E-commerce websites provide visitors with the facility to purchase products directly from a website. A shopping cart allows the seller to list their products (usually in a hierarchy of categories), providing full details of the products (including multiple images, descriptions, sizes, colours, shipping charges, taxes, etc.). The user adds products to their cart (or basket, as we say in the UK) which can be managed easily, allowing addition and removal of items. Finally, the user proceeds to a checkout where they may have to register an account, but certainly have to provide delivery information before making their payment.
All of these facilities demand a reasonably high level of complexity, and therefore time to develop and design. A high level of care and attention is needed to ensure that the user has the confidence to buy. Any inadequacy or slight scruffiness is enough to put the user off purchasing.
In comparison to the requirements of a brochure website, powered by a content management system (and often running a blog), there are usually many more complexities to be dealt with when it comes to e-commerce.
Whilst some web design companies use their own bespoke shopping carts (developed by themselves), the majority will usually choose from one of the many popular ‘off the shelf’ shopping cart systems available. These include popular systems like Magento, Zen Cart and PrestaShop.
But what if your website is powered by WordPress? Is there an option for integrating a shopping cart into WordPress? Our conclusion is no – well, not at the moment, unless the requirements of your shop are extremely basic (e.g. if you’re only selling a very small range of products).
Our opinion is that although there are plenty of WordPress plugins for e-commerce available, none of them yet offer the reliability and full feature set offered by the dedicated shopping cart software packages.
We recently road tested the WP e-Commerce from Instinct (GetShopped.org) plugin and were extremely disappointed with the results. WP e-Commerce wouldn’t allow us to present size options for products in the order of our choosing (e.g. small, medium, large). They had to be presented in the order that the options were added to the system. Despite paying for premium support, our support ticket went unanswered for 3 days, only to be then informed that the ability to sort variations was coming in a future version. This type of requirement isn’t a ‘nice to have’, its essential. This was a horrifying omission to discover from such an supposedly mature plugin. Added to this, their forum is peppered with complaints and problems, with users being flatly ignored. [Not surpsingly these website services are no longer available, September 2016]
This is not the reliability you require from a shopping cart, especially if it’s to form the back bone of your business model. It’s a great shame because it showed so much promise and is one of the oldest WordPress e-commerce plugins around.
Another popular choices is Cart66, but judging by the online reviews and experiences available, these also seem unlikely to meet expectations unless you have anything other than very basic requirements, especially if you’re not a ‘coder’.
So, in conclusion, for anything other than very simple e-commerce operations, a full shopping cart system seems to currently be a better choice than using a plug in for WordPress. Indeed, the requirements of a shopping cart exceed those of a CMS/blogging tool so this should hardly come as a surprise. And, maybe the best course of action is to ‘bridge’ a dedicated shopping cart with WordPress for the best of both worlds.
Although the many e-commerce plugins for WordPress demonstrate a lot of promise, they don’t yet match the functionality of a dedicated stand alone shopping cart, though this may change. With WordPress so popular nowadays, there’s a huge demand for a successful ecommerce plugin. But in our opinion, it doesn’t yet exist…