First Look at PrestaShop 1.5.2
PrestaShop has released a major new version and that means it’s time for a test spin. Remember that I always recommend that shop owners open a new shop with a version that does not end with 0 (i.e. 1.5.0) so that any bugs that may be encountered in the new version are already worked out. Their developers quickly released two updates in the past few weeks so now it’s time to take a serious look.
I have always liked PrestaShop, but older versions had a few quirks that made it most suited to small business. For example, the default template – the look and feel of the store right out of the box – was cutesy, with neon pink and green. Also on older versions, gift wrapping or recycled wrapping was a check-out option that was set “ON” by default, and many store owners had difficulty finding the setting to turn it off. Normally an eCommerce program has default settings that apply to the widest range of users.
I downloaded and played with the new PrestaShop and am very impressed! It has definitely grown up since I last had my hands on it. The quirks I listed above are all gone. It is ready for use by businesses of all sizes.
PrestaShop = Great Customer Experience
On the customer side of the shop, the cart has cool “Ajax” animation effects when a customer puts an item in the cart, and again when they go to check the contents of their cart. These are not just for the coolness effect however; they add to the functionality of the cart as well as the joy of shopping.
On customer sign-up, I was a bit dismayed to see a box for the customer’s birthday. It is not required to be filled in, so I skipped it and checkout still proceeded fine. I know that some jurisdictions require a purchaser to be over a certain age (like 13), so for store owners subject to this rule it makes sense for this box to be there. I think the box should either be turned off by default.
Likewise, I was required to check a “Terms & Conditions” box, but I know that many jurisdictions require this so it is appropriate to be included in the default checkout process. And most importantly, gift wrapping is not turned on for all shop owners!
The rest of the shopping and checkout process was smooth, and even though it was not a “One-Page Checkout” it was still very easy. To their credit, the PrestaShop developers have included in the default setup a manual payment and flat rate shipping, so that a store can be tested without having to first configure it. Kudos for doing this!
PrestaShop = Great Store Administration Experience
The private Administration panel – where the store owner makes changes to the site simply by clicking and filling in form boxes – is clean and uncluttered, re-organized so everything is easy to find. If you have seen other admin panels, the body of the Admin home page looks similar to Joomla, with colorful quick links in boxes. The entire Admin panel has a top navigation bar like osCommerce MS3 with small icons to help you identify the menus quickly and easily. PrestaShop is not based on either of these programs, but it does have their strengths.
The Admin panel contains ten drop-down menus starting with the items that a shop owner needs to use every day – Catalog, Orders, and Customers. The menus you need for initial set-up are all at the far right-side of the menu bar. I like this organization, it is very user-friendly because the “hot spot” or place that users look most frequently, is the top left of the page.
PrestaShop New Features
The new version allows multi-store management, or the ability to run several online stores with one Administration panel. This is important for larger businesses. It also has new cart pricing rules, allowing discounts on any or all items in a customer’s cart. Promotions can even be offered during checkout, a powerful new feature.
One feature I was not able to test yet is the easy one-click upgrade when a new version comes out (i.e. 1.5.3). Upgrading is very important, especially if and when a security upgrade is released. However, it can be fraught with technical dangers if a store owner does not know what they are doing. For example, if a programmer has made custom changes to the wrong file, the changes can be lost during a typical one-click upgrade.
While the PrestaShop team says they stand behind their one-click upgrade, they do recommend making a second copy of your store before upgrading.
PrestaShop Market position and recommendation
PrestaShop has come a long way, baby! They claim to be the fastest-growing open source eCommerce program, with over 2 million downloads. I track monthly statistics of the popularity of many open source ecommerce programs, and my stats show that the popularity of other mega-programs in its class including Magento and osCommerce are down slightly or holding their positions over 2012. osCommerce – the grand-daddy of all these programs – claims to have nearly 13,000 live shops, whereas PrestaShop claims to power more than 125,000 shops, a figure they get by using a proprietary tracking tool. While I cannot independently verify this, I can attest that PrestaShop is indeed a very popular program now appropriate for online shops of all sizes.
PrestaShop Quick Links:
- PrestaShop Website: http://prestashop.com/
- PrestaShop Download: http://www.prestashop.com/en/download
- PrestaShop Online Documentation: http://doc.prestashop.com/display/PS15/User+Guide
- PrestaShop Admin Menu Cheatsheet: http://oscmanuals.com/prestashop-admin-menu-cheatsheet-file-5.html?folder_id=6