“What cart do you recommend?” is the number one query we get. An easy enough question, but the answer depends on your business and your requirements. To make your choice simpler, we’ve compared the features of our two most popular carts, Zen Cart and Magento, plus our in-house ReadyCart.
Read below for comparison or if you have have experience with either cart, leave a comment about the good and bad bits.
Magento (community edition) is a free open source shopping cart started by Varien in 2007. Magento impresses with its extensive feature list. Most functions which need to be added on with other carts come as standard. It’s ideally suited for companies who need a professional online shop presence.
- highly flexible coupon and pricing functions
- comprehensive filter functionality (filter products by)
- multi-store as standard
- ability to create and edit orders in admin
- large number of high quality modules via Magento Connect
- no need to hack core code
- impressive template system
Magento sometimes gets a bad press for being too complex and server resource-intensive. Both are fair comments, but should not put you off considering Magento. With the right developers on board and a high-end hosting environment, Magento can provide extensive functionality at open source level.
Zen Cart is an open source project started in 2003, based originally on osCommerce. Zen Cart impresses with its realiability, solid feature list and ease of use, making it ideal for shop owners who intend to handle development themselves.
- highly reliable
- includes all standard features to sell online
- easy to understand templating and PHP structure
- suitable for coders beginning with PHP
- light footprint making it very accessible for shared hosting environments
- friendly forum
- active development team
That Zen Cart has been around since 2003 however shows in its PHP coding structure. However this downside is exactly what makes it accessible to beginners in PHP and makes it an ideal first cart for new coders.
ReadyCart is based on osCommerce and available under licence from TerraNetwork. It was developed in-house to address the needs of businesses for a reliable cart with commercial support. ReadyCart is now discontinued as we have decided to focus on Magento and Zen Cart development instead.
Why only these three carts?
We’re not attempting to compare all carts – that would simply be impractical. Other carts exist and have their own merits. For example there’s PrestaShop, developed in France and well worth a look. Or for a simpler shop, maybe WordPress with a plug-in would suit.
Cart Comparison tables
Both Magento and Zen Cart run on the LAMP environment (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP). Zen Cart is quick to install and is kind to shared hosting environments. Magento is more demanding and requires a high-end hosting enviroment. Zen Cart is usually quick to learn by simply “going in and playing around” whereas for Magento a guide or read on the wiki will help you to get your bearings.
|Requirements||PHP5.2 MySQL4.1.20+, InnoDB, cURL||PHP4.0+ MySQL4.1.14+||PHP4.0+ MySQL4.1.14+|
|SSL support||full SSL||full or shared SSL||full or shared SSL|
|Knowledge level for coding?||advanced||intermediate||intermediate|
|Ease of use?||intermediate||easy||easy|
Magento has multi-shop as standard, a feature very rarely seen with other carts and a comprehensive templating system. WYSIWYG editor is missing but easily added. Zen Cart is a reliable cart with all features necessary to sell online.
|Support for Multiple Currencies|
|Tax Rate support|
|Page content management||limited||limited|
|Email template management|
|Administration Permission System Roles and Users||add-on||add-on|
|One-click installs of modules|
Magento impresses with the product filters whilst Zen Cart makes it easy for new shops to get started quickly.
|Batch Import and Export of catalog||add-on||add-on|
|Google Base Integration||add-on||add-on|
|Layered / Faceted Navigation for filtering of products||limited|
Bundled products and stock control for attributes stand out with Magento. Zen Cart however has some good features if you want customers to call for price or only use it as brochure-type site.
|Multiple Images Per Product|
|Bundled products (show several products on one page)|
|Up-sells in Shopping Cart|
|Products can be marked as free or Call for Price||add-on||add-on|
|Min or max quantities and units||add-on||add-on|
Marketing, Sales and SEO
Probably the most important section for online shops these days. Magento has created an comprehensive discount functionality making it very easy to run campaigns. Gift Certificates however are not included in Magento, but they are with Zen Cart.
|Google Site Map||add-on||add-on|
|Meta-information for products and categories||automated|
|Catalog Promotional Pricing|
|Customer groups each with its own pricing structure||add-on||add-on|
Getting the checkout right is crucial for sales conversions. Magento recognises this by offering one-page checkout and the ability to buy without having to open an account (guest checkout). It also comes with Google checkout and PayPal as standard. Zen Cart on the the other hand offers a solid standard checkout.
|Delivery / Billling address|
|Checkout without account/Guest Checkout||add-on||add-on|
|Shipping to multiple addresses in one order|
|Integrated with Google Checkout (Level 2)||add-on||add-on|
Creating orders in admin is often required e.g. for orders taken by phone and Magento offers this as standard. Zen Cart does make order management simpler though by allowing you to create your own order statuses.
|Manage orders from admin|
|create, edit orders from admin panel.||add-on||add-on|
|Create one or multiple invoices, shipments and credit memos per order to allow for split fulfillment|
|Order statuses||preset only|
Have you used Magento or ZenCart? If yes, what are your experiences? Let us know by sending a comment below!