Opencart: Everything you need to know

Jul 14, 2009
3,458
781
1,025
belgium
I joined TSC a few years back looking for suppliers but mostly good advice. Learned a lot of things here that helped me set up part of my business and helped me to evolve from a bedroom hobby seller to a fulltime professional business. I know there are lots of other in this situation so by this I would like to share some of the knowledge I've gathered.

This topic will be completely dedicated to Opencart. You find a lot of info about it on TSC saying it's free, it's user friendly but that's often about it. I've been using Opencart very extensively from installing, upgrading, installing extentions, make it SEO friendly,...

I'm not gonna cover how to install, how to activate the SEO-friendly URL's. There's plenty of information available about that. It's just my own personal experience I want to share with other people.

So let's get started.

PS: if you find this an interesting read, you should also read this:
http://www.thewholesaleforums.co.uk/threads/hosted-solutions-vs-your-own-website-cart.172110/


What is Opencart
It's one of the many free open source shopping carts. It's an out of the box solution for everybody that wants to set up his own website at low cost. By installing it you immediately set up you own website with an unlimited number of categories and products including shopping cart, shipping and payment options. In short features you need to set up your own e-commerce website.

For more info:
www.opencart.com


Pro's
  • Completely free. You can download it, install it on your domain and start working
  • Open source: OC is based on PHP. So if you know this programming language you can change any possible aspect you can think of.
  • From all the different shopping carts out there it's one with one of the most user friendly interfaces. So definitely something to look at if it's your first website.
  • You don't need any programming skills. After installing everything can be managed from the back office. It's menu based as you're used in Windows/MS Office with a lot of fields to fill out the necessary information: product description, metatag description,..
  • In my personal experience the best cart for multilingual support. There's a different tab for each different language. Other cards I tested had a lack of support for different languages or it was just a mess to work with.
  • There are more than 8000 extentions available with every possible functionality you can think of to increase the functionality of your shop.
  • When you hire a company to design a website for you it will cost you 100's or 1000's. Not an investment that everybody can do/is willing to do. With Opencart you can just start out with the standard Opencart, buy a template to change the look and then just buy new extentions according to your needs/budget.
Con's
  • Free = not free: if you want to build a successful website you won't cope with the standard OC. You'll need to buy a template to improve the look of your shop and extentions to improve functionality. I started out with a free shopping cart. In the meantime I've spend hundreds in buying templates, extentions,...
  • Adding extentions/upgrading doesn't only cost money but also time. The time you need for it, you can not spend on your business.
  • Although you do not need any programming skills to use it, you do need to have some computer skills. You'll need to install it, most probably you will have to add some extentions, so you'll also need to know how to work with FTP. Lots of companies offer an install service for OC or the extention you buy. Some do it for free, others you'll have to pay. Not much, but as on Ebay all the small costs finally add up
  • Although OC come with a whole bunch of features, it's lacking some important features that are already included in other carts. There are extentions available for it but in my opinion some of them should be included in the core
  • Upgrading/extentions: so much to say about this so will be covered in the point below
 
Jul 14, 2009
3,458
781
1,025
belgium
The power of Open Cart

There may be people that disagree with this. Recently I've been working very intensively with Open Cart. Although the standard Open Cart lacks a lot of functions that other carts have, there are more than 8000 extentions available for every function you can think of.

So if you need something there's a big chance that there's already an extention for it. If not you can hire a professional to design it for you.

Most extentions cost $ 15 - $ 30. Personally I have installed extentions of $ 60 and more with the most expensive to be $ 150. But these are major extentions that hugely increase the functionality of my shop.

So with the right choice of extentions combined with a good template you can build a complete professional looking e-commerce site with great functionality. It will cost you, but a lot less than hiring a professional company to design and set up you website.


Extentions = weakness
An extention is nothing more than some extra program code that you buy that adds some kind of new functionality to your shop. There are more than 8000 available an new extentions are added daily.

