There really is no such thing as “one size fits all” when it comes to eCommerce platforms (shopping cart systems).
As I have mentioned many times elsewhere, to build an eCommerce site successfully, you must start with a defined Business Plan that addresses all the variables every business must contend with, and also resolve any that your particular venture requires as well. Without knowing all the particulars that such a Business Plan will help to identify and detail, it would be impossible to choose an appropriate eCommerce platform that will perform as you desire and within the parameters that will be required of you (business banking, shipping, credit card processing/gateways, accounting, inventory allowances, item details, etc.).
I can however, list a few of the various Pro’s and Con’s for a few of the eCommerce solutions that VodaHost fully supports, the majority of which VodaHost makes available to every client Free and enabled within the Fantastico! option for easy installation and rapid setup. This should prove helpful to refine your selection process, keeping in mind the overall aspect to first be aware of all outside requirements and influences that predicate your actual decision.
The following observations are intended as a basic Guide and are not complete listings of all features, and are based on personal experience and opinion only.
Soholaunch is not only an intuitive eCommerce solution/shopping cart, it is also a true website builder, allowing it to be used to create websites that have nothing to do with eCommerce at all!
· Easy To Learn / Shorter Learning Curve
· Web Application (all work done in online cP, allowing universal access)
· No Coding or Programming Required
· Customizable Foundation, Even From “Scratch” Installation
· 3-Click Installation via Fantastico!
· Large Selection of Custom Plug-in’s Available
· Most All Payment Gateways Supported
· Supports eBooks, “Zero-Downloads”
· Post Affiliate Pro Compatible (to enable affiliate programs, etc.)
• Only one installation (License) per hosting account
• Limited Number of Categories, Sub-Categories Allowed
• Fixed Navigation Types Requiring Complicated Plugins
• Limited Image Controls & Formats
• Burdensome Inventory Upload Protocols
• Slow Community Support (Pricey Support Option Alternative)
· Open Source (Constant Evolution, Free Add-on’s)
· Unlimited Inventories
· Unlimited Category/Sub-Category Structure
· Universal Gateway Compatibility
· Rock-Solid Inventory, Payment, CRM & Interactive Features
· Vast Selection of Premium Templates Available
· Universal Accounting Interfacing
· eBook, Zero-Downloads, Virtual Distribution Enabled
· Exemplary Support Community
· Professional “Loading” Utilities Available
· Post Affiliate Pro Compatible
· 3-Click Fantastico! Installation
· Significant Learning Curve
· Some Coding Required For Customization
· Add-on Installation Not For Beginners
· Overly Complex cP Intimidates User Customizations
· Open Source
· Simple Layouts Easily Customizable
· Universal Support of Most Gateways, Processors
· Module-Based Layouts
· Versatile For Almost Any Business Type
· Windows-like Environment
· Limited Inventories
· Abbreviated Item Pages
· Weak Template Selection
· Limited Availability of Desirable Add-on’s
· Rigid Foundation & Page Layouts (Limited Customization)
· Image Management Poorly Designed
· Open Source
· NextGen Foundation (esp. CRM, Interactive, Video, Accounting, Multiple Store Online Interfacing)
· Short Learning Curve
· Extremely Customizable Look-and-Feel
· Node-Based Page Layouts
· Unlimited Inventories, Types
· Unlimited Category/Sub-Category Structure
· No Coding Required
· Very Professional Look and Visitor Experience Oriented
· Robust Support Community
· Complex Non-Fantastico! Manual Installation (if preconfigured VH hosting not opted)
· Limited Selection of Premium Templates (and Pricing!)
· Limited Gateway Compatibility
· Limited Library of Add-On’s (in progress)
· Non-Compatible With Post Affiliate Pro, Similar Utilities
I myself have several eCommerce sites, and began my own eCommerce evolution using Soholaunch, osCommerce, and Magento in that exact order based on my growing expertise and ability to meet my refined eCommerce needs.
I think that for the most part, Soholaunch is probably the best foundation to recommend to a complete beginner, if only because of the shortest learning curve without sacrificing any performance aspects from square one.
In the “all-around” perspective, I would probably say osCommerce fits the bill best, for even though it requires more attention to learn and manage effectively, the available customizations, universal compatibility, and pure transactional power can’t be beat. osCommerce is one installation you can install, customize, enhance, and turn on once and let it run forever without worrying about “updates” or keeping up with the Jone’s!
I have found, however, Magento to be the most rewarding and “slickest” system due to the simplicity of customization and full-featured ability to meet today’s requirements and seamlessly incorporate tomorrow’s needs, and reluctantly accept some additional investments to allow it to function as I demand. This may be based on my earlier formed understanding of shopping carts, but nonetheless, I find Magento incredibly easy to work with, and not impossible to improve to my satisfaction despite the initial limitations of the “build” itself.
Remember .... any eCommerce solution you consider should address every detailed requirement listed within your Business Plan, and be simply compatible with your present Vendors, Banks, and Processors if you expect predictable results. This once again emphasizes the need for you to think “backwards” as I have mentioned elsewhere, and to frame out the function you need before you select the skin!
eCommerce is an exciting and profitable online venture that clearly illustrates the importance of the VodaHost motto:
“Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan!”