Many people are looking for the perfect e-commerce system to help them expand their business online. I know, I work with many jewelry and gourmet food clients each day, and they all want an easy to use and customize program. Well, I prefer Magento, even though it can also get a little hairy, it is so much better than OSCommerce.
OSCommerce, which I started to learn to use in 2010, describes itself: "A free online shop program featuring order history, shopping carts, full search capability, product reviews, secure transactions, bestseller lists, and related items." Well ok, yes, it's free, and of course it features shopping carts and product reviews, and the secure transactions are a plus. However, I have personal experience with one website, that has been running for years, but has kept us paranoid for the same amount of time.
When was the last OSCommerce update? While new e-commerce systems arise with updates constantly or something like Magento makes it easy in a few clicks, why is OSC still in the dark ages? Maybe I have missed an update, but the last time we did, it was so complicated that we hired someone else to give me a break.
This is actually the biggest reason we want to avoid OSC so badly. For at least two of the three years that we've used it (why haven't we switched systems? We'll get to that.) we have had an issue with a nice reappearing block of code inside of our index, header and footer pages. And not just index.php, header.php or footer.php. Any page with those three words in the file name, contained this backdoor hack that reappeared at least a week after its removal. We use OSC with a mixture of Wordpress and it looks great! But this backdoor hack is known to affect both systems, and in our case, in the same way.
It is can take a non-HTML saavy person at least half a day to add one addon, depending on its complexity of course.
OSC, Joomla, Wordpress and Magento are all open source systems for everyone to use and customize. This means that anybody can create great extensions, addons and plugins that work with the features in the core program. Well, all four of them have a large list of extensions that can further customize your store to your liking. However, when installing said extension, OSC does not take a zip file or a URL like Joomla, Wordpress or Magento does and install the add on for you. OSC has more of a repository of new and old addons that have been edited not by just one person, but by a few. Let me clarify.
Click and take in the photo above for example. This is a plugin for the gift vouchers and coupons. One person created this addon. For a couple of months he updated it, which is fine because it is his program.
As the months go on however, you can see that others because to contribute to it. OSC addons are named contributions because they are made by so many people adding their knowledge to one addon. This is great to expand the functions and features of an addon, but it is a nightmare for those trying to actually use it.
The amount of changes on this one addon is enough to keep someone from using it. One may look at the list and not know which one is better because of the terrible file names/descriptions.
And this is just to find the add on. I haven't even begun to talk about installing it. Well I did say installing it is not as easy as clicking upload in a box and voila! its there. OSC addons make a user:
- 1. Possibly add a table to their MySQL database.
- 2. Add various files to various directories
- 3. Add blocks of code to certain areas of sometimes many specific files.
This sounds like fun right? Not only is it not fun, it runs someone the risk of messing up their code, and much more, their entire site. if you want something to be easy for people to use, you damn sure should not have people in the code.
And last but not least, about addons, is that after you install and enter all of this code, who's going to remember to save the text document that lists the files that you've changed? What if you want to remove the addon or somehow you forgot something and need to "reinstall"? Well for OSC you need to reside a few more minutes (or hours) to remove it yourself.
For those looking at those glorious e-commerce websites with large clean photos and uncluttered product lists and detail pages, I can almost assure you that it is not OSCommerce. And even if it was, it was carefully designed by a really good web designer. Or purchased from a separate website.
Unlike Magento or even Shopify or Volusion, there are no real good templates for OSCommerce that come with the system. Not to mention there is no section to change the templates or edit a template because there are none anyway.
To design your site, you're going to need some real nice CSS skills. There are also websites that sell templates, but of course you want them to become your own. To be honest, I had basic CSS skills when I started to work on this OSCommerce website, and I have worked on it so much, I consider myself preeeety good at CSS now. If you can code an OSCommerce website into something like Little Sparrow Tea, Amazon , or Target then you've got a good career in web design coming.
But in case you are desperately searching for a cheap way for your OSCommerce site to look great without an actual web designer, you can go here:
The OSCommerce Store
5. Product Entry and Removal
OSCommerce is not too bad when adding products. Except the fact that the initial product options are extremely minimal and have no SEO entry boxes, OSC makes it an OK mission to add product.
However, if you're running a store like Macy's or Ebay, you have a problem. While the site I am working on is no Macy's, it is very large in product amount. We use different vendors to create one big store. Think of what happens when you have 100+ new products to add to OSCommerce? And what if you had added an addon that gives you more product options? There is a product import option in OSC, but it is no good if it doesn't insert data into your custom areas.
UPDATE: Hey we found a bulk product import addon! Easy Populate & Products Attributes. Now go back to reason number 3 and see if you want to install it, hehe.
Lets look at the worst part. If we drop a vendor, what can you do? There are no check boxes beside the product names on OSC. Maybe we've missed it, but there are no bulk delete areas on the site, unless you go into the database to do so. Who wants to do that? And so, you're stuck with clicking on each product (twice, mind you. In OSCommerce, you have to click on each product twice to actually select it and then you get the options.) and pressing delete.
This is pretty much nonexistent. If you add a product, there is no way for you to customize the title, meta keywords, or meta description. The most you have to work with are the h1 or h2 tags that come when you name your product. Those show up properly (hopefully) in the title tag.
As for everything else, the description is most likely taken from the first paragraph of your product, and if you're like the store I'm working on, vendors give you their descriptions which sometimes begin with an unrelated paragraph for the product. That hurts the SEO on that page because the first paragraph and even first sentence is most important, as well as the keywords throughout. This means you would have to take time to rewrite every first paragraph to make for better SEO as well as add your own keywords throughout the text.
Or if you're fed up you can look through the OSCommerce addons and contributions list. :)
So back then, tables weren't a bad thing. Tables were one of the first things I learned in HTML. And I loved them.
But of course like I mentioned before, I became better with CSS, and I realized the power of divs and floating and clears and margin 0 auto etc. Tables became, not useless, but great for things like... charts or certain types of lists.
So for the many people who hate tables, just try opening up an OSCommerce php page, you know, just one of the files in the root of your installation.
Click this picture above for the file checkout-payment.php in the root of OSCommerce. I added a border to all of the tables on the pages just so you can see just how nested and unnecessary the tables are! And what about rearranging things? That is another nightmare in itself, if you use Dreamweaver to edit, you will get a lot of yellow warning signs.
So we sometimes want an accountant to look directly into our sales area. We can't specify an area of the site where this accountant can only look at orders, customers, coupons, etc whatever you want them to look at. What if you have an intern who only needs to look at the products and enter it, and you want to keep him out of the revenue area? OSCommerce does not offer a way to hide certain sections of the admin area. But it's not too bad, you can always print out reports.
Now don't get me wrong. I've grown to like OSCommerce in my own little way. I like adding the manufacturer pages and the products and watching sales rise and fall each day.
However, I prefer to create websites for my clients that are made with Magento or something else that is newer. I want their experience to be an easy one, one where if they want something, there is a whole organized extension reservoir for them to shop through. If they want SEO, Magento comes with the imput boxes for it. If they want extra ***** templates, Shopify has overdone themselves. If you like the ease of which you can add photos for manufacturers and products, VirtueMart 2 is your man/woman.
For those used to OSCommerce, I mean the program no harm. But do admit, it has driven you crazy over the years! I recommend many others. Even Magento developers started off by using OSCommerce themselves!
Let me hear your thoughts!