Although the huge number of available extentions are the power of Opencart, at the same time it's also its weakness.

Here also lies the big difference with the hosted carts. With the hosted carts it's 1 team that develops the cart and extentions. For Opencart it are hundreds and more likely 1000's of developers that make all kind of templates, extentions,... Not all developers have the same programming skills. For what I've read about it there are some standard guidelines to use when developing an extention so it works correctly with other extentions.

Sadly this is not always the case. Installing an extention can cause another one to no longer work. Often these extentions don't work correctly with your template. They mostly work with the standard OC template and with very popular templates as the Shoppica themes. When using another template there's a fair chance the extentions won't work as it should be. I have a completely modded OC website myself with lots of extentions. In about 50% of the cases I had to contact the developer to make it compatible with my template or just to make it work.

Currently most extentions are vQmod meaning you no longer have to overwrite the core files. Nevertheless installing a new extentions stays dangerous. Uploading it to the wrong folder, accidentally overwriting something you shouldn't can wreck you entire website. Always make sure you have a back-up.

Upgrading
Ok, you've build the perfect looking shop. You've installed a whole bunch of extentions and you want to upgrade. The pain begins all over again.

There is no standard upgrade function in OC. Upgrading means downloading and installing a newer version of OC where some files will be overwritten.

This is what we recently did prior to writing this article. We installed OC somewhere in the last quarter of 2011. Due to changes in our business we urgently needed to take our website a step further where we could not other then upgrade. And this was a big pain and very time consuming.

Our template (needed changing anyhow) was no longer compatible so needed to buy a new one. Several of the extentions were no longer working. For some we just needed to download and install the upgraded version of the extention. For others we had to contact the developer.

Just upgrading from version 1.5.4 to 1.5.4.1 won't be a real problem. In our case we upgraded from 1.5.1.3 to 1.5.4.1 and it was very time consuming. We had our database with customers and orders, our info pages (about us,...) but about everything else needed to be redone from the ground up.


vQmod
In the past when installing a new extention you often needed to overwrite some of the OC core files. Luckily there's a solution for this: vQmod. Thanks to vQmod this is no longer the case. To prevent you need to overwrite the core files and .xml patch is created. That's just a file you upload in the vQmod folder so it's no longer needed to overwrite the core files.


Conclusion
If you want to set up your own e-commerce website a low cost Open Cart is definitely a cart you should take into consideration. Although it may lack some features that are already build in other carts, it contains all of the features you need to start up you website and get it running.

If you need extra functions all you have to do is find the right extention for it. Above I've described what can go wrong when installing an extention. However in most cases adding a extention is only a few minutes of work and works like a charm. You just need to make sure you always back-up and be careful when uploading it. For the rest it's a bit like your television set/smartphone. Do you really need the latest version that has been released.

Once your site is up and running most likely it's good for several years. If you handle it correctly you can build a successful business with it.
 
Mar 17, 2013
157
21
280
32
Whats the difference between this and using wordpress?
 
Jul 14, 2009
3,458
781
1,025
belgium
Wordpress = for a blog
Opencart = e-commerce website

There are extentions available for Opencart to add a blog to your website. If I'm not mistaken (I'm no Wordpress user myself) there are plugins available to add a simple shop to your blog.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Imy J
May 2, 2012
72
9
335
45
I have been using OC for a year almost and my traffic is a little better. How do you find seo in open cart? I am not sure I am doing right, however my meta description sometimes I leave empty. Will this affect the site?
Also what about backlinks to the OC site, do I needlots of them? How do I go about getting them?
Ta
 
Jul 14, 2009
3,458
781
1,025
belgium
SEO is build in. Fill out your metatag descriptions and metatag keywords, althought the latter one is not very important. Make sure to use SEO friendly URL's. There are also some SEO extentions available. One I would advice is to add a custom page title.

