Practical Ecommerce

Shopping Cart Checklist

We’ve assembled a checklist to help you narrow your shopping cart requirements. The checklist is divided into six areas: function, shipping issues, payment processing, support, technical considerations and report generation.


  • Is there a limit to the number of categories or products?
  • Does the shopping cart support inventory tracking?
  • Does the shopping cart have an affiliate program?
  • Does the shopping cart have gift-certificate or discount-coupon options?
  • Is the cart search-engine friendly, and can it be improved and modified? – Is there a quick-buy feature or do customers need to register?

Shipping Issues

  • Do you need to determine shipping based on weight or by price range? – Does the cart have UPS/USPS/FedEx integration?

Payment Processing

  • What kinds of payment gateways are supported?
  • Can the cart support non credit-card and offline-payment options?
  • How does the cart determine sales taxes?


  • Does the cart supplier provide a customersupport forum on its website? – What are your options for getting support if you need it?

Technical Considerations

  • What is the operating system choice that you need (Linux, Windows)
  • What programming language (PHP, ASP, etc.) is required by you or your developer?
  • What are the database software requirements (MySQL, Access, etc.)?
  • Is the shopping-cart solution a hosted one or a licensed one?

Report Generation

  • Does the cart produce the types of management and accounting reports that you need when you need them?
Practical Ecommerce

Practical Ecommerce

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  1. Legacy User July 5, 2007 Reply

    Can you recommend a good shopping cart which has all the above features…

    — *Irfan*

  2. Legacy User July 5, 2007 Reply

    As with many authors, they confuse a "cart" with a back-end order processing system…. A cart is a cart. Simply put, it should collect items to enable a buyer to purchase and then facilitate the transaction for purchase. This includes letting the buyer choose what merchant account vendor(s) to use, whether to auth/capture or just auth during the purchase. And provide real-time quotes for major shipping carriers.

    A cart should not attempt to manage inventory, track orders after the sale or have any knowledge whatsoever about inventory status. It should simply service the purchase request and itemize items supplied to it.

    Products advertised as "carts" now days span the gambit from managing the presentation to the buyer of the entire site, down to including back-end order and inventory management. However, these are 'stores', not 'carts'.

    Merchants are best served by using speciality providers for website design, cart service and back-end fulfillment processing.

    Tony Birnseth

    — *Tony Birnseth*

  3. Legacy User July 5, 2007 Reply

    I couldn't agree more with Tony. There as so few true shopping carts. I wish there were more. I don't want to have to tweak and codle and modify what most compaines call a shopping cart to look like a website. Just give me a cart! I'll provide the website.

    — *Jim*

  4. Legacy User July 20, 2007 Reply

    I've used just about every PHP cart, and written quite a few custom carts for clients. In most cases there is no "one size cart fits all".

    Here's a simple question Jim, do your products have different sizes, colors, weights, personalization (such as engraving), categories/subcategories? Do you want to display pictures of the items/related items in the cart during the checkout process?

    Ryan has some very valid questions above, and these are reasons why I normally have to create a custom solution for many of my clients.

    — *John Steele*

  5. Legacy User October 30, 2007 Reply

    I agree with all the above and the article.
    With our most recent store host, I was disappointed to find out the "integrated shopping cart" was really a programmed portion of the store and not so easy to adjust to our product needs! I'm having to learn PHP (I already knew HTML very well or would have run screaming from the room the first hour), and ask for a load of help from the administrators. The cart function works fine because a cart is simply a holding place for choices. Adding the shipping rates has been a nightmare, and not straight-forward as it should be. I've had to make fake weights for things we don't ship by weight, just to get the right shipping cost options to appear for customers. I had hoped to be open a couple weeks ago, but am still working on shipping issues, as well as the slow uploading of products.

    I too wish there was a very basic cart that I could have tried to integrate myself… but apparently, I need to be a programmer as well as e-commerce owner! ; ) I'll get there, but it is going a lot slower than hoped.

    Thanks for the informative article, and great comments, Tony.

    — *Beth M.*

  6. Legacy User November 19, 2007 Reply

    WOW! What a mess of websites…

    — *TKing*

  7. cynthia July 27, 2010 Reply

    Although the article posted in 2006, the criteria of choosing a shopping cart has not almost changed up till now. I entirely agree with these points, in addition, the easy-to-manage admin panel becomes more and more important. I recommend Carts within "Desktop" admin panel.

    Thanks for the great blog.