OpenCart Review: Close to Free Open Source Platform for Experienced Developers

In an age of subscription-based ecommerce platforms and website builders, sometimes it's nice to have a solution that's free. When you look at an open source option like OpenCart, that's exactly what you receive. It's open for free download, you're able to find your own hosting, and upgrade without any payments. The reason we like that so much is because many open source platforms try to get you with yearly upgrades.

On the other hand, you have “packaged” solutions like Shopify and BigCommerce, where you're paying a monthly fee without any real ownership of your website. Well, OpenCart is far from perfect, but it's a nice online store builder if you truly want to keep your costs low and boost your customization options. In this OpenCart review, we'll talk about the best features, along with those we don't like that much. In addition, we can dive into things like any additional fees and the customer support.

If you're interested in trying out OpenCart, I highly recommend you check it out. It's completely free to download. However, you will find that development skills are almost always required.

It also works similar to WordPress, where you receive the core OpenCart product, then typically expand upon it with the help of extensions. Many people enjoy this model, because you're able to pick and choose which extensions you utilize. However, you might also end up spending a decent amount of money depending on how many extensions you require.

That said, keep reading this OpenCart review to figure out if it's the best ecommerce platform for you.

OpenCart Pros and Cons

OpenCart is a popular solution for online store development. If you’re in search of a quick way to create a compelling image for your brand online, then OpenCart could be just the thing.

However, that doesn’t mean that OpenCart is right for everyone. Like any essential business software, OpenCart has various pros and cons to consider. For instance, though it’s free to download and brimming with customizable elements, it’s also a little tricky for beginners. If you don’t have any coding knowledge, then you might struggle.

Pros 👍

  • Free to download
  • Easy to use UI (great for exploration)
  • Highly customizable environment thanks to open-source construction
  • Lots of integrations with leading tools
  • No significant ongoing development costs (if you have the right skills)
  • Multilingual with multi-currency support
  • Plenty of themes to choose from
  • Marketplace brimming with plugins, gateways, and other tools
  • Great community and customer support
  • Unlimited products, categories, and manufacturers
  • Product ratings and review systems
  • PCI compliant

Cons 👎

  • Developer skills are necessary
  • Although customer support is available, you’ll need to figure a lot out alone
  • Self-hosting means you’re in charge of development, maintenance and so on
  • Marketing features aren’t very extensive
  • Not the fastest option on the market
  • Add-ons and plugins are necessary for full functionality
  • Not SEO friendly in some places

OpenCart Review: What We Like Most About It

OpenCart delivers quite well when talking about its collection of extensions. Since so many developers are working on making these extensions, you have a wide range of add-ons to integrate with your store. The marketplace is filled with thousands of themes and extensions for things like product feeds, reports, shipping methods, and payment gateways. The greatest part of the marketplace is that the majority of extensions are made for ecommerce, as opposed to a platform like WordPress where you find plugins for regular websites as well.

Combine the extensions with the powerful code access and you have a solid package for customizing your site. In short, developers will find OpenCart incredible to work with, seeing as how they can construct any type of site they want without many limitations. In addition to that, business people are able to scale up their businesses quicker, as opposed to sticking with a platform with only some themes, add-ons and coding options.

We also enjoy the fact that the dashboard is simple enough to understand for most users. It certainly helps to have development knowledge when making a site with OpenCart, but at least anyone can move around the dashboard and learn about its capabilities without much training.

Finally, the best part of OpenCart is the price. As mentioned before, it's a completely free, open source ecommerce platform, with a download button right on the website. You're not asked to submit your email address or anything. Furthermore, OpenCart doesn't require you to spend any monthly or yearly fees for upgrades or maintenance. Paid extensions are a different thing, but for the base product, there's not much of an investment required.

OpenCart Review: What We Don't Like

Although many see this as a benefit, the extensions might be annoying to some. The main reason this would be the case is if you're more interested in a full package right out of the box. OpenCart isn't that package. It's actually rather lightweight, which means you'll either have to code in your own customizations or figure out combinations or extensions to make your site run to its full potential. Therefore, you may have to pay for several extensions along the way.

