Some popular Open-source ecommerce programs

We did what’s known in the world of the Internet as a “classic treasure hunt” usability test: we tried to find all of the above vital information as quickly as possible from the top OSC providers. The results are timed, and the sites with the most information found in the least amount of time are deemed to be the best.

A summary of each Web site in this classic web treasure hunt is as follows:

Cube Cart

“What is Cube Cart?” is answered on the home page, neatly and succinctly. Excellent features list accessible from home page. Excellent screen shots are also available you rech them from a link called “Demo” and there is no working demo on that page for the Admin. There is a page of technical requirements and compatible Web hosts, but I had to do a Google search to find the page.

An online user manual is also available. The company offers paid support, but it is nearly impossible to find out about it. A potential customer must click a link called “ordering system” at the bottom of a paragraph on the support page, register as a customer, activate the account via e-mail before logging in. Apparently then the potential customer will receive information on pricing for support packages.

CRE Loaded

No concise description of the product, so potential customers must already know what the program is before they arrive at the site. The home page is written with heavy e-commerce lingo; it’s a veritable paradise for Buzzword Bingo fans (where he who gathers the most buzzwords wins). One screenshot of the storefront is included on the home page. A features list is sorted by version number, which is good for existing customers but confusing to potential new customers.

The company markets three versions of their program to three different target markets, although the home page only mentions two of the versions. A requirements page is accessible from the products or the support section, but not from the home page. Support is well-packaged with “10 incident” easy-to-buy packs directly from the makers, as long as you know what “SLA” means. The support has a Service Level Agreement (turn-around time for incidents) of two business days via email and live chat. A user manual is available on the site and on Amazon.com.

Magento Commerce

Magento Commerce is the second place winner of the treasure hunt. What’s not to love about a site that has product page that lists nearly everything a potential customer could want – features list with screenshots, exactly who the product is for, working demos of both the storefront and the Admin back end. The commercial enterprise edition of the program at $8,900 per year includes support with a one-day response time. An official user manual ebook is available on the site and a third-party user manual paperback is available from Amazon.com.

Minor quibbles include: no concise description that answers a potential customer’s most important question, “what is Magento?” and second place for Buzzword Bingo for tech jargon on the home page. System Requirements must be reached through a “Resources” menu. Paid support for the open source version should be much easier to find; instead it is three levels down from the home page via “Partners – Find a Partner – Solutions Partners.”

osCommerce Online Merchant

A brief description of the product is included on the home page, assuming that the business person knows what “GNU Public License” means. Ample screenshots are available on the product’s home page under “Solutions”. No mention of who the product is suited for, which is somewhat alarming given that the features list on the Solutions page leads in with, “although osCommerce is still in its development stage…” Minimum requirements are listed on the same page. No working Admin demos.

No paid official support; support is available from free discussion forums only by clicking the “Community” link and then “Community forums.” No official manual, but many different manuals are available including for programmers, designers, and users on Amazon.com.

The osCommerce Project

The home page contains a description of the project, but not a concise description of the product. A potential customer must know what osCommerce is to know that this is a fork of the original osCommerce. No features list, screen shots, specification or who this product is for. No working Admin demos. No support link; support is available from free discussion forums only by clicking the “Community Forum ” link. No official manual, but manuals written for osCommerce Online Merchant should cover 99 percent of this program.

osC-MAX

“What is osCMAX?” is answered on the home page. A list of features is included on the product’s main page. No screenshots or who the product is for. Requirements are mentioned on the “Download” page. A user manual is available from the left column of every page.

PrestaShop

The winner in the treasure hunt contest: everything a potential customer needs was located in a mere seven minutes! Concise description and screenshot of the product on the home page written in plain language. Good features list. Screenshots of both storefront and Admin back end on the Showcase page, along with the working demo of the Admin. No direct support, although in the free forums the names of Prestashop team members who are logged into the forum are prominently displayed along with their photos. No official or third-party manuals as of press time, though several are promised.

The only faux pas: the PrestaShop company does support its product with service and consulting, however this information is available only from the footer link “Prestashop services” which leads to the company’s Web site in French only.

Zen Cart

A concise description of the product on the home page, but that’s it – no demos, screenshots, description of who it is for, pricing, or support. Hello! A comprehensive programmers manual is endorsed on the Web site, and a third-party user manual is available on Amazon.com. A features list can be found by going to the tutorials/FAQ section, and then doing a site search for the word “features.”

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