Archive for January, 2013

Magento v OpenCart

January 24th, 2013

First off this post does not give you side by side feature comparisons of two of the most popular open source shopping cart projects out there today. It is a discussion about having used, played and abused both platforms. If you want a chart go here

During the day at work we use a paid for solution called Trade IT from Red Technology. It was chosen for scalability, security, reliability and one point of contact. The paid for solution was launched in 2008. At that time we were looking at many solutions from paid, leased and open source. We did look at Magento but dismissed it as it was relatively new, had a small user base and the open source development and system administration costs made it almost comparable with the paid solution we opted for.

In the last five years we have needed to use open source shopping cart solutions along side Trade It for various small projects. We have used mainly Prestashop and Open Cart both with success. They both written in PHP and can be launched on the cheapest of Linux web hosts including shared hosting. In a nutshell we can deploy an online store in less than half a day with out of the box functionality with a payment gateway.

Recently I have needed to revisit Magento. You cannot move at Ecommerce expos and conferences for the number of Magento suppliers now. The company we left in 2008 have ditched their Microsoft Commerce platform and have moved to a 100% Magento Development and Hosting business model.

A few Google searches revealed the following:

There is now more than one version of Magento with Enterprise Magento commanding a hefty licence fee but with the promise of cutting edge developments and amazing support. So I am now needing to change my title to Magento Community V Open Cart. Magento Community is the open source version available for download and deployment.

Everyone still complains about it being slow. When I tested the version back in 2008 with the sample database I felt the performance out of the box was poor. It still is the case but many people have documented the needs of Magento allowing you to improve the performance to an acceptable level. There are plenty of hosting providers out there that concentrate on Magento hosting is one that I have come across. My old place of work – Shore is now using the Magento platform and hosting on a dedicated server supplied and supported by Sonassi. So performance has been improved and hosting possibilities include both shared hosting, dedicated servers and cloud hosting. There are many ready to go images on AWS for instance.

In 2008 there was a lack of documentation. In fact I purchased a book, the name escapes me now, that I had to wait three months to get due to them only shipping to North America. It was worthless. By the time I read it the web documentation was better. This still is the case. Many book reviews on Amazon today lead me to my conclusion. The web needs to be your first port of call for documentation.

What s different is the amount of themes that are now available for Magento. Ready to go for less than $200 in most cases boasting responsive design and clean administrator changeable designs. Let me just reiterate that. A deign that can be custom to you that is fully responsive to device for under $200. That is truly amazing and a game changer for startups. You no longer need £5000 to spend on design and xhtml choppers.

So in a nutshell you can be up and running with enterprise level featured web store for less than $200 and a £40 per month hosting plan.

Ok its not bespoke and may not fit in completely with your business but as much as I hate to say it all ecommerce stores are the same.

  • Display product.
  • Add to cart.
  • Give me an address where you want to send it and
  • Pay for it.
  • All as quickly as possible and at the best price.

There is avery little difference in ecommerce stores nowadays:

  • Logo top left.
  • Cart top right.
  • Horizontal Navigation.
  • Carousel.
  • Featured products.
  • Footer.

Just look at and . Almost identical to the casual observer but not a copy.

It should be identical. Walk down any high street (if there any left today!):

  • Shop window with hero products.
  • Products displayed.
  • A till with PDQ machine operated by a sales person.

People need it to be the same. Your ecommerce store that has 500 visits a day is not going to change the way 500,000 people a day shop on It’s not broken so don’t spend money fixing it and even then let Amazon fix it if it is. Spend more time on merchandising, categorisation, product copy, photography before coming up with the latest zero page checkout!

I digress. As I stated earlier I still am an Open Cart user. In my opinion it is a little less hardware dependant than Magento. Easy to install with one click install on cPanel hosting being available. It’s the Wordpress of shopping carts BUT It is not truly scaleable and will not have the benefit of an Enterprise edition filtering down thorough to the community versions. If your Magento store takes off and is entertaining 50,000 visitors a day you will want the security of the Enterprise addition I can assure you.

50,000 visits is going to equate to £25k a day revenue on a 1% conversion and £50 AOV. You could never run a business with 25k dropping off your cashflow for a couple of days. Besides the license for Enterprise premium starts at $50k a year. That represents a sound investment for a £10 million pound business.

So in conclusion. Open cart for speed and small projects, thin affiliate sites, small traffic numbers. Magento for those wanting enterprise functionality and an easy scaling route for growing businesses. Finally whilst Magento is here to stay since the purchase by eBay the Community edition may see less updates as time goes by. eBay will want a return on its investment by pushing people to a paid for product whether it be Enterprise edition or the new Magento Go one stop shop.

As always should you require any help with Magento or Open Cart installs get in touch.