for official release on March 17, 2014. It adds several new features to the popular open source ecommerce platform, including easier access to key performance indicators in the redesigned dashboard and a responsive default template for the front-end.
PrestaShop provided me with access to the new 1.6 release. I offer my observations of it here.
Earlier in March, PrestaShop announced that it was receiving $9.3 million in Series B funding from XAnge Private Equity, Seventure Partners, and Serena Capital. The new funding should help PrestaShop, which had about $11.7 million in fiscal 2013 revenue, expand internationally as the company adds new development and management talent and continues to improve its platform.
Focus on Key Performance Indicators
Version 1.6 was first announced in late 2013. It includes an emphasis on providing merchants with good business intelligence, making KPIs like real time net profit margin available at a glance in the very modern and attractive backend dashboard.
Other easy-to-find KPIs include cart abandonment data, best selling products, stock levels.
The dashboard in version 1.6 also has an interesting forecasting panel that allows merchants to estimate future sales, cart values, conversion, and traffic. This panel is basically configurable, and, assuming it does accurately estimate trends, it could be useful to an online seller.
Product Data Readily Available
In the Catalog section of the administration panel, under the Monitoring tab, there is a section to identify categories without products or products missing attributes or without inventory. This little section could be a great resource for the folks responsible for maintaining the online catalog. And it is worth noting that there are plenty of ecommerce platforms that do not sum up this sort of information.
PrestaShop 1.6 is optimized for mobile both in the dashboard and in the default front-end template.
In the administration panel, the responsive design is generally good, making it possible for store owners, managers, and marketers to access store information and effectively run the business from just about any Internet-enabled device, including tablets and smartphones.
Mobile optimization on the PrestaShop 1.6 backend could be useful for a small ecommerce business, where the store is managed by a small group of people or even an individual. In such a case, being able to manage orders, check inventory levels, or even review KPIs from a smartphone at the airport or the grocery store is a huge advantage. Imagine, as an example, that a customer sent an email at 7:00 p.m. asking about an order or a return. A store manager using PrestaShop with a smartphone could visit the responsive administration panel and get the information required to responded to the customer without having to head to a desktop or laptop computer.
There are a couple of minor areas, however, were the responsivity in the PrestaShop 1.6 administration panel could have been better. For example, in the aforementioned Monitoring section, the lists display a narrow, horizontal scrolling bar on tablets and smartphones, which complicates navigation.
Focus on Mobile
The default front-end for PrestaShop 1.6 is one of the best looking responsive, mobile-focused templates for current ecommerce platforms. Viewed from a tablet for a smartphone, it is relatively quick loading; has large, finger-friendly buttons; and is attractive.
This is important for two reasons. First, it demonstrates that the PrestaShop 1.6 platform can be themed well for mobile. Essentially a high standard has been set for theme designers. Second, theme designers and do-it-yourself ecommerce entrepreneurs will very often use an ecommerce platform’s default front-end as a base or foundation from which a custom or semi-custom theme is created. PrestaShop 1.6 appears to have a very good front-end foundation.
Good Category Page Navigation
Although the PrestaShop 1.6 default theme is not necessarily unique, it does provide good examples of important ecommerce site features. The category page navigation is an example, displaying layered and faceted product information in an easy-to-understand and useful way. It is also attractive, which is important for conveying trust.
Products are Well Represented
Product detail pages in the default PrestaShop 1.6 theme are well laid out and mobile ready. Here again, the theme does not necessarily break new ground in ecommerce page layout or design, but it represents the most important ecommerce features well.
Good Ecommerce Platforms Abound
This new version of PrestaShop is being released into a marketplace already filled with many good ecommerce platforms..
Magento, Intershop, Demandware, LemonStand, Volusion, and Shopify are all examples of PrestaShop 1.6 competitors that address one or more segments of the rapidly growing ecommerce platform market.
PrestaShop’s latest release demonstrates that it is a significant and capable player in that market. In the end, as ecommerce platform makers compete and add features, it is the merchant using these ever-improving platforms that benefits.