After its official launch in 2009, the OpenCart eCommerce platform seemed to rock the online world with its ability to offer "everything you need to create, run and scale your business" for free...
Or at least it did in the eyes of OpenCart itself, who claims it is the best free and open-source eCommerce platform on the market.
But you should never take claims by any company as a fact. Not without testing it first.
So this is what we're going to do here.
First Impressions: What is OpenCart?
In a nutshell, OpenCart is an open-source eCommerce platform that is available for free. You can add unlimited products, unlimited categories, and unlimited stores - yes, you can manage multiple stores under a single free account.
And while free community support is available, you can upgrade to paid dedicated support if necessary.
It's comparable with the likes of WooCommerce; the key difference being that WooCommerce is exclusively for use with WordPress, while OpenCart is its own independent end-to-end platform.
Aside from the multi-store management feature, another tool that is surprising to see on a free platform is the ability to add multiple admins to your account.
Whether there are 2 or 20 of you, this is super helpful for anyone operating a store with a team of people.
And other notable features include:
- Access to sales reports
- Sell both physical & digital products
- Built-in affiliate system
- Add extensions from the vast OpenCart marketplace
- Issue discounts/coupons
- Choose from 8+ shipping methods
- Over 20 different payment gateways
Considering the $0 price tag, OpenCart does very well in offering a worthy set of features.
It's Easy to Use - With A Catch...
The answer to this question is yes, it can be. However, this is only if you choose to host your store with OpenCart's partner, A2 Hosting. That way, your store is automatically set up when you purchase your hosting. Otherwise, it isn't.
You see, if you don't use A2 Hosting, you'll have to download the software and upload it to your domain's server directly using an FTP (File Transfer Protocol).
The do-it-yourself FTP option is not recommended for those who are looking for a simple, user-friendly setup. And while A2 Hosting is a pretty good option, it can also be expensive to some, with plans starting from $3.30/month.
So, at the end of the day, setting up an OpenCart website may not be simple to some people.
Once it comes to actually using the platform, though, the experience is well suited to users of most levels.
If you can work your way around the likes of Facebook and YouTube, you shouldn't have many issues with the OpenCart platform after familiarizing yourself with it a little.
I would advise exploring each tab on the left-hand side and the options within them before you start configuring your site. This will help you to get a good feel of what's possible.
Overall, I'm happy with how intuitive the platform is. It's not as easy to use as popular paid solutions such as Shopify or Wix, but it's certainly more suited to beginners than WooCommerce is, for example.
What Do OpenCart Stores Look Like?
An important aspect for many users, visual appeal can often be where a lot of eCommerce platforms let themselves down.
While this one looks fairly basic, it's the store for the BritishRedCross website.
This is rather impressive, as BritishRedCross is a huge charity in the U.K.
For a project of that size to put its trust in the hands of OpenCart is very reassuring.
Fast, powerful and easy to use, this store is a good example of what this platform can do.
And BritishRedCross isn't the only big player that relies on OpenCart for its eCommerce needs...
The MissyEmpire store (a popular fashion retailer in Europe) also runs on OpenCart.
And while the first example looked a little basic, this one is much more eye-catching.
This further helps reinforce the OpenCart can be trendy as well as functional and trustworthy.
However, it's worth noting that these sites seem to have professionally customized their stores to tweak them to their needs. When you start a fresh OpenCart store, you won't get the same results with just a few clicks.
For example, in the picture below you can take a look at the stock OpenCart themes. That should give you a better idea of what to expect from day 1...
This is the only real downside I can pick at the OpenCart design element. The initial templates aren't overly pleasing and require several hours (varying on preferences, etc.) of customization to get to a point where the store is genuinely beautiful, functional, and easy to use.
OpenCart Review Round-Up
With so many great features offered for zero cost, it's difficult to argue with OpenCart's claims of being the best free open-source eCommerce solution in the business.
Overall, the OpenCart eCommerce platform does well to hold up to its bold claims. It's free, it's feature-packed, and it's trusted by well-known sites such BritishRedCross and MissyEmpire.
The standout features for me are the user-management tool, and the ability to run multiple sites under one account. Again, this are all available for free, so it's hard to find fault.
The one thing you will end up paying for is hosting. Although, you can avoid this if you use a free hosting provider and conduct a manual setup rather than the automatic one you get with A2 Hosting.
And if you're looking for premium but don't want to spend much, there are always some cheap web hosting providers you can choose from.
Finally, if you've used OpenCart yourself and have your own experiences and OpenCart reviews to share, please feel free to do so by leaving a comment down below.