Yes you need backlinks. The more backlinks the better. Though it's better to have 1 backlink coming from a pagerank 7 website as 20 from page rank 1 sites. Not a must but best is if the link comes from a site that has got something to do with your business. No point having a backlink coming from a site about cat food, if you're selling clothes.

Creating backlinks I find personally one of the most difficult things to do. Some are easy: twitter, LinkedIn, facebook,... But it's very hard to create high quality backlinks. Wathc out adding a link to your site on the so called link farms. You an buy backlinks, but these are mostly of a bad quality and is just money thrown away.
 
Nov 19, 2008
290
45
470
U.K.
Hey,

I currently use Prestashop which has an easy import process where I can bulk upload products via CSV file,

Where can I find the option to this in Opencart backend? - I am creating a sister site and thought I would check out opencart
 
May 30, 2005
14,061
1,555
1,825
The one huge missing feature with OC is the lack of an included import/export capability. There is a free one that is in Excel and has multiple pages, OK for price changes and such but not good from an initial upload.

This guy has separate csv import and export extensions that do quite well - http://ka-station.com
 
Jul 14, 2009
3,458
781
1,025
belgium
This may be what you're looking for:
http://www.opencart.com/index.php?route=extension/extension/info&extension_id=10197

If you're creating a sister site you could just back up your database and import this in the new site. Just watch out for double content.
 
Nov 19, 2008
290
45
470
U.K.
The one huge missing feature with OC is the lack of an included import/export capability. There is a free one that is in Excel and has multiple pages, OK for price changes and such but not good from an initial upload.

This guy has separate csv import and export extensions that do quite well - http://ka-station.com

Thanks! bought the import extension, will test it out later to see how it works, I'm starting to think that I might be installing/buying a lot more extensions in the future with OC
 
Apr 11, 2010
345
33
340
Uk
Hi I'm testing out opencart for one of my shops. On the face of it I seem to prefer the 1.4.x templates rather than the newer 1.5.x redesigned layout.

I've scoured the web for templates in the old theme style for 1.5.x (ie home, contact us, about us in the top bar and categories on the left) but can't seem to find any.
Is there a lot of disadvantage to operating a 1.4.x store than a 1.5.x? Or is there a way around this?
 
Jul 14, 2009
3,458
781
1,025
belgium
The biggest problem will be support for extentions. A new extention may no longer support an old OC version.

But nobody sais you have to install new extentions or upgrade. Some people use an old version of MS Office because it offers them everything they need. If you use an old OC version and it works for you I wouldn't know what the problem is. But it could give some problems once you want to install a new extention.

I'm no coder but it should be possible. You could find a template you like and than contact the developper to modify it to give it the old OC look.

However if you're setting up a new e-commerce site i would go for one of the latest OC releases. Just to make sure you're up-to-date to start with.
 
Apr 11, 2010
345
33
340
Uk
The problem is the creator looks like they're nolonger operating as the contact address is invalid.

Thing is it is the nicest template I've found for oc and not finding any 1.5.x templates with a similar designs makes me think it might be very costly (ie £500 +) to get that type of design working with 1.5 version otherwise surely there would be templates already out there with that type of basic design.

I would have to pay for the one page heck out extension £50 approx and PayPal express for 1.4.x but I just wonder if there some major features I might need in future that 1.4.x won't support.
 
Jul 14, 2009
3,458
781
1,025
belgium
The only way to know this is to compare the 2 OC versions and see if there's an extention available for it that supports the 1.4.x version.

The new style of navigation was for me the reason to upgrade to a higher OC version. Navigation is a lot easier like this.
 
May 30, 2005
14,061
1,555
1,825
The template will not work, save your time.

Pay someone to modify your second choice, most designers will make a custom version for you.

When is the last time you stayed or left a shopping cart site because of the location of the categories, or anything else, for that matter. The design means way more to you and your self image than it does your visitors, how much are you worth to yourself?

