OpenCart 1.5 ready for serious business
The newest version of the smashingly popular OpenCart 1.5 open source ecommerce program was released a few weeks ago for developers, and it is already considered stable and ready for businesses to start using it. Developers have been having a love-fest over the sleek way it is programmed, but I've gotten to know the store owner side of this program really well in a short period of time and I have to tell you about the some amazing features for serious store owners.
OpenCart comes out of the box with a strikingly clean new template that includes one of the popular new "big menu" systems for your products. As you add or remove product categories in your store Admin, the links simply appear or disappear on the top navigation bar. As you continue to add sub-categories, they appear in the category's drop-down menu which expands to fit nearly any size for easy product navigation.
OpenCart comes out of the box with a "big footer" with four incredibly useful columns: Information, Customer Service, Extras and Account. The Information column links automatically to information or CMS pages (Content Management System). The Customer Service column includes Contact, Returns info, and an automatic Sitemap. The Extras column includes a search by brands or manufacturers, non-returnable gift vouchers that customer can generate in any amount from $1 to $1000, affiliate program information so other websites can refer customers to you for a commission you set; and a link to Specials that you can create.
Nifty new features in the latest version include a Reward Points system, product grid/list views that customers can switch between at will, a product comparison tool for customers clinically entitled Attributes; the previously mentioned gift vouchers and affiliate programs, a store credit system, easy one-button product re-order, a wish list system, and a pretty and fun-to-use one-page checkout.
Super-cool product options include the ability for a customer to upload a file (such as a graphic to print on a T-Shirt), as well as a plethora of pre-defined options like drop-down date and time calendars.
Product images are automatically resized by the program, so you only need to make and upload one main photo per product. You can also upload multiple additional product images.
The store Admin - which contains lists and forms for the non-technical user to manage their store - is more well-organized than any program I have ever written about. In other programs, administrative operations jump from menu to menu so much that I have had to organize other manuals by task rather than menu. This is the first time I have been able to organize a user manual by mapping chapters to menus.
Did I mention that OpenCart is free? There are many commercial extensions available for a small fee, though most are currently being updated for the latest version.
The way the program itself is organized is considered by programmers to be a thing of beauty. This excellent organization in both the Admin and the program itself is due to the strict and visionary taskmaster, Daniel Kerr. Kerr, a native of England now living in Hong Kong, began as an osCommerce programmer but decided to write his own program. I hope Kerr continues marching to the beat of his own drummer.
I get to test drive a lot of programs as I write the many OSC manuals I have released over the years, but never has such a young program knocked my socks off like this one! It is still lightweight but has powerful features that could run a store of nearly any size. Note that large enterprise level stores would need to use some extensions for batch management or do some direct database-level operations, but neither is an obstacle for a large operation.
OpenCart has all of the promise of Magento, but is also easy for non-technical store owners to use, and easy for programmers to program.
I love your eCommerce articles and wish you'll review and write more.
I have started using opencart after seeing the eCommerce contest results of this year eCommerce competition and I must say that it is a huge leap after using good old ZenCart.
I'll probably never go back to zencart after using opencart.
Can you publish the index of your coming opencart book, so we'll be able to see the index and decide if we want to buy it?
The only other opencart manual is for v1.4 and is for non advanced users.