There are more than 500 online shopping carts. And each week we feature one, interviewing both the cart’s developer and a customer. “Cart of the Week” is not a review or an evaluation, but rather an opportunity to learn about a shopping cart from the people who build it and use it.
This week, we’ll hear from Michael Sasek, founder and lead developer of osCMax shopping cart software. The company’s main offices are in Phoenix, Ariz., with development teams in both the U.S. and the U.K. Sasek estimates that osCMax software currently has 10,000 to 12,000 users, as well as many more privately labeled carts that use osCMax as a base.
We’ll also hear from an osCMax customer, Mark Fleeson, technical director for Lindisfarne Scriptorium, a U.K.-based store that sells spiritual books, CDs and other materials via the cart.
PeC: Please provide some general background on osCMax.
Michael Sasek: “The first version of osCMax was released in 2003. The intent was a more ‘feature complete’ version of osCommerce on initial install, including all the most popular add-ons available in one complete and maintained package.
“For many years I was the sole developer, and as a result, development was rather slow. In 2009, I made a concerted effort to involve others with the development, and as a result the core team now has six talented members and the development activity is moving very rapidly toward the next major version release later this year.
“For the last couple of releases we have really focused on core stability and cleaning up the core code, laying the groundwork for the upcoming 2.1 release. We have taken steps to extend osCMax beyond the framework of osCommerce without breaking compatibility with the many thousands of osCommerce mods already available for osCMax.”
PeC: Is it hosted, licensed, or both?
Sasek: “Licensed. (GPL 3.0, open source, so you can modify any part of the code for your own purposes).”
PeC: How much does osCMax cost?
Sasek: “It is 100 percent free.”
PeC: What is your company doing to become PCI compliant?
Sasek: “osCMax is not a hosted service, as such, PCI compliance is an end user issue. As long as users abide by PCI regulations with their business practices, osCMax users will have no issue with compliance.”
ListenListen to Michael Sasek discuss his early interest in computers, and his views on open source software.
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Sasek: “It is free, open source, and scalable; and it can be run on Apache, Microsoft IIS, lighttpd, and nginix. It is compatible with the vast majority of osCommerce mods, so it is fairly easy to extend osCMax with any pre-existing mod that is already available for standard osCommerce.”
PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?
Sasek: “The biggest drawback is for new users to get their head around the software. It has so many features it can be overwhelming at first. Overall, the user-friendliness for store operators and administrators needs some improvement.
“Documentation is also an area that has historically been weak, although recently we have made a strong effort to remedy that, and documentation is much more complete.”
PeC: What plans do you have for future cart development?
Sasek: “The next version of osCMax is already in full development, and we have mapped out a course for future development for years to come. The big thing right now for us is to improve the UI [user interface] for both customers and administrators and get ready for full PHP 6 compatibility. The administrative interface is being completely redesigned to improve usability and efficiency. In addition to the UI and documentation there are a lot of new features that are actively being added and planned.”
PeC: How would your cart help an ecommerce merchant, versus the cart he or she is using now?
Sasek: “It really depends on what the merchant is looking for and what he or she is currently using. The obvious advantages are cost and flexibility. osCMax will run on just about all popular web servers, so you can decide what platform you want to run. Users are not locked into a specific hosted solution, so you can run it off your local hardware, co-located, dedicated, cloud, VPS, or shared hosting. osCMax will run on a small shared account and can also operate just as easily on a large multi-server, load balanced, replicated setup.
“It is open source, so if you have an idea for a feature, it is trivial for a programmer to extend or modify the application to fit your specific needs. Because osCMax is free, there are no licensing fees or limits on product quantity, sales amount or other limitations that you commonly see with hosted solutions.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers, who are mainly ecommerce merchants?
Sasek: “osCMax is easy to install, so if you are looking to try out a few new carts, it may be worth your time to try it out. Even if you decide on something else for your solution, you will have something to compare it to, and make a more informed decision. The whole point of our project is to make ecommerce accessible to everyone.”
A Customer’s View
Mark Fleeson is the technical director for Lindisfarne Scriptorium, an online store that sells art cards, prints, books, CDs, software and other products produced by the company. Lindisfarne Scriptorium takes in approximately £30,0000 GBP in annual gross revenue via osCMax shopping cart, and Fleeson provides his comments and opinions about the cart below.
PeC: How long has your company been using osCMax?
Mark Fleeson: “We started using osCommerce in 2002 and moved to OsCMax in 2004. osCMax is so much more powerful and easier to configure and make designs for.”
PeC: What are the cart’s biggest strengths?
Fleeson: “One of its biggest strengths is that we can use our own rented server without further licenses needed. Another strength is the separate pricing for customer groups (to allow retail and trade customers). We also like the ease of creating and uploading products, and also downloading and processing customer orders, and the ease of setting up payment gateways.”
PeC: How could the cart improve?
Fleeson: “We’d like to see more user interface improvements, which I understand are coming in version 2.1”
PeC: How would osCMax improve another merchant’s business?
Fleeson: “The cart is very scaleable, so you can start out small without much investment (apart from some time) and build your product base until you are selling thousands of products.”
PeC: Do you plan on continuing to use the cart?
Fleeson: “Definitely. We recently rewrote our site using the latest version of osCMax and Joomla content management system.”
PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers concerning the cart?
Fleeson: “The support forums for osCMax are fantastic. A lot of new users post there with little or no knowledge of PHP wanting to make customizations and the moderators and other forum members are all really supportive. For a non-commercial shopping cart osCMax is an incredible piece of software.”