Another cause for concern is the fact that you typically need development knowledge to make OpenCart work for you. The good news is that there's plenty of information scattered around the internet to learn about OpenCart yourself. You're also able to find many easy-to-use extensions, blog posts, documentation, and webinars guiding you through the OpenCart world. However, the average OpenCart user is going to be skilled in PHP and other programming languages. Therefore, a beginner, or even intermediate developer may have a tough time when trying to configure a website and scale it up quickly.

Finally, this is an open source, self-hosted platform. Although this provides more control over your site, you have to complete many tasks yourself. For example, you're required to go out and find your own hosting and manage your website as the years pass. In addition, there isn't much direct customer support from OpenCart, so you're left completing your own research, sifting through documentation, and chatting with other users in the forums.

OpenCart Review: The Best Features

While going through the admin area, storefront, and design module, it's easy to pick out some of the best features from OpenCart. The core software is lightweight, so we're not talking about a gigantic list of features. However, that extension marketplace is where you'll really find the good stuff.

For now, let's explore some of the top features from OpenCart:

  • Web design options from third-party vendors – You're able to grab templates from places like Theme Forest. There are also plenty of themes and templates in the OpenCart marketplace.
  • Support for multiple languages and currencies.
  • An unlimited number of products.
  • Options for running multiple stores from one admin.
  • Backup and restore options.
  • Support for digital product selling.
  • Filters to guide your customers.
  • A shipping calculator and guest checkout.
  • Recurring payments for memberships.
  • Reviews and ratings for your products.
  • A system that allows for coupons and discounts.
  • Powerful search engine optimization.
  • Reports that show you everything from sales to customers.
  • Support for over 1,000 payment gateways. A few dozen are included with the software, but thousands of other extensions are available.

OpenCart Review: Pricing

In my opinion, the pricing for OpenCart is pretty solid. It's easy to get tricked into thinking that an opensource software is free, but there are always some extra fees you have to consider. In terms of OpenCart, it does a good job of cutting out any download or upgrade fees. You're also not required to pay for customer support (even though there isn't much of it).

Since you're self-hosting your online store, this means you have to find hosting, an SSL certificate, and a domain name yourself. These cost money and are required to run OpenCart.

Some of the OpenCart extensions are listed for free, but many of them have price tags. For instance, the Stripe Payment Gateway extension is currently listed at about $60.

📝 Side Note: OpenCart does have a newer cloud-based ecommerce solution (similar to Shopify or BigCommerce). Therefore, you have the option to pay a monthly fee and get similar features as you would with the local download. The cloud version includes a free trial for 14 days, access to direct support, themes, extensions, and included hosting. However, the monthly pricing starts at around $33 and goes up to $200. These prices may fluctuate, since they're listed in British Pounds.

OpenCart Review: Design and templates

OpenCart is a complete solution for eCommerce that allows business leaders to launch an online store in no time. You can add and manage products effectively, use your own shopping cart system, and process orders quickly and easily too. In simple terms, OpenCart delivers all the standard store functionality a business might need.

As an open-source environment, OpenCart give you complete freedom over how you build your website. With this tool, you get all the standard functionality you need, but there’s also plenty of room for growth and customization too.

Let’s take a look at OpenCart from a design and template perspective, for instance. Themes are available now from companies like Template Monster, and Theme Forest. You can find the full collection on the OpenCart extension page.

With OpenCart, you can choose from a host of professional looking themes, then make small changes to the design so that it’s more unique to your business. For instance, you can add and rearrange modules in the administrator design panel. If you want to make larger changes to the way your site feels and looks, you’ll need to dive into the coding.

Unfortunately, not all businesses will have the skills and in-house expertise to manage the code elements themselves. Just like other open source solutions, OpenCart doesn’t come with any specific templates for design. Instead, you get a basic solution when you install the platform, with a modern-looking, and mobile-responsive experience.