Not saying you should have crap, but there are hundreds of thousands of carts doing well with less then their ideal design.
 

ime

Sep 7, 2013
2
0
157
50
I joined TSC a few years back looking for suppliers but mostly good advice. Learned a lot of things here that helped me set up part of my business and helped me to evolve from a bedroom hobby seller to a fulltime professional business. I know there are lots of other in this situation so by this I would like to share some of the knowledge I've gathered.

This topic will be completely dedicated to Opencart. You find a lot of info about it on TSC saying it's free, it's user friendly but that's often about it. I've been using Opencart very extensively from installing, upgrading, installing extentions, make it SEO friendly,...

I'm not gonna cover how to install, how to activate the SEO-friendly URL's. There's plenty of information available about that. It's just my own personal experience I want to share with other people.

So let's get started.

PS: if you find this an interesting read, you should also read this:
http://www.thewholesaleforums.co.uk/threads/hosted-solutions-vs-your-own-website-cart.172110/


What is Opencart
It's one of the many free open source shopping carts. It's an out of the box solution for everybody that wants to set up his own website at low cost. By installing it you immediately set up you own website with an unlimited number of categories and products including shopping cart, shipping and payment options. In short features you need to set up your own e-commerce website.

For more info:
www.opencart.com


Pro's
  • Completely free. You can download it, install it on your domain and start working
  • Open source: OC is based on PHP. So if you know this programming language you can change any possible aspect you can think of.
  • From all the different shopping carts out there it's one with one of the most user friendly interfaces. So definitely something to look at if it's your first website.
  • You don't need any programming skills. After installing everything can be managed from the back office. It's menu based as you're used in Windows/MS Office with a lot of fields to fill out the necessary information: product description, metatag description,..
  • In my personal experience the best cart for multilingual support. There's a different tab for each different language. Other cards I tested had a lack of support for different languages or it was just a mess to work with.
  • There are more than 8000 extentions available with every possible functionality you can think of to increase the functionality of your shop.
  • When you hire a company to design a website for you it will cost you 100's or 1000's. Not an investment that everybody can do/is willing to do. With Opencart you can just start out with the standard Opencart, buy a template to change the look and then just buy new extentions according to your needs/budget.
Con's

  • Free = not free: if you want to build a successful website you won't cope with the standard OC. You'll need to buy a template to improve the look of your shop and extentions to improve functionality. I started out with a free shopping cart. In the meantime I've spend hundreds in buying templates, extentions,...
  • Adding extentions/upgrading doesn't only cost money but also time. The time you need for it, you can not spend on your business.
  • Although you do not need any programming skills to use it, you do need to have some computer skills. You'll need to install it, most probably you will have to add some extentions, so you'll also need to know how to work with FTP. Lots of companies offer an install service for OC or the extention you buy. Some do it for free, others you'll have to pay. Not much, but as on Ebay all the small costs finally add up
  • Although OC come with a whole bunch of features, it's lacking some important features that are already included in other carts. There are extentions available for it but in my opinion some of them should be included in the core
  • Upgrading/extentions: so much to say about this so will be covered in the point below
Hi Pete,
Can u build one for me or you know some one that can build an e store
 
Jul 14, 2009
3,458
781
1,025
belgium
Since you quoted my message I'll reply for Pete :)

Pete can provide you with hosting and can even install Opencart for you. But building the shop (adding categories, products, about us, return policy,...) you'll have to do yourself.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Pete
May 30, 2005
14,061
1,555
1,825
Hi Pete,
Can u build one for me or you know some one that can build an e store

HI ime,

Glad to see you've joined us.

As mentioned, I can host and install your cart, not a problem there. But, I do not do design work. However there are hundreds, if not thousands of templates available for OC that will give yours virtually any look you desire. Many of these are simple to install, which I will also do at no cost, but some do require editing and files and such and I don't even do that on my own sites.

And, as with all carts, the loading of the products, images and such is up to you. While you can pay to have this done, it it not cheap and will eat your profits.

Here's a link to my help desk, if you want to talk about it further, just open a ticket there - http://affordablehoster.com/helpdesk