If you want something that’s truly unique for your brand, then you’re going to need to design it yourself, with help from a professional.

OpenCart Review: Ease of Use

The best way to make sure that you’re comfortable using a solution like OpenCart, is to download it and check it out for yourself. The service is completely free to download and explore. However, if you don’t want to go through all of that extra work, you can use a demo instead.

You don’t have to enter any information to access the demos available from OpenCart. From the moment you log in, the solution will use a handy wizard to guide you through everything you need to know about the service.

The OpenCart experience is very well organized and clean. It looks quite similar to many of the other competing tools on the market, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble learning how to navigate it. It does take a little while to figure out where everything is. You’ll need to take some time to track down useful information, like where to add a product’s price.

Additionally, it’s important to remember that the free version of OpenCart gives you a demo – which means that you don’t get full functionality. You might be able to input the information to create a demo product page, however. What you won’t get is the option to save the details and see your page as it would appear on the storefront.

When it comes to managing sales and reports, there are a few options with OpenCart. You can create flat-rate coupons and percentage based discounts. There’s also an option to apply your discounts to entire categories, or just specific products.

Unfortunately, the sales reports may not be as great as you’d think. Normally, reports pages have a graph or chart that showcase your top products, as well as falls and rises in sales numbers and so on. OpenCart does offer insights, but they’re a lot more confusing and not as well organized.

On the plus side, OpenCart is user-friendly enough when you’re managing your store. The orders, products, and other details are easy to keep track of with the admin interface. The dashboard provides support for some helpful stats, so that you can see how your business is doing at a glance.

Adding new product listings is straightforward too. Although you will need to figure out how different attribute tabs and other elements work, you should be able to handle this quite quickly. OpenCart also integrates with hundreds of different gateways for payments.

The vast number of integrations makes it easier to build the service that’s best-suited to you. However, you do need to pay for your integrations to use them.

OpenCart Review: Payment processing

OpenCart comes with a host of payment methods already available. The gateways you can access include everything from Authorize.Net, to PayPal and SagePay. If you don’t want to use one of the more than 30 existing integrations, that’s not a problem. There are hundreds of additional payment gateways available through integrations.

Editing a payment method is simple enough, as long as you have an account with the right transaction processing solution. Once you add a payment method, you’ll need to make it an available choice for customers in the Checkout page.

OpenCart Review: Customer Support

If you're considering the cloud version of OpenCart, the direct customer support is pretty solid. However, customer service for the standard OpenCart download is far from that. Don't get me wrong, the internet is filled with information about OpenCart. The OpenCart website also has tons of documentation, video tutorials, a forum, and a blog.

The OpenCart forums are incredibly active, so you're able to chat with people who know what they're doing. The only problem is that a newer user might have trouble fitting in since they're probably learning more than contributing.

Since OpenCart is still a somewhat small company (and you get the software for free,) it doesn't have a huge direct support team. However, the company does list a phone number and a web ticket module for trying to get answers to your problems.

If you'd like to guarantee dedicated support, a monthly fee of $99 per month is available. You can also opt for a $99 one-time fix if it's something that you only need once. The $99 per month package sounds a little pricey to me, but the $99 one-time fee isn't bad if you don't plan on having too many problems.

Who Should Consider OpenCart as Their Ecommerce Platform?

OpenCart does lots of things right. It has an intuitive interface, the dashboard is clean, and users don't have to pay much to get started. Furthermore, the customization options are plentiful.

However, I can't imagine recommending OpenCart to anyone besides an experienced developer. The cloud version should be easier to understand than the local software, but that's not a guarantee.

Otherwise, if you're a developer with experience in PHP, OpenCart looks like a wonderful platform for you. You're able to discuss topics with other developers in the forums, and you have full access to customization tools not found anywhere else.

If you have any questions about this OpenCart review, let us know in the comments section below.

OpenCart
Rating: 4.5 - Review by

Joe Warnimont

Joe Warnimont is a freelance writer who creates tools and resources to help other writers get more productive and market their work.